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Try and identify Jonathan Swift's political stands

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  1. Introduction.
  2. His desire for advancement in the Church.
  3. J. Swift: A political, religious and literary turncoat.
  4. Was he a Tory supporter?
  5. Gulliver and his progressive isolation from society.
  6. Difficulty in judging what exactly Swift was in politics.
  7. Bibliography.

To put it simply, party politics in England during the 18th century were practiced in two different camps ? Tory and Whig. Globally, the differences of opinion between the two were based on three key topics ? (1) the origin of government, (2) the position of the Church in society and (3) the role England was to play in Europe. Thus, the Tories were the high-church party, which upheld the divine rights of kings, defended Anglican orthodoxy and negotiated the peace treaty of Utrecht that ended the Spanish War. The Whigs were the low-church party, supported the theory of contract between rulers and ruled, and decried the Utrecht treaty, which they attempted to block through their majority in the House of Lords. The early ministry of William III was predominantly Tory but it was gradually replaced by the Whigs. Later on, Queen Anne dismissed some Whig ministers, replaced them with Tories and created new Tory peers in order to stop the War of the Spanish Succession. From 1714 on, the Whigs gained in influence and the governments of Walpole and Pelham called themselves ?Whigs?.

[...] Swift knew how to rise above personal interest and above the political struggles of the times in defence of what he considered a just cause. It is very difficult to judge what exactly Swift was in politics. The majority of his texts have a political purpose but to what extent can we say that this purpose was his? Swift frequently adjusted their scope and we can find many writings in defence of the Whigs and as much in defence of the Tories. [...]


[...] Would he, then, use irony and satire in his private correspondence just as he did in his public writings, to allude to himself, to his position within the Church, and to his own political pretensions? Where the letter ends and where the text degenerates into something else is difficult to say. Therefore, if we were to reach a first conclusion, we could say that J. Swift was a political, religious and literary turncoat who struggled for a better position according to popular fashion but not without an awareness of the absurdity and futility of the situation. [...]


[...] Finally, we will try to find out the reason and driving force of Swift's political behaviour and how it affected his writings. Swift could have entered English political life out of self-interest on the one hand. We could say that he sought advancement in the Church and was, therefore, alternately attached to the Whigs or the Tories depending on how the wind turned. On the other hand, he could have been obliged to follow a certain strategy of political conformity and, as a clergyman of the Church of Ireland, to preach whatever was politically correct because he found himself in a highly politically charged context. [...]

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