chapter  4
26 Pages

Writing the peace

The geography of the peace

The previous two chapters have sought to establish a context. Chapter 2 argues that attitudes towards slavery in early eighteenth-century England, though varied, were not simply complacent, but were marked by a desire to avoid unpleasant knowledge. Chapter 3 traces some of the connections among members of the Scriblerus Club, and between them and the Tory peace. With these contexts established, it is possible now to consider texts. This chapter examines a number of writings associated with the peace, and the ways in which their promotion of the peace involves and exposes attitudes towards slavery. It begins with the geography implied in the name of the South Sea Company, in a number of peace poems and in Windsor-Forest. Both the company’s name and most of the poems omit reference to the parts of the world in which the transatlantic slave trade took place, and in doing so, they avoid confronting the trade itself. This avoidance is consonant with some of the attitudes discussed in chapter 2. A similar kind of avoidance can be seen more broadly in what might be called the controlling rhetorical mood of Swift’s Tory pamphlets, and in the very different mood of the Tory peace poems. In both cases the rhetoric, as far as it is possible to tell, seems to be internalized, that is, it seems to be a rhetoric which acts upon writer and reader alike. Windsor-Forest is the partial exception since the unevenness of that poem suggests Pope may not quite have convinced himself of the benign nature of the Treaty of Utrecht. Before moving on to that, however, the geography of the peace provides an illuminating case study of one way in which those promoting the peace obscured its nature.