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The True-Born Englishman

by Daniel Defoe

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According to a preface Defoe supplied to an edition of 1703, the poem's declared target is not Englishness as such but English cultural xenophobia, against the cultural disturbance new immigrants caused. Defoe's argument was that the English nation as it already existed in his time was a product of various incoming European ethnic groups, from Ancient Britons to Anglo-Saxons, Normans and beyond. It was therefore nonsensical to abuse newer arrivals since the English law and customs would assure their inevitable assimilation: "I only infer that an Englishman, of all men, ought not to despise foreigners as such, and I think the inference is just, since what they are to-day, we were yesterday, and to-morrow they will be like us. If foreigners misbehave in their several stations and employments, I have nothing to do with that; the laws are open to punish them equally with natives, and let them have no favour. But when I see the town full of lampoons and invectives against Dutchmen only because they are foreigners, and the King reproached and insulted by insolent pedants, and ballad-making poets for employing foreigners, and for being a foreigner himself, I confess myself moved by it to remind our nation of their own original, thereby to let them see what a banter is put upon ourselves in it, since, speaking of Englishmen ab origine, we are really all foreigners ourselves."

ISBN 10/13 : 978-014043572

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