1719: The Great Northern War, War of the Quadruple Alliance, The Pretender’s Rebellion and Defoe

The Daily Courant:

The Daily Courant was a one page, regularly printed newspaper that provided readers with knowledge about events transpiring around the world. The front page usually focused on the political happenings occurring all over Europe. The front page of The Daily Courant also provided information for readers about the deaths of prominent figures in society, news on trade, and information about weather or natural disasters. On the back page of the The Daily Courant, stories from the front page were sometimes continued. Following the stories from the front page, information about stocks, specifically the South Sea Comp
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The Great Northern War

any, was always given. After news about the South Sea Company, readers could find advertisements for plays, as well as other miscellaneous offers and items. While the advertisements had information about live theatre, The Daily Courant was a paper strictly focused on current events. As a result, information about the arts and entertainment were never included. The stories that were posted in The Daily Courant were fairly straightforward and did not show much bias on the items. The stories seem to come straight from the source, and were written in the form of short blurbs. They would often start under a heading of the city where the story had been delivered from, and followed by a few sentences explaining what it was about. Sometimes The Daily Courant would print full letters, sets of laws or declarations. When countries were sending troops out, The Daily Courant would provide statistics and lists of which, and how many, people were going to war.

In they year 1719, there were two major conflicts that seemed to present themselves over and over again. The first was the war between Sweden and Russia, now known as the Great Northern War. Although there is clear conflict between Sweeden and Russia, The Daily Courant spends most of the year describing the de-escalation of the war between the two countries. At the start of the year it is discussed how King Charles of Sweden had been killed and had now heirs. As a result his
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The War of the Quadruple Alliance

sister, Ulrika, was in the process of taking over as Queen. King Charles was very war-savvy, but it quickly becomes obvious that his death had shaken Sweden and that the country was not going to be able to continue the war with as much might as they had before. By July 1719, the new Queen is discussing how Sweden desires to have peace. Despite the steps towards peace, many issues of the Daily Courant discuss Russia, Sweden and other northern countries like Netherlands, mobilizing troops and still acting as though they were in war. Regardless of wars and disputes, The Daily Courant is constantly reporting on different countries sending their condolences to the Queen for the death of her brother.

The second major conflict that appears throughout the year 1719, is the war between Spain and the European super-powers, Great Britain, France, Austria, Sardenia and the Dutch. Today, this war is known as the War of the Quadruple Alliance. Spain is frequently mentioned in The Daly Courant, the focus usually being on their efforts towards mobilization, as well as notes regarding Spanish troops attacking the cities and ships of the countries in the quadruple alliance. There seems to be a general sense of contempt towards Spain, especially since Spain seems to constantly be fighting with every country. It is common for The Daily Courant to make a report of a Spanish ship attacking British or French ships and stealing the merchandise on them. In the May 4th issue of The Daily Courant, it is discussed how any officers in Paris who are supposed to serve against Spain, were preparing and going to their posts. It is also discussed in the July 1st issue, how in Naples armies were attacking entrenched Spaniards, while in Edinburgh there were Spanish prisoners. There is an all around sense of turmoil and distaste whenever Spain is mentioned.

Another popular topic in The Daily Courant was Prince Charles, also known as “The Pretender”. The most notable story that The Pretender comes up with is about his wife, Maria Sobieska of Poland. The Daily Courant describes how Sobieska is locked away in a convent yet she wishes to be living with her husband, “The Pretender”, so she eventually escapes to live with him in Italy. It then goes on to describe how many people in Ireland and Scotland try to create rebellions in favor of The Pretender. This story certainly does not favor the Jacobite political struggle, which The Pretender was the figurehead of. The Jacobite political movement claime
d that the line of royalty should go to the Stuart family, which The Pretender was the next in line for. Spain supported The Pretender because he was in opposition to the monarchy in Great Britain.

