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Defoe's knowledge of the irritation caused among the Dissenters by his
_Shortest Way_, did not prevent him from shocking them and annoying the
high Tories by similar _jeux d'esprit_. He had no tenderness for the
feelings of such of his brethren as had not his own robust sense of
humour and boyish glee in the free handling of dangerous weapons. Thus
we find him, among his eulogies of the Grand Monarque, particularly
extolling him for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. By the
expulsion of the Protestants, Louis impoverished and unpeopled part of
his country, but it was "the most politic action the French King ever
did." "I don't think fit to engage here in a dispute about the honesty
of it," says Defoe; "but till he had first cleared the country of that
numerous injured people, he could never have ventured to carry an
offensive war into all the borders of Europe." And Defoe was not content
with shocking the feelings of his nominal co-religionists by a light
treatment of matters in which he agreed with them. He upheld with all
his might the opposite view from theirs on two important questions of
foreign policy. While the Confederates were doing battle on all sides
against France, the King of Sweden was making war on his own account
against Poland for the avowed purpose of placing a Protestant prince on
the throne. Extreme Protestants in England were disposed to think that
Charles XII. was fighting the Lord's battle in Poland. But Defoe was
strongly of opinion that the work in which all Protestants ought at that
moment to be engaged was breaking down the power of France, and as
Charles refused to join the Confederacy, and the Catholic prince against
whom he was fighting was a possible adherent, the ardent preacher of
union among the Protestant powers insisted upon regarding him as a
practical ally of France, and urged that the English fleet should be
sent into the Baltic to interrupt his communications. Disunion among
Protestants, argued Defoe, was the main cause of French greatness; if
the Swedish King would not join the Confederacy of his own free will, he
should be compelled to join it, or at least to refrain from weakening

Defoe treated the revolt of the Hungarians against the Emperor with the
same regard to the interests of the Protestant cause. Some uneasiness
was felt in England at co-operating with an ally who so cruelly
oppressed his Protestant subjects, and some scruple of conscience at
seeming to countenance the oppression. Defoe fully admitted the wrongs
of the Hungarians, but argued that this was not the time for them to
press their claims for redress. He would not allow that they were
justified at such a moment in calling in the aid of the Turks against
the Emperor. "It is not enough that a nation be Protestant and the
people our friends; if they will join with our enemies, they are
Papists, Turks, and Heathens, to us." "If the Protestants in Hungary
will make the Protestant religion in Hungary clash with the Protestant
religion in all the rest of Europe, we must prefer the major interest to
the minor." Defoe treats every foreign question from the cool
high-political point of view, generally taking up a position from which
he can expose the unreasonableness of both sides. In the case of the
Cevennois insurgents, one party had used the argument that it was
unlawful to encourage rebellion even among the subjects of a prince with
whom we were at war. With this Defoe dealt in one article, proving with
quite a superfluity of illustration that we were justified by all the
precedents of recent history in sending support to the rebellious
subjects of Louis XIV. It was the general custom of Europe to "assist
the malcontents of our neighbours." Then in another article he
considered whether, being lawful, it was also expedient, and he answered
this in the negative, treating with scorn a passionate appeal for the
Cevennois entitled "Europe enslaved if the Camisars are not relieved."
"What nonsense is this," he cried, "about a poor despicable handful of
men who have only made a little diversion in the great war!" "The haste
these men are in to have that done which they cannot show us the way to
do!" he cried; and proceeded to prove in a minute discussion of
conceivable strategic movements that it was impossible for us in the
circumstances to send the Camisards the least relief.

