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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[The author at his master's command, informs him of the state
of England. The causes of war among the princes of Europe.
The author begins to explain the English constitution.]

The reader may please to observe, that the following extract of
many conversations I had with my master, contains a summary of
the most material points which were discoursed at several times
for above two years; his honour often desiring fuller
satisfaction, as I farther improved in the HOUYHNHNM tongue. I
laid before him, as well as I could, the whole state of Europe; I
discoursed of trade and manufactures, of arts and sciences; and
the answers I gave to all the questions he made, as they arose
upon several subjects, were a fund of conversation not to be
exhausted. But I shall here only set down the substance of what
passed between us concerning my own country, reducing it in order
as well as I can, without any regard to time or other
circumstances, while I strictly adhere to truth. My only concern
is, that I shall hardly be able to do justice to my master's
arguments and expressions, which must needs suffer by my want of
capacity, as well as by a translation into our barbarous English.

In obedience, therefore, to his honour's commands, I related to
him the Revolution under the Prince of Orange; the long war with
France, entered into by the said prince, and renewed by his
successor, the present queen, wherein the greatest powers of
Christendom were engaged, and which still continued: I computed,
at his request, "that about a million of YAHOOS might have been
killed in the whole progress of it; and perhaps a hundred or more
cities taken, and five times as many ships burnt or sunk."

He asked me, "what were the usual causes or motives that made one
country go to war with another?" I answered "they were
innumerable; but I should only mention a few of the chief.
Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never think they have land
or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption of
ministers, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle
or divert the clamour of the subjects against their evil
administration. Difference in opinions has cost many millions of
lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh;
whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether
whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a
post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a
coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should
be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more.

Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a
continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion,
especially if it be in things indifferent.

"Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of
them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of
them pretend to any right. Sometimes one prince quarrels with
another for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a
war is entered upon, because the enemy is too strong; and
sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours want
the things which we have, or have the things which we want, and
we both fight, till they take ours, or give us theirs. It is a
very justifiable cause of a war, to invade a country after the
people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or
embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to
enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns
lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render
our dominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into
a nation, where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully
put half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order
to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living.
It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequent practice, when one
prince desires the assistance of another, to secure him against
an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the
invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill,
imprison, or banish, the prince he came to relieve. Alliance by
blood, or marriage, is a frequent cause of war between princes;
and the nearer the kindred is, the greater their disposition to
quarrel; poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and
pride and hunger will ever be at variance. For these reasons,
the trade of a soldier is held the most honourable of all others;
because a soldier is a YAHOO hired to kill, in cold blood, as
many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly
he can.

"There is likewise a kind of beggarly princes in Europe, not able
to make war by themselves, who hire out their troops to richer
nations, for so much a day to each man; of which they keep
three-fourths to themselves, and it is the best part of their
maintenance: such are those in many northern parts of Europe."

"What you have told me," said my master, "upon the subject of
war, does indeed discover most admirably the effects of that
reason you pretend to: however, it is happy that the shame is
greater than the danger; and that nature has left you utterly
incapable of doing much mischief. For, your mouths lying flat
with your faces, you can hardly bite each other to any purpose,
unless by consent. Then as to the claws upon your feet before
and behind, they are so short and tender, that one of our YAHOOS
would drive a dozen of yours before him. And therefore, in
recounting the numbers of those who have been killed in battle, I
cannot but think you have said the thing which is not."

I could not forbear shaking my head, and smiling a little at his
ignorance. And being no stranger to the art of war, I gave him a
description of cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols,
bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats,
attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea fights,
ships sunk with a thousand men, twenty thousand killed on each
side, dying groans, limbs flying in the air, smoke, noise,
confusion, trampling to death under horses' feet, flight,
pursuit, victory; fields strewed with carcases, left for food to
dogs and wolves and birds of prey; plundering, stripping,
ravishing, burning, and destroying. And to set forth the valour
of my own dear countrymen, I assured him, "that I had seen them
blow up a hundred enemies at once in a siege, and as many in a
ship, and beheld the dead bodies drop down in pieces from the
clouds, to the great diversion of the spectators."

I was going on to more particulars, when my master commanded me
silence. He said, "whoever understood the nature of YAHOOS,
might easily believe it possible for so vile an animal to be
capable of every action I had named, if their strength and
cunning equalled their malice. But as my discourse had increased
his abhorrence of the whole species, so he found it gave him a
disturbance in his mind to which he was wholly a stranger before.

He thought his ears, being used to such abominable words, might,
by degrees, admit them with less detestation: that although he
hated the YAHOOS of this country, yet he no more blamed them for
their odious qualities, than he did a GNNAYH (a bird of prey) for
its cruelty, or a sharp stone for cutting his hoof. But when a
creature pretending to reason could be capable of such
enormities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might
be worse than brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident,
that, instead of reason we were only possessed of some quality
fitted to increase our natural vices; as the reflection from a
troubled stream returns the image of an ill shapen body, not only
larger but more distorted."

He added, "that he had heard too much upon the subject of war,
both in this and some former discourses. There was another
point, which a little perplexed him at present. I had informed
him, that some of our crew left their country on account of being
ruined by law; that I had already explained the meaning of the
word; but he was at a loss how it should come to pass, that the
law, which was intended for every man's preservation, should be
any man's ruin. Therefore he desired to be further satisfied
what I meant by law, and the dispensers thereof, according to the
present practice in my own country; because he thought nature and
reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, as we
pretended to be, in showing us what he ought to do, and what to

I assured his honour, "that the law was a science in which I had
not much conversed, further than by employing advocates, in vain,
upon some injustices that had been done me: however, I would
give him all the satisfaction I was able."

I said, "there was a society of men among us, bred up from their
youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose,
that white is black, and black is white, according as they are
paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.
For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a
lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must
then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules
of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now,
in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great
disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his
cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his element when
he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office
he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will.
The second disadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with
great caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the judges, and
abhorred by his brethren, as one that would lessen the practice
of the law. And therefore I have but two methods to preserve my
cow. The first is, to gain over my adversary's lawyer with a
double fee, who will then betray his client by insinuating that
he hath justice on his side. The second way is for my lawyer to
make my cause appear as unjust as he can, by allowing the cow to
belong to my adversary: and this, if it be skilfully done, will
certainly bespeak the favour of the bench. Now your honour is to
know, that these judges are persons appointed to decide all
controversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals,
and picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old
or lazy; and having been biassed all their lives against truth
and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud,
perjury, and oppression, that I have known some of them refuse a
large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure
the faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their nature or their

"It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done
before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take
special care to record all the decisions formerly made against
common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under
the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify
the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of
directing accordingly.

"In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of
the cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon
all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in
the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim
or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow
were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I
graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home
or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after
which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to
time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.

"It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar
cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can
understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they
take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly
confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and
wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the
field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me,
or to a stranger three hundred miles off.

"In the trial of persons accused for crimes against the state,
the method is much more short and commendable: the judge first
sends to sound the disposition of those in power, after which he
can easily hang or save a criminal, strictly preserving all due
forms of law."

Here my master interposing, said, "it was a pity, that creatures
endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind, as these lawyers,
by the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not
rather encouraged to be instructors of others in wisdom and
knowledge." In answer to which I assured his honour, "that in
all points out of their own trade, they were usually the most
ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in
common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and
learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of
mankind in every other subject of discourse as in that of their
own profession."



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