An Essay Upon Projects

by

Daniel Defoe

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AN ESSAY UPON PROJECTS

Contents:

Introduction
Author's Preface
Author's Introduction
The History of Projects
Of Projectors
Of Banks
Of the Multiplicity of Banks
Of the Highways
Of Assurances
Of Friendly Societies
Of Seamen
Of Wagering
Of Fools
A Charity-Lottery
Of Bankrupts
Of Academies
Of a Court Merchant
Of Seamen
The Conclusion

INTRODUCTION.

Defoe's "Essay on Projects" was the first volume he published, and no great writer ever published a first book more characteristic in expression of his tone of thought. It is practical in the highest degree, while running over with fresh speculation that seeks everywhere the well-being of society by growth of material and moral power. There is a wonderful fertility of mind, and almost whimsical precision of detail, with good sense and good humour to form the groundwork of a happy English style. Defoe in this book ran again and again into sound suggestions that first came to be realised long after he was dead. Upon one subject, indeed, the education of women, we have only just now caught him up. Defoe wrote the book in 1692 or 1693, when his age was a year or two over thirty, and he published it in 1697.

Defoe was the son of James Foe, of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, whose family had owned grazing land in the country, and who himself throve as a meat salesman in London. James Foe went to Cripplegate Church, where the minister was Dr. Annesley. But in 1662, a year after the birth of Daniel Foe, Dr. Annesley was one of the three thousand clergymen who were driven out of their benefices by the Act of Uniformity. James Foe was then one of the congregation that followed him into exile, and looked up to him as spiritual guide when he was able to open a meeting-house in Little St. Helen's. Thus Daniel Foe, not yet De Foe, was trained under the influence of Dr. Annesley, and by his advice sent to the Academy at Newington Green, where Charles Morton, a good Oxford scholar, trained young men for the pulpits of the Nonconformists. In later days, when driven to America by the persecution of opinion, Morton became Vice- President of Harvard College. Charles Morton sought to include in his teaching at Newington Green a training in such knowledge of current history as would show his boys the origin and meaning of the controversies of the day in which, as men, they might hereafter take their part. He took pains, also, to train them in the use of English. "We were not," Defoe said afterwards, "destitute of language, but we were made masters of English; and more of us excelled in that particular than of any school at that time."

Daniel Foe did not pass on into the ministry for which he had been trained. He said afterwards, in his "Review," "It was my disaster first to be set apart for, and then to be set apart from, the honour of that sacred employ." At the age of about nineteen he went into business as a hose factor in Freeman's Court, Cornhill. He may have bought succession to a business, or sought to make one in a way of life that required no capital. He acted simply as broker between the manufacturer and the retailer. He remained at the business in Freeman's Court for seven years, subject to political distractions. In 1683, still in the reign of Charles the Second, Daniel Foe, aged twenty-two, published a pamphlet called "Presbytery Roughdrawn." Charles died on the 6th of February, 1685. On the 14th of the next June the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme with eighty-three followers, hoping that Englishmen enough would flock about his standard to overthrow the Government of James the Second, for whose exclusion, as a Roman Catholic, from the succession to the throne there had been so long a struggle in his brother's reign. Daniel Foe took leave of absence from his business in Freeman's Court, joined Monmouth, and shared the defeat at Sedgmoor on the 6th of July. Judge Jeffreys then made progress through the West, and Daniel Foe escaped from his clutches.

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