Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 180 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
interests than by writing as he did at that juncture.  The proclaimed necessity under which England lay to make peace, offered Louis an advantage which he was not slow to take.  The proposals which he made at the Congress of Utrecht, and which he had ascertained would be accepted by the English Ministry and the Queen, were not unjustly characterised by the indignant Whigs as being such as he might have made at the close of a successful war.  The territorial concessions to England and Holland were insignificant; the States were to have the right of garrisoning certain barrier towns in Flanders, and England was to have some portions of Canada.  But there was no mention of dividing the West Indies between them—­the West Indies were to remain attached to Spain.  It was the restoration of their trade that was their main desire in these great commercial countries, and even that object Louis agreed to promote in a manner that seemed, according to the ideas of the time, to be more to his own advantage than to theirs.  In the case of England, he was to remove prohibitions against our imports, and in return we engaged to give the French imports the privileges of the most favoured nations.  In short, we were to have free trade with France, which the commercial classes of the time looked upon as a very doubtful blessing.

It is because Defoe wrote in favour of this free trade that he is supposed to have been superior to the commercial fallacies of the time.  But a glance at his arguments shows that this is a very hasty inference.  It was no part of Defoe’s art as a controversialist to seek to correct popular prejudices; on the contrary, it was his habit to take them for granted as the bases of his arguments, to work from them as premisses towards his conclusion.  He expressly avowed himself a prohibitionist in principle.—­

   “I am far from being of their mind who say that all prohibitions
   are destructive to trade, and that wise nations, the
   Dutch, make no prohibitions at all.”

“Where any nation has, by the singular blessing of God, a produce given to their country from which such a manufacture can be made as other nations cannot be without, and none can make that produce but themselves, it would be distraction in that nation not to prohibit the exportation of that original produce till it is manufactured.”

He had been taunted with flying in the face of what he had himself said in King William’s time in favour of prohibition.  But he boldly undertakes to prove that prohibition was absolutely necessary in King William’s time, and not only so, but that “the advantages we may make of taking off a prohibition now are all founded upon the advantages we did make of laying on a prohibition then:  that the same reason which made a prohibition then the best thing, makes it now the maddest thing a nation could do or ever did in the matter of trade.”  In King William’s time, the balance of trade was against us to the extent of 850,000 l., in consequence of the French King’s laying extravagant duties upon the import of all our woollen manufactures.

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Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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