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(With a Portrait.)

857
Memoir of W. Wilberforce, Esq.

858 I readily grant that God could, if he who see you must think you ridicuhad pleased, have formed the earth lous.”—“I don't value the opinion of with all its inhabitants in one day or the world, (answered the irritated in one hour. But the question is, not puppy,) I laugh at all those who think what God could have done, but what me ridiculous.”- Then

you can never it appears he has done.-We know, give over laughing,” dryly observed his that working and resting, with respect Mentor. to God, are extremely different from what they are with respect to man.

MEMOIR OF WM. WILBERFORCE, ESQ. We might, therefore, reasonably conclude, even if we had no other ground to stand on, that six days, with regard | The name of this gentleman is so intito the Lord, are very different from six mately connected with the abolition of natural common days.

the slave trade, that it cannot fail to But it may be objected, that it dero- command respect, until humanity shall gates from the greatness and power of cease to be a virtue. On the coast of the Almighty, to suppose that he spent Africa, and in the negro's hut in our some thousand years in bringing this West India possessions, it is well globe to its present state.—My friend, known; and the arduous contest in this argument has the same fault as which he engaged, and from which he your last: it proves too much. Why retired encircled with all the honours did the work occupy six days? Could that justice, virtue, and triumphant he not have effected it in six hours, victory could bestow, has given it digor in six minutes, or in one minute? nity in every state of Europe, and Nay, would he not have given a more throughout the civilized world. The stupendous proof of his omnipotence, laurels which he has acquired, are if he had produced the whole in a planted in a soil that never can be imsingle second ?-My view of the sub- poverished; they will retain their ject differs widely from yours. When freshness, when those of many kings I think of the immense period which and heroes shall lose their lustre ; and, the creation occupied, I am led into in the eyes of posterity, they will be the following reflections: May not rendered imperishable from the pleasthis plan have been adopted, “ That ing circumstance, that they have not the thrones and dominions, the prin- been stained with blood. cipalities and powers, might take the This celebrated statesman, who is deeper interest in the destinies of that a native of Hull in Yorkshire, was being for whom God was making so born in the year 1759.

His grandroyai a preparation?". The cottage of father, William Wilberforce, Esq. was a peasant may be built in a few weeks, twice mayor of Hull, first in the year but a palace fit for the reception of a 1722, and again in the year 1740. As monarch requires whole years to erect a magistrate, this gentleman continued and to furnish. How dear must he have to fill his public station until the year been to the common Father of the 1771, when, finding the infirmities of universe, how worthy of the respect age warning him of his mortality, he and the regard of angels, for whom so resigned his gown, and retired from much was done! What ideas must public business, after a long and faiththey have formed of the coming guest, ful discharge of his duties as an alderof the unknown stranger, when so many ages were required to erect his The father of the present Mr. Wilpalace, to lay out his parks, to adorn berforce dying when he was young, his gardens, and to furnish his abode deprived him of those advantages with every thing that was beauteous, which the inexperience of youth has a and every thing that was delightful ! right to expect from the observations (To be continued.)

of maturity, and which duty compels the father to impart to the son. Thus

circumstanced, the care of his educaREPROOF.

tion, during his earlier years, devolved A person was remonstrating with a on his mother, whose prudence, ability, friend, inclined too much to dandyism, and affection, fully qualified her for the on the absurdity of following such fop- important undertaking. Her first care pish fashions. They are really con- was to select for him a suitable preceptemptible, (said he,) and I am sure all | tor, which she found in the person

man.

66

year 1774.

cans.

the Rev. Mr. Pockington, to whose garded to his disadvantage, by those tuition he was committed. On remov- whose suffrages had sent him to the ing from him, he was placed in the house. In the year 1784, he was again grammar school of the Rev. Mr. Mil- elected with Mr. Thornton; and shortly ner, where he finished his provincial afterwards was signalized with the education. From this seminary he more distinguished honour of being removed to Cambridge, where he was chosen a representative for the county entered at St. John's College in the of York.

The only remarkable cir- Benevolent in his disposition, and cumstance which occurs in his history sympathizing with those who suffered while at the university, is, that it was from the galling yoke of oppression, Mr. here he first formed an acquaintance Wilberforce had long turned his attenwith the late celebrated Mr. Pitt, and tion to the unhappy state of the Afriwith Dr. Isaac Milner.

