Defoe’s Introduction

Numb. 1.


THIS Paper is the Foundation of a very large and useful Design, which, if it meet with suitable Encouragement, Permissu Superiorum, may contribute to Setting the Affairs of Europe in a Clearer Light, and to prevent the various uncertain Accounts, and the Partial Reflections of our Street-Scriblers, who Daily and Monthly Amuse Mankind with Stories of Great Victories when we are Beaten, Miracles when we Conquer, and a Multitude of Unaccountable and Inconsistent Stories, which have at least this Effect, That People are possest with wrong Notions of Things, and Nations Wheedled[1] to believe Nonsense and Contradiction.


As these Papers may be Collected into Volumes, they will Compose a Compleat History of France, the Antient Part of which shall be a faithful Abridgement of former Authors, and the Modern Affairs stated, as Impartially and as Methodical as the length of this Paper will permit.

As we blame our Enemies for being Partial to themselves, and for filling their Gazettes with French Rhodomontades, we shall carefully avoid the same Errour, and give even the French themselves full Satisfaction for those of our own Writers, who are Guilty that way, by sufficiently Exposing them in our more Diverting part of this Paper.

We shall particularly have a Regard to the Rise and Fall of the Protestant Religion in the Dominions of France; and the Reader, if the Author live, and is permitted to pursue the Design, shall find this Paper a Useful Index, to turn him to the best Historians of the Church in all Ages.

Here he shall find the mighty Struggle the Protestant Churches met with in that Kingdom for near 200 Years; the Strong Convulsions of their Expiring Circumstances; the True History of the Vast Expence and mighty Endeavours of this Nation to support them; and at last, the sudden and violent Destruction of them in France, by the Solemn Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Here the Reader will, as far as possible, have a True History of the Gallican Church, in her Sollitude and Sufferings, her Conduct in a Persecuted State, and just Observations on the Scattering her Professors over all Parts of the Christian World.

We shall give as Exact an Account, as can be had from good Authorities of all the Confessors of this Church, whose Blood has Dyed the Hands of her Enemies, and for which some Body must Answer.

All along we shall prosecute, with as much Care as possible, the Genuine History of what happens in the Matters of State and War, now carried on in Europe, by this Vigorous Nation, wherein we shall Convince the World by the Sequel, that we shall follow Truth as close as it is possible, and human Frailty excepted, shall never fail to lead the World into that plain and clear Light of Affairs which every Wise Man Covets.


When Matters are thus laid open, and stript from the false Glosses of Parties, Men are easily capable to Judge, what, and why Things are done, and will begin to see before them in the World, whereas all the Observations or Reflections I ever yet met with, serve but to Amuse Mankind, Byass our Judgments to Parties, and make us Partial to ourselves.

Thus we raise Clouds before Men’s Eyes, and then complain no Body sees but our selves; what we would not see, we will not own, make all our Calculations on our own side, and Dose our Readers with continued Fumes of our own Brain.

This brings the World to a constant Intoxication, that we can talk of nothing but Victory, and the Enemy is always Beaten, tho’ we lose never so much Ground.

If a Town be lost to the Enemy, then we please our Reader with the Vigorous Defence, and Gallant Sallies made by the Garrison: If our Armies receive a Foil, then the Bravery of our Troops in making such or such a Retreat, and every subsequent Paper brings so many Men to their Colours, that few or none are kill’d or taken.

For our Parts, and yet we hope without Offence, when a Battle is fought, we resolve to give you a sincere and just Relation of Fact; if we are Beaten we shall not be asham’d to own it; and if we Conquer, we shall not be afraid to say so, and relate the Particulars.

The World therefore may be sure to find here, to the best of our Power, a Relation so Exact, That no Gloss shall need to be set forth; and both Sides being Examin’d, the Particulars referr’d to the general Opinion of all Men.

Not that we shall pretend to a constant Supply of News, but as the Publick Papers inform the World of what is done in their way of Management, we shall go on with what needful Rectifications the Case requires.

As we shall be Impartial to our own Relators, and unravel sometimes the ridiculous and inconsistent Stories we meet with there, so we shall find Occasion to take in pieces the particular Accounts given by the Enemies, and divert the Reader sometimes with the Rhodomontado of the French.


