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the days of King James I. And what did it amount to? Truly the worst they suffered was at their own request to let them go to New England and erect a new colony, and give them great privileges, grants, and suitable powers, keep them under protection, aud defend them against all invaders, and receive no taxes or revenue from them. This was the cruelty of the Church of England-fatal lenity! 'Twas the ruin of that excellent prince, King Charles I. Had King James sent all the Puritans in England away to the West Indies, we had been a national, unmixed Church; the Church of England had been kept undivided and entire. To requite the lenity of the father, they take up arms against the son ; conquer, pursue, take, imprison, and at last put to death the Anointed of God, and destroy the very being and nature of government, setting up a sordid impostor, who had neither title to govern, nor understanding to manage, but supplied that want with power, bloody and desperate councils, and craft, without conscience.” How leniently had King Charles treated these barbarous regicides, coming in all mercy and love, cherishing them, preferring them, giving them employment in his service. As for King James, "as if mercy was the inherent quality of the family, he began his reign with unusual favour to them, nor could their joining with the Duke of Monmouth against him move him to do himself justice upon them, but that mistaken prince thought to win them by gentleness and love, proclaimed a universal liberty to them, and rather discountenanced the Church of England than them. How they requited him all the world knows.” Under King William, a king of their own,” they “crope into all places of trust and profit,” engrossed the ministry and insulted the Church. But they must not expect this kind of thing to continue. No, gentlemen, the time of mercy is past ; your day of grace is over ; you should have practised peace, and moderation, and charity, if you expected any yourselves.”
In this heroic strain the pamphlet proceeds, reaching at length the suggestion "that if one severe law were made, and punctually executed, that whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation, and the preacher be hanged, we would soon see an end of the tale-they would all come to church, and one age would make us all one again.” That was the mock churchman's shortest way for the suppression of Dissent. He supported his argument by referring to the success with which Louis XIV. had put down the Huguenots. There was no good in half-measures, fines of five shillings a month for not coming to the Sacrainent, and one shilling a week for not coming to church. It was vain to expect compliance from such trifling. “ The light, foolish handling of them by mulcts, fines, etc., 'tis their glory and their advantage. If the gallows instead of the counter, and the galleys instead of the fines, were the reward of going to a conventicle, to preach or hear, there would not be so many sufferers—the spirit of martyrdom is over. They that
“ And may
will go to church to be chosen sheriffs and mayors, would go to forty churches rather than be lianged.” “Now let us crucify the thieves, said the author of this truculent advice, in conclusion. God Almighty put it into the hearts of all friends of truth to lift up a standard against pride and Antichrist, that the posterity of the sons of error may be rooted out from the face of this land for ever."
Defoe's disguise was so complete, his caricature of the ferocious High-flier so near to life, that at first people doubted whether the Shortest Way was the work of a satirist or a fanatic. When the truth leaked out, as it soon did, the Dissenters were hardly better pleased than while they feared that the proposal was serious. With the natural timidity of the precariously situated minorities, they could not enter into the humour of it. The very title was enough to make them shrink and tremble. The only people who were really in a position to enjoy the jest were the Whigs. The High-Churchmen, some of whom, it is said, were at first so far taken in as to express their warm approval, were furious when they discovered the trick that had been played upon them. The Tory ministers of the Queen felt themselves bound to take proceedings against the author, whose identity seems to have soon become an open secret. Learning this, Defoe went into concealment. A proclamation offer. ing a reward for his discovery was advertised in the Gazette. The description of the fugitive is interesting; it is the only extant record of Defoe's personal appearance, except the portrait prefised to his collected works, in which the mole is faithfully reproduced :
“He is a middle-aged, spare man, about forty yrars old, of a brown complexion, and dark brown coloured hair, but wears a wig ; a looked nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth : was born in London, and for many years was a hose-factor in Freeman's Yard in Cornhill, and now is the owner of the brick and pantile works near Tilbury Fort in Essex."
This advertisement was issued on the 10th of January, 1703. Meantime the printer and the publisher were seized. From his safe hiding Defoe put forth an explanation, protesting, as we have seen, that his pamphlet had not the least retrospect to or concern in the public bills in Parliament now depending, or any other proceeding of either House or of the Government relating to the Dissenters, whose occasional conformity the author las constantly opposed. It was merely, he pleaded, the cant of the Non-juring party exposed ; and he mentioned several printed books in which the same objects were expressed, though not in words so plain, and at length. But the Government would not take this view ; he had represented virulent partisans as being supreme in the Cueen's counsels, and his design was manifest“ to blacken the Church party as men of a persecuring spirit, and to prepa:e the mob for what further service he had for them to do.” Finding that they would not listen to him, Defoe surrendered himself, in order that others might not susier
for his offence. He was indicted on the 24th of February. On the 25th the shortest Way was brought under the notice of the House of Commons, and ordered to be burnt by the common hang
His trial came on in July. He was found guilty of a seditious libel, and sentenced to pay a fine of 200 marks to the Queen, stand three times in the pillory, be imprisoned during the Queen's pleasure, and find sureties for his good behaviour for seven years.