He had marked the manner in It happened in the course of events, which myriads had been torn from their that Mr. Wilberforce came of age, native homes; and had listened to the only a few weeks prior to the general groans of slavery that had reached his election which took place in the year ears across the Atlantic, and excited 1780, and to this coincidence of cir- in his bosom the sigh of commiseracumstances, he was probably indebted tion. Satisfied that the principles of for his early introduction to the house eternal justice were continually vioof commons, of which he has ever lated in their servitude, and that the since continued one of the most dis- social ties, which bind man to man, tinguished members.

were torn asunder by the manner in Mr. Wilberforce having attained the which their slavery was conducted, age of twenty-one, made an enter- he determined to raise his voice in tainment for his friends, and invited the British senate, in the behalf of many of the freemen of Hull to par- outraged humanity. He was not igtake of the festivity. An ox was norant of the arduous task which he roasted whole, and several hogsheads had undertaken to advocate, nor of of ale accompanied the repast. This the formidable opposition which he act of generosity, giving him no small was about to encounter. Interest, and degree of celebrity for benevolence, in long-established custom, he was fully the estimation of popular opinion, satisfied, would unite their energies strongly attached to his interest, many against his efforts ; but having truth who had a voice in the choice of their and compassion engaged in his favour, future representative. In the mean he determined to rely on the justice of while, as his character stood high with his cause, and leave the issue of his all ranks, he was stimulated to offer exertions with God. himself as a candidate at the ensuing It was soon after the meeting of Parelection, and, in conjunction with Lord liament in 1787, that Mr. Wilberforce, Robert Manners, he was almost una- gave notice of his intention to submit nimously elected as a member for Hull. to the house a measure respecting the

Being young of years, and unwill-slave-trade. This was the first intiing to risk his reputation on points mation of the kind, that had ever been which he had not fully investigated in given respecting this unhappy and deall their bearings, connections, and graded race. He had not, however, consequences, he took no active part been singular in turning his thoughts in the business of this session. He to this important subject ; and it must was not, however, inattentive to the have been to him no small source of affairs which came before the house; consolation, to hear the celebrated but making himself acquainted with Charles Fox immediately declare, that passing events, and with the rules that it had been his intention to bring this were observed in the transaction of affair under the consideration of parpublic concerns, he gradually prepared liament. himself for that conspicuous station he Pleased with these intimations, the was destined afterwards to fill, when nation at large became interested in the liberation of Africa was in no small the decision

of the important question degree to depend upon his talents, and about to be agitated; and petitions perseverance in the cause of humanity. were immediately presented from the His silence however, during this ses- Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, sion, was neither unnoticed, nor re- and Aberdeen. The Quakers, ever

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861
Memoir of W. Wilberforce, Esq.

862 remarkable for their humanity, in- own opinion. He trusted, that the destantly espoused the cause of the in- cisions of the house on this important jured Africans, and exerted themselves subject, would be dictated by policy, as a body, to promote any measure humanity, and justice. He also exthat might tend to soften the rigours pressed a hope, that Mr. Wilberforce of their condition. From the counties would be sufficiently recovered against of Huntingdon, Leicester, Stafford, the commencement of the ensuing sesNorthampton, Hereford, Middlesex, sion, to be able to take the manageand Cambridge, petitions also were ment of this business into his own presented ; and the cities of Bristol hands; and he believed it would be geand Norwich, and the town of Bir- nerally agreed, that a measure which mingham, united their public voices had to combine philanthropy and nain the cause of the oppressed.

tional interest, could not be more adThe general purport of these peti- vantageously placed. tions was,

“ that the future importa- But notwithstanding the importance tion of slaves from Africa might be of the subject, and the lively interest prevented.” Though averse to slavery which was manifested throughout the in all its forms, the petitioners were nation, together with these favourable well aware, that all attempts to pro- prognostics, full twelve months were cure an emancipation of such as were suffered to elapse before the interestalready chained to the plantations, ing question was solemnly and reguwould only serve to strengthen oppo- larly discussed in Parliament. But sition, and ultimately defeat the object this delay, although it occasioned a which they aimed to secure. They disappointment to many, secretly opevery naturally concluded, that if they rated in favour of the abolition. The could succeed in preventing any far- nation at large had time to anticipate ther importation, the interest of the consequences, and to review the meaplanter would dictate some melioration sure in its various bearings. Many in the condition of his slaves, and well-written pamphlets were thrown finally prepare them for that ultimate into circulation; and public opinion liberation which they one day hoped had so far decided in favour of justice to see effected. From the aggregate and humanity, that no efforts, which numbers annually imported into the interest could afterwards make, were colonies, it was obvious, that the waste ever able to shake its resolutions. of human life was enormous; and con- In the mean while, those who were sequently, unless the condition of the interested in the continuance of this negroes was rendered less degrading, abominable traffic, united their forces, and their treatment became more hu- and presented counter petitions to mane, that, in a few years, the islands Parliament, praying that no such meawould be deprived of their black po- sure might be adopted, as would lead pulation, and the work of emancipa- to the abolition of the trade. But tion would be accomplished by death. these petitions being founded on in

