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.