Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

his hand had entered the account of such /of publicly retracting any avowal however a cargo, it would have contracted in his solemn, of any principle however sacred ;eyes the stain of innocent blood. To avoid for the reluctant abandonment by Lord that pollution he resigned his place, and Mansfield of a long-cherished judicial erhis means of subsistence, at a period of ror;—and for the recognition of a rule of life when he could no longer hope to find law of such importance, as almost to justify any other lucrative employment. But he the poets and rhetoricians in their subsehad brothers who loved and supported him; quent embellishments of it;—but above all, and his release from the fatigues of a sub- memorable for the magnanimity of the ordinate office lest him free to obey the im- prosecutor, who, though poor and dependpulses of his own brave spirit, as the aven- ent, and immersed in the duties of a toilger of the oppressed.

some calling, supplied the money, the leisWhile yet a chronicler of gunpowder ure, the perseverance, and the learning, and small arms, a negro, abandoned to dis- required for this great controversy—who, ease, had asked of him alms. Silver and wholly forgetting himself in his object, had gold he had none, but such as he had he studiously concealed his connection with it, gave him. He procured for the poor suf- lest, perchance, a name so lowly should ferer medical aid, and watched over bim prejudice a cause so momentous—whn, dewith affectionate care until his health was nying himself even the indulgence of atrestored. The patient, once more become tending the argument he had provoked, had sleek and strong, was an object on which circulated his own researches in the name, Barbadian eyes could not look without cu- and as the work, of a plagiarist who had pidity; and one Lisle, his former master, republished them-and who, mean as was brought an action against Granville Sharpe his education, and humble as were his purfor the illegal detention of his slave. - suits, had proved his superiority as a JuThree of the infallible doctors of the Church rist, on one main branch of the law of Engat Westminster—Yorke, Talbot, and Mans- land, to some of the most illustrious Judgfield-favored the claim; and Blackstone, es by whom that law had been administhe great expositor of her traditions, has- tered. tened, at their bidding, to retract a heresy Never was abolitionist more scathless on this article of the faith into which his than Granville Sharpe by the reproach to uninstructed reason had fallen. Not such which their tribe has been exposed, of in-, the reverence paid by the hard-working sensibility to all human sorrows, unless the clerk to the inward light which God had hair be thick as wool, and the skin as vouchsafed to him. He conned his entries, black as ebony.

His Áfrican clients may indeed, and transcribed his minutes all day indeed have usurped a larger share of his long, just as if nothing had happened; but attachment than the others; and of his throughout two successive years he betook countless schemes of beneficence, that which himself to his solitary chamber, there, night he loved the best was the settlement at by night, to explore the original sources of Sierra Leone of a free colony, to serve as a the Law of England, in the hope that so he point-d'appui in the future campaigns might be able to correct the authoritative against the slave trade. But he may be dogmas of Chancellors and Judges. His quoted as an experimental proof of the ininquiries closed with the firm conviction finite divisibility of the kindly affections. that, on this subject at least, these most Much he wrote, and much he labored, to learned persons were but shallow pretend-conciliate Great Britain and America ; ers to learning. In three successive cases much to promote the diffusion of the Holy he struggled against them with various and Scriptures; much to interpret the prophedoubtful success; when fortune, or, be it cies contained in them; much to refute the rather said, when Providence, threw in his errors of the Socinians; much to sustain way the negro Somerset.

the cause of Grattan and the Irish volunFor the vindication of the freedom of that teers; much to recommend reform in parman, followed a debate, ever memorable in liament; and much, it must be added, (for legal history for the ability with which it what is man in his best estate ?) to dissuade was conducted ;—for the first introduction the emancipation of the Catholics. Many to Westminster Hall of Francis Hargrave; also were the benevolent societies which he

for the audacious assertion then made by formed or fostered; and his publications, Dunning, of the maxim, that a new brief who can number? Their common aim will absolve an advocate from the disgrace was to advance the highest interests of man

[graphic]

THE CLAPHAM SECT.