Besides political issues and warfare, The Daily Courant sometimes touches upon other global events of note. For instance, one story unrelated to politics involved the whereabouts of The Pretender and his wife. Often when someone who was of nobility and importance, or a member of the church was ill, The Daily Courant reported the status of their health and if they passed away. In July, there seemed to be less conflict and issues related to politics and warfare, so The Daily Courant reported on a variety of other items. On July 2nd, there are many reports about an earthquake that nearly destroys Constantinople. Another issue covered how the prince of Brazil had just turned five years old and there was a parade in his honor in Lisbon. July 16th marked the first mention of anything related to art as they detailed the design of a palace. The Daily Courant reports on how the construction of the Palace of Tuilleries is almost complete, and describes some of the details of this new building.

Theater In 1719:

In 1719, Theater was a huge part of English culture. The Daily Courant would post ads on the back of their newspaper for the two most popular playhouses, Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. On October 6th of 1719, The Daily Courant stopped posting the advertisements because a rival paper, The Daily Post, declared that they had a monopoly over the ads for those two playhouses and that no other paper was allowed to post for them. This was lifted by January 28th, 1920, when The Daily Courant again started to post notices for both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Some other popular theaters during 1719 were Kings, Hickford’s and the York Building.

Not much is known about the appearance of the playhouse, Drury Lane. In one issue of The Daily Courant, it was said that shows at the this theater should not sell more than 400 tickets or else it will go over capacity, but there have been other instances where it was written that Drury Lane can hold at least 663 theater goers. The amount of people who could fit into a theater fluctuated in the 1700’s because people could crowd into the pit and onto the benches. There was also a room at Drury Lane for the actors and other members of the play’s production to meet and hang out during both the live shows and rehearsals. It is also said that many comedians spent a lot of time at Drury Lane.
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Drury Lane Theater

The Lincoln’s Inn Fields was originally open in 1661, but it closed down in 1708. Christopher Rich, who had once been a part of Drury Lane, reopened Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1714, and it became one of the biggest playhouses, and Drury Lane’s competitor. At one point, the two playhouses had drama and conflict between one another. Drury Lane was upset that Rich had convinced some comedians to come with him to his new theater.

The theater was made up of “boxes, pit and two galleries”. Another feature of this theater was that the stage was longer than other theaters, had mirrors on either side of the stage, and beautiful paintings. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields was well decorated very aesthetically pleasing. The theater could seat around 1,000 people or more for a popular show.

Plays were performed every day of the week except for Sundays. In 1719, Shakespeare plays were still very popular. At Drury Lane showed many of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, such as Titus Adnronicus, King Henry the IV, and Othello, . William Congreve was another popular playwright, with both The Way of the World and The Mourning Bride being popular plays during 1719, and part of the Drury Lane itinerary.

Daniel Defoe:

Daniel Defoe is an author most famous for his 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe. Defoe was born sometime around 1660 to a family of three children. His parents were well off, but at the same time not outrageously wealthy. He went to school and studied under Reverend Charles Morton. Morton was a non-conformist, and his academy was a “dissenting academy” meaning that it was open to those who were not a member of the Church of England. Defoe’s intentions were to go into the non-conformist ministry after school, but in 1681, he decided not to follow a religious path and chose a career in trade. Shortly thereafter, he got married and subsequently had eight children. His non-conformist background made Defoe a supporter for freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which is something that is reflected later on in his life, and in his work as a writer.

In 1686, Defoe began his career as a writer by authoring political essays. Another influence in Defoe’s writing career, besides his non-conformist background, was his early work with ships and trade. In 1680 Defoe got involved with investing in ships and various trade items such as tobacco and wine. Unfortunately, Defoe was not the most skilled businessman, and his risky investments cost led him into bankruptcy. Because he was broke, Defoe turned to writing to make some more money. Many of his works were critical of the political and social systems of England. Defoe often wrote in support of his political hero, Dutch King William, who was more accepting of other religions and nationalities than most English kings at the time. He became very well known for his pamphlet, The True-Born Englishmen. When King William died, Queen Anne took over. She had a strict outlook towards non-conformists, making Defoe have to fight for his religious freedom. Defoe continued to write controversial pamphlets and other works, which eventually forced him to go into hiding. He wa
s eventually arrested for “seditious libel”. Defoe was constantly getting in trouble and, as a result, he was constantly in debt. In 1704, Defoe created The Review, which was a newspaper-like publication that used “history and news for propaganda purposes.”