There is no reference in the _Review_ to Defoe's release from prison.
Two numbers a week were issued with the same punctuality before and
after, and there is no perceptible difference either in tone or in plan.
Before he left prison, and before the fall of the high Tory Ministers,
he had thrown in his lot boldly with the moderate men, and he did not
identify himself more closely with any political section after Harley
and Godolphin recognized the value of his support and gave him liberty
and pecuniary help. In the first number of the _Review_ he had declared
his freedom from party ties, and his unreserved adherence to truth and
the public interest, and he made frequent protestation of this
independence. "I am not a party man," he kept saying; "at least, I
resolve this shall not be a party paper." In discussing the affairs of
France, he took more than one side-glance homewards, but always with the
protest that he had no interest to serve but that of his country. The
absolute power of Louis, for example, furnished him with an occasion for
lamenting the disunited counsels of Her Majesty's Cabinet. Without
imitating the despotic form of the French Government, he said, there are
ways by which we might secure under our own forms greater decision and
promptitude on the part of the Executive. When Nottingham was dismissed,
he rejoiced openly, not because the ex-Secretary had been his
persecutor, but because at last there was unity of views among the
Queen's Ministers. He joined naturally in the exultation over
Marlborough's successes, but in the _Review_, and in his _Hymn to
Victory_, separately published, he courteously diverted some part of the
credit to the new Ministry. "Her Majesty's measures, moved by new and
polished councils, have been pointed more directly at the root of the
French power than ever we have seen before. I hope no man will suppose I
reflect on the memory of King William; I know 'tis impossible the Queen
should more sincerely wish the reduction of France than his late
Majesty; but if it is expected I should say he was not worse served,
oftener betrayed, and consequently hurried into more mistakes and
disasters, than Her Majesty now is, this must be by somebody who
believes I know much less of the public matters of those days than I had
the honour to be informed of." But this praise, he represented, was not
the praise of a partisan; it was an honest compliment wrung from a man
whose only connexion with the Government was a bond for his good
behaviour, an undertaking "not to write what some people might not

Defoe's hand being against every member of the writing brotherhood, it
was natural that his reviews should not pass without severe criticisms.
He often complained of the insults, ribaldry, Billingsgate, and
Bear-garden language to which he was exposed; and some of his
biographers have taken these lamentations seriously, and expressed their
regret that so good a man should have been so much persecuted. But as he
deliberately provoked these assaults, and never missed a chance of
effective retort, it is difficult to sympathise with him on any ground
but his manifest delight in the strife of tongues. Infinitely the
superior of his antagonists in power, he could affect to treat them with
good humour, but this good humour was not easy to reciprocate when
combined with an imperturbable assumption that they were all fools or
knaves. When we find him, after humbly asking pardon for all his errors
of the press, errors of the pen, or errors of opinion, expressing a wish
that "all gentlemen on the other side would give him equal occasion to
honour them for their charity, temper, and gentlemanlike dealing, as for
their learning and virtue," and offering to "capitulate with them, and
enter into a treaty or cartel for exchange of good language," we may, if
we like, admire his superior mastery of the weapons of irritation, but
pity is out of place.

The number of February 17, 1705, was announced by Defoe as being "the
last Review of this volume, and designed to be so of this work." But on
the following Tuesday, the regular day for the appearance of the
_Review_, he issued another number, declaring that he could not quit the
volume without some remarks on "charity and poverty." On Saturday yet
another last number appeared, dealing with some social subjects which he
had been urged by correspondents to discuss. Then on Tuesday, February
27, apologising for the frequent turning of his design, he issued a
Preface to a new volume of the _Review_, with a slight change of title.
He would overtake sooner or later all the particulars of French
greatness which he had promised to survey, but as the course of his
narrative had brought him to England, and he might stay there for some
time, it was as well that this should be indicated in the title, which
was henceforth to be A Review of the Affairs of France, with
Observations on Affairs at Home. He had intended, he said, to abandon
the work altogether, but some gentlemen had prevailed with him to go on,
and had promised that he should not be at a loss by it. It was now to be
issued three times a week.



