Jonathan Swift wrote his A Modest Proposal as a satirical response to the treatment the English gave their Irish neighbors. In it, he proposes that the problems of domestic abuse, overpopulation, poverty, and little beggars/theives in Ireland could be solved by having the women sell their children as food and soft leather goods.
The advantages of such an outrageous proposal? Well, in his mind there were many: one, there would be fewer papists--a derogatory term for Catholics (don't forget that Henry VIII broke from the Catholic church with his divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and since then there has always been a Catholic/Protestant issue there). Secondly, having so many children is now a valuable asset rather than a a strain on finances and food supplies--men would treat their wives as they treat their pregnant cows, horses, and donkeys. A third advantage is that the Irish would have a way to pay for the things they need including the rent on their homes, thus, fewer evictions and more money in the English landlord's pocket. Not to mention that the child would not need additional costly food in the "fattening up" stage since their mothers would nurse them with their mother's milk. Fourth, a proposal like this can only increase the stability of the economy. A new food treat like roasted or boiled baby flesh would most certainly bring in more business for the pubs. Fifth, the sheer delight of such a delicate new dish would certainly entertain the mouths and tummies of tourists, businessmen, and the common folk alike. In addition, there would be fewer thieves on the earth since these children would no longer grow up to steal from honest people on the streets. Lastly, the soft flesh of children would make great summer boots and gloves for upper class ladies who would most likely choose this wonderfully supply leather over eelskin or other choices they currently have.
The only thing our narrator didn't consider or address is that poor Catholic Irish mothers love their children as much if not more than the wealthy English women do. Of course, they would never stand for producing children for the purposes of earning income through selling them and having them made into succotash as the local pub and gloves for the fine ladies to wear.
- It will help to get rid of Roman Catholics, who have lots of children. That way there will be more room for the Protestants.
- Poorer tenants will have something of value that can help pay their landlords' rent, the landlords having already taken everything else they own.
- They'll cost a lot and all that money will stay right there in Ireland.
- People who have lots of kids will get rid of them after a year and get money in the bargain.
- It will help the taverns because the kids will taste so good that tavern keepers will make great recipes and attract customers.
- Men will care more about their wives (as breeding stock) and will be more likely to get married.
These are the six in his list. Before that, he also mentions:
- It will prevent abortions and abandonment of unwanted children.
- Young kids are no good to anyone. They can't work yet, so they just sponge off their parents or the community.