The day appointed to bring this in- terest and expediency, made no proteresting subject before the house, was selytes, except among those by whom the 9th of May, 1788, at which time justice and humanity were considered the ill state of Mr. Wilberforce's health, as names unworthy to be placed in would not permit him to appear in competition with gold, even though it public. But this circumstance did not were alloyed with human blood. prevent the measure from being intro- The eventful day however at last arduced. Mr. Pitt boldly came forward rived, in which Mr. Wilberforce was to in the name of his absent friend, and appear before the house, to plead the proposed a resolution to the house, cause of insulted humanity. The expecfounded on the petitions that had been tations which had been excited, were presented, the purport of which was, exceedingly great; but the talents and that early in the next session they eloquence which he displayed on the would proceed to take into considera- occasion, forbad even the most santion the state of the slave-trade, and guine to complain of a disappointto adopt such measures respecting it, ment. The speech which he delivered as the wisdom of the house might sug- on this memorable occasion, was not gest. With the resolution thus re- more distinguished for its brilliant elocommended for adoption, he did not quence, than for its logical precision, hesitate to give some intimations of his and every principle of sound reason

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cans.

the Rev. Mr. Pockington, to whose , garded to his disadvantage, by those tuition he was committed. On remov- whose suffrages had sent him to the ing from him, he was placed in the house. In the year 1784, he was again grammar school of the Rev. Mr. Mil- elected with Mr. Thornton; and shortly ner, where he finished his provincial | afterwards was signalized with the education. From this seminary he more distinguished honour of being removed to Cambridge, where he was chosen a representative for the county entered at St. John's College in the of York. year 1774.

The only remarkable cir- Benevolent in his disposition, and cumstance which occurs in his history sympathizing with those who suffered while at the university, is, that it was from the galling yoke of oppression, Mr. here he first formed an acquaintance Wilberforce had long turned his attenwith the late celebrated Mr. Pitt, and tion to the unhappy state of the Afriwith Dr. Isaac Milner.

He had marked the manner in It happened in the course of events, which myriads had been torn from their that Mr. Wilberforce came of age, native homes; and had listened to the only a few weeks prior to the general groans of slavery that had reached his election which took place in the year ears across the Atlantic, and excited 1780, and to this coincidence of cir- in his bosom the sigh of commiseracumstances, he was probably indebted tion. Satisfied that the principles of for his early introduction to the house eternal justice were continually vioof commons, of which he has ever lated in their servitude, and that the since continued one of the most dis- social ties, which bind man to man, tinguished members.

were torn asunder by the manner in Mr. Wilberforce having attained the which their slavery was conducted, age of twenty-one, made an enter- he determined to raise his voice in tainment for his friends, and invited the British senate, in the behalf of many of the freemen of Hull to par- outraged humanity. He was not igtake of the festivity. An ox was norant of the arduous task which he roasted whole, and several hogsheads had undertaken to advocate, nor of of ale accompanied the repast. This the formidable opposition which he act of generosity, giving him no small was about to encounter. Interest, and degree of celebrity for benevolence, in long-established custom, he was fully the estimation of popular opinion, satisfied, would unite their energies strongly attached to his interest, many against his efforts ; but having truth who had a voice in the choice of their and compassion engaged in his favour, future representative. In the mean he determined to rely on the justice of while, as his character stood high with his cause, and leave the issue of his all ranks, he was stimulated to offer exertions with God. himself as a candidate at the ensuing It was soon after the meeting of Parelection, and, in conjunction with Lord liament in 1787, that Mr. Wilberforce

, Robert Manners, he was almost una- gave notice of his intention to submit nimously elected as a member for Hull. to the house a measure respecting the

