Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 180 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.

Unfortunately for Defoe, William did not live long after he had been honoured with his Majesty’s confidence.  He declared afterwards that he had often been privately consulted by the King.  The pamphlets which he wrote during the close of the reign are all such as might have been directly inspired.  That on the Succession is chiefly memorable as containing a suggestion that the heirs of the Duke of Monmouth should be heard as to King Charles’s alleged marriage with Lucy Walters.  It is possible that this idea may have been sanctioned by the King, who had had painful experience of the disadvantages attending a ruler of foreign extraction, and besides had reason to doubt the attachment of the Princess Sophia to the Protestant faith.  When the passionate aversion to war in the popular mind was suddenly changed by the recognition of the Pretender into an equally passionate thirst for it, and the King seized the opportunity to dissolve Parliament and get a new House in accord with the altered temper of the people, Defoe justified the appeal to the freeholders by an examination and assertion of “the Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England.”  His last service to the King was a pamphlet bearing the paradoxical title, Reasons against a War with France.  As Defoe had for nearly a year been zealously working the public mind to a warlike pitch, this title is at first surprising, but the surprise disappears when we find that the pamphlet is an ingenious plea for beginning with a declaration of war against Spain, showing that not only was there just cause for such a war, but that it would be extremely profitable, inasmuch as it would afford occasion for plundering the Spaniards in the West Indies, and thereby making up for whatever losses our trade might suffer from the French privateers.  And it was more than a mere plundering descent that Defoe had in view; his object was that England should take actual possession of the Spanish Indies, and so rob Spain of its chief source of wealth.  There was a most powerful buccaneering spirit concealed under the peaceful title of this pamphlet.  The trick of arresting attention by an unexpected thesis, such as this promise of reasons for peace when everybody was dreaming of war, is an art in which Defoe has never been surpassed.  As we shall have occasion to see, he practised it more than once too often for his comfort.



From the death of the King in March, 1702, we must date a change in Defoe’s relations with the ruling powers.  Under William, his position as a political writer had been distinct and honourable.  He supported William’s policy warmly and straightforwardly, whether he divined it by his own judgment, or learned it by direct or indirect instructions or hints.  When charged with writing for a place, he indignantly denied that he held either place or pension at Court,

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Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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