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Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.

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 STUDY PEACE.”

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

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