As a journalist, this story makes me happy for modern-day freedom of the press: on July 31, 1703, Daniel Defoe was placed in a pillory for his incendiary political writings. The piece that primarily got him in trouble was a pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church, which apparently argued for the extermination of said Dissenters. Apparently, the government at the time had a really poor sense of humor and totally failed to realize that Defoe was joking, satirizing both High church Tories and hypocritical Dissenters.

Thanks to the lack of humor in those on high, Defoe was arrested and put in the pillory for three days where, according to legend, he was pelted not with garbage but with flowers. Because he was just that popular with the people. After his three days were up he was sent to Newgate Prison. He was released that fall, thanks to the intervention of Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, who wanted Defoe to act as an intelligence agent.

Thankfully, this difficult period didn’t put Defoe off of his writing. He went on to pen such classics as Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Roxana, thereby helping to lay the foundation of the English novel as we know it today.

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