Defending the Scots (and the Act of Union)

Defoe, Daniel (1661?-1731)

The Scots Nation and Union Vindicated; from the Reflections cast on them, in an Infamous Libel, Entitl'd, The Publick Spirit of the Whigs, &c. In which the most Scandalous Paragraphs contain'd therein are fairly Quoted, and fully answer'd.

London: Printed for A. Bell at the Cross-Keys and Bible in Cornhill; and sold by J. Baker at the Blak-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row, 1714


Quarto: 20.3 x 15.5 cm. 28 p.


Bound in modern boards. A very good copy, third signature browned.

Widely attributed to Daniel Defoe. The pamphlet is a full-throated refutation of Jonathan Swift’s anti-Scottish slurs in his “Public Spirit of the Whigs”. “Defoe called the pamphlet a ‘foolish Lybel,’ ‘preposterous,’ and ‘plain Lyes,’ likened the author to a ravenous beast and a cruel monster, and challenged England to match the nobility and bravery of the Scots, especially on the field of battle.”(Backsheider, p. 298)

Swift’s pamphlet had also caused broad offense by disparaging the Act of Union (the most important legislative achievement of Queen Anne’s reign). Defoe, who had been instrumental in accomplishing the union, charged Swift with being a Jacobite. “The central issue was not the Union but Tory support (or not) for the Hanoverian succession. Since a primary motive for England to seek the union was to ensure the Hanoverian succession in Scotland as well as England, the attack on the Union allowed Defoe to accuse Swift of Jacobite sympathies:

‘But if any Thing provokes him more than usually against the UNION with

Scotland, it seems to be the unalterableness of the Protestant Succession,

which is establish'd by the said Union; and which for that Reason the

Jacobites in both Parts of the Country are the only People that push at the

Dissolving the said Union.’

“This is a thoroughly Swiftian manoeuvre. Defoe condemns Swift by attributing to him a positive desire for what he takes to be the likely consequence and only sound reason for opposing the Union. Nothing else in Swift's tract supports this accusation. Indeed, the principal point of his attacks on Steele and Burnet is the opposite - to discredit as cynical and unfounded the Whig charge that the Tories did not support the Hanoverian succession. By venting his sectarian and ethnic prejudices in a gratuitous attack on the Scots, Swift undermines the primary thrust of his pamphlet.”(Oakleaf, Political Biography of Jonathan Swift.)

“A reply to Swift's ‘Publick Spirit of the Whigs’, countering its irony about the generosity of the Whigs to their hired authors by citing those who have starved in their service; turning upside down its simile of a marriage, in regard to the Union; and rebutting its sneers against the Scottish nobility, pointing among other things – to their array of distinguished army officers  and quoting a list of Scots officers who fought under Gustavus Adolphus.”

“First attributed to Defoe by Lee. In a letter to Harley of 2 March 1714, Defoe commented that he was sorry that “That Gentleman' (i.e. Swift) had made himself so vulnerable to Whig retaliation (Letters, p. 432). There is, however, no obvious improbability in his writing this retort to Swift, whom he regarded as a personal rival, and the prose style of the tract suggests him. When one adds two pieces of internal evidence – an allusion on p. 7 to blowing up a burning house to save a street (a favorite Defoe allusion, found also in Legion's Memorial (25), p. 3, and the Review for 26 July 1711 and 21 May 1713, etc.), and the reference on p. 24 to a manuscript concerning Gustavus Adolphus which has been in the author's possession for many years (the Review for 8 October 1706 mentions a similar manuscript) – the attribution appears probable.”(Furbank). The tract is also sometimes attributed to George Ridpath.

Furbank, Defoe, 160 (P); Moore 273; ESTC T56966