10

[Sept. kind: but to none of them, with perhaps of the incidents of his more vigorous days one exception, could the praise either of delineate him so truly. learning or of originality be justly given. William Henry, the last Duke of GlouFor he possessed rather a great soul than a cester, (who possessed many virtues, and great understanding; and was less admira- even considerable talents, which his feeble ble for the extent of his resources, than for talk and manners concealed from his occathe earnest affection and the quiet energy sional associates,) had a great love for with which he employed them.

Granville Sharpe; and nothing could be Like all men of that cast of mind, his more amiable than the intercourse between humor was gay and festive. Among the them, though the one could never for the barges which floated on a summer evening moment forget that he was a prince of the by the villa of Pope, and the chateau of blood-royal, and the other never for a moHorace Walpole, none was more constant ment remembered that he was bred up as or more joyous than that in which Gran- a linen-draper's apprentice. Beneath the ville Sharpe's harp or kettle-drum sustained pompous bearing of the Guelph lay a basis the fute of one brother, the hautboy of an- of genuine humility, and the free carriage other, and the melodious voices of their of the ex-clerk of Ordnance was but the sisters. It was a concord of sweet sounds, natural expression of a lowliness unembartypical, as it might seem, of the fraternal rassed by any desire of praise or dread of harmony which blessed their dwelling on failure. A little too gracious, perhaps, yet the banks of that noble river. Much hon- full of benignity, was the aspect and the est mirth gladdened that affectionate circle, attitude of the Duke, when, at one of the and brother Granville's pencil could pro- many philanthropic assemblages held under duce very passable caricatures when he his presidency, Granville Sharpe (it was no laid aside his harp, fashioned, as he main-common occurrence) rose, and requested tained, in exact imitation of that of the son leave to speak. He had, he said, two of Jesse. To complete the resemblance, schemes, which, if recommended by such it was his delight, at the break of day, to advocates, must greatly reduce the sum of sing to it one of the songs of Zion in his human misery. To bring to a close the chamber-raised by many an intervening calamities of Sierra Leone, he had prestaircase far above the Temple gardens, pared a law for introducing there King where young students of those times would Alfred's frank pledge, a sovereign remedy often pause in their morning stroll, to lis- for all such social wounds. At once to ten to the not unpleasing cadence, though diminish the waste of human life in the the voice was broken by age, and the lan- Peninsula, and to aid the depressed workguage was to them an unknown tongue. men in England, he had devised a project

On one of their number he condescended for manufacturing portable woolpacks; unto bestow a regard—the memory of which der the shelter of which ever-ready intrenchwould still warm the heart, even were it ments our troops might, without the least chilled by as many years as had then blanch- danger to themselves, mow down the ranks ed that venerable head. The one might of the oppressors of Spain. have passed for the grandson of the other ; A politician, as well as a strategist, he but they met with mutual pleasure, and sought and obtained an interview with conversed with a confidence not unlike that Charles Fox, to whom he had advice of of equals. And yet, at this period, Gran- great urgency to give for conducting the ville Sharpe was passing into a state which, affairs of Europe. If the ghost of Burke in a nature less active and benevolent than had appeared to lecture him, Fox could his, would have been nothing better than hardly have listened with greater astonishdotage. In him it assumed the form of a ment, as his monitor, by the aid of the Litdelirium, so calm, so busy, and giving birth tle Horn in Daniel, explained the future to whims so kind-hearted, as often to re-policy of Napoleon and of the Czar. “The mind his young associate of Isaac Walton's Little Horn! Mr. Sharpe, at length exsaying, that the very dreams of a good man claimed the most amiable of men, what in are acceptable to God. To illustrate by the name of wonder do you mean by the examples the state of a mind thus hovering Little Horn ?" “See there," said the deon the confines of wisdom and fatuity, may jected interpreter of prophecy to his comperhaps suggest the suspicion that the old panion, as they retired from the Foreign man's infirmities were contagious; but even Office—“See there the fallacy of reputaat that risk they shall be hazarded, for few tion! Why, that man passes for a states

[graphic]

THE CLAPHAM SECT.

