Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 180 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
But his title to that repute does not bear examination.  He was not so far in advance of his age as to detect the fallacy of the mercantile system.  On the contrary, he avowed his adherence to it against those of his contemporaries who were inclined to call it in question.  How Defoe came to support the new commercial treaty with France, and the grounds on which he supported it, can only be understood by looking at his relations with the Government.

While Defoe was living in Scotland in 1707, and filling the Review so exclusively with Scotch affairs that his readers, according to his own account, began to say that the fellow could talk of nothing but the Union, and had grown mighty dull of late, Harley’s position in the Ministry was gradually becoming very insecure.  He was suspected of cooling in his zeal for the war, and of keeping up clandestine relations with the Tories; and when Marlborough returned from his campaign at the close of the year he insisted upon the Secretary’s dismissal.  The Queen, who secretly resented the Marlborough yoke, at first refused her consent.  Presently an incident occurred which gave them an excuse for more urgent pressure.  One Gregg, a clerk in Harley’s office, was discovered to be in secret correspondence with the French Court, furnishing Louis with the contents of important State papers.  Harley was charged with complicity.  This charge was groundless, but he could not acquit himself of gross negligence in the custody of his papers.  Godolphin and Marlborough threatened to resign unless he was dismissed.  Then the Queen yielded.

When Harley fell, Defoe, according to his own account, in the Appeal to Honour and Justice, looked upon himself as lost, taking it for granted that “when a great officer fell, all who came in by his interest fall with him.”  But when his benefactor heard of this, and of Defoe’s “resolution never to abandon the fortunes of the man to whom he owed so much,” he kindly urged the devoted follower to think rather of his own interest than of any romantic obligation.  “My lord Treasurer,” he said, “will employ you in nothing but what is for the public service, and agreeably to your own sentiments of things; and besides, it is the Queen you are serving, who has been very good to you.  Pray apply yourself as you used to do; I shall not take it ill from you in the least.”  To Godolphin accordingly Defoe applied himself, was by him introduced a second time to Her Majesty and to the honour of kissing her hand, and obtained “the continuance of an appointment which Her Majesty had been pleased to make him in consideration of a former special service he had done.”  This was the appointment which he held while he was challenging his enemies to say whether his outward circumstances looked like the figure the agents of Courts and Princes make.

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Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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