Who was the Spy Daniel Defoe’s Agent called Pierce in 1706? #History #Scotland

Defoe Edinburgh

In a letter at the height of the Union Crisis on 30 November, 1706, the English author and spy, Daniel Defoe, reports that he had sent an agent from Edinburgh to the West to dissuade Presbyterians from rising against the Treaty of Union. On the same day, the Scottish Parliament ordered a proclamation against those planning a rising.

On 30 November, 1706, Defoe wrote that

‘I had heard of the West countrymen’s resolutions [of Presbyterians potentially rising against Parliament to thereby end the Union negotiations] and purposed to have gone among them myself, but the Committee calling every day for me, I thought myself able to do more service here, and Mr. Pierce whom you know of offering himself, I sent him with my servant and horses, with some heads, of reasons if possible to open their eyes. He is very well known among them and very acceptable to their ministers who are the firebrands, and I hope may be serviceable to cool the people, if he escapes the first fury, but I confess myself in pain for him. He is sincerely zealous for the public, and will merit a pardon for what has passed, if he performs this service, whether he has success or no.’

Due to his mission, Pierce was probably in some danger from the anti-Union western Presbyterians. Who was the mysterious spy called Pierce?

According to Furbank, Owens, etc., in Defoe De-Attributions: Critique of J. R. Moore’s Checklist (1994), he was the English dissenter and broker, John Pierce. In May, 1704, Queen Anne offered a reward for the discovery of the author and printer of a subversive pamphlet called Legion’s Humble Address aka. ‘the Million Letter’, in which Pierce played a role:

‘On 8 June [1704, the diarist], Narcissus Lutterell reported that “Mr. Peirce, an exchange broker, abscond[s]; [… for ] handing it [Legion’s Address] to the presse”.

[… on 19 June [1704], the alleged printer of Legion’s Humble Address confirmed that] “one Pierce a Broker, formerly a Silkman” paid him about forty shillings, and going to Newcastle in the company of Pierce. […]

On 5 July [1704] an informer told [Robert Harley that] ‘John Pierce, “reputed author of the Million Letter”, was also in England, though the informer did not know where.

On 27 September [1704] Nathaniel Sammom, “ a tool of [Daniel] De Foe’s”, […] admitted receiving a bundle of papers from “one John Pearce”. […]

A newsletter dated London, 10 February 1705 […] reported that: “a person who is fled thither [i.e., to Edinburgh] from England for being author of Legion’s Address and goes by the borrowed name of Allen (though his true name is Pierce) with some others of his kidney kept the [anti-Royalist and pro-Republican] calves head feast [on the anniversary of the execution of Charles I on 30 January] at the house of one Fowler in the Cowgate [of Edinburgh]”. […]

A copy now in the National Library of Scotland, of A Dialogue between a Country-Man, and a Landwart School Master, concerning the Proceedings of the Parliament of England (Edinburgh, 1705) has a manuscript inscription in an old hand on its title-page: “By Peirce Alias Legion Alias Allen Alias etc.”

One of the copies of Legion’s Humble Address in the National Library of Scotland has the contemporary inscription: “This is the address for q[ui]ch Allan brock newgate prison and ffled to Scotland”.

In the Memorial of the Presbyterians (1706) reference is made to “one P—e, a Broker, (that was kept out of the Way for publishing and dispersing a half Sheet, which was wrote by D. D[e].F[[oe].)”.

[After Defoe’s letter of 30 November,] in The Review Review’d: In a Letter to the Prophet Daniel in Scotland, published probably in April 1707, Defoe was urged to “be civil to poor Jack Pearse, who you know was forc’d to travel Northward upon your Account”.

A letter from Robert Watts to A. Charlett of February 1708, quoted in Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne […] says: “The Author of … The Observator reviv’d was one Pearce an Exchange Broker some time concern’s in ye Paper call’d Legions Address & forc’d to fly on that Acc[oun]t into Holland.” (Furbank, Owens, etc., Defoe De-Attributions: Critique of J.R.Moore’s Checklist, 17-18.)

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on May 2, 2016.

3 Responses to “Who was the Spy Daniel Defoe’s Agent called Pierce in 1706? #History #Scotland”

  1. […] Defoe in Edinburgh to Robert Harley, English Northern Secretary, Saturday 16 November, […]

  2. […] Union, the governments of Scotland and England utilised spies and double agents – Daniel Defoe, John Pierce, John Ker of Kersland, Cunningham of Aiket – to deflect the militant presbyterian factions either […]

  3. […] What we know is that those who ran Scotland, or spies like Daniel Defoe, John Ker of Kersland and John Pierce, did everything they could to ensure that the “Continuing” United Societies/MacMillanites, the […]

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