« PreviousContinue »
motives, and threatened to dismiss from their service any who dared to furnish him with information. When the object of his visit had become known at Liverpool, attempts were made upon his valuable life, which was, on more than one occasion, exposed to imminent danger, for he very narrowly escaped being pushed from the pier-head by some persons who seemed determined to effect his destruction. On the 9th of 5th month, 1788, the Abolition of the Slave Trade was first made the subject of Parliamentary discussion. It was eloquently defended by Fox, Burke, Dolben, Whitbread, and several others. The discussion resulted in a motion, that the subject should be investigated in the ensuing session. In 1789, Thomas Clarkson was called upon to go to France, to promote the cause of Abolition, although that country was in a state of political anarchy, and was advised to travel in another name, but he cast himself upon the protection of Providence, and prosecuted his labours fearlessly. After a residence of six months in France he returned to England, and, after travelling many thousand miles in quest of persons who could give evidence before a committee, found that no evidence could be procured how slaves were obtained in Africa in such large numbers. The planters said they were purchased ... at fairs—the abolitionists, that they were kidnapped. It was difficult to get evidence, as but few Europeans were permitted to sail up the rivers. Being informed by a friend that he had seen a man twelve months before, who was a sailor, who had been engaged in the trade; he described his person, but knew neither his name nor his residence—he appeared to belong to the Navy. On this information, Thomas Clarkson started, and visited successively all the ships belonging to the Navy at Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, and Sheerness, without success. From Chatham he proceeded to Portsmouth and examined all the vessels there, with a similar result. There was but one port left which was Plymouth, upwards of 200 miles off. On the first day he boarded forty ships, but did not find a single person who had been to Africa. After passing a restless night, with drooping spirits, he entered the boat the next morning, agitated alternately by hope and fear; and in pursuing his task on the fifty-seventh vessel, he found the man who had been described. Delighted with his success he returned to London with his witness, who had, on several occasions, been present when natives had been forcibly torn from their homes. In 1793, Thomas Clarkson's physical and mental powers gave way; the excitement had been intense, for seven years he maintained a
correspondence with four hundred persons, and wrote annually for the cause. He travelled upwards of thirty-five thousand miles in search of evidence, performing a great part of those journeys in the night. Not until 1807, after twenty years' incessant toil, was the Abolition of the Slave trade carried. It was the last act of the Greville and Fox administration. The seals of office and the Royal Assent were given simultaneously. Thomas Clarkson now turned his attention to literary pursuits; of which more anon. These pursuits, however, never diverted his attention from the great cause to which he had devoted his life. In 1818, the #. of Russia (the celebrated Alexander) and other distinguished individuals met at Paris. Thomas Clarkson drew up an address to the Sovereigns, and requested an interview with the Emperor, which was readily granted. Soon after, a meeting of the European Sovereigns took place at Aix-la-Chapelle. The Emperor, after recognising *. Clarkson, led him into his room, and placed a chair for him to sit upon; approved of his address to the Sovereigns, and undertook to deliver with his own hands, the addresses to the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia; inspected the productions of the Africans in cotton and iron, which Thomas Clarkson laid before him; and observed that Africa ought to have a fair chance of raising herself in the scale of the civilized world. Although, in the suppression of the Slave Trade by Great Britain a great victory was achieved, yet the conquest was not complete. The suppression of the long-continued trade in slaves was no common good, but still o remained to be effected. Slavery existed, and slavery must be abolished. Though less prominent in the cause of emancipation than before, Thomas Clarkson was not less interested. He laboured not so much, but he felt deeply as ever. His age and his circumstances kept him from being so conspicuous; but his satisfaction in the progress of emancipation was not to be exceeded. Whatever may be the reputation of other men, and how eminent soever may be the services which they rendered to the cause of the suffering Negro, it is beyond dispute that Thomas Clarkson originated the anti-slavery movement, and did more than any other man, present or past, to hasten the overthrow of Slavery, in the British dominions. Although in the course of this notice it has been necessary to mention the combined labours of the friends of abolition, outside the walls of Parliament, as those of an anti-slavery society, yet that precise designation was we believe for the first time assumed in 1823; when men began seriously and earnestly to devote themselves to the task of following up the suppression of the Slave Trade, by procuring an abolition of the West India Slavery. In conducting the affairs of that Association, Thomas Clarkson embarked with characteristic energy, and in the 74th year of his age, he had the unutterable joy of witnessing the great final triumph of humanity over cruelty—justice over oppression--mercy over misery--in the complete emancipation of the Negro, and at the costly ransom of twenty millions sterling. For some few years previous to that event, however, his health had become uncertain, and he was in a great degree precluded from taking an active share in the working out the emancipation of the Negro. Cataract formed in both his eyes, and for a short time he was totally blind. He endured this affliction with Christian resignation ; but eventually he underwent an operation, and was restored to the complete use of his sight. Although the accumulated weight of upwards of four score years pressed