All this will be the Natural Consequence of a diligent Enquiry after Truth, and laying before the World the Naked Prospect of Fact, as it really is; For this Paper is not design’d for so Trivial an occasion, as only Bantering the Nonsence of a few News-Writers, tho’ that may come in often enough by the way: But the Matter of our Account will be real History, and just Observation.

Nor shall we Embroil our selves with Parties, but pursue the Truth; find her out, when a Crowd of Lyes and Nonsence has almost smother’d her, and set her up, so as she may be both seen and heard.

After our Serious Matters are over, we shall at the end of every Paper, Present you with a little Diversion, as any thing occurs to make the World Merry; and whether Friend or Foe, one Party or another, if any thing happens so scandalous, as to require an open Reproof, the World may meet with it there.

We hope to offend no side, and unless our Paper suffers in the General Conflagration of Pamphlets, viz. By an Act of Parliament, we fear not being call’d before Authority, or to the Barr of the House; for we have learnt more Manners than to affront a Government, under which we enjoy all that we can claim a Right to, with the utmost Liberty.

We rather hope to make our Governours, Judges, and Approvers of our Work, by the Merit of an Impartial and Exact Historical Pen. And if our best Conduct can add to the Value of the Paper, it shall be a History more than Particular ordinary[2]; for Impartial and Authentick Truth.

As to our Brethren of the Worshipful Company of News-Writers, Fellows of Scriblers College, Students in Politicks, and Professors in Contradiction; we prepare them this Hint as a fair Warning.

Let them please to be careful, not to Impose Absurdities and Contradictions in their Weekly-Papers, and they shall meet with no Ill Treatment from this Paper: Nay, we will forgive them small Errata’s, and slips of the Pen; nor will we always quarrel with them for Errors in Geography; but if they tell us a Lye, that a Man may feel with his Foot, and not only Proclaim their own Folly, but [5] their Knavery too, and tell the World they think their Readers are Fools too, that is intolerable.

If they come to Banter Religion, Sport with things Sacred, and dip their Pens in Blasphemy, as some times they are very free with their Maker. Our Scandalous Club is a New Corporation Erected on purpose to make Inquisition on such Matters, and will treat them but scurvily as they deserve.

And being now upon the Introduction, ’tis necessary to Explain a little what we mean, by the Errors and Nonsence of our News-Writers, which we intend to be thus free with, and that we may give you a Lawful Specimen of the Fact, and so avoid being Indicted for Scandal, the Reader is humbly refer’d to a Certain News-Writer, call’d The London Post of the 21st of August last, where in Advice from the Hague, by way of Lisbon, we are acquainted with some News from Paris.

Now because all Men are not Geographers, nor every body does not know, but that Lisbon may lie in the Road between Paris and the Hague, and so the Letters may come by the Ordinary Post; the Dutch, as some say; having renew’d their Correspondence, I think it might not be improper to let the Reader know that this is just as Direct an Intelligence, as if they shou’d say,

There are Letters from Jamaica, by the last East India Ship, which give a more particular Account of a great Fight in Flanders.

And that the News this Retrograde Account brings, might be as Cater-Corner’d as the way of its Coming; the Advice adds, that when the most Christian King heard that the King of Portugal had enter’d into the Grand Alliance, his Majesty should say, he would teach that Little King to feel the weight of his Arm.

Methinks they who know any thing of the King of France, might have had more Manners to his Character, than to have made such a Speech as that for him; for without doubt, he who has known above 50 Year, how to Act like a King, knows better how to Talk like a King than that comes to — And they who have the worst Opinion of his Honesty, never told us they had an Ill Opinion of his Witt — at least they should have made a Speech for him a little like a King; but this is such a Boyish Sentence, [6] such a Meanness, such a dull thing, the Czar of Muscovy wou’d have made a better Speech than that.

This is an Instance of the Ignorance of our News-Writer’s: then as to the Partiality of their Writing; I refer to the Post-Boy of August 24th. that two sorts of Fluxes Rage in both the German and French Armies, this is very probable, and often the Effect of Armies lying long in a place, and the Fact may be true, but then comes in Mr. News-Writer and partial to our Friends, will have no Body Die but in the Enemies Army; this is such a piece of ridiculous Banter, that they that can bear to be thus us’d, ought indeed to be Impos’d upon to the end of the Chapter.

As occasions of this Nature offer themselves, this Paper will not fail to set you to rights. Not that the Author thinks it worth while, to take up your Hours always, to tell you how your Pockets are Pickt, and your Sences impos’d upon; only now and then, where ’tis a little grosser than Ordinary.