In putting forth the prospectus of the second volume of his _Review_,
Defoe intimated that its prevailing topic would be the Trade of
England - a vast subject, with many branches, all closely interwoven with
one another and with the general well-being of the kingdom. It grieved
him, he said, to see the nation involved in such evils while remedies
lay at hand which blind guides could not, and wicked guides would not,
see - trade decaying, yet within reach of the greatest improvements, the
navy flourishing, yet fearfully mismanaged, rival factions brawling and
fighting when they ought to combine for the common good. "Nothing could
have induced him to undertake the ungrateful office of exposing these
things, but the full persuasion that he was capable of convincing
anything of an Englishman that had the least angle of his soul untainted
with partiality, and that had the least concern left for the good of his
country, that even the worst of these evils were easy to be cured; that
if ever this nation were shipwrecked and undone, it must be at the very
entrance of her port of deliverance, in the sight of her safety that
Providence held out to her, in the sight of her safe establishment, a
prosperous trade, a regular, easily-supplied navy, and a general
reformation both in manners and methods in Church and State."

Defoe began as usual by laying down various clear heads, under which he
promised to deal with the whole field of trade. But as usual he did not
adhere to this systematic plan. He discussed some topics of the day with
brilliant force, and then he suddenly digressed to a subject only
collaterally connected with trade. The Queen, in opening the session of
1704-5, had exhorted her Parliament to peace and union; but the
High-Churchmen were too hot to listen to advice even from her. The
Occasional Conformity Bill was again introduced and carried in the
Commons. The Lords rejected it. The Commons persisted, and to secure the
passing of the measure, tacked it to a Bill of Supply. The Lords refused
to pass the Money Bill till the tack was withdrawn. Soon afterwards the
Parliament - Parliaments were then triennial - was dissolved, and the
canvass for a general election set in amidst unusual excitement. Defoe
abandoned the quiet topic of trade, and devoted the _Review_ to
electioneering articles.

But he did not take a side, at least not a party side. He took the side
of peace and his country. "I saw with concern," he said, in afterwards
explaining his position, "the weighty juncture of a new election for
members approach, the variety of wheels and engines set to work in the
nation, and the furious methods to form interests on either hand and put
the tempers of men on all sides into an unusual motion; and things
seemed acted with so much animosity and party fury that I confess it
gave me terrible apprehensions of the consequences." On both sides "the
methods seemed to him very scandalous." "In many places most horrid and
villainous practices were set on foot to supplant one another. The
parties stooped to vile and unbecoming meannesses; infinite briberies,
forgeries, perjuries, and all manner of debauchings of the principles
and manners of the electors were attempted. All sorts of violences,
tumults, riots, breaches of the peace, neighbourhood, and good manners
were made use of to support interests and carry elections." In short,
Defoe saw the nation "running directly on the steep precipice of
confusion." In these circumstances, he seriously reflected what he
should do. He came to the conclusion that he must "immediately set
himself in the _Review_ to exhort, persuade, entreat, and in the most
moving terms he was capable of, prevail on all people in general to

Under cover of this profession of impartiality, Defoe issued most
effective attacks upon the High-Church party. In order to promote peace,
he said, it was necessary to ascertain first of all who were the enemies
of peace. On the surface, the questions at stake in the elections were,
the privileges of the Dissenters and the respective rights of the Lords
and the Commons in the matter of Money Bills. But people must look
beneath the surface. "King James, French power, and a general turn of
affairs was at the bottom, and the quarrels between Church and
Dissenters only a politic noose they had hooked the parties on both
sides into." Defoe lashed the Tackers into fury by his exhortations to
the study of peace. He professed the utmost good-will to them
personally, though he had not words-strong enough to condemn their
conduct in tacking the Occasional Bill to a Money Bill when they knew
that the Lords would reject it, and so in a moment of grave national
peril leave the army without supplies. The Queen, in dissolving
Parliament, had described this tacking as a dangerous experiment, and
Defoe explained the experiment as being "whether losing the Money Bill,
breaking up the Houses, disbanding the Confederacy, and opening the
door to the French, might not have been for the interest of the
High-Church." Far be it from him to use Billingsgate language to the
Tackers, but "the effect of their action, which, and not their motive,
he had to consider, would undoubtedly be to let in the French, depose
the Queen, bring in the Prince of Wales, abdicate the Protestant
religion, restore Popery, repeal the Toleration, and persecute the
Dissenters." Still it was probable that the Tackers meant no harm.
_Humanum est errare_. He was certain that if he showed them their error,
they would repent and be converted. All the same, he could not recommend
them to the electors. "A Tacker is a man of passion, a man of heat, a
man that is for ruining the nation upon any hazards to obtain his ends.
Gentlemen freeholders, you must not choose a Tacker, unless you will
destroy our peace, divide our strength, pull down the Church, let in the
French, and depose the Queen."