11

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

1844.]
man; and yet it is evident to me that he him the assurance that he had well di-
had never before so much as heard of the vined the meaning of one immutable pro-
Little Horn !"

phecy—the prophecy of a gracious welcome
As his end drew nearer, he became less and an eternal reward to those who, discern-
and less capable of seizing the distinction ing the brethren of their Redeemer in the
between the prophecies and the newspa-hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked,
pers. It rained as heavily on the 18th of the sick, and the prisoner, should for His
February, 1813, as on the afternoon when sake feed, and shelter, and clothe, and visit,
Isaac Walton met the future Bishop of and comfort them.
Worcester at Bunhill Row, and found in United in the bonds of that Christian
the public-house which gave them shelter, charity, though wide as the poles asunder
that double blessing of good ale and good in theological opinions, were Granville
discourse which he has so piously com- Sharpe and William Smith; that other
memorated. Not such is the fortune of denizen of Clapham who has already cross-
the young Templar, who, in a storm at ed our path. He lived as if to show how
least as pitiless, met Granville Sharpe at much of the coarser duties of this busy
the later epoch moving down Long Acre world may be undertaken by a man of
as nimbly as ever, with bis calm thought- quick sensibility, without impairing the finer
ful countenance raised gently upwards, as sense of the beautiful in nature and in art;
was usual with him-as though gazing on and as if to prove how much a man of ar-
some object which it pleased him well to dent benevolence may enjoy of this world's
look upon. But his discourse, though de- bappiness, without any steeling of the heart
livered in a kind of shower-bath, to which to the wants and the calamities of others.
his reverie made him insensible, was as When he had nearly completed fourscore
characteristic, if not as wise, as that of the years, he could still gratefully acknowledge
learned Sanderson. “You have heard,” that he had no remembrance of any bodily
he began, “my young friend, of this scan- pain or illness; and that of the very nu-
dalous proceeding of the Rabbi Ben Men- merous family of which he was the head,
doli? No? Why, then, read this brief every member still lived to support and to
account of it which I have been publish- gladden his old age. And yet, if he had
ing. About a year ago the Rabbi being gone mourning all his days, he could scarce-
then at Damascus, saw a great fame de- ly have acquired a more tender pity for the
cend, and rest on one of the hills which miserable, or have labored more habitually
surround the city. Soon after, he came to for their relief. It was his ill fortune to
Gibraltar. There he discovered how com- provoke the invective of Robert Southey,
pletely that celestial phenomenon verified and the posthumous sneers of Walter Scott
my interpretation of the words–Arise, -the one resenting a too well merited re-
shine, for thy light is come,' &c.; and proach, the other indulging that hate of
now he has the audacity not only to deny Whigs and Whiggery which, in that great
that he ever saw such a flame, but to de- mind, was sometimes stronger than the
clare that he never pretended to have seen love of justice. The enmity even of such
it. Can you imagine a clearer fulfilment men he, however, might well endure, who
of the predicted blindness and obduracy of possessed, not merely the attachment and
Israel before their restoration ?"

confidence of Charles Fox and his followers, That great event was to have taken place but the almost brotherly love of William within a few months, when the still more Wilberforce, of Granville Sharpe, and of awful event which happens to all living, Thomas Clarkson. Of all their fellow-laremoved this aged servant of God and man borers, there was none more devoted to their from the world

of shadows to the world of cause, or whom they more entirely trusted. light. To die at the precise moment when They, indeed, were all to a man homothe vast prophetic drama was just reaching ousians, and he a disciple of Belsham. But its sublime catastrophe, was

a trial not they judged that an erroneous opinion reseasily borne, even by a faith so immovable pecting the Redeemer's person would not as his. But death had no other sting for deprive of his gracious approbation, and him. It awakened his pure spirit from the ought not to exclude from their own affecdreams which peopled it during the decay tionate regards, a man in whom they daily of his fleshly tabernacle ; and if that change saw a transcript, however imperfect, of the revealed to him that he had ill-interpreted Redeemer's mercy and beneficence. many of the hard sentences of old, it gave Thirty-seven years have rolled away since

[graphic]

12

THE CLAPHAM SECT.

