I hope the time is come at last when the voice of moderate principles may be heard. Hitherto the noise has been so great, and the prejudices and passions of men so strong, that it had been but in vain to offer at any argument, or for any man to talk of giving a reason for his actions; and this alone has been the cause why, when other men, who, I think, have less to say in their own defence, are appealing to the public, and struggling to defend themselves, I alone have been silent under the infinite clamours and reproaches, causeless curses, unusual threatenings, and the most unjust and injurious treatment in the world.
I hear much of people’s calling out to punish the guilty, but very few are concerned to clear the innocent. I hope some will be inclined to judge impartially, and have yet reserved so much of the Christian as to believe, and at least to hope, that a rational creature cannot abandon himself so as to act without some reason, and are willing not only to have me defend myself, but to be able to answer for me where they hear me causelessly insulted by others, and, therefore, are willing to have such just arguments put into their mouths as the cause will bear.
As for those who are prepossessed, and according to the modern justice of parties are resolved to be so, let them go; I am not arguing with them, but against them; they act so contrary to justice, to reason, to [Pg 4]religion, so contrary to the rules of Christians and of good manners, that they are not to be argued with, but to be exposed, or entirely neglected. I have a receipt against all the uneasiness which it may be supposed to give me, and that is, to contemn slander, and think it not worth the least concern; neither should I think it worth while to give any answer to it, if it were not on some other accounts of which I shall speak as I go on. If any young man ask me why I am in such haste to publish this matter at this time, among many other good reasons which I could give, these are some:—
1. I think I have long enough been made Fabula Vulgi, and borne the weight of general slander; and I should be wanting to truth, to my family, and to myself, if I did not give a fair and true state of my conduct, for impartial men to judge of, when I am no more in being to answer for myself.
2. By the hints of mortality, and by the infirmities of a life of sorrow and fatigue, I have reason to think I am not a great way off from, if not very near to, the great ocean of eternity, and the time may not be long ere I embark on the last voyage. Wherefore, I think I should even accounts with this world before I go, that no actions (slanders) may lie against my heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, to disturb them in the peaceable possession of their father’s (character) inheritance.
3. I fear—God grant I have not a second-sight in it—that this lucid interval of temper and moderation, which shines, though dimly too, upon us at this time, will be but of short continuance, and that some men, who know not how to use the advantage God has put into their hands with moderation, will push, in spite of the best prince in the world, at such extravagant things, and act with such an intemperate forwardness, as will revive the heats and animosities which wise and good men were in hopes should be[Pg 5] allayed by the happy accession of the king to the throne.
It is and ever was my opinion, that moderation is the only virtue by which the peace and tranquillity of this nation can be preserved. Even the king himself—I believe his majesty will allow me that freedom—can only be happy in the enjoyment of the crown by a moderative administration. If his majesty should be obliged, contrary to his known disposition, to join with intemperate councils, if it does not lessen his security, I am persuaded it will lessen his satisfaction. It cannot be pleasant or agreeable, and I think it cannot be safe, to any just prince, to rule over a divided people, split into incensed and exasperated parties. Though a skilful mariner may have courage to master a tempest, and goes fearless through a storm, yet he can never be said to delight in the danger; a fresh, fair gale, and a quiet sea, is the pleasure of his voyage, and we have a saying worth notice to them that are otherwise minded, Qui amat periculum, periebat in illo.
To attain at the happy calm, which, as I say, is the safety of Britain, is the question which should now move us all; and he would merit to be called the nation’s physician that could prescribe the specific for it. I think I may be allowed to say, a conquest of parties will never do it; a balance of parties may. Some are for the former; they talk high of punishments, letting blood, revenging the treatment they have met with, and the like. If they, not knowing what spirit they are of, think this the course to be taken, let them try their hands; I shall give them up for lost, and look for their downfall from that time; for the ruin of all such tempers slumbereth not.
It is many years that I have professed myself an enemy to all precipitations in public administrations;[Pg 6] and often I have attempted to show, that hot councils have ever been destructive to those who have made use of them. Indeed, they have not always been a disadvantage to the nation, as in king James II.’s reign, when, as I have often said in print, his precipitation was the safety of us all: and if he had proceeded temperately and politicly, we had been undone. Felix quem faciunt.
But these things have been spoken when your ferment has been too high for anything to be heard; whether you will hear it now or no, I know not; and therefore it was that I said, I fear the present cessation of party arms will not hold long. These are some of the reasons why I think this is the proper juncture for me to give some account of myself, and of my past conduct to the world; and that I may do this as effectually as I can, being perhaps never more to speak from the press, I shall, as concisely as I can, give an abridgment of my own history during the few unhappy years I have employed myself, or been employed, in public in the world.
Misfortunes in business having unhinged me from matters of trade, it was about the year 1694 when I was invited by some merchants, with whom I had corresponded abroad, and some also at home, to settle at Cadiz, in Spain, and that with offers of very good commissions. But Providence, which had other work for me to do, placed a secret aversion in my mind to quitting England upon any account, and made me refuse the best offers of that kind, to be concerned with some eminent persons at home in proposing ways and means to the government, for raising money to supply the occasions of the war then newly begun. Some time after this I was, without the least application of mine, and being then seventy miles from London, sent for to be accountant[Pg 7] to the commissioners of the glass duty, in which service I continued to the determination of their commission.
During this time there came out a vile abhorred pamphlet in very ill verse, written by one Mr. Tutchin, and called The Foreigners, in which the author—who he was I then knew not—fell personally upon the king himself, and then upon the Dutch nation; and after having reproached his majesty with crimes that his worst enemy could not think of without horror, he sums up all in the odious name of foreigner.
This filled me with a kind of rage against the book, and gave birth to a trifle, which I never could hope should have met with so general an acceptation as it did; I mean The True-born Englishman. How this poem was the occasion of my being known to his majesty; how I was afterwards received by him; how employed; and how, above my capacity of deserving, rewarded, is no part of the present case, and is only mentioned here, as I take all occasions to do, for the expressing the honour I ever preserved for the immortal and glorious memory of that greatest and best of princes, and whom it was my honour and advantage to call master, as well as sovereign; whose goodness to me I never forgot, neither can forget; and whose memory I never patiently heard abused, nor ever can do so; and who, had he lived, would never have suffered me to be treated as I have been in the world. But Heaven for our sins removed him in judgment. How far the treatment he met with from the nation he came to save, and whose deliverance he finished, was admitted by Heaven to be a means of his death, I desire to forget for their sakes who are guilty; and if this calls any of it to mind, it is mentioned to move them to treat him better who is now, with like principles of goodness[Pg 8] and clemency, appointed by God and the constitution to be their sovereign, lest He that protects righteous princes avenge the injuries they receive from an ungrateful people by giving them up to the confusions their madness leads them to.
And in their just acclamations at the happy accession of his present majesty to the throne, I cannot but advise them to look back and call to mind who it was that first guided them to the family of Hanover, and to pass by all the popish branches of Orleans and Savoy; recognising the just authority of parliament in the undoubted right of limiting the succession, and establishing that glorious maxim of our settlement, viz., that it is inconsistent with the constitution of this protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince. I say, let them call to mind who it was that guided their thoughts first to the protestant race of our own kings in the house of Hanover; and that it is to king William, next to Heaven itself, to whom we owe the enjoying a protestant king at this time. I need not go back to the particulars of his majesty’s conduct in that affair; his journey in person to the country of Hanover and the court of Zell; his particular management of the affair afterwards at home, perfecting the design by naming the illustrious family to the nation, and bringing about a parliamentary settlement to effect it; entailing the crown thereby in so effectual a manner as we see has been sufficient to prevent the worst designs of our Jacobite people in behalf of the pretender; a settlement, together with the subsequent acts which followed it, and the Union with Scotland, which made it unalterable, that gave a complete satisfaction to those who knew and understood it, and removed those terrible apprehensions of the pretender (which some entertained) from the minds of others, who were yet as zealous against[Pg 9] him as it was possible for any to be. Upon this settlement, as I shall show presently, I grounded my opinion, which I often expressed, viz., that I did not see it possible the Jacobites could ever set up their idol here, and I think my opinion abundantly justified in the consequences; of which by and by.
