A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in
Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for
making them beneficial to the public.
by Dr. Jonathan Swift. 1729
It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great
town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the
roads and cabin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex,
followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and
importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of
being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to
employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their
helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for
want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for
the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.
I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number
of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of
their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present
deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional
grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and
easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the
common-wealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to
have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.
But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only
for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater
extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a
certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to
support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.
As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this
important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our
projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It
is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a
solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two
shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her
lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old
that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead
of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting
food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the
contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing
of many thousands.
There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it