Being young of years, and unwill-slave-trade. This was the first intiing to risk his reputation on points mation of the kind, that had ever been which he had not fully investigated in given respecting this unhappy and deall their bearings, connections, and graded race. He had not, however, consequences, he took no active part been singular in turning his thoughts in the business of this session. He to this important subject ; and it must was not, however, inattentive to the have been to him no small source of affairs which came before the house; consolation, to hear the celebrated but making himself acquainted with Charles Fox immediately declare, that passing events, and with the rules that it had been his intention to bring this were observed in the transaction of affair under the consideration of parpublic concerns, he gradually prepared liament. himself for that conspicuous station he Pleased with these intimations, the was destined afterwards to fill, when nation at large became interested in the liberation of Africa was in no small the decision

of the important question degree to depend upon his talents, and about to be agitated; and petitions perseverance in the cause of humanity. were immediately presented from

the His silence however, during this ses- Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, sion, was neither unnoticed, nor re- and Aberdeen. The Quakers, ever

tions was,

861
Memoir of W. Wilberforce, Esq.

862 remarkable for their humanity, in- | own opinion. He trusted, that the destantly espoused the cause of the in- cisions of the house on this important jured Africans, and exerted themselves subject, would be dictated by policy, as a body, to promote any measure humanity, and justice. He also exthat might tend to soften the rigours pressed a hope, that Mr. Wilberforce of their condition. From the counties would be sufficiently recovered against of Huntingdon, Leicester, Stafford, the commencement of the ensuing sesNorthampton, Hereford, Middlesex, sion, to be able to take the manageand Cambridge, petitions also were ment of this business into his own presented ; and the cities of Bristol hands; and he believed it would be geand Norwich, and the town of Bir- nerally agreed, that a measure which mingham, united their public voices had to combine philanthropy and nain the cause of the oppressed.

tional interest, could not be more adThe general purport of these peti- vantageously placed.

" that the future importa- But notwithstanding the importance tion of slaves from Africa might be of the subject, and the lively interest prevented." Though averse to slavery which was manifested throughout the in all its forms, the petitioners were nation, together with these favourable well aware, that all attempts to pro- prognostics, full twelve months were care an emancipation of such as were suffered to elapse before the interestalready chained to the plantations, ing question was solemnly and reguwould only serve to strengthen oppo-larly discussed in Parliament. But sition, and ultimately defeat the object this delay, although it occasioned a which they aimed to secure. They disappointment to many, secretly opevery naturally concluded, that if they rated in favour of the abolition. The could succeed in preventing any far- nation at large had time to anticipate ther importation, the interest of the consequences, and to review the meaplanter would dictate some melioration sure in its various bearings. Many in the condition of his slaves, and well-written pamphlets were thrown finally prepare them for that ultimate into circulation; and public opinion liberation which they one day hoped had so far decided in favour of justice to see effected. From the aggregate and humanity, that no efforts, which numbers annually imported into the interest could afterwards make, were colonies, it was obvious, that the waste ever able to shake its resolutions. of human life was enormous; and con- In the mean while, those who were sequently, unless the condition of the interested in the continuance of this negroes was rendered less degrading, abominable traffic, united their forces, and their treatment became more hu- and presented counter petitions to mane, that, in a few years, the islands Parliament, praying that no such meawould be deprived of their black po- sure might be adopted, as would lead pulation, and the work of emancipa- to the abolition of the trade. But tion would be accomplished by death. these petitions being founded on in

The day appointed to bring this in- terest and expediency, made no proteresting subject before the house, was selytes, except among those by whom the 9th of May, 1788, at which time justice and humanity were considered the ill state of Mr. Wilberforce's health, as names unworthy to be placed in would not permit him to appear in competition with gold, even though it public. But this circumstance did not were alloyed with human blood. prevent the measure from being intro- The eventful day however at last arduced. Mr. Pitt boldly came forward rived, in which Mr. Wilberforce was to in the name of his absent friend, and appear before the house, to plead the proposed a resolution to the house, cause of insulted humanity. The expecfounded on the petitions that had been tations which had been excited, were presented, the purport of which was, exceedingly great; but the talents and that early in the next session they eloquence which he displayed on the would proceed to take into considera- occasion, forbad even the most santion the state of the slave-trade, and guine to complain of a disappointto adopt such measures respecting it, ment. The speech which he delivered as the wisdom of the house might sug- on this memorable occasion, was not gest. With the resolution thus re- more distinguished for its brilliant elocommended for adoption, he did not quence, than for its logical precision, hesitate to give some intimations of his and every principle of sound reason

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