Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct
"Den muthigen gehort die Welt."—German Proverb.
"In every work that he began...he did it with all his heart, and prospered."—2 Chron. xxxi. 21.
THERE is a famous speech recorded of an old Norseman, thoroughly characteristic of the Teuton. "I believe neither in idols nor demons," said he, "I put my sole trust in my own strength of body and soul." The ancient crest of a pickaxe, with the motto of "Either I will find a way or make one," was an expression of the same sturdy independence and practical materialism, which to this day distinguishes the descendants of the Northmen. Indeed, nothing could be more characteristic of the Scandinavian mythology, than that it had a god with a hammer. A man's character is seen in small matters; and from even so slight a test as the mode in which a man wields a hammer, his energy may in some measure be inferred. Thus an eminent Frenchman hit off in a single phrase the characteristic quality of the inhabitants of a particular district, in which a friend of his proposed to settle and buy land. "Beware," said he, "of making a purchase there; I know the men of that department; the pupils who come from it to our veterinary school at Paris, do not strike hard upon the anvil; they want energy; and you will not get a satisfactory return on any capital you may invest there." A fine and just appreciation of character, indicating the accurate and thoughtful observer; and strikingly illustrative of the fact that it is the energy of the individual men that gives strength to a state, and confers a value even upon the very soil which they cultivate. As the French proverb has it: "Tant vaut l'homme, tant vaut sa terre."
The cultivation of this quality is of the greatest importance; resolute determination in the pursuit of worthy objects being the foundation of all true greatness of character. Energy enables a man to force his way through irksome drudgery and dry details, and carries him onward and upward in every station in life. It accomplishes more than genius, with not one half the disappointment and peril. It is not eminent talent that is required to insure success in any pursuit so much as purpose,—not merely the power to achieve, but the will to labor energetically and perseveringly. Hence energy of will may be defined to be the very central power of character in a man,—in a word, it is the Man himself. It gives impulse to his every action, and soul to every effort. True hope is based on it,—and it is hope that gives the real perfume to life. There is a fine heraldic motto on a broken helmet in Battle Abbey, "L'espoir est ma force," which might be the motto of every man's life. "Woe unto him that is faint-hearted," says the son of Sirach. There is, indeed, no blessing equal to the possession of a stout heart. Even if a man fail in his efforts, it will be a great satisfaction to him to enjoy the consciousness of having done his best. In humble life nothing can be more cheering and beautiful than to see a man combating suffering by patience, triumphing in his integrity, and who, when his feet are bleeding and his limbs failing him, still walks upon his courage.
Mere wishes and desires but engender a sort of greensickness in young minds, unless they are promptly embodied in act and deed. It will not avail merely to wait, as so many do, "until Blucher comes up," but they must struggle on and persevere in the mean time, as Wellington did. The good purpose once formed must be carried out with alacrity, and without swerving. In many walks of life drudgery and toil must be cheerfully endured as the necessary discipline of life. Hugh Miller says, the only school in which he was properly taught was "that world-wide school in which toil and hardship are the severe but noble teachers." He who allows his application to falter, or shirks his work on frivolous pretexts, is on the sure road to ultimate failure. Let any task be undertaken as a thing not possible to be evaded, and it will soon come to be performed with alacrity and cheerfulness. Charles IX. of Sweden was a firm believer in the power of will, even in a youth. Laying his hand on the head of his youngest son when engaged upon a difficult task, he exclaimed, "He shall do it! he shall do it!" The habit of strenuous continued labor becomes comparatively easy in time, like every other habit. Thus even persons with the commonest brains and the most slender powers will accomplish much, if they apply themselves wholly and indefatigably to one thing at a time. Fowell Buxton placed his confidence in ordinary means and extraordinary application; realizing the scriptural injunction, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might;" and he himself attributed his own remarkable success in life to his practice of constantly "being a whole man to one thing at a time."
Nothing that is of real worth can be achieved without courageous working. Man owes his growth chiefly to that active striving of the will, that encounter with difficulty, which we call effort; and it is astonishing to find how often results apparently impracticable are thus made possible. An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but the precursors of the things which we are capable of performing. On the contrary, the timid and hesitating find everything impossible, chiefly because it seems so. It is related of a young French officer, that he used to walk about his apartment exclaiming, "I will be Marshal of France and a great general." This ardent desire was the presentiment of his success; for he did become a distinguished commander, and he died a Marshal of France.
Mr. Walker, author of the "Original," had so great a faith in the power of will, that he says on one occasion he determined to be well, and he was so. This may answer once; but, though safer to follow than many prescriptions, it will not always succeed. The power of mind over body is no doubt great, but it may be strained until the physical power breaks down altogether. It is related of Muley Moluc, the Moorish leader, that, when lying ill, almost worn out by an incurable disease, a battle took place between his troops and the Portuguese; when, starting from his litter at the great crisis of the fight, he rallied his army, led them to victory, and instantly afterwards sank exhausted and expired.
It is will,—force of purpose,—that enables a man to do or be whatever he sets his mind on being or doing. A holy man was accustomed to say, "Whatever you wish, that you are: for such is the force of our will, joined to the Divine, that whatever we wish to be, seriously, and with a true intention, that we become. No one ardently wishes to be submissive, patient, modest, or liberal, who does not become what he wishes." The story is told of a working carpenter, who was observed one day planing a magistrate's bench, which he was repairing, with more than usual carefulness, and when asked the reason, he replied, "Because I wish to make it easy against the time when I come to sit upon it myself." And singularly enough, the man actually lived to sit upon that very bench as a magistrate.
Whatever theoretical conclusions logicians may have formed as to the freedom of the will, each individual feels that practically he is free to choose between good and evil,—that he is not like a mere straw thrown upon the water to mark the direction of the current, but that he has within him the power of a strong swimmer, and is capable of striking out for himself, of buffeting with the waves, and directing to a great extent his own independent course. There is no absolute constraint upon our volitions, and we feel and know that we are not bound, as by a spell, with reference to our actions. It would paralyze all desire of excellence were we to think otherwise. The entire business and conduct of life, with its domestic rules, its social arrangements, and its public institutions, proceed upon the practical conviction that the will is free. Without this where would be responsibility?—and what the advantage of teaching, advising, preaching, reproof, and correction? What were the use of laws, were it not the universal belief, as it is the universal fact, that men obey them or not, very much as they individually determine? In every moment of our life, conscience is proclaiming that our will is free. It is the only thing that is wholly ours, and it rests solely with ourselves individually, whether we give it the right or the wrong direction. Our habits or our temptations are not our masters, but we of them. Even in yielding, conscience tells us we might resist; and that were we determined to master them, there would not be required for that purpose a stronger resolution than we know ourselves to be capable of exercising.
"You are now at the age," said Lammenais once, addressing a gay youth, "at which a decision must be formed by you; a little later, and you may have to groan within the tomb which yourself have dug, without the power of rolling away the stone. That which the easiest becomes a habit in us is the will. Learn then to will strongly, and decisively; thus fix your floating life, and leave it no longer to be carried hither and thither, like a withered leaf, by every wind that blows."
Buxton held the conviction that a young man might be very much what he pleased, provided he formed a strong resolution and held to it. Writing to one of his own sons, he once said, "You are now at that period of life, in which you must make a turn to the right or the left. You must now give proofs of principle, determination, and strength of mind; or you must sink into idleness, and acquire the habits and character of a desultory, ineffective young man; and if once you fall to that point, you will find it no easy matter to rise again. I am sure that a young man may be very much what he pleases. In my own case it was so....Much of my happiness, and all my prosperity in life, have resulted from the change I made at your age. If you seriously resolve to be energetic and industrious, depend upon it that you will for your whole life have reason to rejoice that you were wise enough to form and to act upon that determination." As will, considered without regard to direction, is simply constancy, firmness, perseverance, it will be obvious that everything depends upon right direction and motives. Directed towards the enjoyment of the senses, the strong will may be a demon, and the intellect merely its debased slave; but directed towards good, the strong will is a king, and the intellect is then the minister of man's highest wellbeing.
