Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The purpose of this study is to determine the influence of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” upon the economic situation of Ireland prior to 1745. While Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral of Dublin, Swift wrote several articles in which he discussed the problems and oppressions of the Irish people. In his work entitle The Drapier’s Letters Swift attacked the grant which had been given William Wood for the coining of halfpence for Ireland. The Irish became very disturbed when they learned that the proposed halfpence would not be worth as much as that which was already in circulation, and Wood was forced to withdraw his patent. This action won for Swift the love of the Irish, and he became a national hero. He continued to write for the cause of the Irish although he never again enjoyed the immediate results he had experienced with the Drapier’s Letters. Swift’s political writings reached a climax in 1729 when he published “A Modest Proposal”. In this essay he combined all the points he had made earlier in regard to the condition of the Irish people, together with his latest ideas for improving the entire nation. ”A Modest Proposal” is a satire which suggests that the Irish rear their children for the purpose of being sold for meat; however, it also lists, point by point, the serious recommendations Swift proposed for Ireland. It is these serious suggestions which provide the basis for the study of this thesis. Although nearly all the proposals would have benefited the Irish, no evidence has been found which indicates that these points were ever seriously considered. Ireland continued to suffer because of oppression by the English, and from the indifference of the Irish people. Swift appeared to give up on the idea that the Irish might help themselves, and he returned to writing articles for the clergy. In 1742 he was declared unable to care for himself, and shortly thereafter completely lost his mind. Swift died in 1745 leaving the conditions under which the Irish existed nearly as terrible as when he first began his effort to improve their situation.


Dr. Samuel J. Sackett

Date of Award

Summer 1963

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1963 Gerald Kelvin Aiken


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