A VOYAGE TO LAPUTA, Etc. 191
perpetual misfortune to be mistaken. Here I discovered the true causes of many great events that have surprised the world. A general confessed in my presence, that he got a victory, purely by the force of cowardice and ill conduct; and an admiral, that, for want of proper intelligence, he beat the enemy to whom he intended to betray the fleet. Three kings protested to me, that, in their whole reigns, they did never once prefer any person of merit, unless by mistake, or treachery of some minister in whom they confided: neither would they do it, if they were to live again; and they shewed with great strength of reason, that the royal throne could not be supported without corruption, because that positive, confident, restive temper which virtue infused into man, was a perpetual clog to public business.
I had the curiosity to inquire, in a particular manner, by what method great numbers had procured to themselves high titles of honour and prodigious estates; and I confined my inquiry to a very modern period: however, without grating upon present times, because I would be sure to give no offence even to foreigners (for I hope the reader need not be told, that I do not in the least intend my own country in what I say upon this occasion) a great number of persons concerned were called up, and, upon a very slight examination, discovered such a scene of infamy, that I cannot reflect upon it without some seriousness. Perjury, oppression, subornation, fraud, and the like infirmities were amongst the most excusable arts they had to mention, and for these I gave, as it was reasonable, due allowance. But when some confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to vice, others to the betraying 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