"Where there is a will there is a way," is an old and true saying. He who resolves upon doing a thing, by that very resolution often scales the barriers to it, and secures its achievement. To think we are able, is almost to be so,—to determine upon attainment, is frequently attainment itself. Thus, earnest resolution has often seemed to have about it almost a savor of omnipotence. The strength of Suwarrow's character lay in his power of willing, and, like most resolute persons, he preached it up as a system. "You can only half will," he would say to people who failed. Like Richelieu and Napoleon, he would have the word "impossible" banished from the dictionary. "I don't know," "I can't," and "impossible," were words which he detested above all others. "Learn! Do! Try!" he would exclaim. His biographer has said of him, that he furnished a remarkable illustration of what may be effected by the energetic development and exercise of faculties, the germs of which at least are in every human heart.
One of Napoleon's favorite maxims was, "The truest wisdom is a resolute determination." His life, beyond most others, vividly showed what a powerful and unscrupulous will could accomplish. He threw his whole force of body and mind direct upon his work. Imbecile rulers and the nations they governed went down before him in succession. He was told that the Alps stood in the way of his armies,—"There shall be no Alps," he said, and the road across the Simplon was constructed, through a district formerly almost inaccessible. "Impossible," said he, "is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools." He was a man who toiled terribly; sometimes employing and exhausting four secretaries at a time. He spared no one, not even himself. His influence inspired other men, and put a new life into them. "I made my generals out of mud," he said. But all was of no avail; for Napoleon's intense selfishness was his ruin, and the ruin of France, which he left a prey to anarchy. His life taught the lesson that power, however energetically wielded, without beneficence, is fatal to its possessor and its subjects; and that knowledge, or knowingness, without goodness, is but the incarnate principle of evil.
Our own Wellington was a far greater man. Not less resolute, firm, and persistent, but much more self-denying, conscientious, and truly patriotic. Napoleon's aim was "Glory;" Wellington's watchword, like Nelson's, was "Duty." The former word, it is said, does not once occur in his despatches; the latter often, but never accompanied by any high-sounding professions. The greatest difficulties could neither embarrass nor intimidate Wellington; his energy invariably rising in proportion to the obstacles to be surmounted. The patience, the firmness, the resolution, with which he bore through the maddening vexations and gigantic difficulties of the Peninsular campaigns, is, perhaps, one of the sublimest things to be found in history. In Spain, Wellington not only exhibited the genius of the general, but the comprehensive wisdom of the statesman. Though his natural temper was irritable in the extreme, his high sense of duty enabled him to restrain it, and to those about him his patience seemed absolutely inexhaustible. His great character stands untarnished by ambition, by avarice, or any low passion. Though a man of powerful individuality, he yet displayed a great variety of endowment. The equal of Napoleon in generalship, he was as prompt, vigorous, and daring as Clive; as wise a statesman as Cromwell; and as pure and high-minded as Washington. The great Wellington left behind him an enduring reputation, founded on toilsome campaigns won by skilful combination, by fortitude which nothing could exhaust, by sublime daring, and perhaps still sublimer patience.
Energy usually displays itself in promptitude and decision. When Ledyard, the traveller, was asked by the African Association when he would be ready to set out for Africa, he promptly answered, "To-morrow morning." Blucher's promptitude obtained for him the cognomen of "Marshal Forwards" throughout the Prussian army. When John Jervis, afterwards Earl St. Vincent, was asked when he would be ready to join his ship, he replied, "Directly." And when Sir Colin Campbell, appointed to the command of the Indian army, was asked when he could set out, his answer was, "To-morrow,"—an earnest of his subsequent success. For it is rapid decision, and a similar promptitude in action, such as taking instant advantage of an enemy's mistakes, that so often wins battles. "Every moment lost," said Napoleon, "gives an opportunity for misfortune;" and he used to say that he beat the Austrians because they never knew the value of time; while they dawdled, he overthrew them.
India has, during the last century, been a great field for the display of British energy. From Clive to Havelock and Clyde there is a long and honorable roll of distinguished names in Indian legislation and warfare,—such as Wellesley, Munro, Elphinstone, Bentinck, Metcalfe, Outram, Edwardes, and the Lawrences. Another great, but sullied name, is that of Warren Hastings,—a man of dauntless will and indefatigable industry. His family was ancient and illustrious; but their vicissitudes of fortune and ill-requited loyalty in the cause of the Stuarts, brought them to ruin, and the family estate at Daylesford, of which they had been lords of the manor for hundreds of years, at length passed from their hands. The last Hastings of Daylesford had, however, previously presented the parish living to his second son; and it was in his house, many years later, that Warren Hastings, his grandson, was born. The boy learned his letters at the village-school of Daylesford, on the same bench with the children of the peasantry. He played in the fields which his fathers had owned; and what the loyal and brave Hastings of Daylesford had been, was ever in the boy's thoughts. His young ambition was fired, and it is said that, one summer's day, when only seven years old, as he laid him down on the bank of the stream which flows through the old domain, he formed in his mind the resolution that he would yet recover possession of the family lands. It was the romantic vision of a mere boy; yet he lived to realize it. The dream became a passion, rooted in his very life; and he pursued his determination through youth up to manhood, with that calm but indomitable force of will which was the most striking peculiarity of his character. The poor orphan boy became one of the most powerful men of his time; he retrieved the fortunes of his line; bought back the old estate, and rebuilt the family mansion. "When, under a tropical sun," says Macaulay, "he ruled fifty millions of Asiatics, his hopes, amidst all the cares of war, finance, and legislation, still pointed to Daylesford. And when his long public life, so singularly checkered with good and evil, with glory and obloquy, had at length closed forever, it was to Daylesford that he retired to die."
Sir Charles Napier was another Indian leader of extraordinary courage and determination. As he once said when surrounded with difficulties in one of his campaigns, "They only make my feet go deeper into the ground." His battle of Meeanee was one of the most extraordinary feats in history. With 2,000 men, of whom only 400 were Europeans, he encountered an army of 35,000 hardy and well-armed Beloochees. It was an act, apparently, of the most daring temerity, but the general had faith in himself and in his men. He charged the Belooch centre up a high bank which formed their rampart in front, and for three mortal hours the battle raged. Each man of that small force, inspired by the chief, became for the time a hero. The Beloochees, though twenty to one, were driven back, but with their faces to the foe. It is this sort of pluck, tenacity, and determined perseverance which wins soldiers' battles, and, indeed, every battle. It is the one neck nearer that wins the race and shows the blood; it is the one march more that wins the campaign; the five minutes' more persistent courage that wins the fight. Though your force be less than another's, you equal and out-master your opponent if you continue it longer and concentrate it more. The reply of the Spartan father, who said to his son, when complaining that his sword was too short, "Add a step to it," is applicable to everything in life.