This digression, as a debt to the glorious memory of king William, I could not in justice omit; and as the reign of his present majesty is esteemed happy, and looked upon as a blessing from heaven by us, it will most necessarily lead us to bless the memory of king William, to whom we owe so much of it. How easily could his majesty have led us to other branches, whose relation to the crown might have had large pretences! What prince but would have submitted to have educated a successor of his race in the protestant religion for the sake of such a crown? But the king, who had our happiness in view, and saw as far into it as any human sight could penetrate; who knew we were not to be governed by inexperienced youths; that the protestant religion was not to be established by political converts; and that princes, under French influence, or instructed in French politics, were not proper instruments to preserve the liberties of Britain, fixed his eyes upon the family which now possesses the crown, as not only having an undoubted relation to it by blood, but as being first and principally zealous and powerful asserters of the protestant religion and interest against popery; and, secondly, stored with a visible succession of worthy and promising branches, who appeared equal to the weight of government, qualified to fill a throne and guide a nation, which, without reflection, are not famed to be the most easy to rule in the world.
Whether the consequence has been a credit to king William’s judgment I need not say. I am[Pg 10] not writing panegyrics here, but doing justice to the memory of the king my master, whom I have had the honour very often to hear express himself with great satisfaction in having brought the settlement of the succession to so good an issue; and, to repeat his majesty’s own words, that he knew no prince in Europe so fit to be king of England as the elector of Hanover. I am persuaded, without any flattery, that if it should not every way answer the expectations his majesty had of it, the fault will be our own. God grant the king may have more comfort of his crown than we suffered king William to have!
The king being dead, and the queen proclaimed, the hot men of that side, as the hot men of all sides do, thinking the game in their own hands, and all other people under their feet, began to run out into those mad extremes, and precipitate themselves into such measures as, according to the fate of all intemperate councils, ended in their own confusion, and threw them at last out of the saddle.
The queen, who, though willing to favour the high-church party, did not thereby design the ruin of those whom she did not employ, was soon alarmed at their wild conduct, and turned them out, adhering to the moderate counsels of those who better understood, or more faithfully pursued, her majesty’s and the country’s interest. In this turn fell sir Edward Seymour’s party, for so the high men were then called; and to this turn we owe the conversion of several other great men, who became whigs on that occasion, which it is known they were not before; which conversion afterwards begat that unkind distinction of old whig and modern whig, which some of the former were with very little justice pleased to run up afterwards to an extreme very pernicious to both.[Pg 11]
But I am gone too far in this part. I return to my own story.
In the interval of these things, and during the heat of the first fury of highflying, I fell a sacrifice for writing against the rage and madness of that high party, and in the service of the dissenters. What justice I met with, and, above all, what mercy, is too well known to need repetition.
This introduction is made that it may bring me to what has been the foundation of all my further concern in public affairs, and will produce a sufficient reason for my adhering to those whose obligations upon me were too strong to be resisted, even when many things were done by them which I could not approve; and for this reason it is that I think it necessary to distinguish how far I did or did not adhere to, or join in or with, the persons or conduct of the late government; and those who are willing to judge with impartiality and charity, will see reason to use me the more tenderly in their thoughts, when they weigh the particulars.
I will make no reflections upon the treatment I met with from the people I suffered for, or how I was abandoned even in my sufferings, at the same time that they acknowledged the service I had been to their cause; but I must mention it to let you know that while I lay friendless and distressed in the prison of Newgate, my family ruined, and myself without hope of deliverance, a message was brought me from a person of honour, who, till that time, I had never had the least acquaintance with, or knowledge of, other than by fame, or by sight, as we know men of quality by seeing them on public occasions. I gave no present answer to the person who brought it, having not duly weighed the import of the message. The message was by[Pg 12] word of mouth thus:—”Pray, ask that gentleman what I can do for him?” But in return to this kind and generous message, I immediately took my pen and ink, and wrote the story of the blind man in the gospel, who followed our Saviour, and to whom our blessed Lord put the question, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” Who, as if he had made it strange that such a question should be asked, or as if he had said that I am blind, and yet ask me what thou shalt do for me? My answer is plain in my misery, “Lord, that I may receive my sight?”
I needed not to make the application. And from this time, although I lay four months in prison after this, and heard no more of it, yet from this time, as I learned afterwards, this noble person made it his business to have my case represented to her majesty, and methods taken for my deliverance.
I mention this part, because I am no more to forget the obligation upon me to the queen, than to my first benefactor.
When her majesty came to have the truth of the case laid before her, I soon felt the effects of her royal goodness and compassion. And first, her majesty declared, that she left all that matter to a certain person, and did not think he would have used me in such a manner. Probably these words may seem imaginary to some, and the speaking them to be of no value, and so they would have been had they not been followed with further and more convincing proofs of what they imported, which were these, that her majesty was pleased particularly to inquire into my circumstances and family, and by my lord treasurer Godolphin to send a considerable supply to my wife and family, and to send to me the prison money to pay my fine and the expenses[Pg 13] of my discharge. Whether this be a just foundation let my enemies judge. Here is the foundation on which I built my first sense of duty to her majesty’s person, and the indelible bond of gratitude to my first benefactor.
Gratitude and fidelity are inseparable from an honest man. But, to be thus obliged by a stranger, by a man of quality and honour, and after that by the sovereign under whose administration I was suffering, let any one put himself in my stead, and examine upon what principles I could ever act against either such a queen, or such a benefactor; and what must my own heart reproach me with, what blushes must have covered my face when I had looked in, and called myself ungrateful to him that saved me thus from distress, or her that fetched me out of the dungeon, and gave my family relief? Let any man who knows what principles are, what engagements of honour and gratitude are, make his case his own, and say what I could have done more or less than I have done.
I must go on a little with the detail of the obligation, and then I shall descend to relate what I have done, and what I have not done, in the case.
Being delivered from the distress I was in, her majesty, who was not satisfied to do me good by a single act of her bounty, had the goodness to think of taking me into her service, and I had the honour to be employed in several honourable, though secret services, by the interposition of my first benefactor, who then appeared as a member in the public administration.
I had the happiness to discharge myself in all these trusts so much to the satisfaction of those who employed me, though oftentimes with difficulty and danger, that my lord treasurer Godolphin, whose memory I have always honoured, was pleased to[Pg 14] continue his favour to me, and to do me all good offices with her majesty, even after an unhappy breach had separated him from my first benefactor, the particulars of which may not be improper to relate; and as it is not an injustice to any, so I hope it will not be offensive.
When, upon that fatal breach, the secretary of state was dismissed from the service, I looked upon myself as lost; it being a general rule in such cases, when a great officer falls, that all who came in by his interest fall with him; and resolving never to abandon the fortunes of the man to whom I owed so much of my own, I quitted the usual applications which I had made to my lord treasurer.
But my generous benefactor, when he understood it, frankly told me that I should by no means do so; “For,” said he, in the most engaging terms, “my lord treasurer 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.”
Upon this, I went to wait on my lord-treasurer, who received me with great freedom, and told me, smiling, he had not seen me a long while. I told his lordship very frankly the occasion—that the unhappy breach that had fallen out made me doubtful whether I should be acceptable to his lordship. That I knew it was usual when great persons fall, that all who were in their interest fell with them. That his lordship knew the obligations I was under, and that I could not but fear my interest in his lordship was lessened on that account. “Not at all, Mr. De Foe,” replied his lordship, “I always think a man honest till I find to the contrary.”[Pg 15]
Upon this, I attended his lordship as usual; and being resolved to remove all possible ground of suspicion that I kept any secret correspondence, I never visited, or wrote to, or any way corresponded with my principal benefactor for above three years; which he so well knew the reason of, and so well approved that punctual behaviour in me, that he never took it ill from me at all.
