Jonathan Swift is the author of “A Modest Proposal,” but he is almost certainly not the narrator who is making the proposal. Thus, the claims we are considering here are those that the narrator makes. This narrator uses two kinds of evidence—quantitative and qualitative—and provides numerous pieces of data of both kinds.
The quantitative, or numerical, evidence includes demographic statistics. Challenging other “computations,” he says he offers more accurate numbers. Of 1.5 million people in the kingdom,
I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children . . .
After some additional calculations, he arrives at 120,000 remaining children who are born to poor parents. Rather than start with this questionable “statistic,” which would encourage readers’ doubt, he builds a case by using several statistics. Of course, the source of his numbers is...
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