162 GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
destruction, both of houses and men. However, this is an extremity to which the prince is seldom driven, neither, indeed, is he willing to put it in execution, nor dare his ministers advise him to an action which, as it would render them odious to the people, so it would be a great damage to their own estates, which lie all below, for the island is the king's demesne.
But there is still, indeed, a more weighty reason why the kings of this country have been always averse from executing so terrible an action, unless upon the utmost necessity. For, if the town intended to be destroyed should have in it any tall rocks, as it generally falls out in the larger cities, a situation probably chosen at first with a view to prevent such a catastrophe; or if it abound in high spires, or pillars of stone, a sudden fall might endanger the bottom or under surface of the island, which, although it consist, as I have said, of one entire adamant, two hundred yards thick, might happen to crack by too great a shock, or burst by approaching too near the fires from the houses below, as the backs both of iron and stone will often do in our chimneys. Of all this the people are well apprised, and understand how far to carry their obstinacy where their liberty or property is concerned. And the king, when he is highest provoked, and most determined to press a city to rubbish, orders the island to descend with great gentleness, out of a pretence of tenderness to his people; but, indeed, for fear of breaking the adamantine bottom; in which case, it is the opinion of all their philosophers that the loadstone could no longer hold it up, and the whole mass would fall to the ground.
By a fundamental law of this realm, neither the king, nor either of his two elder sons, are permitted to leave the island, nor the queen, till she is past child-bearing.