Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daniel Defoe and the Rights of Free Englishmen

This today from one of the most intelligent websites you will find on the net, Brits At Their Best, as they persuse the pages of the history of Britain for their inspiration. And they find it in Daniel Defoe, one Englishman who, under threat from the Crown, bravely argued for freedom of speech:

Freedom of speech is under attack. Journalists, publishers and ordinary citizens are forced to defend their free speech against “human rights” commissions and the police (see posts on Lionheart and Mark Steyn below). Areas of Britain have been turned into “no-go” areas for non-Muslims, and Muslims demand that the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, resign because he has remarked that this is so. Soul-killing examples of political correctness are pervasive, and throw a pall over those who would like to speak their minds whether they are right or wrong and whether their ideas are unpopular.

Daniel Defoe was familiar with attacks against freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which forced him into jail and the feared pillory, but despite the fact that he was not personally the bravest of men, he kept on writing and publishing.

He had already experienced the sheer unpleasantness of jail as a bankrupt when his ships were lost in pirate-infested seas. When the government imprisoned him, it was 1702 and he was in his early forties with a business, a wife and at least six children to feed.

Wickedly satirical

In 1701, he had written the wickedly satirical send-up of the English called "The True-Born Englishman". To their credit, the English didn't whine about his verses. They made his poem a bestseller for the next fifty years. . .

Read all about Defoe at Brits At Their Best. It is a fascinating post that shows history does repeat itself in the desire of government to contol the thoughts and utterances of its people.

As an aside, Defoe's works are available on the web. Here are a few verses from the "The True Born Englishman."



WHEREVER God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there:1
And 'twill be found upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation:
For ever since he first debauched the mind,
He made a perfect conquest of mankind.
With uniformity of service, he
Reigns with a general aristocracy.
No non-conforming sects disturb his reign,
For of his yoke there's very few complain.
He knows the genius and the inclination,
And matches proper sins for every nation.
He needs no standing-army government;
He always rules us by our own consent:
His laws are easy, and his gentle sway
Makes it exceeding pleasant to obey:
The list of his vicegerents and commanders,
Outdoes your Cæsars or your Alexanders.
They never fail of his infernal aid,
And he's as certain ne'er to be betrayed.
Through all the world they spread his vast command,
And Death's eternal empire is maintained.
They rule so politicly and so well,
As if they were Lords Justices of Hell,
Duly divided to debauch mankind,
And plant infernal dictates in his mind.
Pride, the first peer, and president of Hell,
To his share Spain, the largest province, fell.
The subtile Prince thought fittest to bestow
On these the golden mines of Mexico,
With all the silver mountains of Peru,
Wealth which would in wise hands the world undo:
Because he knew their genius was such,
Too lazy and too haughty to be rich.
So proud a people, so above their fate,
That if reduced to beg, they'll beg in state;
Lavish of money to be counted brave,
And proudly starve because they scorn to save.
Never was nation in the world before
So very rich and yet so very poor.
Lust chose the torrid zone of Italy,
Where blood ferments in rapes and sodomy:
Where swelling veins o'erflow with livid streams,
With heat impregnate from Vesuvian flames:
Whose flowing sulphur forms infernal lakes,
And human body of the soil partakes.
There nature ever burns with hot desires,
Fann'd with luxuriant air from subterranean fires;
Here, undisturbed in floods of scalding lust,
The Infernal King reigns with infernal gust.
Drunkenness, the darling favourite of Hell,
Chose Germany to rule; and rules so well,
No subjects more obsequiously obey,
None please so well or are so pleased as they.
The cunning artist manages so well,
He lets them bow to Heaven and drink to Hell.
If but to wine and him they homage pay,
He cares not to what deity they pray,
What god they worship most, or in what way.
Whether by Luther, Calvin, or by Rome
They sail for Heaven, by Wine he steers them home.
Ungoverned Passion settled first in France,
Where mankind lives in haste and thrives by chance;
A dancing nation, fickle and untrue,
Have oft undone themselves and others too;
Prompt the infernal dictates to obey,
And in Hell's favour none more great than they.
The Pagan world he blindly leads away,
And personally rules with arbitrary sway;
The mask thrown off, plain Devil his title stands,
And what elsewhere he tempts he there commands,
There with full gust the ambition of his mind
Governs, as he of old in Heaven designed.
Worshipped as God, his Paynim altars smoke,
Embrued with blood of those that him invoke.
The rest by Deputies he rules as well,
And plants the distant colonies of Hell.
By them his secret power he maintains,
And binds the world in his infernal chains.
By Zeal the Irish, and the Russ by Folly:
Fury the Dane, The Swede by Melancholy;
By stupid Ignorance the Muscovite;
The Chinese by a child of Hell called Wit.
Wealth makes the Persian too effeminate,
And Poverty the Tartars desperate;
The Turks and Moors by Mah'met he subdues,
And God has given him leave to rule the Jews.
Rage rules the Portuguese and Fraud the Scotch,
Revenge the Pole and Avarice the Dutch.
Satire, be kind, and draw a silent veil . . .

You can find the entire work here.


March said...


1389 said...

Here's a promo with links to two blog talk radio shows featuring Lionheart. Everyone, put your ears on, and feel free to call in!

Lionheart Interview 1/17/08 Political Vindication Radio, 1/18/08 The Gathering Storm

Note that the date of the interview on The Gathering Storm has been changed from 1/11/08 to 1/18/08.