[Sept. these men met at Clapham in joy, and in the church of Westminster, are three thanksgiving, and mutual gratulation, over monuments, to which, in God's appointed the abolition of the African slave-trade. It time, will be added a fourth, to comwas still either the dwelling-place, or the plete the sepulchral honors of those to haunt, of almost every one of the more em- whom our remotest posterity will ascribe inent supporters of that measure; and it the deliverance of mankind from the woes may be that they exulted beyond the mea of the African slave-trade, and of colonial sure of sober reason in the prospects which slavery. There is a yet more enduring temthat success had opened to them. Time ple, where, engraven by no human hands, has brought to light more than they knew abides a record, to be divulged in its season, or believed of the inveteracy of the evil; of services to that cause, worthy to be comand of the impotency of law in a protract- memorated with those of William Wilbered contest with avarice. But time has force, of Granville Sharpe, of Zachary also ascertained, that throughout the period Macaulay, and of Thomas Clarkson. But assigned for the birth and death of a whole to that goodly fellowship the praise will be generation of mankind, there has been no emphatically given. Thomas Clarkson is proof, or reasonable suspicion, of so much as his own biographer, and pious hands have a single evasion of this law in any one of celebrated the labors of two of his colthe transatlantic British colonies. Time leagues. Of Mr. Macaulay no memorial has shown that to that law we may now con- has been made public, excepting that which fidently ascribe the deliverance of our own has been engraved on his tomb in Westland from this blood-guiltiness for ever. minster Abbey, by some eulogist less skilTime has ascertained that the solemn prac- ful than affectionate. It is no remediless tical assertion then made of the great prin- omission, although it would require talents of ciples of justice, was to be prolific of con- the highest order, to exhibit a distinct and sequences, direct and indirect, of boundless faithful image of a man whose peculiarity it magnitude. Time has enlisted on our side was to conceal as far as possible his interior all the powers and all the suffrages of the life, under the veil of his outward appear. earth: so that no one any longer attempts ance. That his understanding was proof to erase the brand of murder from the brow against sophistry, and his nerves against of the slave-trader. Above all, time has fear, were, indeed, conclusions to which a shown that, in the extinction of the slave- stranger arrived at the first interview with trade, was involved, by slow but inevitable him. But what might be suggesting that steps, the extinction of the slavery which it expression of countenance, at once so earhad created and sustained. This, also, was nest and so monotonous—by what manner a result of which, as far as human agency is of feelings those gestures, so uniformly firm concerned, the mainsprings are to be found and deliberate, were prompted—whence among that sect to which, having first given the constant traces of fatigue on those overa name, we would now build up a monument. hanging brows, and on that athletic though

It is with a trembling hand that we in- ungraceful figure—what might be the charm scribe on that monument the name of which excited among his chosen circle a Zachary Macaulay; for it is not without faith approaching to superstition, and a love some misgiving lest pain should be inflict- rising to enthusiasm, towards a man whose ed on the living, while we pass, however demeanor was so inanimate, if not austere? reverently, over the half-extinguished ashes -it was a riddle of which neither Gall nor of the dead. The bosom shrines, erected Lavater could have found the key. That in remembrance of them, may be yet more much was passing within, which that inelointolerably profaned by rude eulogy than quent tongue and those taciturn features by unmerited reproach, and the danger of could not utter; that nature had compensasuch profanation is the more imminent when ted her other bounties by refusing him the the judgment, though unbiassed by any ties means of a ready interchange of thought; of consinguinity, is not exempt from influ- and that he had won, without knowing how ences almost as kindly and as powerful. It to court, the attachment of all who apis, however, an attempt which he who would proached him closely—these were discovwrite the sectarian history of Clapham could eries which the most casual acquaintance not wholly decline, without an error like might make, but which they whom he honorthat of omitting the name of Grotius in aed with his intimacy, and they alone, could sectarian history of the Armenians. explain.

