Billeder på siden

tinued, though members of it remained, capable of giving an interest to any society. But they sympathised with their suffering associate, and waited, alas! how vainly! for that period when his rigorous punishment should be terminated, and he should return,

"To chide his anxious friends' officious fears,
And promise to their joys his elder years."

[blocks in formation]


Active Liberality of Mr. Wakefield-" Reply to the Letter of Edmund Burke, Esq. to a noble Lord."


[ocr errors]

IN Mr. Wakefield's defence upon his trial, he thus describes the privacy of his own life: "I am not now, nor ever was, a member of any one political society: no frequenter of public meetings, no speaker at public dinners; nor ever attended a lecture or debate on political subjects in a single instance, on any occasion whatever, in all my life: not that I presume to censure or disapprove these practices in others, but because of their absolute inconsistency with my regular, studious, sober, pacific, and domesticated modes of living. I have never written a single political article in any review, magazine, or other periodical publication of any name, character, or description."

Yet so far from censuring thsoe who sought

"Defence," p. 54.

to improve the condition of their countrymen, by exertions little suited to his own taste and occupations, he highly respected them, and felt a lively interest in the sufferings which too many of them endured under the late rigorous administration.

It is well remembered that during Mr. Pitt's "reign of terror," in 1794, the judicature of Scotland exiled, among the most abandoned of mankind, men of education, and, several of them, of distinguished talents, "the height of whose offending" appears to have been little more than a pursuit, perhaps too eager, of the same objects to which that minister affected to attach himself in his road to popularity and power. The opposite rewards of Mr. Pitt, and those who professed to follow up his early principles, are not unaptly expressed by Mr. Wakefield:

"Ah! how unlike reformers! is your fate:
This to New-Holland, to th' Exchequer that!"

and upon all occasions he scrupled not to condemn those sentences as cruel and unjust. His high opinion of one of the victims to mi

f Juv. Imit.

"Committunt eadem diverso crimina fato;

Ille crucem sceleris pretium tulit, hic diadema."


nisterial vengeance on that occasion, he has recorded in a learned work, upon the mention of a criticism on a passage in the New Testament, by the Rev. T. F. Palmer, a gentleman of great literary accomplishments, which he had devoted to a disinterested examination of the Christian scriptures. He likewise exerted himself in promoting the subscription set on foot at the close of the State Trials in 1794, to defray the heavy law expences incurred by Mr. Hardy and his fellow-prisoners, though otherwise wholly unconnected with any of the parties. Nor could it be an attempt deserving censure to lighten the pecuniary burdens of those who had hazarded their lives in disproving the accusations of enemies powerful by the influence of office, and rich in the possession of the national purse.

And here it may not be improper to notice Mr. Wakefield's interference respecting some severities exercised in the memorable prison of Cold Bath Fields; severities which a jury have since officially presented, and as to which

"Silv. Crit." Par. v. 45.

We understand with much concern that this gentleman, on his return to Europe, after encountering almost incredible hardships, died at the island of Guam, one of the Ladrones, June 2, 1801. For a very interesting account of Mr. Palmer see Month. Mag. Feb. 1804. Vol. xvii. 83-85..

a man must have a marvellous faith in the interested assertion of a jailor, should he still venture to doubt their existence.

From his letters now before us, written in July and August 1797, it appears that he exerted himself though without success, in various applications, to procure for two booksellers, who were confined for having sold certain political pamphlets, "some mitigation of their treatment, which with respect to their communication with their family and friends," he describes as "rigorous beyond any thing ever known towards any criminal in this country;" and after a personal examination of the facts, he says, of the prisoners there confined, "none of them, without bribing the keepers, have the privilege of seeing their nearest relatives, except at an awful distance, and through iron gates."" He was too soon

h In his "Letter to Sir John Scott," he thus describes the condition of these persons, when he visited them in the Bridewell in Cold Bath Fields, "excluded from father and mother, brother and sister, wife and child, relative and friend, except by a remote view and restrained converse, of which I have partaken, through iron grates, with ruffians by your side, scowling ferocity and menace. This is a literal unexaggerated fact, on which I stake my character, for honour and veracity with the public. After an ocular evidence of this treatment, and other efforts for redress, I wrote to dignified clergyman in the church, and chief director of this

2 a

« ForrigeFortsæt »