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and bis ledger, he was glancing at some of the causes which conduced to his own failure as a merchant. And when he cautions the beginner against going too fast, and holds up to him as a type and exemplar the carrier's waggon, which “keeps wagging and always goes on,” and “as softly as it goes” can yet in time go far, we may be sure that he was thinking of the over-rashness with which he had himself embarked in speculation,
There can be no doubt that eager and active as Defoe was in his trading enterprises, he was not so wrapt up in them as to be an unconcerned spectator of the intense political life of the time. When King James aimed a blow at the Church of England by removing the religious disabilities of all Dissenters, Protestant and Catholic, in his Declaration of Indulgence, some of Defoe's co-religionists were ready to catch at the boon without thinking of its consequences. He differed from them, he afterwards stated, and
as he used to say that he had rather the Popish IIouse of Austria should ruin the Protestants in Hungaria, than the infidel House of Ottoman should ruin both Protestants and Papists by overrunning Germany,” so now “ he told the Dissenters he had rather the Church of England should pull our clothes off by fines and forfeitures, than the Papists should fall both upon the Church and the Dissenters, and pull our skins off by fire and faggot. He probably embodied these conclusions of his vigorous cominon sense in a pamphlet, though no pamphlet on the subject known for certain to be his has been preserved. Mr. Lee is over-rash in identifying as Defoe's a quarto sheet of that date entitled “A letter containing some Reflections on His Majesty's declaration for Liberty of Conscience. have written many pamphlets on the stirring events of the t.me, which have not come down to us. It may have been then that he acquired, or made a valuable possession by practice, that marvelous facility with his pen which stood him in such stead in after-life.• It would be no wonder if he wrote dozens of pamphlets, every one of which disappeared. The pamphlet then occupied the place of the newspaper leading article.
The newspapers of the time were veritable clironicles of news, and not organs of opinion. The expression of opinion was not then associated with the dissemination of facts and
A man who wished to influence public opinion wrote a panıphlet, small or large, a single leaf or a tract of a few pages, and had it hawked about the streets and sold in the bookshops. These pamphlets issued from the press in swarms, were thrown aside when read, and hardly preserved except by accident. That Defoe, if he wrote any or many, should not have reprinted them when fifteen yrars afterwards he published a collection of his works, is intelligible; le republished only such of his tracts as had not lost their practical interest. If. however, we indulge in the fancy, warranted so far by his describing himself as having been a young
"author" in 1683, that Defoe took an active part in polemical literature under Charles and James, we must remember that the censorship of the press was then active, and that Defoe must have published under greater disadvantages than those who wrote on the side of the Court.
At the Revolution, in 1088, Defoe lost no time in making his adhesion to the new monarch conspicuous. He was, according to Oldmison, one of "a royal regiment of volunteer horse, made up of the chief citizens, who, being gallantly mounted and richly accoutred, were led by the Earl of Monmouth, now Earl of Peterborough, and attended their Majesties from Whitehall” to a banquet given by the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City. Three years afterwards, on the occasion of the Jacobite plot in which Lord Preston was the lead. ing figure, he published the first pamphlet that is known for certain to be his. It is in verse, and_ is entitled A New Discovery of an Old Intrigue, a Satire levelled at Treachery and Ambition. In the preface, the author said that "he had never drawn his pen before," and that he would never write again unless this effort produced a visible reformation. If we take this literally, we must suppose that his claim to have been an author eighteen years before had its origin in his fitful vanity. The literary merits of the satire, when we compare it with the powerful verse of Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, to which hé refers in the exordium, are not great. Defoe prided himself upon his verse, and in a catalogue of the Poets in one of his later pieces assigned himself the special province of " lampoon.” He possibly believed that his clever doggerel was a better title to immortality than Robinson Crusoe. The immediate popular effect of his satires gave some encouragement to this belief, but they are comparatively dull reading for posterity. The clever hits at living City functionaries, indicated by their initials and nicknames, the rough ridicule and the biting innuendo, were telling in their day, but the lampoons have perished with their objects. The local celebrity of Sir Ralph and Sir Peter, Silly Will and Captain Tom the Tailor, has vanished, and Defoe's hurried and formless lines, incisive as their vivid force must have been, are not redeemed from dullness for modern readers by the few bright epigrams with which they are besprinkled.
KING WILLIAM'S ADJUTANT.