In consequence of this reception, my lord Godolphin had the goodness not only to introduce me for the second time to her majesty, and to the honour of kissing her hand, but obtained for me the continuance of an appointment which her majesty had been pleased to make me, in consideration of a formal special service I had done, and in which I had run as much risk of my life as a grenadier upon the counterscarp; and which appointment, however, was first obtained for me at the intercession of my said first benefactor, and is all owing to that intercession and her majesty’s bounty. Upon this second introduction, her majesty was pleased to tell me, with a goodness peculiar to herself, that she had such satisfaction in my former services, that she had appointed me for another affair, which was something nice, and that my lord treasurer should tell me the rest; and so I withdrew.
The next day, his lordship having commanded me to attend, told me that he must send me to Scotland, and gave me but three days to prepare myself. Accordingly, I went to Scotland, where neither my business, nor the manner of my discharging it, is material to this tract; nor will it be ever any part of my character that I reveal what should be concealed. And yet, my errand was such as was far from being unfit for a sovereign to direct, or an honest man to perform; and the service I did upon that occasion, as it is not[Pg 16] unknown to the greatest man now in the nation under the king and the prince, so, I dare say, his grace was never displeased with the part I had in it, and I hope will not forget it.
These things I mention upon this account, and no other, viz., to state the obligation I have been in all along to her majesty personally, and to my first benefactor principally; by which I say, I think I was at least obliged not to act against them, even in those things which I might not approve. Whether I have acted with them further than I ought, shall be spoken of by itself.
Having said thus much of the obligations laid on me, and the persons by whom, I have this only to add, that I think no man will say, a subject could be under greater bonds to his prince, or a private person to a minister of state; and I shall ever preserve this principle, that an honest man cannot be ungrateful to his benefactor.
But let no man run away now with the notion, that I am now intending to plead the obligation that was laid upon me from her majesty, or from any other person, to justify my doing anything that is not otherwise to be justified in itself.
Nothing would be more injurious than such a construction; and therefore I capitulate for so much justice as to explain myself by this declaration, viz., that I only speak of those obligations as binding me to a negative conduct, not to fly in the face of, or concern myself in disputes with those to whom I was under such obligations, although I might not, in my judgment, join in many things that were done. No obligation could excuse me in calling evil good, or good evil; but I am of the opinion, that I might justly think myself obliged to defend what I thought was to be defended, and to be silent in anything which I might think was not.[Pg 17]
If this is a crime, I must plead guilty, and give in the history of my obligation above mentioned as an extenuation at least, if not a justification of my conduct.
Suppose a man’s father was guilty of several things unlawful and unjustifiable; a man may heartily detest the unjustifiable thing, and yet it ought not to be expected that he should expose his father. I think the case on my side exactly the same, nor can the duty to a parent be more strongly obliging than the obligation laid on me; but I must allow the case on the other side not the same.
And this brings me to the affirmative, and inquire what the matters of fact are; what I have done, or have not done, on account of these obligations which I am under.
It is a general suggestion, and is affirmed with such assurance, that they tell me it is in vain to contradict it, that I have been employed by the earl of Oxford, late lord treasurer, in the late disputes about public affairs, to write for him, or, to put it into their own particulars, have written by his directions taken the materials from him, been dictated to or instructed by him, or by other persons from him, by his order, and the like; and that I have received a pension, or salary, or payment from his lordship for such services as these. It was impossible, since these things have been so confidently affirmed, but that, if I could put it into words that would more fully express the meaning of these people, I profess I would do it. One would think that some evidence might be produced, some facts might appear, some one or other might be found that could speak of certain knowledge. To say things have been carried too closely to be discovered, is saying nothing, for then they must[Pg 18] own that it is not discovered; and how then can they affirm it as they do, with such an assurance as nothing ought to be affirmed by honest men, unless they were able to prove it?
To speak, then, to the fact. Were the reproach upon me only in this particular, I should not mention it. I should not think it a reproach to be directed by a man to whom the queen had at that time entrusted the administration of the government. But, as it is a reproach upon his lordship, justice requires that I do right in this case. The thing is true or false. I would recommend it to those who would be called honest men, to consider but one thing, viz., what if it should not be true? Can they justify the injury done to that person, or to any person concerned? If it cannot be proved, if no vestiges appear to ground it upon, how can they charge men upon rumours and reports, and join to run down men’s characters by the stream of clamour?
Sed quo rapit impetus undæ.
In answer to the charge, I bear witness to posterity, that every part of it is false and forged. And I do solemnly protest, in the fear and presence of Him that shall judge us all, both the slanderers and the slandered, that I have not received any instructions, directions, orders, or let them call it what they will, of that kind, for the writing of any part of what I have written, or any materials for the putting together for the forming any book or pamphlet whatsoever, from the said earl of Oxford, late lord treasurer, or from any person by his order or direction, since the time that the late earl of Godolphin was lord treasurer. Neither did I ever show, or cause to be shown to his lordship, for his approbation, correction, alteration, or for any other[Pg 19] cause, any book, paper, or pamphlet which I have written and published, before the same was worked off at the press and published.
If any man living can detect me of the least prevarication in this, or in any part of it, I desire him to do it by all means; and I challenge all the world to do it. And if they cannot, then I appeal, as in my title, to the honour and justice of my worst enemies, to know upon what foundation of truth or conscience they can affirm these things, and for what it is that I bear these reproaches.
In all my writing, I ever capitulated for my liberty to speak according to my own judgment of things; I ever had that liberty allowed me, nor was I ever imposed upon to write this way or that against my judgment by any person whatsoever.
I come now historically to the point of time when my lord Godolphin was dismissed from his employment, and the late unhappy division broke out at court. I waited on my lord the day he was displaced, and humbly asked his lordship’s direction what course I should take? His lordship’s answer was, “that he had the same goodwill to assist me, but not the same power; that I was the queen’s servant, and that all he had done for me was by her majesty’s special and particular direction; and that whoever should succeed him, it was not material to me; he supposed I should be employed in nothing relating to the present differences. My business was to wait till I saw things settled, and then apply myself to the ministers of state, to receive her majesty’s commands from them.”
It occurred to me immediately, as a principle for my conduct, that it was not material to me what ministers her majesty was pleased to employ; my duty was to go along with every ministry, so far as they did not break in upon the constitution, and the[Pg 20] laws and liberties of my country; my part being only the duty of a subject, viz., to submit to all lawful commands, and to enter into no service which was not justifiable by the laws; to all which I have exactly obliged myself.
By this, I was providentially cast back upon my original benefactor, who, according to his wonted goodness, was pleased to lay my case before her majesty; and thereby I preserved my interest in her majesty’s favour, but without any engagement of service.
As for consideration, pension, gratification, or reward, I declare to all the world I have had none, except only that old appointment which her majesty was pleased to make me in the days of the ministry of my lord Godolphin; of which I have spoken already, and which was for services done in a foreign country some years before. Neither have I been employed, directed, or ordered by my lord treasurer aforesaid to do, or not to do, anything in the affairs of the unhappy differences which have so long perplexed us, and for which I have so many, and such unjust reproaches.
I come next to enter into the matters of fact, and what it is I have done, or not done, which may justify the treatment I have met with; and first, for the negative part, what I have not done.