From the dissolution of Parliament in April till the end of the year
Defoe preached from this text with infinite variety and vigour. It is
the chief subject of the second volume of the _Review_. The elections,
powerfully influenced by Marlborough's successes as well as by the
eloquent championship of Defoe, resulted in the entire defeat of the
High Tories, and a further weeding of them out of high places in the
Administration. Defoe was able to close this volume of the _Review_ with
expressions of delight at the attainment of the peace for which he had
laboured, and, the victory, being gained and the battle over, to promise
a return to the intermitted subject of Trade. He returned to this
subject in the beginning of his third volume. But he had not pursued it
long when he was again called away. The second diversion, as he pointed
out, was strictly analogous to the first. It was a summons to him to do
his utmost to promote the union of the two kingdoms of England and
Scotland. "From the same zeal," Defoe said, "with which I first pursued
this blessed subject of peace, I found myself embarked in the further
extent of it, I mean the Union. If I thought myself obliged in duty to
the public interest to use my utmost endeavour to quiet the minds of
enraged parties, I found myself under a stronger necessity to embark in
the same design between two most enraged nations."

The union of the two kingdoms had become an object of pressing and
paramount importance towards the close of William's reign. He had found
little difficulty in getting the English Parliament to agree to settle
the succession of the House of Hanover, but the proposal that the
succession to the throne of Scotland should be settled on the same head
was coldly received by the Scottish Parliament. It was not so much that
the politicians of Edinburgh were averse to a common settlement, or
positively eager for a King and Court of their own, but they were
resolved to hold back till they were assured of commercial privileges
which would go to compensate them for the drain of wealth that was
supposed to have followed the King southwards. This was the policy of
the wiser heads, not to accept the Union without as advantageous terms
as they could secure. They had lost an opportunity at the Revolution,
and were determined not to lose another. But among the mass of the
population the feeling was all in favour of a separate kingdom. National
animosity had been inflamed to a passionate pitch by the Darien disaster
and the Massacre of Glencoe. The people listened readily to the
insinuations of hot-headed men that the English wished to have
everything their own way. The counter-charge about the Scotch found
equally willing hearers among the mass in England. Never had cool-headed
statesmen a harder task in preventing two nations from coming to blows.
All the time that the Treaty of Union was being negotiated which King
William had earnestly urged from his deathbed, throughout the first half
of Queen Anne's reign they worked under a continual apprehension lest
the negotiations should end in a violent and irreconcilable rupture.

Defoe might well say that he was pursuing the same blessed subject of
Peace in trying to reconcile these two most enraged nations, and writing
with all his might for the Union. An Act enabling the Queen to appoint
Commissioners on the English side to arrange the terms of the Treaty had
been passed in the first year of her reign, but difficulties had arisen
about the appointment of the Scottish Commissioners, and it was not till
the Spring of 1706 that the two Commissions came together. When they did
at last meet, they found each other much more reasonable and practical
in spirit than had appeared possible during the battle over the
preliminaries. But while the statesmen sat concocting the terms of the
Treaty almost amicably, from April to July, the excitement raged
fiercely out of doors. Amidst the blaze of recriminations and
counter-recriminations, Defoe moved energetically as the Apostle of
Peace, making his _Review_ play like a fireman's hose upon the flames.
He did not try to persuade the Scotch to peace by the same methods which
he had used in the case of the High-fliers and Tackers. His Reviews on
this subject, full of spirit as ever, are models of the art of
conciliation. He wrestled ardently with national prejudices on both
sides, vindicating the Scotch Presbyterians from the charge of religious
intolerance, labouring to prove that the English were not all to blame
for the collapse of the Darien expedition and the Glencoe tragedy,
expounding what was fair to both nations in matters concerning trade.
Abuse was heaped upon him plentifully by hot partisans; he was charged
with want of patriotism from the one side, and with too much of it from
the other; but he held on his way manfully, allowing no blow from his
aspersers to pass unreturned. Seldom has so bold and skilful a soldier
been enlisted in the cause of peace.

