by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels Politics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
In relating these and the following laws, I would only be understood to mean the original institutions, and not the most scandalous corruptions, into which these people are fallen by the degenerate nature of man. For, as to that infamous practice of acquiring great employments by dancing on the ropes, or badges of favour and distinction by leaping over sticks and creeping under them, the reader is to observe, that they were first introduced by the grandfather of the emperor now reigning, and grew to the present height by the gradual increase of party and faction. (1.6.9)
The whole Lilliput section is probably one of the most integrated and subtle attacks on politics that Swift makes in the whole book. Gulliver seems to believe that "the degenerate nature of man" (in other words, the tendency of human society to get worse and worse as time goes on) is necessarily linked to politics and the "gradual increase of [political] party and faction." The more politics there are, the worse a society is, according to Gulliver's logic.
These false informations, which I afterwards came to the knowledge of by an accident not proper to mention, made the treasurer show his lady for some time an ill countenance, and me a worse; and although he was at last undeceived and reconciled to her, yet I lost all credit with him, and found my interest decline very fast with the emperor himself, who was, indeed, too much governed by that favourite. (1.6.22)
Here, Gulliver is telling us about a rumor that he has been sleeping with Principle Secretary Flimnap's wife. Flimnap's six inch tall wife. This rumor is obviously not true, but it makes Flimnap jealous enough to decide to ruin Gulliver's reputation with the Emperor. When a government is run by powerful, incompetent, ambitious, petty people, there is no oversight to make sure that the job still gets done in a fair, equitable way. Once politics becomes personal, you may as well kiss justice and fair play goodbye.
But when some confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to sodomy, or incest; others, to the prostituting of their own wives and daughters; others, to the betraying of their country or their prince; some, to poisoning; more to the perverting of justice, in order to destroy the innocent, I hope I may be pardoned, if these discoveries inclined me a little to abate of that profound veneration, which I am naturally apt to pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their inferiors. (3.8.7)
When Gulliver goes to Glubbdubdrib and speaks to the ghosts of the recent European dead, he gets really disillusioned. He finds out that all the people with great reputations have gotten their power from lying, cheating, and bribing their way to the top. This is Gulliver's idea of politics in a nutshell. Do we see any models of honest politicking in this novel?