Jonathan Swift, Sir William Temple and the international balance of power
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This dissertation investigates the balance of power theory of international relations in the works of Jonathan Swift and his mentor Sir William Temple. Both Temple and Swift are known to have championed balance-of-power foreign policy, yet no sustained study of the subject exists. To begin, I argue that Temple used balance as a metaphor for division or separation. His policy of preserving the “Balance of Christendom” translates to sowing division among European states, and for the same reason he rejects balance of power at home. Proceeding to Swift, while commentators have long known that he advocated the classical theory of constitutional balance, they have neglected his engagement with international balance. Swift assimilates Temple’s positions into a universal theory based on classical authors; he sees balance of power as an element in the broader quarrel of ancients and moderns. The ancient view posits an independent agent who operates within the constraints of a system; the modern, by contrast, either exaggerates agency to the point of divine-right absolutism or minimizes it to the extent that only an impersonal, clockwork-like system remains. In both cases, the moderns pursue material power at each other’s expense, neglecting the intangible benefits of due separation. This theory has important ramifications for Swift’s international writings. For years scholars have emphasized Swift’s conspiracy theorizing in the Conduct of the Allies, but I argue that he discredits the Whig war cry of “Balance of Europe,” which sought military power (the balance of forces) as an end in itself, and reasserts balance as a policy of slicing Europe into as many separate kingdoms as possible. Ultimately, however, Swift’s most lasting contribution appears in Gulliver’s Travels. Here he depicts maritime power as the quintessential means by which moderns pursue absolute power, and intimates a political “Balance of Earth” as a satirical correction. This study, the first to focus on the international dimension of Swift’s political theory, offers a corrective to literary studies that favor domestic politics and yields insights into the evolution of balance-of-power theory and the intersection of culture and foreign policy at the dawn of the British empire.