Defoe complained that three Dissenting ministers, whose poor he had fed in the days of his prosperity, had refused to visit him during his confinement in Newgate. There was, doubtless, a want of charity in their action, but there also was a want of honesty in his complaint. If he applied for their spiritual ministrations, they had considerable reason for treating his application as a piece of provoking effrontery. Though Defoe was in prison for this banter upon the High-fliers, it is a mistake to regard him as a martyr, except by accident, to the cause of Toleration as we understand it now, and as the Dissenters bore the brunt of the battle for it then. Before his trial and conviction, while he lay in prison, le issued an exposition of his views of a fair Toleration in a tract entitled The Shortest Way to Peace and Union. The toleration which he advised, and which commended itself to the moderate Whigs with wliom he had acted under King William and was probably acting now, was a purely spiritual Toleration. His proposal, in fact, was identical with that of Charles Leslie's in the New Association, cne of the pamphlets which he professed to take off in his famous squib. Leslie had proposed that the Dissenters should be excluded from all civil employments, and should be forced to remain content with liberty of worship. Addressing the Dissenters, Defoe, in effect, urged them to anticipate forcible exclusion by voluntary withdrawal. Extremes on bith sides should be industriously crushed and discouraged, and the extremes on the Dissenting side were those who, not being content to worship after their own fashion, had also a hankering after the public service. It is the true interest of the Dissenters in England, Defoe argued, to be gov. erned by a Church of England magistracy; and with his usual parodoxical hardihood, he told his co-religionists bluntly that “the first reason of his proposition was that they were not qualified to be trusted with the government of themselves.” When we consider the active part Defoe himself took in public affairs, we shall not be surprised that offence was given by his countenancing the civil disabilities of Dissenters, and that the Dissenting preachers declined to recognise him as properly belonging to their body: It was not, indeed, as a Dissenter that Defoe was prosecuted by the violent Tories, then in power, but as the suspected literary instrument of the great Whig leaders.
This, of course, in no way diminishes the harsh and spiteful impolicy of the sentence passed on Defoe. Its terms were duly put in execution. The offending satirist stood in the pillory on the three last days of July, 1703, before the Royal Exchange in Cornhill, near the Conduit in Cheapside, and at Temple Bar. It is incorrect, lowever, to say with Pope that
“ Earless on high stood unabashed Defoe." His ears were not cropped, as the barbarous phrase went, and he had no reason to be abashed. His reception by the mob was very different from that accorded to the anti-Jacobite Fuller, a scurrilous rogue who had tried to make a few pounds_by a Plain Proof that the Chevalier was a supposititious child. The author of the True-Born Englishman was a popular favourite, and his exhibition in the pillory was an occasion of triumph and not of ignoniny to him. A ring of admirers was formed round the place of punishment, and bunches of flowers instead of handfuls of garbage were thrown at the criminal. Tankards of ale and stoups of wine were drunk in his honour by the multitude whom he had delighted with his racy verse and charmed by his bold defiance of the authorities.
The enthusiasm was increased by the timely publication of a Hymn to the Pillory, in which Defoe boldly declared the iniquity of his sentence, and pointed out to the Government more proper objects of their severity. Atheists ought to stand there, he said, profligate beaux, swindling stock-jobbers, fanatic Jacobites, and the commanders who had brought the English fleet into disgrace. As for him, his only fault lay in his not being understood ; but he was perhaps justly punished for being such a fool as to trust his meaning to irony. It would seem that though the Government had committed Defoe to Newgate, they did not dare, even before the manifestation of popular feeling in his favour, to treat him as a common prisoner. He not only had liberty to write, but he found means to convey his manuscripts to the printer. Of these privileges he had availed himself with that indomitable energy and fertility of resource which we find reason to admire at every stage in his career, and most of all now that he was in straits. In the short interval between his arrest and his conviction he carried on a vigorous warfare with both hands, — with one hand seeking to propitiate the Government, with the other attracting support outside among the people. He proved to the Government incontestably, by a collection of his writings, that he was a inan of moderate views, who had no aversion in principle even to the proposals of the New Association. He proved the same thing to the people at large by publishing this Collection of the writings of the author of the True-Born Englishman, but he accompanied the proof by a lively appeal to their sympathy under the title of More Reformation, a Satire on himself, a lament over his own folly which was calculated to bring pressure on the Government against prose
cuting a man so innocent of public wrong. When, in spite of his efforts, a conviction was recorded against him, he adopted a more defiant tone towards the Government. He wrote the Hymn to the Pillory. This daring effusion was hawked in the streets among the crowd that had assembled to witness his penance in the
“hieroglyphic State-machine, Contrived to punish fancy in."
“ Come," he cried, in the concluding lines-
“Tell 'em the Mthat placed him here
"M" stands for Men, and “Sc-Is” for Scandals. Defoe delighted in this odd use of methods of reserve, more common in his time than in ours.
The dauntless courage of Defoe's Hymn to the Pillory can only be properly appreciated when we remember with what savage outrage it was the custom of the mob to treat those who were thus exposed to make a London holiday. From the pillory he was taken back to Newgate, there to be imprisoned during her Majesty's pleasure. His confinement must have been much less disagreeable to him than it would have been to one of less hardy temperament. Defoe was not the man to shrink with loathing from the companionship of thieves, highwaymen, forgers, coiners, and pirates. Curiosity was a much stronger power with him than disgust. Newgate had some. thing of the charm for Defoe that a hospital full of hideous diseases has for an enthusiastic surgeon. He spent many pleasant hours in listening to the tales of his adventurous fellow-prisoners. Besides, the Government did not dare to dep.ive him of the liberty of writing and publishing, This privilege enabled him to appeal to the public, whose ear he had gained in the character of an undismayed martyr, an enjoyment which to so buoyant a man must have compensated for a great deal of irksome suffering. He attributed the failure of his pantile works at Tilbury to his removal from the management of them ; but bearing in mind the amount of success that had attended his efforts when he was free, it is fair to suppose that he was not altogether sorry for the excuse. It was by no means the intention of his High-Church persecutors that Defoe should enjoy himself in Newgate, and he himself lamented loudly the strange reverse by which he had passed within a few months from the closet of a king to a prisoner's cell ; but on the whole he was probably as happy in Newgate as he had been at Whitehall. His wife and six children were most to be commiserated, and their distress was his heaviest trial. The first use which Defoe made of his pen after his exhibition in
ACME BIOG. III.--2.