Daniel Defoe eBook

William Minto
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Daniel Defoe.
He had various business offers, and among others an invitation from some merchants to settle at Cadiz as a commission agent, “with offers of very good commissions.”  But Providence, he tells us, and, we may add, a shrewd confidence in his own powers, “placed a secret aversion in his mind to quitting England upon any account, and made him refuse the best offers of that kind.”  He stayed at home, “to be concerned with some eminent persons in proposing ways and means to the Government for raising money to supply the occasions of the war then newly begun.”  He also wrote a vigorous and loyal pamphlet, entitled, The Englishman’s, Choice and True Interest:  in the vigorous prosecution of the war against France, and serving K. William and Q. Mary, and acknowledging their right.  As a reward for his literary or his financial services, or for both, he was appointed, “without the least application” of his own, Accountant to the Commissioners of the Glass Duty, and held this post till the duty was abolished in 1699.

From 1694 to the end of William’s reign was the most prosperous and honourable period in Defoe’s life.  His services to the Government did not absorb the whole of his restless energy; He still had time for private enterprise, and started a manufactory of bricks and pantiles at Tilbury, where, Mr. Lee says, judging from fragments recently dug up, he made good sound sonorous bricks, although according to another authority such a thing was impossible out of any material existing in the neighbourhood.  Anyhow, Defoe prospered, and set up a coach and a pleasure-boat.  Nor must we forget what is so much to his honour, that he set himself to pay his creditors in full, voluntarily disregarding the composition which they had accepted.  In 1705 he was able, to boast that he had reduced his debts in spite of many difficulties from 17,000L. to 5,000L., but these sums included liabilities resulting from the failure of his pantile factory.

Defoe’s first conspicuous literary service to King William, after he obtained Government employment, was a pamphlet on the question of a Standing Army raised after the Peace of Ryswick in 1697.  This Pen and Ink War, as he calls it, which followed close on the heels of the great European struggle, had been raging for some time before Defoe took the field.  Hosts of writers had appeared to endanger the permanence of the triumph of William’s arms and diplomacy by demanding the disbandment of his tried troops, as being a menace to domestic liberties.  Their arguments had been encountered by no less zealous champions of the King’s cause.  The battle, in fact, had been won when Defoe issued his Argument showing that a Standing Army, with consent of Parliament, is not inconsistent with a Free Government.  He was able to boast in his preface that “if books and writings would not, God be thanked the Parliament would confute” his adversaries.  Nevertheless, though coming late in the day, Defoe’s pamphlet was widely read, and must have helped to consolidate the victory.

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Daniel Defoe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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