Napier took the right method of inspiring his men with his own heroic spirit. He worked as hard as any private in the ranks. "The great art of commanding," he said, "is to take a fair share of the work. The man who leads an army cannot succeed unless his whole mind is thrown into his work. The more trouble, the more labor must be given; the more danger, the more pluck must be shown, till all is overpowered." A young officer, who accompanied him in his campaign in the Cutchee Hills, once said, "When I see that old man incessantly on his horse, how can I be idle who am young and strong? I would go into a loaded cannon's mouth if he ordered me." This remark, when repeated to Napier, he said was ample reward for his toils. The anecdote of his interview with the Indian juggler strikingly illustrates his cool courage as well as his remarkable simplicity and honesty of character. After the Indian battles, on one occasion a famous juggler visited the camp, and performed his feats before the general, his family, and staff. Among other performances, this man cut in two with a stroke of his sword a lime or lemon placed in the hand of his assistant. Napier thought there was some collusion between the juggler and his retainer. To divide by a sweep of the sword on a man's hand so small an object, without touching the flesh, he believed to be impossible, though a similar incident is related by Scott in his romance of "The Talisman." To determine the point, the general offered his own hand for the experiment, and he stretched out his right arm. The juggler looked attentively at the hand, and said he would not make the trial. "I thought I would find you out!" exclaimed Napier. "But stop," added the other, "let me see your left hand." The left hand was submitted, and the man then said firmly, "If you will hold your arm steady, I will perform the feat." "But why the left hand and not the right?" 'Because the right hand is hollow in the centre, and there is a risk of cutting off the thumb; the left is high, and the danger will be less." Napier was startled. "I got frightened," he said; "I saw it was an actual feat of delicate swordsmanship, and if I had not abused the man as I did before my staff, and challenged him to the trial, I honestly acknowledge I would have retired from the encounter. However, I put the lime on my hand, and held out my arm steadily. The juggler balanced himself, and, with a swift stroke, cut the lime in two pieces. I felt the edge of the sword on my hand as if a cold thread had been drawn across it; and so much (he added) for the brave swordsmen of India, whom our fine fellows defeated at Meeanee."
The recent terrible struggle in India has served to bring out, perhaps more prominently than any previous event in our history, the determined energy and selfreliance of the national character. Although English officialism may often drift stupidly into gigantic blunders, the men of the nation generally contrive to work their way out of them with a heroism almost approaching the sublime. In May, 1857, when the revolt burst upon India like a thunderclap, the British forces had been allowed to dwindle to their extreme minimum, and were scattered over a wide extent of country, many of them in remote cantonments. The Bengal regiments, one after another, rose against their officers, broke away, and rushed to Delhi. Province after province was lapped in mutiny and rebellion; and the cry for help rose from east to west. Everywhere the English stood at bay in small detachments, beleaguered and surrounded, apparently incapable of resistance. Their discomfiture seemed so complete, and the utter ruin of the British cause in India so certain, that it might be said of them then, as it had been said before, "These English never know when they are beaten." According to rule, they ought then and there to have succumbed to inevitable fate.
While the issue of the mutiny still appeared uncertain, Holkar, one of the native princes, consulted his astrologer for information. The reply was, "If all the Europeans save one are slain, that one will remain to fight and reconquer." In their very darkest moment,—even where, as at Lucknow, a mere handful of British soldiers, civilians, and women, held out amidst a city and province in arms against them,—there was no word of despair, no thought of surrender. Though cut off from all communication with their friends for months, and they knew not whether India was lost or held, they never ceased to have perfect faith in the courage and devotedness of their countrymen, though they might be afar off; they knew that while a body of men of English race held together in India, they would not be left unheeded to perish. They never dreamed of any other issue but retrieval of their misfortune and ultimate triumph; and if the worst came to the worst, they could but fall at their post and die in the performance of their duty. Need we remind the reader of the names of Havelock, Neill, and Outram, men of each of whom it might with equal appropriateness be said that he had the heart of a chevalier, the soul of a believer, and the temperament of a martyr. Of each it might be said that their lives had been spent in the patient performance of obscure services; but the outbreak of the rebellion provided them with the opportunity of proving that each had in him the qualities of a hero. Indeed the same might be said of every private soldier who distinguished himself in that great struggle. Desperate though the work was of retrieving this terrible and wide-spread calamity, there were men found to do it,—men whose lives until then had for the most part been spent in the performance of mere routine duties, whose names had never before been heard of, and who might have died unknown but for the occasion which put their highest qualities to the proof, as well-bred, brave-hearted, high-souled Englishmen. In the course of the struggle which ensued, an amount of individual energy was displayed of an extraordinary and perhaps even an unexpected character; and men and women, soldiers and civilians, of all ranks, in the revolted districts, swelled for the time to the dimensions of heroes.
It has been said that Delhi was taken, and India saved, by the personal character of Sir John Lawrence. The very name of "Lawrence" represented power in the Northwest Provinces. His standard of duty, zeal, and personal effort, was of the highest; and every man who served under him seemed to be inspired by his own spirit. It was declared of him that his character alone was worth an army. The same might be said of his brother Sir Henry, who organized the Punjaub force that took so prominent a part in the capture of Delhi. Both brothers inspired those who were about them with perfect love and confidence. Both lived amongst the people, and powerfully influenced them for good. Above all, as Colonel Edwardes says, "they drew models on young fellows' minds, which they went forth and copied in their several administrations: they sketched a faith, and begot a school, which are both living things at this day." Sir John Lawrence had by his side such men as Montgomery, Nicholson, Cotton, and Edwardes, as prompt, decisive, and high-souled as himself. John Nicholson was one of the finest, manliest, and noblest of men,—"every inch a hakem," the natives said of him,—"a tower of strength," as he was characterized by Lord Dalhousie. In whatever capacity he acted he was great, because he acted with his whole strength and soul. A brotherhood of fakirs—borne away by their enthusiastic admiration of the man,—even commenced the worship of Nikkil Seyn; he had some of them punished for their folly, but they continued the worship nevertheless. Of his sustained energy and persistency an illustration may be cited in his pursuit of the 55th Sepoy mutineers, when he was in the saddle for twenty consecutive hours, and travelled more than seventy miles. When the enemy set up their standard at Delhi, Lawrence and Montgomery, relying on the support of the people of the Punjaub, and compelling their admiration and confidence, strained every nerve to keep their own province in perfect order, whilst they hurled every available soldier, European and Sikh, against that city. Sir John wrote to the Commander-in-chief to "hang on to the rebels' noses before Delhi," whilst the troops pressed on by forced marches under Nicholson, "the tramp of whose war-horse might be heard miles off," as was afterwards said of him by a rough Sikh who wept over his grave.
The siege and storming of Delhi was the most illustrious event which occurred in the course of that gigantic struggle. The leaguer of Lucknow, during which the merest skeleton of a British regiment,—the 32d,—held out for six months against two hundred thousand armed enemies, has perhaps excited more intense interest; but Delhi was the feat of arms of which Britain has most cause to be proud. There, too, the British were really the besieged, though ostensibly the besiegers; they were a mere handful of men "in the open,"—not more than 3,700 bayonets, European and native,—without any defences or support, other than their indomitable courage and tenacity of purpose, assailed from day to day by an army of rebels numbering at one time as many as 75,000 men, trained to European discipline by English officers, and supplied with all but exhaustless munitions of war. The heroic little band sat down before the city under the burning rays of a tropical sun. Death, wounds, and fever, failed to turn them from their purpose. Thirty times they were attacked by overwhelming numbers, and thirty times did they drive back the enemy behind their defences. As Captain Hodson,—himself one of the bravest there,—has said, "I venture to aver that no other nation in the world would have remained here, or avoided defeat if they had attempted to do so." Never for an instant did these heroes falter at their work; with sublime endurance they held on, fought on, and never relaxed until, dashing through the "imminent deadly breach," the place was won, and the British flag was again unfurled on the walls of Delhi. All were great,—privates, officers, and generals; men taken from behind English ploughs and from English workshops, and those trained in the best schools and colleges, displayed equal heroism when the emergency arose. Common soldiers who had been inured to a life of hardship, and young officers who had been nursed in luxurious homes, alike proved their manhood, and emerged from that terrible trial with equal honor; the native strength and soundness of the English race, and of manly English training and discipline, were never more powerfully illustrated; and it was there emphatically proved that the men of England are, after all, its greatest products. A terrible price was paid for this great chapter in our history, but if those who survive, and those who come after, profit by the lesson and example, it may not have been purchased at too great a cost.
But not less energy and courage have been displayed by Englishmen in various other lines of action, of a more peaceful and beneficent character than that of war. Henry Martyn, William Carey, John Williams, David Livingstone, and many other equally distinguished laborers in missionary enterprise, have quite as nobly illustrated the power of energetic action in their lonely labors amidst heathen populations in India, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific.