heavily upon the shattered energies of our author, yet so long as life and being lasted, his great anxiety was to do good. It was indeed a noble sight to enter his apartment, and see this venerable man, with sight impaired, and his oncefine frame bowed down by the exertions of added years, still engaged under much physical suffering, in efforts to lessen the sorrows of the human race. Within the last few months of his death, the cause of the sailor occupied much of his attention; the wrongs under which this useful class is suffering deeply moved his heart, and induced him to write a pamphlet and take other steps in their behalf. Of Thomas Clarkson's acquirements as a scholar, abundant evidence is furnished in his Latin dissertations, and the honours which he obtained from his University. He could not therefore be a stranger to literature. No sooner had the Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade been carried than he turned his attention to the history of the whole case, and gave his first work to the public in two octavo volumes, entitled, “The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” This large work was followed by a brochure, entitled, “Thoughts on the Necessity of Abolishing Slavery.” Though, as has been observed, he was intended for the Church, and had even taken Deacon's orders, he certainly abandoned all thoughts of entering upon any profession when he devoted
o himself to the task of creating the Anti-Slavery movement. In forming the Association which gave him the great business of his life, he came much into communication with the members of our Religious Society, " and this intercourse led him to produce a work entitled “A Portraiture of Quakerism,” in three volumes; to this new edition of which the present Biographical Sketch is prefixed. This was followed by a “Life of William Penn.” As far down as 1836, we find him still engaged in literary pursuits, and giving to the world his “Researches; .#. Patriarchal, and Historical.” Nor should we omit to notice, that very soon after the appearance of the “Life of Wilberforce,” by his sons, Thomas Clarkson felt himself justified in publishing a pamphlet in vindication of his own peculiar position in the cause of the Negro. Is it permitted us to touch on his moral and religious character? We have reason to know that he cherished a profound reverence for the truths of revelation. He did not regard religion as a series of abstract doctrines and principles, without any practical influence on the character. On the contrary, he believed that Christianity, in its sublimest discoveries, can be reduced and embodied in the lives and actions of its professors. It entered into his whole being, and constituted the great presiding and controlling power of his mind and conduct. This illustrious philanthropist died at 4 o'clock, on the 7th day morning, the 26th day of 9th month, 1846, at his residence, Playford Hall, near Ipswich, Suffolk. He had attained the age of eighty-six, but his spirit burned brighter to the last; and while he ceased not to direct his thoughts to the great T." of the emancipation of the human race, he calmly looked forward to “the crown of life” laid up in heaven for the faithful followers of the compassionate and crucified Redeemer. Thomas Clarkson was one of those rare characters, who, in the course of two or three centuries, are called by Providence from obscurity, to work some stupendous moral change upon the history of an empire, or the human race at large ; and who can believe nothing impossible, because the work which they have to do appears an impossibility. During the course of a long life, Thomas Clarkson received many gratifying proofs of the estimation in which he was held by large masses of his countrymen. The inhabitants of Wisbeach, his native place, have, at considerable cost, erected in their town a memorial of their esteem for him. Wordsworth devoted to the praise of Thomas Clarkson a few of his best lines; and more than once Lord Brougham, and other leaders of the anti-slavery movement, have borne testimony, not only to the value of his services, but the purity of his motives. He has descended into the grave after the enjoyment of extreme longevity, and unexampled success; and perhaps the noblest epitaph upon his tomb would be—“Here lies a man who excited Wilberforce to labour for the abolition of the Slave Trade.” Granville Sharp and Wilberforce have been honoured with monuments in Westminster Abbey ; and it is perhaps not too much to anticipate that a similar tribute of national gratitude will be bestowed on the memory of one greater than either—who laboured more abundantly, than all others—by a Ministry, under the auspices of some of whose members, the slaves in our West India colonies were legally disenthralled.
* The present Memoir is from the pen of James Hurnard, of Colchester, a Member of the Society of Friends,
seCTION III.--THE EAST INDIA company ; Rise, PROGREss, AND subversion of Its Monopoly; PRESENT constitution, &c.
The following historical sketch is derived from various authentic sources. Mr. M'Culloch, in his Commercial Dictionary, says—“The persevering efforts of the Portuguese to discover a route to India by sailing round Africa, were crowned with success in 1497. And it may appear singular that, notwithstanding the exaggerated accounts that had been prevalent in Europe, from the remotest antiquity, with respect to the wealth of India, and the importance to which its commerce had raised the Phoenicians and Egyptians in antiquity, the Venetians in the middle ages, and which it was then seen to confer on the Portuguese, the latter should have been allowed to monopolize it for nearly a century after it had been turned into a channel accessible to every nation. But the prejudices by which the people of most European States were actuated in the sixteenth century, and the peculiar circumstances under which they were placed, hindered them from embarking with the alacrity and ardour that might have been expected in this new commercial career. Soon after the Portuguese began to prosecute their discoveries along the coast of Africa, they applied to the Pope for a Bull, securing to them the exclusive right to and possession of all the countries occupied by infidels, they either had discovered, or might discover,