The first thing in the unhappy breaches which have fallen out, is the heaping up scandal upon the persons and conduct of men of honour on one side as well as the other; those unworthy methods of falling upon one another by personal calumny and reproach. This I have often in print complained of as an unchristian, ungenerous, and unjustifiable practice. Not a word can be found in all I have written reflecting on the persons or conduct of any of the former ministry. I served her majesty under[Pg 21]their administration; they acted honourably and justly in every transaction in which I had the honour to be concerned with them, and I never published or said anything dishonourable of any of them in my life; nor can the worst enemy I have produce any such thing against me. I always regretted the change, and looked upon it as a great disaster to the nation in general, I am sure it was so to me in particular; and the divisions and feuds among parties which followed that change were doubtless a disaster to us all.
The next thing that followed the change was the peace: no man can say that ever I once said in my life that I approved of the peace. I wrote a public paper at that time, and there it remains upon record against me. I printed it openly, and that so plainly as others durst not do, that I did not like the peace; neither that which was made, nor that which was before making; that I thought the protestant interest was not taken care of in either; and that the peace I was for was such as should neither have given the Spanish monarchy to the house of Bourbon nor to the house of Austria, but that this bone of contention should have been broken to pieces, that it might not be dangerous to Europe; and that the protestant powers, viz., Britain and the States, should have so strengthened and fortified their interest by their sharing the commerce and strength of Spain, as should have made them no more afraid of France or the emperor: so that the protestant interest should have been superior to all the powers of Europe, and been in no more danger of exorbitant powers whether French or Austrian. This was the peace I always argued for, pursuant to the design of king William in the Treaty of Partition, and pursuant to that article of the grand alliance which was directed by[Pg 22] the same glorious hand at the beginning of this last war, viz., that all we should conquer in the Spanish West Indies should be our own.
This was the true design, that England and Holland should have turned their naval power, which was eminently superior to that of France, to the conquest of the Spanish West Indies, by which the channel of trade and return of bullion, which now enriches the enemies of both, had been ours; and as the wealth, so the strength of the world had been in protestant hands. Spain, whoever had it, must then have been dependent upon us. The house of Bourbon would have found it so poor without us, as to be scarce worth fighting for: and the people so averse to them, for want of their commerce, as not to make it ever likely that France could keep it.
This was the foundation I ever acted upon with relation to the peace. It is true, that when it was made, and could not be otherwise, I thought our business was to make the best of it, and rather to inquire what improvements were to be made of it, than to be continually exclaiming at those who made it; and where the objection lies against this part, I cannot yet see.
While I spoke of things in this manner, I bore infinite reproaches from clamouring pens, of being in the French interest, being hired and bribed to defend a bad peace, and the like; and most of this was upon a supposition of my writing, or being the author of, abundance of pamphlets which came out every day, and which I had no hand in. And indeed, as I shall observe again by and by, this was one of the greatest pieces of injustice that could be done me, and which I labour still under without any redress; that whenever any piece comes out which is not liked, I am immediately charged with being the author; and very often the first knowledge[Pg 23] I have had of a book being published, has been from seeing myself abused for being the author of it, in some other pamphlet published in answer to it.
Finding myself treated in this manner, I declined writing at all, and for a great part of a year never set pen to paper, except in the public paper called the Review. After this I was long absent in the north of England; and, observing the insolence of the jacobite party, and how they insinuated fine things into the heads of the common people, of the right and claim of the pretender, and of the great things he would do for us if he were to come in; of his being to turn a protestant, of his being resolved to maintain our liberties, support our friends, give liberty to dissenters, and the like; and finding that the people began to be deluded, and that the jacobites gained ground among them by these insinuations, I thought it the best service I could do the protestant interest, and the best way to open people’s eyes of the protestant succession, if I took some course effectually to alarm the people with what they really ought to expect, if the pretender should come to be king. And this made me set pen to paper again.
And this brings me to the affirmative part, or to what really I have done; and in this, I am sorry to say, I have one of the foulest, most unjust, and unchristian clamours to complain of, that any man has suffered, I believe, since the days of the tyranny of king James II. The fact is thus:—
In order to detect the influence of jacobite emissaries, as above, the first thing I wrote was a small tract, called A Seasonable Caution; a book sincerely written to open the eyes of the poor, ignorant country people, and to warn them against the subtle insinuations of the emissaries of the pretender;[Pg 24] and that it might be effectual to that purpose, I prevailed with several of my friends to give them away among the poor people, all over England, especially in the north; and several thousands were actually given away, the price being reduced so low, that the bare expense of paper and press was only preserved, that every one might be convinced that nothing of gain was designed, but a sincere endeavour to do a public good, and assist to keep the people entirely in the interest of the protestant succession.
Next to this, and with the same sincere design, I wrote two pamphlets, one entituled, What if the Pretender should come? the other, Reasons against the Succession of the House of Hanover.
Nothing can be more plain than that the titles of these books were amusements, in order to put the books into the hands of those people whom the jacobites had deluded, and to bring them to be read by them.
Previous to what I shall further say of these books, I must observe that all these books met with so general a reception and approbation among those who were most sincere for the protestant succession, that they sent them all over the kingdom, and recommended them to the people as excellent and useful pieces; insomuch that about seven editions of them were printed, and they were reprinted in other places. And I do protest, had his present majesty, then elector of Hanover, given me a thousand pounds to have written for the interest of his succession, and to expose and render the interest of the pretender odious and ridiculous, I could have done nothing more effectual to those purposes than these books were.
And that I may make my worst enemies, to whom this is a fair appeal, judges of this, I must take leave, by and by, to repeat some of the expressions in[Pg 25] these books, which were direct and need no explanation, which I think no man that was in the interest of the pretender, nay, which no man but one who was entirely in the interest of the Hanover succession, could write.
Nothing can be severer in the fate of a man than to act so between two parties, that both sides should be provoked against him. It is certain, the jacobites cursed those tracts and the author, and when they came to read them, being deluded by the titles according to the design, they threw them by with the greatest indignation imaginable. Had the pretender ever come to the throne, I could have expected nothing but death, and all the ignominy and reproach that the most inveterate enemy of his person and claim could be supposed to suffer.
On the other hand, I leave it to any considering man to judge, what a surprise it must be to me to meet with all the public clamour that informers could invent, as being guilty of writing against the Hanover succession, and as having written several pamphlets in favour of the pretender.
No man in this nation ever had a more rivetted aversion to the pretender, and to all the family he pretended to come of, than I; a man that had been in arms under the duke of Monmouth, against the cruelty and arbitrary government of his pretended father; that for twenty years had to my utmost opposed him (king James) and his party after his abdication; and had served king William to his satisfaction, and the friends of the revolution after his death, at all hazards and upon all occasions; that had suffered and been ruined under the administration of high-fliers and jacobites, of whom some at this day counterfeit whigs. It could not be! The nature of the thing could by no means allow it; it must be monstrous; and that the wonder may cease, I shall take[Pg 26] leave to quote some of the expressions out of these books, of which the worst enemy I have in the world is left to judge whether they are in favour of the pretender or no; but of this in its place. For these books I was prosecuted, taken into custody, and obliged to give 800l. bail.
I do not in the least object here against, or design to reflect upon, the proceedings of the judges which were subsequent to this. I acknowledged then, and now acknowledge again, that upon the information given, there was a sufficient ground for all they did; and my unhappy entering upon my own vindication in print, while the case was before their lordships in a judicial way, was an error which I did not understand, and which I did not foresee; and therefore, although I had great reason to reflect upon the informers, yet I was wrong in making that defence in the manner and time I then made it; and which when I found, I made no scruple afterwards to petition the judges, and acknowledge they had just ground to resent it. Upon which petition and acknowledgment their lordships were pleased, with particular marks of goodness, to release me, and not to take the advantage of an error of ignorance, as if it had been considered and premeditated.