These great missionaries all sprang from a humble position in life. Henry Martyn's father was originally a laborer in a mine at Gwennap in Cornwall, though by industry and ability he subsequently raised himself to the position of a clerk. The boy was sent to school at Truro, and afterwards to Oxford, where he failed in obtaining the fellowship for which he tried. At St. John's, Cambridge, he was more successful; he applied himself resolutely, and came out senior wrangler in 1801. He felt that he had within him the power to achieve distinction in any line of study he might choose to embrace; but having been powerfully impressed by the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Simeon, and being brought in connection with some of the leading members of the "Clapham Sect," he determined to embrace the career of a missionary, and to carry the tidings of the Gospel into the far east. In 1805 he sailed for India under the countenance of the Missionary Society, and may be regarded as the pioneer of missionary labors in that wide field. For five years he labored long and hard in Hindostan, translating the Bible into the Persian, Hindostanee, and Arabic, receiving but slender encouragement, and often encountering much opposition. He then proceeded into Persia, where he was stricken by fever, and, his health completely broken, he was compelled to abandon his work and return home. But he was overtaken by death before he passed the frontier of Asia Minor, expiring at Fokat, in 1812, when only in his thirty-second year.
Not less energy and self-devotion in the same career were displayed by John Williams, the martyr of Erromanga. Though considered a dull boy, he was yet handy at his trade, and possessed of good physical stamina. He was apprenticed to a furnishing ironmonger in the City Road, and for some time was rather disposed to join in the dissipation of his companions than to occupy himself with serious thoughts. He cultivated, however, his manual skill, and was often, in his leisure hours, found at work in the blacksmith's forge of his master, who at length was accustomed to employ him upon any job requiring peculiar delicacy or skill. He also was fond of bell-hanging and other employments which took him away from the shop. A casual sermon which he heard gave his mind a serious bias, and he became a Sunday-school teacher. The cause of missions having been brought under his notice at some of his society's meetings, he determined to devote himself to this work. His services were accepted by the London Missionary Society; and his master allowed him to leave the ironmongery shop before the expiry of his indentures. The islands of the Pacific Ocean were the scene of his labors—more particularly Huahine in Tahiti, Raiatea, and Rarotonga. Like the Apostles he worked with his hands,—at blacksmith work, gardening, ship-building; and he endeavored to teach the islanders the arts of civilized life, at the same time that he instructed them in the truths of religion. It was in the course of his indefatigable labors that he was massacred by savages on the shore of Erromanga,—none worthier than he to wear the martyr's crown.
The career of Dr. Livingstone is the most interesting of all. He has told the story of his own life in that modest and unassuming manner which is so characteristic of the man himself. His ancestors were poor but honest Highlanders, and it is related of one of them, renowned in his district for wisdom and prudence, that when on his death-bed he called his children round him and left them these words, the only legacy he had to bequeathe—"In my lifetime," said he, "I have searched most carefully through all the traditions I could find of our family, and I never could discover that there was a dishonest man among our forefathers: if, therefore, any of you or any of your children should take to dishonest ways, it will not be because it runs in our blood; it does not belong to you: I leave this precept with you—Be honest." At the age of ten Livingstone was sent to work in a cotton factory near Glasgow as a "piecer." With part of his first week's wages he bought a Latin grammar, and began to learn that language, pursuing the study for years at a night school. He would sit up conning his lessons till twelve or later, when not sent to bed by his mother, for he had to be up and at work in the factory every morning by six. In this way he plodded through Virgil and Horace, also reading extensively all books, excepting novels, that came in his way, but more especially scientific works and books of travels. In his pursuit of botany he occupied his spare hours, which were but few, in scouring the neighbornood collecting plants. He even carried on his reading amidst the roar of the machinery in the mill, so placing the book upon the spinning jenny which he worked that he could catch sentence after sentence as he passed. In this way the persevering factory boy acquired much useful knowledge; and as he grew older, the desire possessed him of becoming a missionary to the heathen. With this object he set himself to obtain a medical education, in order the better to be qualified for the enterprise. He accordingly economized his earnings, and saved as much money as enabled him to support himself while attending the Medical and Greek classes, as well as the Divinity Lectures, at Glasgow, for several winters, working as a cotton spinner during the remainder of each year. He thus supported himself, during his college career, entirely by his own earnings as a factory workman, never having received a farthing of help from any other source. "Looking back now," he honestly says, "at that life of toil, I cannot but feel thankful that it formed such a material part of my early education; and, were it possible, I should like to begin life over again in the same lowly style, and to pass through the same hardy training." At length he finished his medical curriculum, wrote his Latin thesis, passed his examinations, and was admitted a licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. At first he thought of going to China, but the war then raging with that country prevented his following out that idea; and having offered his services to the London Missionary Society, he was by them sent out to Africa, which he reached in 1840. He had intended to proceed to China by his own efforts; and he says the only pang he had in going to Africa at the charge of the London Missionary Society was, because "it was not quite agreeable to one accustomed to work his own way to become, in a manner, dependent upon others." Arrived in Africa he set to work with great vigor. He could not brook the idea of merely entering upon the labors of others, but cut out a large sphere of independent work, preparing himself for it by undertaking manual labor in building and other handicraft employment, in addition to teaching, which, he says, "made me generally as much exhausted and unfit for study in the evenings as ever I had been when a cotton-spinner." Whilst laboring amongst the Bechuanas, he dug canals, built houses, cultivated fields, reared cattle, and taught the natives while he worked with them. At first, when starting with a party of them on foot upon a long journey, he overheard their observations upon his appearance and powers—"He is not strong," said they; "he is quite slim, and only appears stout because he puts himself into those bags (trousers); he will soon knock up." This caused the missionary's Highland blood to rise, and made him despise the fatigue of keeping them all at the top of their speed for days together, until he heard them expressing proper opinions of his pedestrian powers. What he did in Africa, and how he worked, may be learnt from his own "Missionary Travels," one of the most fascinating books of its kind that has ever been given to the public. One of his last known acts is thoroughly characteristic of the man. The "Birkenhead" steam launch, which he took out with him to Africa, having proved a failure, he sent home orders for the construction of another at an estimated cost of 2,000l. This sum he proposed to defray out of the means which he had set aside for his children arising from the profits of his travels. "The children must make it up themselves," was in effect his expression in sending home the order for the appropriation of the money.
The life of John Howard was throughout a striking illustration of the power of patient purpose and action. His sublime life proved that even physical weakness could remove mountains in the pursuit of an end recommended by duty. The idea of ameliorating the condition of prisoners engrossed his whole thoughts and possessed him like a passion; and no toil, nor danger, nor bodily suffering could turn him from that great purpose of his life. Though a man of no genius and but moderate talent, his heart was pure and his will was strong; even in his own time he achieved a remarkable degree of success; but his influence did not die with him, for it has continued powerfully to affect not only the legislation of England, but of all civilized nations, even to the present hour. The life of Howard is, however, so well known through the labors of Mr. Hepworth Dixon, that we prefer citing a few less known illustrations of this characteristic feature in the English character.
