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Political Pamphleteer

James Stuart - The Pretender

The Pretender

In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, James II was driven out of England by William of Orange and his supporters, marking the end of divine-right monarchy in England. The transition didn’t happen overnight, however, and Stuart supporters rose up in rebellion several times over the next fifty years.

Even before James fled, his wife and infant son James Francis Edward Stuart left for the safety of France, where they were protected by King Louis XIV. Upon James II’s death in 1701, the French king recognized his son as the rightful heir to the thrones of England and Scotland, and this declaration inspired much political speculation and wrangling about what would happen when William died (which happened in 1702) and then what should happen when Anne died (in 1714). The two options on the table were either to allow the Pretender, as he was known, to come reclaim his father’s crown or to give the crown instead to George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg of the House of Hanover.

Defoe wrote both individual pamphlets and articles in the Review and Mercator about the succession, often quite seriously but sometimes in an ironic tone not unlike some of this other propaganda pieces. These ironic pamphlets were responsible for his once again being arrested and jailed, and it required a pardon from Queen Anne to rescue him.

Present State of Jacobitism Title Page
The Present State of Jacobitism Considered, in Two Querys. 1. What Measures the French King will take with respect to the Person and Title of the Pretended Prince of Wales. 2. What the Jacobites in England ought to do on the same account. London: Printed for A. Baldwin, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-lane. 1701.

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Defoe is writing to invite the Jacobites to come back into the fold. James II had just died, so their allegiance to him was broken, leaving them free to “come into the Bosome and protection of the Government” (i) while still retaining their honor.

He argues that the French king is unlikely to come out in support of the Pretender as heir to the throne of England so far as to go to war over it (unless the king had other reasons for making war with England), and so the Jacobites should not count on a French-supported coup.

Seasonable Warning  Title Page
A Seasonable Warning and Caution against the Insinuations of Papists and Jacobites in Favour of the Pretender. Being a Letter from an Englishman at the Court of Hannover. London: Printed for J. Baker at the Black-Boy in Pater-noster-Row. 1712.

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This tract is addressed to “England,” asking how a nation so devoted to liberty and to bringing down tyrants, a friend and champion of Protestantism, could even consider allowing the Pretender to claim her throne. He admonishes all British people to be wary of the “Swarms of Popish Priests from Abroad, and Jacobite Emissaries at Home, …spread about among us” who try to convince the ignorant that the Pretender is a Protestant at heart and would be a wise ruler. His entreaties are earnest. He tells the people, “The Work is before you; your Deliverance, your Safety is in your own Hands, and therefore these Things are now Written: None can give you up; None can Betray you but your selves” (24).

Reasons against the Succession Title Page
Reasons against the Succession of the House of Hanover, with an Enquiry how far the Abdication of King James, supposing it to be Legal, ought to affect the Person of the Pretender. London: Printed for J. Baker, at the Black-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row. 1713.

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Heavy with sarcasm, this pamphlet argues not only that the English people need to stop arguing about the succession (the Queen is still alive after all and “may well enough linger out Twenty or Thirty Years, and not be a Huge Old Wife neither” (1)) but that it would be better for the House of Hanover not to succeed to the throne. The arguments are all tongue-in-cheek, however, and by the end, Defoe clearly shows himself to be against any claim of the Pretender to the throne. For one thing, he argues, when James abdicated the throne, he abdicated it not only for himself but for his child.

Defoe was prosecuted for this and two other anti-Jacobite pamphlets (including this one below) he had written in the spring of 1713.

And What if the Pretender should come? Title Page
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. London: Printed, and Sold by J. Baker, at the Black Boy in Pater-noster-row. 1713.

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Written a month after his first ironic argument against the Hanoverian succession, here Defoe argues for the advantages of having the Pretender on the throne. For one thing, all the might of France which is now poised to force Britain to accept the Pretender would, if England accepted the Pretender freely, shift from a menace to a boon. France would become a friend, and peace and unity would at last exist between the two nations. He continues for many pages with all the “certain benefits” the Pretender would bring with him, never letting up on the irony.

Minutes of the Negotiations Title Page
Minutes of the Negotiations of Monsr. Mesnager at the Court of England, towards the close of the last Reign. Wherein some of the most Secret Transactions of that Time, relating to the Interest of the Pretender, and a Clandestine separate Peace, are detected and laid open. Written by Himself. Done out of French. London: Printed for S. Baker, at the Black-Boy and Anchor in Pater-noster-Row, 1717.

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Nicolas Mesnager was a French diplomat who came to England in 1711 to conduct secret peace negotiations between France and England. These memoirs, completely fictitious, describe many of the meetings and the main players in the negotiations. The goal of the work seems to be to exculpate Robert Harley, who at the time this was published was sitting in the Tower of London, on trial for treason.

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