But against the informers I think I have great reason to complain; and against the injustice of those writers who, in many pamphlets, charged me with writing for the pretender, and the government with pardoning an author who wrote for the pretender. And, indeed, the justice of these men can be in nothing more clearly stated than in this case of mine; where the charge, in their printed papers and public discourse, was brought; not that they themselves believed me guilty of the crime, but because it was necessary to blacken the man, that a general reproach might serve for an answer to whatever he[Pg 27] should say that was not for their turn. So that it was the person, not the crime, they fell upon; and they may justly be said to persecute for the sake of persecution, as will thus appear.
This matter making some noise, people began to inquire into it, and ask what De Foe was prosecuted for, seeing the books were manifestly written against the pretender, and for the interest of the house of Hanover. And my friends expostulated freely with some of the men who appeared in it, who answered with more truth than honesty, that they knew this book had nothing in it, and that it was meant another way; but that De Foe had disobliged them in other things, and they were resolved to take the advantage they had, both to punish and expose him. They were no inconsiderable people who said this; and had the case come to a trial, I had provided good evidence to prove the words.
This is the christianity and justice by which I have been treated, and this in justice is the thing I complain of.
Now, as this was the plot of a few men to see if they could brand me in the world for a jacobite, and persuade rash and ignorant people that I was turned about for the pretender, I think they might as easily have proved me to be a mahometan; therefore, I say, this obliges me to state the matter as it really stands, that impartial men may judge whether those books were written for or against the pretender. And this cannot be better done than by the account of what followed after the information, which, in a few words, was this:—
Upon the several days appointed, I appeared at the Queen’s Bench bar to discharge my bail; and at last had an indictment for high crimes and misdemeanors exhibited against me by her majesty’s[Pg 28] attorney-general, which, as I was informed, contained two hundred sheets of paper.
What was the substance of the indictment I shall not mention here, neither could I enter upon it, having never seen the particulars; but I was told that I should be brought to trial the very next term.
I was not ignorant that in such cases it is easy to make any book a libel, and that the jury must have found the matter of fact in the indictment, viz., that I had written such books, and then what might have followed I knew not. Wherefore, I thought it was my only way to cast myself on the clemency of her majesty, of whose goodness I had so much experience many ways; representing in my petition, that I was far from the least intention to favour the interest of the pretender, but that the books were all written with a sincere design to promote the interest of the house of Hanover; and humbly laid before her majesty, as I do now before the rest of the world, the books themselves to plead in my behalf; representing further, that I was maliciously informed against by those who were willing to put a construction upon the expressions different from my true meaning; and therefore, flying to her majesty’s goodness and clemency, I entreated her gracious pardon.
It was not only the native disposition of her majesty to acts of clemency and goodness that obtained me this pardon; but, as I was informed, her majesty was pleased to express it in the council, “She saw nothing but private pique in the first prosecution.” And therefore I think I cannot give a better and clearer vindication of myself; than what is contained in the preamble to the pardon which her majesty was pleased to grant me; and I must be allowed to say to those who are still willing to[Pg 29] object, that I think what satisfied her majesty might be sufficient to satisfy them; and I can assure them that this pardon was not granted without her majesty’s being specially and particularly acquainted with the things alleged in the petition, the books also being looked into, to find the expressions quoted in the petition. The preamble to the patent for a pardon, as far as relates to the matters of fact, runs thus:—
“Whereas, in the term of the Holy Trinity last past, our attorney-general did exhibit an information, in our court of Queen’s Bench at Westminster, against Daniel De Foe, late of London, gent., for writing, printing, and publishing, and causing to be written, printed, and published, three libels, the one entituled, Reasons against the Succession of the House of Hanover; with an Inquiry how far the Abdication of King James, supposing it to be legal, ought to affect the person of the Pretender. One other, entituled, And what if the Pretender should come? or, Some Considerations of the Advantages and real Consequences of the Pretender’s possessing the Crown of Great Britain. And one other, entituled, An Answer to a Question that nobody thinks of, viz., What if the Queen should die?
“And whereas the said Daniel De Foe hath by his humble petition represented to us, that he, with a sincere design to propagate the interest of the Hanover succession, and to animate the people against the designs of the pretender, whom he always looked on as an enemy to our sacred person and government, did publish the said pamphlets: in all which books, although the titles seemed to look as if written in favour of the pretender, and several expressions, as in all ironical writing it must be, may be wrested against the true design of the whole, and turned to a meaning quite different from[Pg 30] the intention of the author, yet the petitioner humbly assures us, in the solemnest manner, that his true and only design in all the said books was, by an ironical discourse of recommending the pretender, in the strongest and most forcible manner to expose his designs, and the ruinous consequences of his succeeding therein; which, as the petitioner humbly represents, will appear to our satisfaction by the books themselves, where the following expressions are very plain: viz:, ‘That the pretender is recommended as a person proper to amass the English liberties into his own sovereignty; supply them with the privilege of wearing wooden shoes; easing them of the trouble of choosing parliaments; and the nobility and gentry of the hazard and expense of winter journeys, by governing them in that more righteous method, of his absolute will, and enforcing the laws by a glorious standing army; paying all the nation’s debts at once by stopping the funds and shutting up the exchequer; easing and quieting their differences in religion, by bringing them to the union of popery, or leaving them at liberty to have no religion at all:’ that these were some of the very expressions in the said books, which the petitioner sincerely designed to expose and oppose, and as far as in him lies, the interest of the pretender, and with no other intention; nevertheless, the petitioner, to his great surprise, has been misrepresented, and his said books misconstrued, as if written in favour of the pretender; and the petitioner is now under prosecution for the same; which prosecution, if further carried on, will be the utter ruin of the petitioner and his family. Wherefore, the petitioner, humbly assuring us of the innocence of his design as aforesaid, flies to our clemency, and most humbly prays our most gracious and free pardon.
“We, taking the premises and the circumstances[Pg 31] of the petitioner into our royal consideration, are graciously pleased to extend our royal mercy to the petitioner. Our will and pleasure therefore is, that you prepare a bill for our royal signature, to pass our great seal, containing our gracious and free pardon unto him, the said Daniel De Foe, of the offences aforementioned, and of all indictments, convictions, pains, penalties, and forfeitures incurred thereby; and you are to insert therein all such apt beneficial clauses as you shall deem requisite to make this our intended pardon more full, valid, and effectual; and for so doing, this shall be your warrant. Given at our castle at Windsor, the twentieth day of November, 1713, in the twentieth year of our reign. By her majesty’s command.
Let any indifferent man judge whether I was not treated with particular malice in this matter; who was, notwithstanding this, reproached in the daily public prints with having written treasonable books in behalf of the pretender; nay, and in some of those books, as before, the queen herself was reproached with having granted her pardon to an author who writ for the pretender.
I think I might with much more justice say, I was the first man that ever was obliged to seek a pardon for writing for the Hanover succession, and the first man that these people ever sought to ruin for writing against the pretender. For, if ever a book was sincerely designed to further and propagate the affection and zeal of the nation against the pretender, nay, and was made use of, and that with success too, for that purpose, these books were so; and I ask no more favour of the world to determine the opinion of honest men for or against me, than what is drawn constructively from these books.[Pg 32] Let one word, either written or spoken by me, either published or not published, be produced, that was in the least disrespectful to the protestant succession, or to any branch of the family of Hanover, or that can be judged to be favourable to the interest or person of the pretender, and I will be willing to waive her majesty’s pardon, and render myself to public justice, to be punished for it, as I should well deserve.
I freely and openly challenge the worst of my enemies to charge me with any discourse, conversation, or behaviour, in my whole life, which had the least word in it injurious to the protestant succession, unbecoming or disrespectful to any of the persons of the royal family of Hanover, or the least favourable word of the persons, the designs, or friends of the pretender. If they can do it, let them stand forth and speak; no doubt but that they may be heard; and I, for my part, will relinquish all pleas, pardons, and defences, and cast myself into the hands of justice. Nay, to go further, I defy them to prove that I ever kept company, or had any society, friendship, or conversation, with any jacobite. So averse have I been to the interest and the people, that I have studiously avoided their company on all occasions.
