Jonathan Swift quotes on politics and power

As a clergyman and writer, Jonathan Swift was outside of politics but he was always fascinated by its workings and machinations. He lived at a time when parliament was taking over most of the powers previously wielded by the monarch.

Many of Swift’s quotes involve people scrambling for power and influence. He was often cynical about their motives and quick to point out their failings. At the heart of all Swift’s views about politics is the principle that government could only be legitimate if carried the consent of the people.

Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
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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.

>Jonathan Swift quote. 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. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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I can discover no political evil in suffering bullies, sharpers, and rakes, to rid the world of each other by a method of their own; where the law hath not been able to find an expedient.
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It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.
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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 as slaves.
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Illustration of Jonathan Swift quote. For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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He likewise directed, “that every senator in the great council of a nation, after he had delivered his opinion, and argued in the defence of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly contrary; because if that were done, the result would infallibly terminate in the good of the public.
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Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but corruptions, and consequently of no use to a good king or a good ministry; for which reason courts are so overrun with politics.
Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling
Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.
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He was perfectly astonished with the historical account gave him of our affairs during the last century; protesting “it was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition, could produce”.
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Illustration of Jonathan Swift quote. Poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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Promises and Pye-Crusts – are made to be broken.
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A lie is an excuse guarded.
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I desired that the Senate of Rome might appear before me in one large chamber, and a modern representative, in counterview, in another. The first seemed to be an assembly of heroes and demi-gods; the other, a knot of pedlars, pick-pockets, highwaymen, and bullies.

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Quotes Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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