A few paces separate from each other, To them he appeared a man possessed by

one idea, and animated by one master pas-, He pursued the contest to the end, though sion-an idea so comprehensive, as to im- oppressed by such pains of body as strained part a profound interest to all which indi- to their utmost tension the self-sustaining cated its influence over him—a passion so powers of the soul. He devoted himself to benevolent, that the coldest heart could not the severest toil, amidst allurements to luxwithhold some sympathy from him who was uriate in the delights of domestic and sothe subject of it. Trained in the hardy cial intercourse, such as few indeed can habits of Scotland in ancient times, he had have encountered. He silently permitted received from his father much instruction some to usurp his hardly-earned honors, in theology, with some Latin and a little that no selfish controversy might desecrate Greek, when not employed in cultivating their common cause. lle made no effort his father's glebe at Cardross, on the north- to obtain the praises of the world, though ern bank of Clyde. While yet a boy, he he had talents to command, and a temper had watched as the iron entered into the peculiarly disposed to enjoy them. He soul of the slaves, whose labors he was sent drew on himself the poisoned shafts of calto superintend in Jamaica ; and abandon- umny; and while feeling their sting as gening with abhorrence a pursuit which had erous spirits alone can feel it, never turned promised him early wealth and distinction, a single step aside from his path to propihe pondered the question—How shall the tiate or to crush the slanderers. earth be delivered from this curse? Turn They have long since fallen, or are scon ing to Sierra Leone, he braved for many to fall, into unhonored graves. His memory years that deadly climate, that he might aid will be ever dear to those who hate injusin the erection and in the defence of what tice and revere the unostentatious consewas then the one city of refuge for the Ne-cration of a long life to the deliverance of gro race; and as he saw the slave-trade the oppressed. It will be especially dear crushing to the dust the adjacent tribes of to the few who closely observed, and who Africa, he again pondered the question-can yet rentember how that self-devotion How shall the earth be delivered from this became the poetical element of a mind not curse?

naturally imaginative; what deep signifiThat God had called him into being to cance it imparted to an aspect and a dewage war with this gigantic evil, became meanor not otherwise impressive; what en. his immutable conviction. During forty ergy to a temper, which, if not so excited, successive years, he was ever burdened might perhaps have been phlegmatic; what with this thought. It was the subject of his unity of design to a mind constitutionally visions by day, and of his dreams by night. discursive; and what dignity even to physTo give them reality, he labored as men ical languor and suffering, contracted in labor for the honors of a profession, or for such a service. They never can forget that the subsistence of their children. The the most implacable enemy of the tyrants rising sun ever found him at his task. He of the plantation and the slave-ship, was the went abroad but to advance it. His com- most indulgent aud generous and constant merce, his studies, his friendships, his con- of friends; that he spurned, as men should

troversies, even his discourse in the bosom spurn, the mere pageantry of life, that he •of his family, were all bent to the promotion might use, as men should use, the means of it. He edited voluminous periodical which life affords of advancing the happiworks; but whether theology, literature, or ness of mankind; that his earthward affecpolitics were the text, the design was still tions, active and-all enduring as they were, the same-to train the public mind to a could yet thrive without the support of hudetestation of the slave-trade and slavery. man sympathy, because they were sustained He attached himself to most of the reli- by so abiding a sense of the Divine presence, gious and philanthropic societies of the age, and so absolute a submission to the Divine that he might enlist them as associates, will, as raised him habitually to that higher more or less declared, in his holy war. To region, where the reproach of man could multiply such allies, he called into exist- not reach, and the praise of man might not ence one great association, and contribu- presume to follow himn. ted largely to the establishment of another. Although to repeat a mournful acknowIn that service he sacrificed all that man ledgment, the tent of Thomas Clarkson may lawfully sacrifice-health, fortune, re-was pitched elsewhere, yet throughout the pose, favor, and celebrity. He died a poor slave-urade abolition war, the other chiefs mao, though wealth was within bis reach. who hailed him as the earliest, and as

« VorigeDoorgaan »