As nothing in the world has been more my aversion than the society of jacobites, so nothing can be a greater misfortune to me than to be accused and publicly reproached with what is, of all things in the world, most abhorred by me; and that which has made it the more afflicting is, that this charge arises from those very things which I did with the sincerest design to manifest the contrary.
But such is my present fate, and I am to submit to it; which I do with meekness and calmness, as to a judgment from heaven, and am practising that[Pg 33] duty which I have studied long ago, of forgiving my enemies, and praying for them that despitefully use me.
Having given this brief history of the pardon, &c., I hope the impartial part of the world will grant me, that being thus graciously delivered a second time from the cruelty of my implacable enemies, and the ruin of a cruel and unjust persecution, and that by the mere clemency and goodness, my obligation to her majesty’s goodness was far from being made less than it was before.
I have now run through the history of my obligation to her majesty, and to the person of my benefactor aforesaid. I shall state everything that followed this with all the clearness I can, and leave myself liable to as little cavil as I may; for I see myself assaulted by a sort of people who will do me no justice. I hear a great noise made of punishing those that are guilty, but, as I said before, not one word of clearing those that are innocent; and I must say, in this part they treat me, not only as I were no Christian, but as if they themselves were not Christians. They will neither prove the charge nor hear the defence, which is the unjustest thing in the world.
I foresee what will be alleged to the clause of my obligation, &c., to great persons, and I resolve to give my adversaries all the advantage they can desire by acknowledging beforehand, that no obligation to the queen, or to any benefactor, can justify any man’s acting against the interest of his country, against his principles, his conscience, and his former profession.
I think this will anticipate all that can be said upon that head, and it will then remain to tell the fact, as I am not chargeable with it; which I shall do as clearly as possible in a few words.[Pg 34]
It is none of my work to enter into the conduct of the queen or of the ministry in this case; the question is not what they have done, but what I have done; and though I am very far from thinking of them as some other people think, yet, for the sake of the present argument, I am to give them all up, and suppose, though not granting, that all which is suggested of them by the worst temper, the most censorious writer, the most scandalous pamphlet or lampoon should be true; and I’ll go through some of the particulars, as I meet with them in public.
1st. That they made a scandalous peace, unjustly broke the alliance, betrayed the confederates, and sold us all to the French.
God forbid it should be all truth, in the manner that we see it in print; but that I say is none of my business. But what hand had I in all this? I never wrote one word for the peace before it was made, or to justify it after it was made; let them produce it if they can. Nay, in a Review upon that subject while it was making, I printed it in plainer words than other men durst speak it at that time, that I did not like the peace, nor did I like any peace that was making since that of the partition, and that the protestant interest was not taken care of either in that or the treaty of Gertrudenburgh before it.
It is true that I did say, that since the peace was made, and we could not help it, that it was our business and our duty to make the best of it, to make the utmost advantage of it by commerce, navigation, and all kind of improvement that we could, and this I say still; and I must think it is more our duty to do so than the exclamations against the thing itself, which it is not in our power to retrieve. This is all that the worst enemy I have can charge me with. After the peace was made, and the Dutch and the emperor stood out, I gave my opinion of what I foresaw[Pg 35] would necessarily be the consequence of that difference, viz., that it would inevitably involve these nations in a war with one or other of them; any one who was master of common sense in the public affairs might see that the standing out of the Dutch could have no other event. For if the confederates had conquered the French, they would certainly have fallen upon us by way of resentment, and there was no doubt but the same councils that led us to make a peace would oblige us to maintain it, by preventing too great impressions upon the French.
On the other hand, I alleged, that should the French prevail against the Dutch, unless he stopped at such limitations of conquest as the treaty obliged him to do, we must have been under the same necessity to renew the war against France; and for this reason, seeing we had made a peace, we were obliged to bring the rest of the confederates into it, and to bring the French to give them all such terms as they ought to be satisfied with.
This way of arguing was either so little understood, or so much maligned, that I suffered innumerable reproaches in print for having written for a war with the Dutch, which was neither in the expression, nor ever in my imagination; but I pass by these injuries as small and trifling compared to others I suffer under.
However, one thing I must say of the peace, let it be good or ill in itself, I cannot but think we have all reason to rejoice in behalf of his present majesty, that at his accession to the crown he found the nation in peace, and had the hands of the king of France tied up by a peace so as not to be able, without the most infamous breach of articles, to offer the least disturbance to his taking a quiet and leisurely[Pg 36] possession, or so much as to countenance those that would.
Not but that I believe, if the war had been at the height, we should have been able to have preserved the crown for his present majesty, its only rightful lord; but I will not say it should have been so easy, so bloodless, so undisputed as now; and all the difference must be acknowledged to the peace, and this is all the good I ever yet said of it.
I come next to the general clamour of the ministry being for the pretender. I must speak my sentiments solemnly and plainly, as I always did in that matter, viz., that if it was so, I did not see it, nor did I ever see reason to believe it; this I am sure of, that if it was so, I never took one step in that kind of service, nor did I ever hear one word spoken by any one of the ministry that I had the honour to know or converse with, that favoured the pretender; but have had the honour to hear them all protest that there was no design to oppose the succession of Hanover in the least.
It may be objected to me, that they might be in the interest of the pretender for all that; it is true they might, but that is nothing to me. I am not vindicating their conduct, but my own; as I never was employed in anything that way, so I do still protest I do not believe it was ever in their design, and I have many reasons to confirm my thoughts in that case, which are not material to the present case. But be that as it will, it is enough to me that I acted nothing in any such interest, neither did I ever sin against the protestant succession of Hanover in thought, word, or deed; and if the ministry did, I did not see it, or so much as suspect them of it.
It was a disaster to the ministry, to be driven to the necessity of taking that set of men by the hand,[Pg 37] who nobody can deny, were in that interest; but as the former ministry answered, when they were charged with a design to overthrow the church, because they favoured, joined with, and were united to the dissenters; I say they answered, that they made use of the dissenters, but granted them nothing (which, by the way, was too true;) so these gentlemen answer, that it is true they made use of jacobites, but did nothing for them.
But this by the by. Necessity is pleaded by both parties for doing things which neither side can justify. I wish both sides would for ever avoid the necessity of doing evil; for certainly it is the worst plea in the world, and generally made use of for the worst things.
I have often lamented the disaster which I saw employing jacobites was to the late ministry, and certainly it gave the greatest handle to the enemies of the ministry to fix that universal reproach upon them of being in the interest of the pretender. But there was no medium. The whigs refused to show them a safe retreat, or to give them the least opportunity to take any other measures, but at the risk of their own destruction; and they ventured upon that course in hopes of being able to stand alone at last without help of either the one or the other; in which they were no doubt, mistaken.
However, in this part, as I was always assured, and have good reason still to believe, that her majesty was steady in the interest of the house of Hanover, and as nothing was ever offered to me, or required of me, to the prejudice of that interest, on what ground can I be reproached with the secret reserved designs of any, if they had such designs, as I still verily believe they had not?
I see there are some men who would fain persuade the world, that every man that was in the interest of[Pg 38] the late ministry, or employed by the late government, or that served the late queen, was for the pretender.
God forbid this should be true; and I think there needs very little to be said in answer to it. I can answer for myself, that it is notoriously false; and I think the easy and uninterrupted accession of his majesty to the crown contradicts it. I see no end which such a suggestion aims at, but to leave an odium upon all that had any duty or regard to her late majesty.
