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Chapter 5

  • [The author at his master's command, informs him of the state of England. Th_auses of war among the princes of Europe. The author begins to explain th_nglish constitution.]
  • The reader may please to observe, that the following extract of man_onversations I had with my master, contains a summary of the most materia_oints which were discoursed at several times for above two years; his honou_ften desiring fuller satisfaction, as I farther improved in the HOUYHNHN_ongue. I laid before him, as well as I could, the whole state of Europe; _iscoursed of trade and manufactures, of arts and sciences; and the answers _ave to all the questions he made, as they arose upon several subjects, were _und of conversation not to be exhausted. But I shall here only set down th_ubstance of what passed between us concerning my own country, reducing it i_rder 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 b_ble to do justice to my master's arguments and expressions, which must need_uffer by my want of capacity, as well as by a translation into our barbarou_nglish.
  • In obedience, therefore, to his honour's commands, I related to him th_evolution under the Prince of Orange; the long war with France, entered int_y the said prince, and renewed by his successor, the present queen, wherei_he greatest powers of Christendom were engaged, and which still continued: _omputed, at his request, "that about a million of YAHOOS might have bee_illed in the whole progress of it; and perhaps a hundred or more citie_aken, and five times as many ships burnt or sunk."
  • He asked me, "what were the usual causes or motives that made one country g_o war with another?" I answered "they were innumerable; but I should onl_ention a few of the chief. Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never thin_hey have land or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption o_inisters, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle or divert th_lamour of the subjects against their evil administration. Difference i_pinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh b_read, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood o_ine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss _ost, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whethe_lack, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow o_ide, dirty or clean; with many more.
  • Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, a_hose occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in thing_ndifferent.
  • "Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of them shal_ispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of them pretend to an_ight. Sometimes one prince quarrels with another for fear the other shoul_uarrel with him. Sometimes a war is entered upon, because the enemy is to_trong; and sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours wan_he 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 _ar, to invade a country after the people have been wasted by famine,
  • destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by factions among themselves. It i_ustifiable to enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his town_ies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render ou_ominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into a nation, wher_he 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 thei_arbarous way of living. It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequen_ractice, when one prince desires the assistance of another, to secure hi_gainst an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the invader,
  • should seize on the dominions himself, and kill, imprison, or banish, th_rince he came to relieve. Alliance by blood, or marriage, is a frequent caus_f war between princes; and the nearer the kindred is, the greater thei_isposition 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 o_ soldier is held the most honourable of all others; because a soldier is _AHOO hired to kill, in cold blood, as many of his own species, who have neve_ffended him, as possibly he can.
  • "There is likewise a kind of beggarly princes in Europe, not able to make wa_y themselves, who hire out their troops to richer nations, for so much a da_o each man; of which they keep three-fourths to themselves, and it is th_est part of their maintenance: such are those in many northern parts o_urope."
  • "What you have told me," said my master, "upon the subject of war, does indee_iscover most admirably the effects of that reason you pretend to: however, i_s happy that the shame is greater than the danger; and that nature has lef_ou utterly incapable of doing much mischief. For, your mouths lying flat wit_our 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 an_ender, that one of our YAHOOS would drive a dozen of yours before him. An_herefore, 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 eac_ide, dying groans, limbs flying in the air, smoke, noise, confusion,
  • trampling to death under horses' feet, flight, pursuit, victory; field_trewed with carcases, left for food to dogs and wolves and birds of prey;
  • plundering, stripping, ravishing, burning, and destroying. And to set fort_he valour of my own dear countrymen, I assured him, "that I had seen the_low up a hundred enemies at once in a siege, and as many in a ship, an_eheld the dead bodies drop down in pieces from the clouds, to the grea_iversion of the spectators."
  • I was going on to more particulars, when my master commanded me silence. H_aid, "whoever understood the nature of YAHOOS, might easily believe i_ossible for so vile an animal to be capable of every action I had named, i_heir strength and cunning equalled their malice. But as my discourse ha_ncreased his abhorrence of the whole species, so he found it gave him _isturbance 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 thi_ountry, yet he no more blamed them for their odious qualities, than he did _NNAYH (a bird of prey) for its cruelty, or a sharp stone for cutting hi_oof. But when a creature pretending to reason could be capable of suc_normities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might be worse tha_rutality itself. He seemed therefore confident, that, instead of reason w_ere only possessed of some quality fitted to increase our natural vices; a_he 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 thi_nd some former discourses. There was another point, which a little perplexe_im at present. I had informed him, that some of our crew left their countr_n account of being ruined by law; that I had already explained the meaning o_he word; but he was at a loss how it should come to pass, that the law, whic_as intended for every man's preservation, should be any man's ruin. Therefor_e desired to be further satisfied what I meant by law, and the dispenser_hereof, according to the present practice in my own country; because h_hought nature and reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, a_e pretended to be, in showing us what he ought to do, and what to avoid."
  • I assured his honour, "that the law was a science in which I had not muc_onversed, further than by employing advocates, in vain, upon some injustice_hat had been done me: however, I would give him all the satisfaction I wa_ble."
  • I said, "there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in th_rt of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, an_lack is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest o_he people are slaves. For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, h_as a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hir_nother to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any ma_hould be allowed to speak for himself. Now, in this case, I, who am the righ_wner, lie under two great disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practise_lmost from his cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his elemen_hen he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office h_lways attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will. The secon_isadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with great caution, or else h_ill be reprimanded by the judges, and abhorred by his brethren, as one tha_ould lessen the practice of the law. And therefore I have but two methods t_reserve my cow. The first is, to gain over my adversary's lawyer with _ouble fee, who will then betray his client by insinuating that he hat_ustice on his side. The second way is for my lawyer to make my cause appea_s 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. No_our honour is to know, that these judges are persons appointed to decide al_ontroversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals, and picke_ut from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy; and havin_een biassed all their lives against truth and equity, lie under such a fata_ecessity of favouring fraud, perjury, and oppression, that I have known som_f them refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather tha_njure the faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their nature or thei_ffice.
  • "It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done before, ma_egally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all th_ecisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason o_ankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities t_ustify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directin_ccordingly.
  • "In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of the cause; bu_re loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon all circumstances which ar_ot to the purpose. For instance, in the case already mentioned; they neve_esire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether th_aid cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graz_er in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; wha_iseases 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, com_o an issue.
  • "It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar cant an_argon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein al_heir laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby the_ave wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right an_rong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the field left m_y my ancestors for six generations belongs to me, or to a stranger thre_undred miles off.
  • "In the trial of persons accused for crimes against the state, the method i_uch more short and commendable: the judge first sends to sound th_isposition of those in power, after which he can easily hang or save _riminal, strictly preserving all due forms of law."
  • Here my master interposing, said, "it was a pity, that creatures endowed wit_uch prodigious abilities of mind, as these lawyers, by the description I gav_f them, must certainly be, were not rather encouraged to be instructors o_thers 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 mos_gnorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in commo_onversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equall_isposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other subject o_iscourse as in that of their own profession."