Jonas Hanway was a man eminent in his own day for his integrity as a merchant, and his public spirit as a patriot and philanthropist; though his name is now all but unknown. He was one of the many patient and persevering men who have made England what it is,—content simply to do with energy the work they have been appointed to do, and to go to their rest thankfully when it is done,—
"Leaving no memorial but a world
He was born in 1712, at Portsmouth, where, his father, a storekeeper in the dockyard, being killed by an accident, he was left an orphan at an early age. His mother removed with her family to London, where she had them put to school, and struggled hard to bring them up respectably. At seventeen Jonas was sent to Lisbon to be apprenticed to a merchant, where his close attention to business, his punctuality, and his strict honor and integrity, gained for him the respect and esteem of all who knew him. He returned to London, and in 1743, accepted the offer of a partnership in an important mercantile house at St. Petersburg, extensively engaged in the Caspian trade, then in its infancy. Mr. Hanway went out to Russia for the purpose of extending the business; and shortly after his arrival, he found it necessary to visit the principal seats of the trade in person. He accordingly set out for Persia, with a caravan of English bales of cloth making twenty carriage loads. In ten days from St. Petersburg he reached Moscow, seven days after he entered the Steppe, and in other eight days he reached Zuritzen on the Volga. There he embarked for Astracan, and with difficulty escaped the perils of the passage down the river, which was then infested by gangs of robber-boatmen, who lived by plundering the traders. From Astracan he sailed for Astrabad, on the southeastern shore of the Caspian, where he had scarcely landed his bales, when an insurrection broke out, his goods were seized, and though he afterwards recovered the principal part of them, the fruits of his enterprise were in a great measure lost. A plot was even set on foot to seize himself and his party; so he timely took to sea, and after encountering great perils and exposure in an open boat, which he bore with exemplary patience and courage, he reached Ghilan in safety. His escape on this occasion gave him the first idea of the words which he afterwards adopted as the motto of his life,—"Never Despair." After travelling many hundred miles amidst hostile bands, he prepared to leave the country, but invested the money which he had realized by the sale of his partly recovered goods in the purchase of raw silk, which eventually proved a successful venture. He afterwards resided in St. Petersburg for five years, carrying on a lucrative and prosperous business.
A relative having left him some property, and his means being sufficient to enable him to return to England, Hanway left Russia, and arrived in his native country in 1750, after an absence of about eight years. His object in returning to England was, as he himself expressed it, "to consult his own health (which was extremely delicate), and do as much good to himself and others as he was able." The rest of his life was spent in deeds of active benevolence and usefulness to his fellowmen. He lived in a quiet style, in order that he might employ a larger share of his income in purposes of benevolence. One of the first public improvements to which he devoted himself, was that of the highways of the metropolis. The streets of London were then in a wretched state,—ill paved, full of ruts and holes, and filthy in the extreme. Sign-boards swung creakingly over the footways beneath, which were inclosed from the carriage-way by rows of posts; but the space was so narrow that there was barely room for one person to pass another on foot, and in wet weather torrents of dirty water fell upon the passengers from the projecting spouts on either side the street. Mr. Hanway took up the subject with great vigor, and urged the necessity for improvement so pertinaciously, that at length he secured the interference of the legislature. An accident, which happened to the carriage of the Speaker of the House of Commons (Mr. Onslow), in passing through the narrow entrance near Craig's Court, at Charing Cross, contributed to force the subject on public attention, and the Act appointing commissioners was passed; since which the streets of London have become as creditable to the wealth of the metropolis as they were formerly a disgrace.
The old and often recurring rumor of a French invasion having come up in 1755, and a formidable squadron and large body of forces having been assembled at Brest, for the ostensible purpose of making a descent upon this country, Mr. Hanway turned his attention to the best mode of keeping up our breed of seamen. The Act passed in Queen Anne's reign, directing every master of a vessel of thirty tons and upwards to take one or more apprentices from the parish, being found inoperative, Mr. Hanway endeavored by sundry printed letters to urge the masters in the merchant service to comply with the directions of the Act; but the single voice of an individual was too feeble to be heard where self-interest was concerned. Determined, however, to do what he could to remedy the defect, Hanway summoned a meeting of merchants and shipowners at the Royal Exchange, and there proposed to them to form themselves into a society for fitting out landsmen volunteers and boys, to serve on board the king's ships. The proposal was received with enthusiasm; a society was formed, and officers were appointed, Mr. Hanway directing its entire operations. The result was the establishment in 1756 of The Marine Society, an institution which has proved of real national advantage, and to this day is of great and substantial utility. Six years after the society was formed, 5,451 boys and 4,787 landsmen volunteers had been fitted out by the society and added to the navy, and to this day it is in active operation, about 600 poor boys, after a careful education, being annually apprenticed as sailors, principally in the merchant service.
Mr. Hanway devoted the other portions of his spare time to improving or establishing important public institutions in the metropolis. From an early period he took an active interest in the Foundling Hospital, which had been started by one Thomas Coram many years before. A charter had been obtained in 1739, and an hospital was erected for the reception of foundlings in 1742-9. The institution was supported with munificent zeal; not less than 10,000l. was collected at the musical performances under Handel, who also presented an organ to the chapel, and the score of his "Messiah" to the guardians. Parliament granted 10,000l., and the funds at the disposal of the institution were so abundant that the guardians opened their doors to receive "all children not exceeding two months old which should be offered. The consequence was, that an immense number of children were sent in, whose parents were themselves sufficiently able to maintain and educate them. Though the foundling sentiment was the fashion, like many other sentiments without sense, it threatened soon to do far more harm than good; and it began to be feared that the humanity might even prove inhuman. Mr. Hanway was one of the first to point out this; he saw that by holding out to selfish parents the prospect of getting their children provided for and taken care of by the hospital, the tendency was to promote licentiousness, as well as to sever the natural tie which binds together the family; and he accordingly paid 50l. to qualify himself as a governor, in order that he might be in a better position to take steps to stem the evil. He entered upon this work in the face of the fashionable philanthropy of the time; holding to his purpose until he had brought the charity back to its proper objects; and time and experience have amply proved that he was in the right. In 1771 Parliament withdrew its grants, and the hospital has since been left to the support of private charity, which has proved amply sufficient, whilst every security is taken that the objects of the institution are not abused. The Magdalen Hospital was also established, in a great measure through Mr. Hanway's exertions, in 1758; and there is reason to believe that this institution has been the means of restoring many poor women to virtuous courses, who would otherwise have been lost. Mr. Hanway was accustomed to invite to his house those who had been recovered through its instrumentality, on which occasions he endeavored to strengthen and uphold them in their good resolutions, while he kindly watched over their well-doing in life.
But Jonas Hanway's most laborious and persevering efforts were in behalf of the infant parish poor. The subsequent labors of Howard in behalf of prisoners were not more honorable to him, than were those of Hanway in behalf of the helpless and innocent offspring of the unfortunate. The misery and neglect amidst which the children of the parish poor then grew up, and the mortality which prevailed amongst them, were positively frightful; but there was no fashionable movement on foot to remedy the evil, as in the case of the foundlings. So Jonas Hanway summoned his individual energies to the task. Alone and unassisted, he first endeavored to ascertain by personal inquiry the extent of the evil. He explored the miserable and unhealthy dwellings of the poorest classes in London, and visited the poorhouse sick wards, by which he carefully ascertained the management in detail of every workhouse in and near the metropolis. In order then to ascertain in what manner the legislators of foreign countries had dealt with a similar evil, he made a journey into France, through Holland, visiting all the public houses for the reception of the poor on his way, and noting whatever he thought might be adopted at home with advantage. He was thus employed for five years; and on his return to England, at intervals, he published the result of his observations; but his accounts were so melancholy that they were generally disbelieved, and he made many enemies in consequence of having ventured to publish the names of every parish officer, of whatever rank in life, under whose hands any infants had died of neglect. It appeared that in one workhouse, in St. Clement Danes, one nurse had twenty-three poor children committed to her care in the year 1765, of whom eighteen had died, two were discharged, and only three remained alive. Of seventy-four children received into the workhouse of St. Andrew and St. George, Holborn, sixty-four had died during the same year. In some populous parishes, not a single child was found alive at the end of twelve months; all had died. Wherever his statements were disputed, he published the names of the children, the date of each birth and admission, the time the child had lived, and the name of its nurse. He next made a journey throughout England, to compare the mortality in country workhouses with that of the metropolis; and everywhere he found the same excessive mortality, arising from overcrowding, ill ventilation, and neglect. The publication of such striking facts, and the known integrity of the man, could not fail to produce an effect even upon the most indifferent; and many workhouses speedily became reformed and improved. In 1761 he had obtained an Act obliging every London parish to keep an annual register of all the infants received, discharged, and dead; and he took care that the Act should work, for he himself superintended its working with indefatigable watchfulness. He went about from workhouse to workhouse in the morning, and from one member of Parliament to another in the afternoon, for day after day, and for year after year, enduring every rebuff, answering every objection, and accommodating himself to every humor. At length, after a perseverance hardly to be equalled, and after nearly ten years' labor, he obtained an Act, at his own sole expense, (7 Geo. III. c. 39,) directing that all parish infants belonging to the parishes within the bills of mortality shall not be nursed in the workhouses, but be sent to nurse a certain number of miles out of town, until they are six years old, under the care of guardians, to be elected triennially. The poor people called this "the Act for keeping children alive;" and the registers for the years which followed its passing, as compared with those which preceded it, showed that thousands of lives had been preserved through the judicious interference of this good and sensible man.
