Mr Tartamella links to The Swearer’s Bank, which probably isn’t by Swift, but none the worse for that. It responds to proposals for the creation of an Irish equivalent of the Bank of England, but without equivalent security, by suggesting that funds be derived from a levy on swearing:
Since so many gentlemen of this town have had the courage, without any security, to appear in the same paper with a million or two; it is hoped, when they are made sensible of their safety, that they will be prevailed to trust themselves in a neat skin of parchment, with a single one.
To encourage them, the undertaker proposes the erecting of a bank on parliamentary security, and such security as no revolution or change of times can effect.
To take away all jealousy of any private view of the undertaker, he assures the world that he is now in a garret, in a very thin waistcoat, studying the public good; having given an undeniable pledge of his love to his country by pawning his coat in order to defray the expense of the press.
It is very well known that, by an act of parliament to prevent profane swearing, the person so offending, on oath made before a magistrate, forfeits a shilling, which may be levied with little difficulty.
It is almost unnecessary to mention that this is become a pet vice among us; and though age renders us unfit for other vices, yet this, where it takes hold, never leaves us but with our speech.
So vast a revenue might be raised by the execution of this act, that I have often wondered, in a scarcity of funds, that methods have not been taken to make it serviceable to the public.
I dare venture to say, if this act was well executed in England, the revenue of it, applied to the navy, would make the English fleet a terror to all Europe.
It is computed by geographers that there are 2,000,000 in this kingdom (of Ireland), of which number there may be said to be 1,000,000 of swearing souls.
It is thought there may be 5000 gentlemen; every gentleman, taking one with another, may afford to swear an oath every day, which will yearly produce 1,825,000 oaths; which number of shillings makes the yearly sum of £91,250.
The farmers of this kingdom, who are computed to be 10,000, are able to spend yearly 500,000 oaths, which gives £25,000; and it is conjectured that, from the bulk of the people, £20,000 or £25,000 may be yearly collected.
These computations are very modest, since it is evident that there is a much greater consumption of oaths in this kingdom, and consequently a much greater sum might be yearly raised.
That it may be collected with ease and regularity, it is proposed to settle informers in great towns in proportion to the number of inhabitants, and to have riding officers in the country; and since nothing brings a greater contempt on any profession than poverty, it is determined to settle very handsome salaries on the gentlemen that are employed by the bank, that they may, by a generosity of living, reconcile men to an office that has lain under so much scandal of late as to be undertaken by none but curates, clerks of meeting houses, and broken tradesmen . . .
It is very probable that £20,000 will be necessary to defray all expenses of servants, salaries, etc. However, there will be the clear yearly sum of £100,000, which may very justly claim a million subscription.
It is determined to layout the remaining unapplied profits, which will be very considerable, toward the erecting and maintaining of charity schools. A design so beneficial to the public, and especially to the protestant interest of this kingdom, has met with so much encouragement from several great patriots in England, that they have engaged to procure an act to secure the sole benefit of informing on this swearing act to the agents and servants of this new bank. Several of my friends pretend to demonstrate, that this bank will in time vie with the South Sea Company: they insist, that the army dispend as many oaths yearly as will produce £100,000 nett.
I think these are more or less the kind of institutional goals contemplated by Jezza. If income were to generated by fines on SWP-type chants then we’d all be able to collocate our money and our mouth.
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