After many years of writing non-fiction pamphlets, opinion pieces, newspaper articles and journals, Defoe started to move into what people now think of as fiction based lite
rature. Defoe called these books, “secret histories”, and they were ultimately stories of fictional characters’ lives. His first official and most famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, was published in 1917. Robinson Crusoe pulls many of the elements from Defoe’s real life. Crusoe makes risky business endeavors and gets involved with ships and the sea. Crusoe also has religious ties and becomes more and more religious as the book goes on. He teaches his servant, Friday, Christianity, yet does not force him to become Christian, reflecting Defoe’s non-conformist background. While Robinson Crusoe is now considered fiction, at the time, Defoe’s first novel was looked at as a travel memoir. Robinson Crusoe finally allows Defoe to gain wealth, yet by the time Defoe’s life was drawing to a close, he was back in debt. He eventually passed away on April 24th 1731, leaving a literature legacy of at least 318 titles.

A Collection of New Songs by M. Angus and Sons:

In around 1800, M. Angus and Sons published A Collection of New Songs. One of the songs in this collection was a jingle based off of Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe. The song describes the plot of Defoe’s famous novel, giving a basic overview of what occurred during Crusoe’s travels. The fact that only around sixty years after Robinson Crusoe was published, people were writing songs about the novel, show how influential and successful Defoe’s novel was.

An interesting aspect of the song is that it does not mention anything about religion, trade, or cannibalism, major themes in the actual novel. In the first verse, the song talks about how Crusoe lost his money because his “fortune was bad”, and than goes into the verse, which mostly consists of the repetition of the one line “Oh! Poor Robinson Crusoe”. This leads me, as the reader, to believe that during the eighteenth century, Crusoe was a character that the public sympathized with and felt for. In the 1700’s, the public felt bad for Crusoe’s misfortunes. In the song, it goes on to describe how, after landing on the island, Crusoe salvaged some materials from the ship and managed to live life on the island he was stranded on. It also describes how he had a servant, Friday, who became his friend and, finally, how he travels back to England. A big part Friday’s plotline in the novel is his conversion from a cannibal to a Christian,neither of which are mentioned in the song. Since the song only touches upon the superficial aspects of Robinson Crusoe, it leads me to believe that it was possibly something that was written for children. It is basically a very short, abridged version of the real story, lacking any of the material from the novel that was related to the messages Defoe was trying to send to the readers of his novel.

Address to the People of England: she
wing the unworthiness of their behaviour to King George; the folly of the pretended reasons for the present rebellion; and the strict obligations we are all under for our own sakes, as well as the kings to assist and support him:

In 1715, four years before Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, he wrote this political pamphlet. The Address to the People of England explains
King George

how the people of England who were rebelling against King William were in the wrong. As earlier discussed in The Daily Courant, the Pretender was a figure who was trying to create a rebellion in the United Kingdom against the monarchy, and in this political pamphlet, Defoe is denouncing this rebellion, the Pretender’s movement, and his followers. Defoe emphasizes how King William is a Protestant and the Pretender is Roman Catholic. As a result, the Pretender and his followers do not want someone to be a king who is not Catholic as well.

In the beginning of this address, Defoe discusses how England is such a strong country and able to defeat many other nations at war, yet England’s fate is at the hands of a rebellion. In other words, Defoe feels as though England has fought many battles against other countries, proving their strength, yet they are proving to be weak over a comparatively petty civil war about who should and should not be the king. Defoe feels as though the only reason why people are even going along with this rebellion is because the Pretender has used rhetoric and propaganda to convince them that the Protestants and King William are an enemy of the Church of England.