Defoe was not content with the _Review_ as a literary instrument of
pacification. He carried on the war in both capitals, answering the
pamphlets of the Scotch patriots with counter-pamphlets from the
Edinburgh press. He published also a poem, "in honour of Scotland,"
entitled _Caledonia_, with an artfully flattering preface, in which he
declared the poem to be a simple tribute to the greatness of the people
and the country without any reference whatever to the Union. Presently
he found it expedient to make Edinburgh his head-quarters, though he
continued sending the _Review_ three times a week to his London printer.
When the Treaty of Union had been elaborated by the Commissioners and
had passed the English Parliament, its difficulties were not at an end.
It had still to pass the Scotch Parliament, and a strong faction there,
riding on the storm of popular excitement, insisted on discussing it
clause by clause. Moved partly by curiosity, partly by earnest desire
for the public good, according to his own account in the _Review_ and in
his _History of the Union,_ Defoe resolved to undertake the "long,
tedious, and hazardous journey" to Edinburgh, and use all his influence
to push the Treaty through. It was a task of no small danger, for the
prejudice against the Union went so high in the Scottish capital that he
ran the risk of being torn to pieces by the populace. In one riot of
which he gives an account, his lodging was beset, and for a time he was
in as much peril "as a grenadier on a counter-scarp." Still he went on
writing pamphlets, and lobbying members of Parliament. Owing to his
intimate knowledge of all matters relating to trade, he also "had the
honour to be frequently sent for into the several Committees of
Parliament which were appointed to state some difficult points relating
to equalities, taxes, prohibitions, &c." Even when the Union was agreed
to by the Parliaments of both kingdoms, and took effect formally in May,
1707, difficulties arose in putting the details in operation, and Defoe
prolonged his stay in Scotland through the whole of that year.

In this visit to Scotland Defoe protested to the world at the time that
he had gone as a diplomatist on his own account, purely in the interests
of peace. But a suspicion arose and was very free expressed, that both
in this journey and in previous journeys to the West and the North of
England during the elections, he was serving as the agent, if not as the
spy, of the Government. These reproaches he denied with indignation,
declaring it particularly hard that he should be subjected to such
despiteful and injurious treatment even by writers "embarked in the same
cause, and pretending to write for the same public good." "I contemn,"
he said in his _History_, "as not worth mentioning, the suggestions of
some people, of my being employed thither to carry on the interest of a
party. I have never loved any parties, but with my utmost zeal have
sincerely espoused the great and original interest of this nation, and
of all nations - I mean truth and liberty, - and whoever are of that
party, I desire to be with them." He took up the same charges more
passionately in the Preface to the third volume of the _Review_, and
dealt with them in some brilliant passages of apologetic eloquence.

"I must confess," he said, "I have sometimes thought it very hard, that
having voluntarily, without the least direction, assistance, or
encouragement, in spite of all that has been suggested, taken upon me
the most necessary work of removing national prejudices against the two
most capital blessings of the world, Peace and Union, I should have the
disaster to have the nations receive the doctrine and damn the teacher."

"Should I descend to particulars, it would hardly appear credible that
in a Christian, a Protestant, and a Reformed nation, any man should
receive such treatment as I have done, even from those very people whose
consciences and judgments have stooped to the venerable truth, owned it
has been useful, serviceable, and seasonable...."

"I am charged with partiality, bribery, pensions, and payments - a thing
the circumstances, family, and fortunes of a man devoted to his

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Online LibraryWilliam MintoDaniel Defoe → online text (page 5 of 13)