Wherever a philanthropic work was to be done in London, be sure that Jonas Hanway's hand was in it. One of the first Acts for the protection of chimney-sweepers' boys was obtained through his influence.*8 A destructive fire at Montreal, and another at Bridgetown, Barbadoes, afforded him the opportunity for raising a timely subscription for the relief of the sufferers. His name appeared in every list, and his disinterestedness and sincerity were universally recognized. But he was not suffered to waste his little fortune entirely in the service of others. Five leading citizens of London, headed by Mr. Hoare, the banker, without Mr. Hanway's knowledge, waited on Lord Bute, then minister, in a body; and in the names of their fellow-citizens, requested that some notice might be taken of this good man's disinterested services to his country. The result was, his appointment shortly after, as one of the commissioners for victualling the navy.
One of the minor social evils against which Mr. Hanway lifted up his voice, was the custom of what was called vails-giving,—or the gratuities then paid by visitors at the houses which they frequented, and which the servants had come to regard as a right. Mr. Hanway was on one occasion thus paying the servants of a respectable friend with whom he had dined, one by one as they appeared: "Sir, your great coat,"—a shilling: "Your hat," —shilling: "Stick,"—shilling: "Umbrella,"—shilling. "Sir, your gloves." "Why, friend," said he, "you may keep the gloves, they are not worth a shilling." This absurd practice was eventually put down by satire,—and the death-blow was given to it by Dodsley's*9 "High Life below Stairs."
Towards the close of his life Mr. Hanway's health became very feeble, and although he found it necessary to resign his office at the Victualling Board, he could not be idle; but worked away at the establishment of Sunday Schools,—a movement then in its infancy,—or in relieving poor blacks, many of whom then wandered destitute about the streets of the metropolis,—or in alleviating the sufferings of some neglected and destitute class of society. Notwithstanding his familiarity with misery in all its shapes, he was one of the most cheerful of beings; and, but for his cheerfulness he could never, with so delicate a frame, have got through so vast an amount of self-imposed work. He dreaded nothing so much as inactivity. Though fragile, he was bold and indefatigable; and his moral courage was of the first order. It may be regarded as a trivial matter to mention, that he was the first who ventured to walk the streets of London with an umbrella over his head. But let any modern London merchant venture to walk along Cornhill in a peaked Chinese hat, and he will find it takes some degree of moral courage to persevere in it. After carrying an umbrella for thirty years, Mr. Hanway saw the article at length come into general use.
Hanway was a man of strict honor, truthfulness, and integrity; and everything he said might be relied upon. He had so great a respect, amounting almost to a reverence, for the character of the honest merchant, that it was the only subject upon which he was ever seduced into a eulogium. He strictly practised what he professed, and both as a merchant and afterwards as a commissioner for victualling the navy, his conduct was without stain. He would not accept the slightest favor of any sort from a contractor; and when any present was sent to him whilst at the Victualling Office, he would politely return it, with the intimation that "he had made it a rule not to accept anything from any person engaged with the office." When, at the age of seventy-four, he found his vital powers failing, he prepared for death with as much cheerfulness as he would have prepared himself for a journey into the country. He sent round and paid all his tradesmen, took leave of his friends, arranged his affairs, had his person neatly disposed of, and his last breath escaped him in the midst of a sentence which began with the word "Christ." The property which he left did not amount to two thousand pounds, and, as he had no relatives who wanted it, he divided it amongst sundry orphans and poor persons whom he had befriended during his lifetime. Such, in brief, was the beautiful life of Jonas Hanway,—as honest, energetic, hard-working, and true-hearted a man as ever lived.
The life of Granville Sharp is another striking example of the same power of individual energy,—a power which was afterwards transfused into the noble band of workers in the cause of Slavery Abolition, prominent among whom were Clarkson, Wilberforce, Buxton, and Brougham. But, giants though these men were in this cause, Granville Sharp was the first, and perhaps the greatest of them all, in point of perseverance, energy, and intrepidity. He began life as apprentice to a linen-draper on Tower Hill; but, leaving that business after his apprenticeship was out, he next entered as a clerk in the Ordnance Office; and it was while engaged in that humble position that he carried on in his spare hours the work of Negro Emancipation. He was always, even when an apprentice, ready to undertake any amount of volunteer labor where any useful purpose was to be served. Thus, while learning the linen-drapery business, a fellow-apprentice, who lodged in the same house, and was a Unitarian, led him into frequent discussions on religious subjects; in the course of which the Unitarian youth insisted that Granville's Trinitarian misconception of certain passages of Scripture arose from his want of acquaintance with the Greek tongue; on which he immediately set to work in his evening hours, and shortly acquired an intimate knowledge of Greek. A similar controversy with another fellow-apprentice, a Jew, as to the interpretation of the prophecies, led him in like manner to undertake and overcome the difficulties of Hebrew.
But the circumstance which gave the bias and direction to the main labors of his life, originated in his generosity and benevolence. It was in this wise. His brother William, a surgeon in Mincing Lane, gave gratuitous advice to the poor, and amongst the numerous applicants for relief at his surgery was a poor African named Jonathan Strong. It appeared that the negro had been so brutally treated by his master, a Barbadoes lawyer then in London, that he had been thereby rendered lame and almost blind, and was altogether unable to work; and his owner, regarding him as no longer of the slightest value as a chattel, but likely only to involve him in expense, cruelly turned him adrift into the streets of London. This poor man, a mass of disease, supported himself by begging for a time, until he found his way to William Sharp, who gave him some medicine, and shortly after got him admitted to St. Bartholomew's hospital, where he was cured. On coming out of the hospital, the two brothers supported the negro in order to keep him off the streets, but they had not the least suspicion at the time that any one had a claim upon his person. They even succeeded in obtaining a situation for Strong with an apothecary, in whose service he remained for two years; and it was while he was attending his mistress behind a hackney-coach, that his former owner, the Barbadoes lawyer, recognized him, and determined to recover possession of the slave, again rendered valuable by the restoration of his health. The lawyer employed two of the Lord Mayor's officers to apprehend Strong, and he was lodged in the Compter, until he could be shipped off to the West Indies. The negro, bethinking him in his captivity of the kind services which Granville Sharp had rendered him in his great distress some years before, dispatched a letter to him requesting his help. Sharp had forgotten the name of Strong, but he sent a messenger to make inquiries, who returned saying that the keepers denied having any such person in their charge. His suspicions were roused, and he went forthwith to the prison, and insisted upon seeing Jonathan Strong. He was admitted, and recognized the poor negro, now in custody as a recaptured slave. Mr. Sharp charged the master of the prison at his own peril not to deliver up Strong to any person whatever, until he had been carried before the Lord Mayor, to whom Sharp immediately went, and obtained a summons against those persons who had seized and imprisoned Strong without a warrant. The parties appeared before the Lord Mayor accordingly, and it appeared from the proceedings that Strong's former master had already sold him to a new one, who produced the bill of sale and claimed the negro as his property. As no charge of offence was made against Strong, and as the Lord Mayor was incompetent to deal with the legal question as to Strong's liberty or otherwise, he discharged him, and the slave followed his benefactor out of court, no one daring to touch him. The man's owner immediately gave Sharp notice of an action to recover possession of his negro slave, of whom he had been robbed; and now commenced that protracted and energetic movement in favor of the enslaved negro, which forms one of the brightest pages in English history.
