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Queen Anne's Arms After the Union

Union Propagandist

In the early years of the eighteenth century, resentment was running high between Scotland and England. Each country had enacted laws that angered the other—the English Act of Settlement in 1701, the Scottish Act of Security in 1703, and finally England’s Alien Act of 1705, which threatened Scottish people with the status of aliens if they did not accept the English choice for the throne, as well as a restriction on trade. Something needed to be done. A commission was created to consider the terms of a union between the two nations, and they met on April 16, 1706.

Defoe had already done work for Harley as a secret agent in the eastern counties of England in 1704, gathering information on party divisions and the general political mood of the country, and a year later he was in southern England doing the same. Now he was asked to turn his attention to the Union.

Within a month of the first meeting of the Commission for the Union, Defoe was writing essays in favor of the Union, showing the English how much they would benefit from it. By the summer, however, Harley thought Defoe could do more good in Scotland, and he left for Edinburgh on 13 September.



Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
An Essay at Removing National Prejudices against a Union with Scotland. To be continued during the Treaty here. Part I. London, 1706.

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This first essay, directed at the English, seeks to allay their fears about the Union. Defoe argues that the Union would strengthen England in every way, from the Church of England, to trade, to the ability to fend off foreign invaders.

Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
An Essay at Removing National Prejudices against a Union with Scotland. To be continued during the Treaty here. Part II. London, 1706

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Part two of the series deals primarily with taxation, pointing out that it would be unfair to tax both countries the same. The chief goal of the Union is to provide the English with more able bodies to help strengthen their trade, not to drain money from Scotland. There is no danger of London losing its status as the primary seat of commerce.

Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
An Essay, at Removing National Prejudices, against a Union with England. Part III. London, 1706.

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After Defoe’s first two pamphlets were reprinted in Edinburgh, opponents used them to try to show that all the advantages would go to England.

Here the focus shifts to the Scots, allaying their fears that their church will be weakened. While Defoe does concede that Scottish political power will be weakened with the loss of their own parliament, he argues that the influx of manufacturing and trade into Scotland will more than compensate for this loss.

Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
A Fourth Essay, at Removing National Prejudices; with some Reply to Mr. H- - -dges and some other Authors, Who have Printed their Objections against an Union with England. [Edinburgh], 1706.

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James Hodges wrote several essays, including The Rights and Interests of the Two British Monarchies, in opposition to the Union. Defoe’s reply argues that the parliaments of each country do have the right to make such a Union. Against those who would say that England is too immoral a nation to ally oneself to, Defoe rejoices that the Union’s opponents are reduced to such ridiculous arguments, for it shows there truly is no major obstacle against the treaty. He does still, however, provide some evidence that “England, Bad as she is, is yet a Reforming Nation.” (18).


Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
A Fifth Essay, at Removing National Prejudices; with a Reply to Some Authors, who have Printed their Objections against an Union with England. [Edinburgh], 1707.

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According to Defoe, neither the fourth nor this fifth essay on the Union was planned beforehand. Instead, each was written out of a need to respond to those who continue to raise objections, whether “only to oppose the Thing in General, and prevent the Uniting the Nations on any Terms whatever, [or] those which are really offered from honest Scruple at the Particulars.” (1).


Essay at Removing National Prejudices Title Page
Two Great Questions Considered, I. What is the Obligation of Parliaments to the Addresses or Petitions of the People, and what the Duty of the Addressers? II. Whether the Obligation of the Covenant or other National Engagements, is Concern’d in the Treaty of Union? Being a Sixth Essay at Removing National Prejudices against the Union. [Edinburgh], 1707.

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In this final essay, Defoe addresses what he considered the improper behavior of some who would petition parliament against the union. Parliaments are bound to hear petitions, but they are not bound to agree to or act on them, and the people have no right to press the matter.

The second issue is whether persons who have taken oaths to Scotland or to the Church of Scotland could agree to the Union without perjuring themselves. Defoe says that these oaths in no way prevent them from uniting with England and that those who say so are merely trying to frighten “Innocent People from joining in the Good of their Native Country” (27)


History of the Union of Great Britain Title Page
The History of the Union of Great Britain. Edinburgh, Printed by the Heirs and Successors of Andrew Anderson, Printer to the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, Anno Dom. 1709.

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After the Treaty of Union was concluded between England and Scotland in 1707, Defoe set to writing a full account of the history of the Union, going back to the first attempts at unifying the two nations through marriage (beginning with Edward I’s intent to have his son Edward II marry Margaret, heiress to the throne of Scotland). For the current Union, he provides transcripts of the minutes for the many meetings of the Commissioners in Whitehall and of the Scottish Parliament as they tried to hammer out a treaty that would be acceptable to all.


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