DEFOE's first business catastrophe happened about 1692. He is said to have temporarily absconded, and to have parleyed with his creditors from a distance till they agreed to accept a com
omposition. Bristol is named as having been his place of refuge, and there is a story that he was known there as the Sunday Gentleman, because he appeared on that day, and that day only, in fashionable attire, being kept indoors during the rest of the week by fear of the bailiffs. But he was of too buoyant a temperament to sink under his misfortune from the sense of having brought it on himself, and the cloud soon passed away. A man so fertile in expedients and ready, according to his own idea of a thoroughbred trader, to turn himself to anything, could not long remain unemployed. 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 th: Government for raising money to supply the occasion 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 acknowl-. edging 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 1094 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 inuch to his honour, that he set himself to pay his creditors in full, voluntarily disregarding the coinposition which they had accepted. In 1705 he was able to boast that he had reduced liis debts in spite of many difficulties from 17,0001. to 5,000!., 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.
Thus late in life did Defoe lay the first stone of his literary reputation. He was now in the thirty-eighth year of his age, his controversial genius in full vigour, and his mastery of language complete. None of his subsequent tracts surpass this as a piece of trenchant and persuasive reasoning. It shows at their very highest his marvellous powers of combining constructive with destructive criticism. He dashes into the lists with good-humoured confidence, bearing the banner of clear conimon sense, and disclaiming sympathy with extreme persons of either side. He puts his case with direct and plausible force, addressing his readers vivaciously as plain people like himself, among whom as reasonable men there cannot be two opinions. He cuts rival arguments to pieces with dexterous strokes, representing them as the confused reasoning of well-meaning but dull intellects, and dances with lively mockery on the fragments. If the authors of such arguments knew their own minds, they would be entirely on his side. He echoes the pet prejudices of his readers as the props and mainstays of his thesis, and boldly laughs away misgivings of which they are likely to be half ashamed. He makes no parade of logic; he is only a plain freeholder like the mass whom he addresses, though he knows twenty times as much as many writers of more pretension. He never appeals to passion or imagination ; what he strives to enlist on liis side is homely self-interest, and the ordinary sense of what is right and reasonable. There is little regularity of method in the development of his argument ; that he leaves to more anxious and elaborate masters of style. For himself he is content to start from a bold and clear statement of his own opinion, and proceeds buoyantly and discursively to engage and scatter bis enemies as they turn up, without the least fear of being able to fight his way back to his original base. He wrote for a class to whom a prolonged
intellectual operation, however comprehensive and complete, was dis. tasteful. To persuade the mass of the freeholders was his object, and for such an object there are no political tracts in the language at all comparable to Defoe's. He bears some resemblance to Colbett, but he had none of Cobbett's brutality ; his faculties were more adroit, and his range of vision infinitely wider. Cobbett was à demagogue, Defoe a popular statesman. The one was qualified to lead the people, the other to guide them. Cobbett is contained in Defoe as the less is contained in the greater.
King William obtained a standing army from Parliament, but not so large an army as he wished, and it was soon afterwards still further reduced. Meantime, Defoe employed liis pen in promoting objects which were dear to the King's heart. His Essay on Projectswhich “ relate to Civil Polity as well as inatters of negoce calculated, in so far as it advocated joint stock enterprise, to advance one of the oljects of the statesmen of the Revolution, th3 committal of the moneyed classes to the established Government, and against a dynasty which might plausibly be mistrusted of respect for visible accumulations of private wealth. Defoe's projects were of an extremely varied kind. The classification was not strict. His spirited definition of the word "projects” included Noal's Ark and the Tower of Babel, as well as Captain Phipps's scheme for raising the wreck of a Spanish ship laden with silver. He is sometimes credited with remarkable shrewdness in having anticipated in this Essay some of the greatest public improvements of modern times—the protection of seamen, the higher education of women, the establislıment of banks and benefit societies, the construction of high ways. But it is not historically accurate to give him the whole ciedit of these conceptions. Most of thein were floating about at the time, so much so that he had to defend himself against a charge of plagiarism, and few of them have been carried out in accordance with the essential features of his plans. One remarkable circumstance in Defoe's projects, which we may attribute either to his own national bent or to his compliance with the King's humour, is the extent to which he advocated Government interference. He proposed, for example, an income-tax, and the appointment of a commission who should travel through the country and ascertain by inquiry that the tax was not evaded. In making this proposal he shows an acquaintance with private incomes in the City, which raises some suspicion as to the capacity in which he was “associated with certain eminent persons in proposing ways and means to the Government. In his article on Banks, he expresses himself dissatisfied that the Government did not fix a maximum rate of interest for the loans made by chartered banks; they were otherwise, he complained, of no assistance to the poor trader, who might as well go to the goldsmiths as before. His Highways project was a scheme for making national highways on a scale worthy of Baron Haussmann. There is more