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Daniel Defoe And His Writings History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The pamphlet The Complete English Tradesman written by the outstanding English writer Daniel Defoe cannot but attracts the attention of the todays reader who has a special interest not only to the English literature of the XVIII century but also to the history of Britain. As a matter of fact this pamphlet bears a relation both to the political situation in the country and to the moral and ethic norms of the younger generation of those days. It is clear that only a person who had a huge experience and wisdom could write this work where he represented the practical guidance how to be the best tradesman. Daniel Defoe teaches how to hold negotiations, to make up documentation, to talk to the partners, to write business letters and to have business relations. The author maximizes the humanity which should always occur in the business relations between the tradesmen. Daniel Defoe came across the meanness and the fraud, the betrayal and the rudeness of those people who were his partners in business.

It is known that the famous English writer devoted himself not only to writing the books, the pamphlets and the newspaper articles but also he ran his business which not always brought him profits. There were the times when Daniel Defoe went into the bankruptcy and then again fought for his life and the prosperity of his family. His vocation for trading was connected with his father who was a butcher in London where Daniel Defoe’s family arrived from the continent. The reason of their arrival to Britain was concluded in the religious cleavage organized by the Catholics. Daniel Defoe’s parents were the Protestants that is why they had to run from the continent to Britain across the English Channel. Britain had a religious tolerance and received all the Protestants who came to the country. There were a lot of enterprising and strong-minded people among the refugees. No wonder that Britain became a powerful state. Daniel Defoe’s father wanted his son to follow their family tradition and to become a butcher. Although the commerce was bred in his bone Daniel Defoe decided to become a sailor. One day he set sail having several barrels of the smuggled wine on board the ship. He met with the huge ocean waves and the painful seasickness, the attacks of the Algerian pirates which were beat back by the English patrol ship. That voyage was a success from the commercial point of view. Daniel visited France, Italy, Spain, Portugal. He was offered a position of the commercial agent in one of the ports but he refused and returned to England where he married the daughter of the wine tradesman. He received 3700 pounds for portion organized his first business – he sold the fancy goods and wine. Everything was fine with his business but soon after some political actions of the Protestants against the Catholics Daniel Defoe’s life had got a new turn. Daniel was one of the rebels and took an active part in the mutiny. Although he somehow avoided the punishment Daniel was included in the amnesty. He was noticed by the Royal Household and many privileges were given to him. He even held the public positions but it was not enough for him as he intended to hold the position of the mayor of London. Due to some circumstances he ran to debt 17000 pounds. There were too many credits which he had no opportunity to pay out.

The above mentioned facts from the biography of Daniel Defoe are not all the facts which prove that this strong-minded person had never given up no matter how hard his life was. That is why his pamphlet The Complete English Tradesman is worth reading and analyzing. The book consists of the author’s preface, the introduction and 25 letters (or chapters).

The author tries to explain the readers that it is a good chance for the tradesmen to use the instructions given in this book: “What is the reason that there are so many bankrupts and broken tradesmen now among us, more than ever were known before?” Daniel Defoe is an experienced tradesman who knows “the temper and genius of the tradesmen” of his age expresses his opinion concerning the difference between the tradesmen: “Tradesman cannot live as the tradesman in the same class used to live, custom and the manner of all the tradesmen around them command a difference and he that will not do as the others do, is esteemed as nobody among them and the tradesman is doomed to ruin by the fate of the times.”

Each letter of this book has its title which expresses the main idea studied in it. Knowing the biography of the author we understand that all the cases described in the pamphlet The Complete English Tradesman Daniel Defoe experienced himself. For example, the letter XVII OF HONESTY IN DEALING, AND LYING or the letter XVI OF THE TRADESMAN’S ENTERRING INTO PARTNERSHIP IN THE TRADE, AND THE MANY DANGERS ATTENDING IT, or the letter VII OF THE TRADESMAN IN DISTRESS AND BECOMING A BANKRUPT. Let’s analyze the letter XXII OF THE DIGNITY OF TRADE IN ENGLAND MORE THAN IN OTHER COUNTRIES. This letter can be considered as the most important one because it touches upon the country itself. “It is a trading country” and it became the leading and the powerful country at those times. Daniel Defoe is a patriot and a real citizen of his country, he is proud of Britain and its people: “We are not only the trading country, we are the greatest trading country of the world. Our climate is the most agreeable climate in the world to live in. Our Englishmen are the stoutest and the best people in the world.” The author gives a lot of examples to prove his statements. He asserts that all the flourishing families were “raised from trade” and they did not “use the sword for it compared with other nations”. He says: “Trade and learning have been the two chief steps by which our gentlemen have raised their relations and have built their fortunes…” We can see that these are the words of the real tradesman who knows each detail in the trading business. Daniel Defoe is sure that “due to the taxes paid, the loans supplied and the public credit supported” by the tradesmen Britain is on the high level of its development. Moreover the author says about “the noble seats, superior to the palaces of sovereign princes” which were erected by the tradesmen and could not be compared with “the seats and castle of the ancient gentry which looked worn out and fallen into decay”.

Daniel Defoe blames the noble gentlemen who do not accept the tradesmen to their social circle and mock at them, “bid them hold their tongue”. The noble gentry do not consider a tradesman to be a gentleman although the tradesmen “spend more money by the year, keep a better house and clothe their families better”. The author is sure that soon step by step the tradesmen will take all the gentlemen’ positions because the English gentlemen run wild and can easily go through the fortune: “…after a generation or two the tradesmen’ children or at least their grand children, come to be as good gentlemen, statesmen, parliament-men, judges, bishops and noblemen, as those of the highest birth and the most ancient families…”. The tradesmen who cannot find their “ancient race of gentlemen” from which they came will begin a new race which will be “as good as gentlemen as any that went before them”.

Daniel Defoe brings the example that during the wars between France and England the tradesmen took an active part and even “come to command regiments” and became the general officers. The author is sure that the English tradesmen cannot be compared with the tradesman from the other countries because they are the gentlemen. Speaking about the ladies who are “so scandalized at the mean step of marrying the tradesmen” Daniel Defoe considers that they lose a lot when they refuse the tradesmen. “The word tradesman does not sound so harsh as it does in other countries.” He asserts that to say the gentleman-tradesman is not a nonsense, it it a new race in England. The English soldiers proved to be the best in the world, the English sailors are known to be the best sailors in the world and according to the author’s words the English tradesmen will be the best gentlemen in the world. One more thing is that the trade gives “the poor good wages and they need not serve on board the ship of the war or list for soldiers”.

To sum up all the above mentioned statements Daniel Defoe confirms that the role of the tradesmen in the life of Britain and its prosperity is great. All his life Daniel Defoe considered himself to be a gentleman and his last wish was to write on the grave the words: “Daniel Defoe, a gentleman”. The English statesmen did not meet his last wish and wrote: “Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe”. Daniel Defoe made a great contribution to the development of not only the English literature but also to the development of the world literature. He wrote more than 500 books. He was a person of a strong character who did everything he could to prove the English gentry that the tradesmen were worthy of respect. Daniel Defoe understood that he would have the greatest troubles because of his courageous pamphlet The Complete English Tradesman where he criticized the English gentry. But nevertheless Daniel Defoe expressed his thoughts and even took the liberty of giving some preachings to the English gentry. Of course the English gentry did not leave this book without their special attention. They made the author pay back his old debts. In order to save the estate Daniel Defoe had to give it to his son who turned out to be scoundrel. His son abandoned not only his father but also his brothers and his ill mother. It was the last human meanness in the life of Daniel Defoe.

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