For the Body of this Paper, we shall endeavour to fill it with Truth of Fact, and not improper Reflections; the Stories we tell you shall be True, and our Observations, as near as we can, shall be just, and both shall Study the Readers Profit and Diversion.

Of the French Nation.

OUR Ancient English Histories have always spoken of the French with a great deal of Contempt, and the English Nation have been apt enough to have very mean Thoughts of them from Tradition, as an Effeminate Nation.

This I am apt to believe, proceeds from the Uninterrupted Victories which our Ancestors have obtained over them in the Reign of Edward the Ist. Henry the IIId. and Henry the Vth. in all which Wars, it must be allow’d that the English were always Superiour to them in the Field; and even their own Histories cannot Deny, but when ever they met in the Field upon equal Terms, the French always had the worst of it.

And not only so, but Edward the Black Prince, as all our Historians agree, fought the famous Battel of Cressy, against 80000 French with the contemptible Number of 12000 English.

This was such a Foundation for Posterity, to take up their mean Opinion of a Nation, as must be acknowledg’d to be very just, and the Comparison between the English and the French in those Days, seem’d to stand upon the same Foot, as the like Comparison now does between the Swede and the Muscovite, upon the Success of the Battel at Narva, where the present King of Sweden Attackt an Army of 120000 Muscovites Fortify’d and Entrench’d, with less than 20000 Men.

If those Accounts of the Black Prince are True, our mean Thoughts of the French Nation seem’d to be Deduc’d from Unquestionable Authority.

But whatever the French were in former Days, however Effeminate their Kings or People, It must be own’d the Case is alter’d with them, and we find them to our loss, a Bold, Adventurous, Wise, Politick and Martial People; that their Honesty is as much better’d as their Bravery I won’t Determine, and let no Man forejudge me for giving too great an Encomium to our Enemies; I am not considering them as Enemies, but as a People.


Besides what shall we say for our own Reputation in the World, if the French are not strangely improv’d from the Effeminacy of their Ancestors, we must be strangely sunk from the Martial Gallantry of Ours. If Henry the Vth, Single and Unassisted by Confederates, Conquer’d 19 Parts in 20 of the whole Kingdom of France in 2 Years time, we have a strange Instance to Answer for, who have been 15 Years Fighting with them, and been backt in the War with four parts in Seven of all Europe, and are yet as far off from reducing them, in outward Appearance, as we were at First.

Either there are strange Errors of Conduct or Degeneracy of Courage to be Accounted for. Or else the French Nation are all that I have said of them, and a great deal more.

Nor am I afraid that any Body, should suspect me of Designing to Magnifie the Vertue and Improvement of the Enemy; in Order to Discourage our Friends, and Undervalue my Native Country, for I’ll clear this Paper in that respect by the Consequences and leave all Men to Judge.

As to the Courage, Conduct, and Policy of the French; we have too many Instances in our Memory to make any reasonable Man Doubt it. and our Next shall a little Enter upon the Ways and Means, the Time, the Causes and Degrees, when, and by which they have risen, from a Contemptible Effeminate People, to a Martial Terrible Nation, as it is at this Day.

Printed for the Booksellers of London and Westminster. 1704.

[1] “Wheeled” in both of the Harry Ransom Center’s copies; “Wheedled” in Secord facsimile. In this case, the HRC copies contain an obvious error, which we have emended in accordance with our editorial practice.

[2] “Particular ordinary” in both of the HRC’s copies; “ordinary Particular” in Secord. In this case we have followed the printing in the HRC copies. While the evidence of the correction of “Wheeled” to “Wheedled” makes it appear likely that 1704, Numb. 1 was corrected by Defoe sometime during the print run, and those corrections are reflected in the number Secord photographed for his facsimile edition, this emendation does not fall within our silent emendation policy. Since “Particular ordinary” is not an obvious error, even though it was fixed, we have retained it. Since Secord’s facsimile is, in his words, a “mosaic,” and our practice is to reproduce as closely as possible the set housed in the HRC, we will reproduce the HRC’s text whenever it is not obviously incorrect. This reversed wording was read by at least part of Defoe’s contemporary readership. While we are clearly going against authorial intention in this case, this edition’s purpose is to produce a “social text,” and the only way to maintain a consistent text is to use the best available single set as a guide.