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Daniel Defoe: Accomptant to the Commissioners of the Glass Duty.

As is observed by Rogers(1) Defoe claimed to have been recruited by his friend Dalby Thomas to be Accomptant to the Commissioners of the Glass Duty, and to have served in that capacity from 1695 to the end of the Commissioners term of office (which was in 1699/1700). Rogers draws our attention to the Treasury archives where there is evidence supporting Defoe's claim. We would draw attention to further items of information on this topic in the same source.

Rogers' reference(2) is to the Treasury 'Money' books, in which we see the first of five formal reports which were made by the Commissioners of the Glass Duty, and which refer to Defoe. This report covers the quarter from 29 September to 28 December 1695. The report refers to the 'Glass Office', and to the collection of 'Duty on all manner of Glasswares, Stone and Earthern Bottles'. A second report(3) covers the period from 28 December 1695 to 17 May 1696 (one quarter and 51 days). (On 17 May 1696 duty on tobacco pipes came into effect, and it seems that the Glass Office was made responsible for its collection). A third report(4) covers the year from 17 May 1696 to 17 May 1697. A fourth report(5) covers the year from 17 May 1697 to 17 May 1698. The fifth report(6) covers the half-year period 1 August 1698 to 1 February 1699, and refers to the collection of '. . . duty's on Glass Wares, Paper, Parchment and Vellum'. Despite the Treasury Money books being an apparently complete series, there is no report covering the period 17 May 1698 to I August 1698.

Further reference to the Glass office accounts in the Treasury Money books occurs in 1704. Two entries(7,8) summarize, but do not detail, the Commissioners' expenditures from '. . . the time of the expiration of those Duty's, being 1st August, 1699, to 1st November, 1700' and also for the cost of making up their accounts. Clearly there is a missing period from 1 February 1699 to 1 August 1699.

The reports listed above are all similar in their nature. They consist of a list of the various expenditures made in the operation of the Glass Office. Payments made to the Commissioners and to salaried employees are detailed by name and amount paid. Other expenditures (e.g. rent, stationery) are listed in summary form. Yet other expenditures (e.g. the payment of commission to casual tax collectors, are merely adverted to, not detailed). The reports are addressed to the Right Honourable the Lords of His Majesties' Treasury. The reports are signed by some or all of the Commissioners, under the rubric 'We having examined these particulars do humbly desire your Lords the Allowance thereof'. The reports are then countersigned, or initialled, in approval, by the Lord Treasurer. The purpose of the reports in the 'Money' books is as a permanent record of the authorization of the expenditures, so that money received from an imprest account elsewhere can be cleared as properly accounted for.

Defoe's salary in the first and second reports mentioned above is [pounds]100 per annum. In the third, fourth, and fifth reports it is [pounds]150 per annum. It is extremely difficult to assess the extent and difficulty of the work involved, but the reports make it clear that the number of Defoe's direct employees (Clerks to the Accomptant) increased substantially over the period 1695 to 1698, before decreasing in 1699 (Table 1).

From the lists of expenditure of the Glass office, it can also be seen that the office increased substantially over the period 1695 to 1698 (Table 2).

It is likely that the increased workload was the result of making the office responsible for the collection of duty not only on glass wares, but also on tobacco pipes (until that duty was repealed), and then on paper, parchment, and vellum. This represents yet another difficulty with these records, as the duty on 'Vellum, Parchment & Paper' was passed in 1694(9) (effective 28 June 1694), not 1697, at which date the Glass Office seems to have taken on the responsibility.
Table 1

                            Number of
Date                        'Clerks to the    Total Annual
From          To            Accomptant'       Salary ([pounds])

29/9/95       28/12/95      2                 70
28/12/95      17/5/96       3                 110
17/5/96       17/5/97       5                 210
17/5/97       17/5/98       6                 230
1/8/98         1/2/99       2                 80
Table 2

                            Total cost of             Equivalent
Date                        Operating the             Annual cost
From         To             Glass Office ([pounds])   ([pounds])

29/9/95      8/12/95        704:15:10                 2,619:3:4
28/12/95     17/5/96        1,039:15:9 1/2            2,691:14:0
17/5/96      17/5/97        5,698:9:3                 5,698:9:3
17/5/97      17/5/98        6,328:0:7 1/4             6,328:0:7 1/4
1/8/98       1/2/99         incomplete

It should be noted that the Glass Duty was a tax on any items manufactured from glass. Moore(10) refers, erroneously, to the Glass Duty as a tax on windows. The Window Tax, although contemporaneous with the Glass Duty, was an assessed tax, based on the number of windows in a property, and was not related to the Glass Duty.

Rogers(11) points out that the 1695 report is only the second recorded use of 'de Foe', and goes on to say 'it confirms the fact that officialdom preferred this designation, several years before the expanded version of the name became current or even habitual with Defoe himself'.

The five reports which refer to Defoe style him as follows:

Daniel de Foe Dan(1) D Foe Dan(1) de Foe Daniel D'Foe Daniel D'Foe

With such a rich variety of forms, it is perhaps adventurous to refer to officialdom preferring any particular style.

JOHN M. PARKINSON York University, Ontario

1 P. Rogers, 'Defoe's First Official Post', N&Q, ccxvi (1971), 303.

2 Public Record Office, T53/13/[80.sup.v].

3 Public Record Office, T53/13/399.

4 Public Record Office, T53/13/399-400.

5 Public Record Office, T53/14/212-13.

6 Public Record Office, T53/14/333.

7 Public Record Office, T53/17/153.

8 Public Record Office, T53/18/322-4.

9 5th & 6th Gul & Mar C.21 (1694).

10 J. R. Moore, Daniel Defoe, Citizen of the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 288.

11 Rogers, loc. cit.
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Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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