The Pretender also claims that he should be on the thrown because the crown should be passed on through heredity, and he believes that he is in the royal line. Defoe sees this as a foolish and fraudulent claim. Defoe explains how those who The Pretender descends from gave up the crown. As a result, the line of royalty no longer belongs to them. After the Pretender’s ancestors gave up the thrown, Queen Anne took over, and her heir was King George. The Pretender is trying to claim the crown by saying he descends from those who originally had it, but Defoe refutes this statement by explaining how no one ever had a problem with Queen Anne as the monarch, and she did not descend from the same line as the Pretender. For that reason, no one should question King George either.

Defoe then goes into the religious reasons why King George is the right person to be leading England. Defoe describes how it is a sin against the Christian religion to defy authority, so as a result people who rebel against King William are committing sins. He also explains how King George is not doing anything to endanger the Church of England. King William has kept the laws that say that only followers of the Church of England can hold governmental positions. The King has also kept laws that impose taxes on those who try to start new churches. Defoe feels that the only thing that King William does differently than other monarchs is not persecute dissenters. This is a positive thing because King William is proves that he treats the people of his country with respect and kindness. Defoe also believes that the only reason why The Pretender and his followers hate the dissenters so much is because they support his opposition, King William.

Ultimately, this pamphlet is an example of DeFoe addressing the English population, telling them not to rebel against King William. He is speaking out against the followers of the Pretender, and calling them out on their disrespect for their King. At the end of the pamphlet, Defoe says:

“What can we wish for, or desire, but to have just such a kind, gracious wife and loving father of our country to take care of us? He has wisdom without deceit, clemencywithout cowardice, gentleness without fear, good nature without weakness; prudence, temper, courage and resolution: his pleasure is greatest in the good of his people; and he account it his greatest glory to be made, by God’s good providence, the happy instrument of our lasting preservation, and to transmit our invaluable blessings down to his and our late posterity.”
This closing statement sums up Defoe’s message and feelings that King William is a warm-hearted, yet still great leader. He does not hurt his subjects, and only wishes the best for them and England.


The year 1719 was an extremely eventful year. There were wars being waged all over Europe, and writers like Daniel Defoe expressed their opinions on political matters through their writing. While the periodical, The Daily Courant, does not discuss literature or the theater, the current events that it covers come up in the literature and in the pamphlets that Daniel Defoe wrote. In his pamphlets, DeFoe expresses strong awareness and opinions of the politics occurring in England. In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe has a Spanish ship capture Crusoe and treat him as a slave. This aspect of Robinson Crusoe reflects the tensions that the English had with Spain. Defoe’s education as a dissenter is also reflected in his Address to the English People. It is clear that being raised with a dissenter background, he is a supporter of the Protestant King William, and does not support the Pretender, who would persecute those who are not followers of the Church of England.

Works Cited

Paula R. Backscheider, ‘Defoe, Daniel (1660?–1731)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7421, accessed 7 Dec 2012]

A collection of new songs. 1. Robinson Crusoe. 2. Jack at the windlass. 3. The sons of Britannia. Newcastle, [1800?]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Maryland College Park. 7 Dec. 2012 <http://find.galegroup.com/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=umd_um&tabID=T001&docId=CW110471374&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE>.

An Address to the people of England: Shewing the unworthiness of their behaviour to King George; the folly of the pretended reasons for the present rebellion; and the strict obligations we are all under for our own sakes, as well as the King's, to assist and support him. The second edition. London, M.DCC.XV. [1715]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Maryland College Park. 7 Dec. 2012

Daily Courant 1719. ProQuest British Periodicals. Web. 7 Dec. 2012.

“The London stage, 1660-1800; a calendar of plays, entertainments & afterpieces, together with casts, box-receipts and contemporary comment.” Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-1968.