About this time (1767), the personal liberty of the Englishman, though cherished as a theory, was subject to grievous infringements, and was almost daily violated. The impressment of men for the sea-service was constantly practised, and, besides the pressgangs, there were regular bands of kidnappers employed in London and all the large towns of the kingdom, to seize men for the East India Company's service. And when the men were not wanted for India, they were shipped off to the planters in the American colonies. Negro slaves were openly advertised for sale in the London and Liverpool newspapers. For instance, the Gazetteer, of April 18th, 1769, classed together for sale, "at the Bull and Gate Inn, Holborn, a chestnut gelding, a tim-whiskey, and a well-made, good-tempered black boy." Rewards were then offered, as now in the Slave States of America, for recovering and securing fugitive slaves, and for conveying them down to certain specified ships in the river. That no shame was felt at the open recognition of slavery, is apparent from an advertisement in the Daily Advertiser, of the 16th May, 1768, offering a reward to whoever would apprehend a negro boy and bring him, or send tidings of him to Mr. Alderman Beckford, in Pall Mall. The Public Advertiser, of the 28th November, 1769, contains this advertisement:—"To BE SOLD, a black girl, the property of J. B——, eleven years of age, who is tolerably handy, works at her needle tolerably, and speaks English perfectly well; is of an excellent temper, and willing disposition.—Inquire of Mr. Owen, at the Angel Inn, behind St. Clement's Church, in the Strand." Such was the state of matters when Granville Sharp threw himself, body and soul, into his great work. Though only a clerk in a public office, without any personal influence whatever, and armed only with integrity and boldness in a good cause, he was enabled in the issue effectually to vindicate the personal liberty of the subject, and to establish as a fact what up to that time had been but a theory,—that the slave who sets his foot on British ground becomes at that instant free!
As yet the position of the reputed slave in England was undefined and doubtful. The judgments which had been given in the courts of law were fluctuating and various, resting on no settled principle. Although it was a popular belief that no slave could breathe in England, there were legal men of great eminence who had expressed a directly contrary opinion. Thus, Mr. Yorke, Attorney-General, and Mr. Talbot, Solicitor-General of England in 1729, concurred in the decided opinion that the slave by coming into England did not become free; that his owner's property in him was in no respect determined or varied; and that his master might legally compel the slave to return again to the plantations. The lawyers to whom Mr. Sharp resorted for advice, in defending himself in the action raised against him in the case of Jonathan Strong, generally concurred in this view, and he was further told by Jonathan Strong's owner, that the eminent Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, and all the leading counsel, were decidedly of the same opinion. Such information would have caused despair in a mind less courageous and earnest than that of Granville Sharp; but it only served to stimulate his resolution to depend mainly upon his own efforts in the arduous battle which now lay before him. "Thus forsaken," he said, "by my professional defenders, I was compelled, through the want of regular legal assistance, to make a hopeless attempt at self-defence, though I was totally unacquainted either with the practice of the law or the foundations of it, having never opened a law-book (except the Bible) in my life, until that time, when I most reluctantly undertook to search the indexes of a law library, which my bookseller had lately purchased."
The whole of his time during the day was occupied with the business of the ordnance department, where he held the most laborious post in the office; he was therefore under the necessity of conducting his new studies late at night or early in the morning. He confessed that he was himself becoming a sort of slave. Writing to a clerical friend, to excuse himself for delay in replying to a letter, he said, "I profess myself entirely incapable of holding a literary correspondence. What little time I have been able to save from sleep at night, and early in the morning, has been necessarily employed in the examination of some points of law, which admitted of no delay, and yet required the most diligent researches and examination in my study. And I have not scrupled to employ now and then, even the leisure of a Sunday in this manner, because my labor has not been for profit, but merely with a view to do good, and prevent injustice, by pointing out some notorious corruptions in the beaten paths of the law, which has enabled me to serve a few individuals, I hope with good effect."
In pursuance of his resolution, now fully formed, he gave up every leisure moment that he could command during the next two years, to the close study of the laws of England affecting personal liberty,—wading through an immense mass of dry and repulsive literature, worse than Dryasdust, and making extracts of all the most important Acts of Parliament, decisions of the courts, and opinions of eminent lawyers, as he went along. In this tedious and protracted inquiry he had no instructor, nor assistant, nor adviser. He could not find a single lawyer whose opinion was favorable to his undertaking. The results of his inquiries were, however, as gratifying to himself as they were surprising to the gentlemen of the law. "God be thanked," he wrote, "there is nothing in any English law or statute—at least that I am able to find out—that can justify the enslaving of others." He thought he now saw a clear solution of the difficulties which had embarrassed the former trials of negro cases. He had bottomed the whole inquiry, and found that a slave really could not breathe in England. He had planted his foot firm, and now he doubted nothing. He drew up the result of his studies in a summary form: it was a plain, clear, and manly statement, entitled, "On the Injustice of tolerating Slavery in England;" and numerous copies, made by himself, were circulated by him amongst the most eminent lawyers of the time. Strong's owner, finding the sort of man he had to deal with, invented various pretexts for deferring the suit against Sharp, and at length offered a compromise, which was rejected. Granville went on circulating his manuscript tracts among the lawyers, until at length those employed against Jonathan Strong were deterred from proceeding further, and the result was, that the plaintiff was compelled to pay treble costs for not bringing forward his action. The tract was then printed in 1769.
The vindication of the emancipated Jonathan Strong naturally led Mr. Sharp on to the study of the general subject of the Slave-Trade, and he addressed a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury imploring his Grace's powerful assistance,—which does not seem, however, to have been then responded to. In the mean time other cases occurred of the kidnapping of negroes in London, and their shipment to the West Indies for sale. Wherever Sharp could lay hold of any such case, he at once took proceedings to rescue the negro. Thus the wife of one Hylas, an African, was seized, and dispatched to Barbadoes; on which Sharp, in the name of Hylas, instituted legal proceedings against the aggressor, obtained a verdict with damages, and Hylas's wife was brought back to England free. Sharp's mind became fully awakened to the magnitude of the abuse against which he was contending as yet single-handed, and he watched anxiously on every side to prevent an accumulation of the evil.
Another forcible capture of a negro, attended with great cruelty, having occurred in 1770, he immediately set himself on the track of the aggressors. An African, named Lewis, was seized one dark night by two watermen employed by the person who claimed the negro as his property, dragged into the water, hoisted into a boat, where he was gagged, and his limbs were tied; and then rowing down river, they put him on board a ship bound for Jamaica, where he was to be sold for a slave upon his arrival in the island. The cries of the poor negro had, however, attracted the attention of some neighbors,—the house adjoining that from which the man had been torn being then occupied by Mrs. Banks, the mother of the afterwards celebrated Sir Joseph Banks,—and on the next morning, the good lady proceeded direct to Mr. Granville Sharp, now known as the negroes' friend, and informed him of the outrage. Sharp immediately got a warrant to bring back Thomas Lewis, and proceeded to Gravesend, but on arrival there the ship had sailed for the Downs. A writ of habeas corpus was obtained, sent down to Spithead, and before the ship could leave the shores of England, the writ was served. The slave was found chained to the mainmast bathed in tears, casting mournful looks on the land from which he was about to be torn; he was immediately liberated, brought back to London, and a warrant was issued against the author of the outrage. The promptitude of head, heart, and hand, displayed by Mr. Sharp in this transaction, could scarcely have been surpassed, and yet he accused himself of slowness. The case was tried before Lord Mansfield,—whose opinion, it will be remembered, had already been expressed as decidedly opposed to that entertained by Granville Sharp. On this occasion, Mr. Dunning, one of the counsel employed on behalf of the negro, holding up Mr. Sharp's tract in his hand, declared before the court, that he was prepared to maintain "that no man can be legally detained as a slave in this country." Lord Mansfield, however, avoided bringing the question to an issue, or offering any opinion on the legal question as to the slave's personal liberty or otherwise, but discharged the negro because the defendant could bring no evidence that Lewis was even nominally his property.
