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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Thankfully, No Pillories

This was sent to me by my friend, Dan Garshman. It is appropriate in light of the Washington follies with its attendant attempt by Obama, the Democrats, even some Republicans, and the media to smear, ridicule, and deride The Tea Party. Thankfully, we no longer use the pillory.

On this date in 1703, English novelist, journalist, and pamphleteer Daniel Defoe was pilloried for sedition. He had published a pamphlet called “The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters” in 1702, written as a satire of High Church policies toward Nonconformists, or Dissenters — Protestants who didn’t conform to the established Church of England practices. He wrote it from the High Church viewpoint, advocating the killing of Dissenters as the simplest way to deal with them, and it was a huge seller. The Church and the Dissenters missed the irony, though, and took it seriously; although he had published it anonymously, eventually he was revealed to be the perpetrator of the hoax. Everyone was furious at being embarrassed, and he was prosecuted for seditious libel. The Church advertised a reward for his capture, and in it we have the only remaining description of Defoe: “a middle-size spare man, about 40 years old, of a brown complexion, and dark-brown coloured hair, but wears a wig, a hooked nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth.” He was found guilty, fined, imprisoned in Newgate Gaol, and sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, where he would likely be pelted with dirt, and rotten eggs, and even less savory items. While he waited in prison, he wrote a satirical poem, “Hymn to the Pillory.” He managed somehow to get it printed, and had it distributed while he was in the pillory; it was a gamble that paid off, because instead of hurling filth at him, onlookers drank to his health and pelted him with flowers.

An excerpt from “Hymn to the Pillory”:
… let all the statesmen stand;
Who guide us with unsteady hand;
Who armies, fleets, and men betray;
And ruin all the shortest way.
Let all those soldiers stand in sight.
Who’re willing to be paid and not to fight.
Agents, and Colonels, who false musters bring,
To cheat their country first, then their King.

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