A subject is not always master of his sovereign’s measures, nor always to examine what persons or parties the prince he serves employs, so be it that they break not in upon the constitution; that they govern according to law, and that he is employed in no illegal act, or have nothing desired of him inconsistent with the liberties and laws of his country. If this be not right, then a servant of the king’s is in a worse case than a servant to any private person.
In all these things I have not erred; neither have I acted or done anything in the whole course of my life, either in the service of her majesty or of her ministry, that any one can say has the least deviation from the strictest regard to the protestant succession, and to the laws and liberties of my country.
I never saw an arbitrary action offered at, a law dispensed with, justice denied, or oppression set up, either by queen or ministry, in any branch of the administration, wherein I had the least concern.
If I have sinned against the whigs, it has been all negatively, viz., that I have not joined in the loud exclamations against the queen and against the ministry, and against their measures; and if this be my crime, my plea is twofold.
2. Where I did see what, as before, I lamented and was sorry for, and could not join with or approve,—as joining with jacobites, the peace, &c.,—my obligation is my plea for my silence.
I have all the good thoughts of the person, and good wishes for the prosperity of my benefactor, that charity and that gratitude can inspire me with. I ever believed him to have the true interest of the protestant religion and of his country in his view; and if it should be otherwise, I should be very sorry. And I must repeat it again, that he always left me so entirely to my own judgment, in everything I did, that he never prescribed to me what I should write, or should not write, in my life; neither did he ever concern himself to dictate to or restrain me in any kind; nor did he see any one tract that I ever wrote before it was printed; so that all the notion of my writing by his direction is as much a slander upon him as it is possible anything of that kind can be; and if I have written anything which is offensive, unjust, or untrue, I must do that justice as to declare, he has no hand in it; the crime is my own.
As the reproach of his directing me to write is a slander upon the person I am speaking of, so that of my receiving pensions and payments from him for writing, is a slander upon me; and I speak it with the greatest sincerity, seriousness, and solemnity that it is possible for a Christian man to speak, that except the appointment I mentioned before, which her majesty was pleased to make me formerly, and which I received during the time of my lord Godolphin’s ministry, I have not received of the late lord treasurer, or of any one else by his order, knowledge, or direction, one farthing, or the value of a farthing, during his whole administration; nor has all the interest I have been supposed to have in his lordship[Pg 40] been able to procure me the arrears due to me in the time of the other ministry. So help me God.
I am under no necessity of making this declaration. The services I did, and for which her majesty was pleased to make me a small allowance, are known to the greatest men in the present administration; and some of them were then of the opinion, and I hope are so still, that I was not unworthy of her majesty’s favour. The effect of those services, however small, is enjoyed by those great persons and by the whole nation to this day; and I had the honour once to be told, that they should never be forgotten. It is a misfortune that no man can avoid, to forfeit for his deference to the person and services of his queen, to whom he was inexpressibly obliged; and if I am fallen under the displeasure of the present government for anything I ever did in obedience to her majesty in the past, I may say it is my disaster; but I can never say it is my fault.
This brings me again to that other oppression which, as I said, I suffer under, and which, I think, is of a kind that no man ever suffered under so much as myself; and this is to have every libel, every pamphlet, be it ever so foolish, so malicious, so unmannerly, or so dangerous, be laid at my door, and be called publicly by my name. It has been in vain for me to struggle with this injury; it has been in vain for me to protest, to declare solemnly, nay, if I would have sworn that I had no hand in such a book or paper, never saw it, never read it, and the like, it was the same thing.
My name has been hackneyed about the street by the hawkers, and about the coffeehouses by the politicians, at such a rate as no patience could bear. One man will swear to the style; another to this[Pg 41] or that expression; another to the way of printing; and all so positive that it is to no purpose to oppose it.
I published once, to stop this way of using me, that I would print nothing but what I set my name to, and held it for a year or two; but it was all one; I had the same treatment. I now have resolved for some time to write nothing at all, and yet I find it the same thing; two books lately published being called mine, for no other reason that I know of than that at the request of the printer, I revised two sheets of them at the press, and that they seemed to be written in favour of a certain person; which person, also, as I have been assured, had no hand in them, or any knowledge of them, till they were published in print.
This is a flail which I have no fence against, but to complain of the injustice of it, and that is but the shortest way to be treated with more injustice.
There is a mighty charge against me for being author and publisher of a paper called the ‘Mercator.’ I will state the fact first, and then speak to the subject.
It is true, that being desired to give my opinion in the affair of the commerce with France, I did, as I often had done in print many years before, declare that it was my opinion we ought to have an open trade with France, because I did believe we might have the advantage by such a trade; and of this opinion I am still. What part I had in the Mercator is well known; and could men answer with argument, and not with personal abuse, I would at any time defend every part of the Mercator which was of my doing. But to say the Mercator was mine, is false; I neither was the author of it, had the property of it, the printing of it, or the profit by it. I had never any payment or reward for writing[Pg 42] any part of it, nor had I the power to put what I would into it. Yet the whole clamour fell upon me, because they knew not who else to load with it. And when they came to answer, the method was instead of argument, to threaten and reflect upon me, reproach me with private circumstances and misfortunes, and give language which no Christian ought to give, and which no gentleman ought to take.
I thought any Englishman had the liberty to speak his opinion in such things, for this had nothing to do with the public. The press was open to me as well as to others; and how or when I lost my English liberty of speaking my mind, I know not; neither how my speaking my opinion without fee or reward, could authorise them to call me villain, rascal, traitor, and such opprobrious names.
It was ever my opinion, and is so still, that were our wool kept from France, and our manufactures spread in France upon reasonable duties, all the improvements which the French have made in the woollen manufactures would decay, and in the end be little worth; and consequently, the hurt they could do us by them would be of little moment.
It was my opinion, and is so still, that the ninth article of the treaty of commerce was calculated for the advantage of our trade, let who will make it. That is nothing to me. My reasons are because it tied up the French to open the door to our manufactures at a certain duty of importation there, and left the parliament of Britain at liberty to shut theirs out by as high duties as they pleased here, there being no limitation upon us as to duties on French goods; but that other nations should pay the same.
While the French were thus bound, and the British free, I always thought we must be in a condition to trade to advantage, or it must be our own[Pg 43] fault. This was my opinion, and is so still; and I would venture to maintain it against any man upon a public stage, before a jury of fifty merchants, and venture my life upon the cause, if I were assured of fair play in the dispute. But that it was my opinion that we might carry on a trade with France to our great advantage, and that we ought for that reason to trade with them, appears in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth volumes of the Review, above nine years before the Mercator was thought of. It was not thought criminal to say so then; how it come to be villanous to say so now, God knows; I can give no account of it. I am still of the same opinion, and shall never be brought to say otherwise, unless I see the state of trade so altered as to alter my opinion; and if ever I do I shall be able to give good reasons for it.
The answer to these things, whether mine or no, was all pointed at me, and the arguments were generally in the terms villain, rascal, miscreant, liar, bankrupt, fellow, hireling, turncoat, &c. What the arguments were bettered by these methods, I leave others to judge of. Also, most of those things in the Mercator, for which I had such usage, were such as I was not the author of.
I do grant, had all the books which had been called by my name been written by me, I must of necessity have exasperated every side; and perhaps have deserved it; but I have the greatest injustice imaginable in this treatment, as I have in the perverting the design of what I have really written.
To sum up, therefore, my complaint in a few words:—
I was, from my first entering into the knowledge of public matters, and have ever been to this day, a sincere lover of the constitution of my country; zealous for liberty and the protestant interest; but[Pg 44] a constant follower of moderate principles, a vigorous opposer of hot measures in all parties. I never once changed my opinion, my principles, or my party: and let what will be said of changing sides, this I maintain, that I never once deviated from the revolution principles, nor from the doctrine of liberty and property on which it was founded.
I own I could never be convinced of the great danger of the pretender in the time of the late ministry, nor can I be now convinced of the great danger of the church under this ministry. I believe the cry of the one was politically made use of then to serve other designs, and I plainly see the like use made of the other now. I spoke my mind freely then, and I have done the like now, in a small tract to that purpose not yet made public; and which if I live to publish I will publicly own, as I purpose to do everything I write, that my friends may know when I am abused, and they imposed on.
It has been the disaster of all parties in this nation to be very hot in their turn; and as often as they have been so I have differed with them, and ever must and shall do so. I will repeat some of the occasions on the whigs’ side, because from that quarter the accusation of my turning about comes.
The first time I had the misfortune to differ with my friends was about the year 1683, when the Turks were besieging Vienna, and the whigs in England, generally speaking, were for the Turks taking it, which I, having read the history of the cruelty and perfidious dealings of the Turks in their wars, and how they had rooted out the name of the Christian religion in above threescore and ten kingdoms, could by no means agree with. And[Pg 45] though then but a young man, and a younger author, I opposed it, and wrote against it, which was taken very unkindly indeed.
The next time I differed with my friends was when king James was wheedling the dissenters to take off the penal laws and test, which I could by no means come into. And, as in the first, I used to say, I had rather the popish house of Austria should ruin the protestants in Hungaria, than the infidel house of Ottoman should ruin both protestants and papists by overrunning Germany; so, in the other, I told the dissenters I 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 fagot.
The next difference I had with good men was about the scandalous practice of occasional conformity, in which I had the misfortune to make many honest men angry, rather because I had the better of the argument, than because they disliked what I said.
And now I have lived to see the dissenters themselves very quiet, if not very well pleased with an act of parliament to prevent it. Their friends indeed laid it on; they would be friends indeed if they would talk of taking it off again.
Again, I had a breach with honest men for their maltreating king William; of which I say nothing, because I think they are now opening their eyes, and making what amends they can to his memory.
The fifth difference I had with them was about the treaty of Partition, in which many honest men are mistaken, and in which I told them plainly then that they would at last end the war upon worse terms; and so it is my opinion they would have[Pg 46] done, though, the treaty of Gertrudenburgh had taken place.
The sixth time I differed with them was when the old whigs fell upon the modern whigs, and when the duke of Marlborough and my lord Godolphin were used by the Observator in a manner worse, I must confess, for the time it lasted, than ever they were used since; nay, though it were by Abel and the Examiner; but the success failed. In this dispute my lord Godolphin did me the honour to tell me, I had served him and his grace also both faithfully and successfully. But his lordship is dead, and I have now no testimony of it but what is to be found in the Observator, where I am plentifully abused for being an enemy to my country, by acting in the interest of my lord Godolphin and the duke of Marlborough. What weathercock can turn with such tempers as these!
I am now on the seventh breach with them, and my crime now is, that I will not believe and say the same things of the queen and the late treasurer which I could not believe before of my lord Godolphin and the duke of Marlborough, and which in truth I cannot believe, and therefore could not say it of either of them; and which, if I had believed, yet I ought not to have been the man that should have said it for the reasons aforesaid.
In such turns of tempers and times, a man must be tenfold a vicar of Bray, or it is impossible but he must one time or other be out with everybody. This is my present condition, and for this I am reviled with having abandoned my principles, turned jacobite, and what not. God judge between me and these men. Would they come to any particulars with me, what real guilt I may have I would freely acknowledge; and if they would produce[Pg 47] any evidence of the bribes, the pensions, and the rewards I have taken, I would declare honestly whether they were true or no. If they would give a list of the books which they charge me with, and the reasons why they lay them at my door, I would acknowledge my mistake, own what I have done, and let them know what I have not done. But these men neither show mercy, nor leave place for repentance; in which they act not only unlike their master, but contrary to his express commands.
It is true, good men have been used thus in former times; and all the comfort I have is, that these men have not the last judgment in their hands: if they had, dreadful would be the case of those who oppose them. But that day will show many men and things also in a different state from what they may now appear in. Some that now appear clear and fair will then be seen to be black and foul, and some that are now thought black and foul will then be approved and accepted; and thither I cheerfully appeal, concluding this part in the words of the prophet, I heard the defaming of many; fear on every side; report, say they, and we will report it; all my familiars watched for my halting, saying, peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. Jer. xx. 10.
Mr. Poole’s Annotations has the following remarks on these lines; which, I think, are so much to that part of my case which is to follow, that I do not omit them. The words are these:—
“The prophet,” says he, “here rendereth a reason why he thought of giving over his work as a prophet; his ears were continually filled with the obloquies and reproaches of such as reproached him; and besides, he was afraid on all hands, there[Pg 48] were so many traps laid for him, so many devices devised against him. They did not only take advantage against him, but sought advantages, and invited others to raise stories of him; not only strangers, but those that he might have expected the greatest kindness from; those that pretended most courteously; ‘They watch,’ says he, ‘for opportunities to do me justice, and lay in wait for my halting, desiring nothing more than that I might be enticed to speak, or do something which they might find matter of a colourable accusation, that so they might satisfy their malice upon me.’ This hath always been the genius of wicked men. Job and David both made complaints much like this.” These are Mr. Poole’s words.
And this leads me to several particulars, in which my case may, without any arrogance, be likened to that of the sacred prophet, excepting the vast disparity of the persons.
No sooner was the queen dead, and the king, as right required, proclaimed, but the rage of men increased upon me to that degree, that the threats and insults I received were such as I am not able to express. If I offered to say a word in favour of the present settlement, it was called fawning, and turning round again; on the other hand, though I have meddled neither one way nor the other, nor written one book since the queen’s death, yet a great many things are called by my name, and I bear every day the reproaches which all the answerers of those books cast, as well upon the subjects as the authors. I have not seen or spoken to my lord of Oxford but once since the king’s landing, nor received the least message, order, or writing from his lordship, or any other way corresponded with him, yet he bears the reproach of my writing in his defence, and I the[Pg 49] rage of men for doing it. I cannot say it is no affliction to me to be thus used, though my being entirely clear of the facts is a true support to me.
I am unconcerned at the rage and clamour of party men; but I cannot be unconcerned to hear men, who I think are good men and good Christians, prepossessed and mistaken about me. However, I cannot doubt but some time or other it will please God to open such men’s eyes. A constant, steady adhering to personal virtue and to public peace, which, I thank God, I can appeal to him has always been my practice, will at last restore me to the opinion of sober and impartial men, and that is all I desire. What it will do with those who are resolutely partial and unjust, I cannot say, neither is that much my concern. But I cannot forbear giving one example of the hard treatment I receive, which has happened even while I am writing this tract. I have six children; I have educated them as well as my circumstances will permit, and so as I hope shall recommend them to better usage than their father meets with in this world.
I am not indebted one shilling in the world for any part of their education, or for anything else belonging to their bringing up; yet the author of the Flying Post published lately that I never paid for the education of any of my children. If any man in Britain has a shilling to demand of me for any part of their education, or anything belonging to them, let them come for it.
But these men care not what injurious things they write, nor what they say, whether truth or not, if it may but raise a reproach on me, though it were to be my ruin. I may well appeal to the honour and justice of my worst enemies in such cases as this:
Conscia mens recti fama mendacia ridet.
CONCLUSION BY THE PUBLISHER.
While this was at the press, and the copy thus far finished, the author was seized with a violent fit of an apoplexy, whereby he was disabled finishing what he designed in his further defence; and continuing now for above six weeks in a weak and languishing condition, neither able to go on nor likely to recover, at least in any short time, his friends thought it not fit to delay the publication of this any longer. If he recovers he may be able to finish what he began; if not, it is the opinion of most that know him that the treatment which he here complains of, and some others that he would have spoken of, have been the apparent cause of his disaster.
Categories: English Literature