The question of the personal liberty of the negro in England was therefore still undecided; but in the mean time Mr. Sharp continued steady in his benevolent course, and by his indefatigable exertions and promptitude of action, many more were added to the list of the rescued. At length the important case of James Somerset occurred; a case which is said to have been selected, at the mutual desire of Lord Mansfield and Mr. Sharp, in order to bring the great question involved to a clear legal issue. Somerset had been brought to England by his master, and left there. Afterwards his master sought to apprehend him and send him off to Jamaica, for sale. Mr. Sharp, as usual, at once took the negro's case in hand, and employed counsel to defend him. Lord Mansfield intimated that the case was of such general concern, that he should take the opinion of all the judges upon it. Mr. Sharp now felt that he would have to contend with all the force that could be brought against him, but his resolution was in no wise shaken. Fortunately for him, in this severe struggle, his exertions had already begun to tell; increasing interest was taken in the question, and many eminent legal gentlemen openly declared themselves to be upon his side.
The cause of personal liberty, now at stake, was fairly tried before Lord Mansfield, assisted by the three justices,—and tried on the broad principle of the essential and constitutional right of every man in England to the liberty of his person, unless forfeited by the law. It is unnecessary here to enter into any account of this great trial; the arguments extended to a great length, the cause being carried over to another term,—when it was adjourned and readjourned,—but at length judgment was given by Lord Mansfield, in whose powerful mind so gradual a change had been worked by the arguments of counsel, based mainly on Granville Sharp's tract, that he now declared the court to be so clearly of one opinion, that there was no necessity for referring the case to the twelve judges. He then declared that the claim of slavery never can be supported; that the power claimed never was in use in England, nor acknowledged by the law; therefore the man James Somerset must be discharged. By securing this judgment Granville Sharp effectually abolished the Slave-Trade, until then carried on openly in the streets of Liverpool and London. But he also firmly established the glorious axiom, that as soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground, that moment he becomes free; and there can be no doubt that this great decision of Lord Mansfield was mainly owing to Mr. Sharp's firm, resolute, and intrepid prosecution of the cause from the beginning to the end.
It is unnecessary further to follow the career of Granville Sharp. He continued to labor indefatigably in all good works; he was instrumental in founding the colony of Sierra Leone as an asylum for rescued negroes; he labored to ameliorate the condition of the native Indians in the American colonies. Inspired by his love of the English character and constitution, he agitated the enlargement and extension of the political rights of the English people; and he endeavored to effect the abolition of the impressment of seamen. In this latter enterprise he encountered the vehement opposition of the great literary elephant of the day, Dr. Johnson, who trampled under foot the arguments of the humble clerk of the ordnance, whilst strongly upholding the right and the propriety of impressment. Though Sharp could not readily answer to the doctor's big bow-wow, he felt that justice and truth were on his side. "Important self-sufficiency, and the sound of big words," said Sharp, "cannot alter the nature of things. I am far from being ready at giving an immediate answer to subtle arguments, so that I may seem easily baffled; indeed, even when I am by no means convinced that they have the least weight." But Granville held that the British seaman, as well as the African negro, was entitled to the protection of the law; and that the fact of his choosing a seafaring life did not in any way cancel his rights and privileges as an Englishman,—first amongst which he ranked personal freedom. Mr. Sharp also labored, but ineffectually, to restore amity between England and her colonists in America; and when the fratricidal war of the American Revolution was entered on, his sense of integrity was so scrupulous that, resolving not in any way to be concerned in so unnatural a business, he resigned his situation at the Ordnance Office. Writing to Mr. Boddington, the secretary of the department, he said, "I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly, as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects; and yet, to resign my place would be to give up a calling which, by my close attendance to it for near eighteen years, and by my neglect of every other means of subsistence during so long a period, is now become my only profession and livelihood." Nevertheless, he did so. Many characterized this conduct as Quixotic; but in him it was the result of strong virtuous principle.
Among Sharp's subsequent labors were the establishment of the Episcopal Church in America, the founding of the Bible Society,*10 the Protestant Union, and others, with a similar object; but to the last he held to the great object of his life,—the abolition of slavery. To carry on this work, and organize the efforts of the growing friends of this cause, the Society for the Abolition of Slavery was founded, and new men, inspired by Sharp's example and zeal, sprang forward to help him. His energy became theirs, and the self-sacrificing zeal in which he had so long labored single-handed, became at length transfused into the nation itself. His mantle fell upon Clarkson, upon Wilberforce, upon Brougham, and upon Buxton, who labored as he had done, with like energy and steadfastness of purpose, until at length slavery was abolished throughout the British dominions. But though the names last mentioned may be more frequently identified with the triumph of this great cause, the chief merit unquestionably belongs to Granville Sharp. He was encouraged by none of the world's huzzas when he entered upon his work. He stood alone, opposed to the opinion of the ablest lawyers, and the most rooted prejudices of the times; and alone he fought out, by his single exertions, and at his individual expense, the most memorable battle for the constitution of this country and the liberties of British subjects, of which modern times afford a record. What followed was mainly the consequence of his indefatigable constancy. He lighted the torch which kindled other minds, and it was handed on until the illumination became complete.
Before the death of Granville Sharp, Clarkson had already turned his attention to the question of Negro Slavery. He had even selected it for the subject of a college Essay; and his mind became so possessed by it that he could not shake it off. The spot is pointed out near Wade's Mill, in Hertfordshire, where, alighting from his horse one day, he sat down disconsolate on the turf by the roadside, and after long thinking, determined to devote himself wholly to the work. He translated his Essay from Latin into English, added fresh illustrations, and published it. Then fellow-laborers gathered round him. The Society for Abolishing the Slave-Trade, unknown to him, had already been formed, and when he heard of it he joined it. He sacrificed all his fair prospects in life to prosecute this cause. Wilberforce was selected to lead in Parliament; but upon Clarkson chiefly devolved the labor of collecting and arranging the immense mass of evidence offered in support of the abolition. A curious instance of Clarkson's sluth-hound sort of perseverance may be mentioned. The abettors of slavery, in the course of their defence of the system, maintained that only such negroes as were captured in battle were sold as slaves, and if not so sold, then they were reserved for a still more frightful doom in their own country. Clarkson knew of the slave-hunts conducted by the slave-traders, but had no witnesses to prove it. Where was one to be found? Accidentally, a gentleman, whom he met on one of his journeys, informed him of a young sailor, in whose company he had been about a year before, who had been actually engaged in one of such slave-hunting expeditions. The gentleman did not know his name, and could but indefinitely describe his person. He did not know where he was, further than that he belonged to a ship-of-war in ordinary, but at what port he could not tell. With this mere glimmering of information, Clarkson determined to produce this man as a witness. He visited personally all the seaport towns where ships in ordinary lay; boarded and examined every ship without success, until he came to the very last port, and found the young man, his prize, in the very last ship that remained to be visited. The young man proved to be one of his most valuable and effective witnesses.
For some years he conducted a correspondence with upwards of four hundred persons, travelling more than thirty-five thousand miles during the same time in search of evidence. He was at length disabled and exhausted by illness, brought on by his continuous exertions; but he was not borne from the field until his zeal had fully awakened the public mind, and excited the ardent sympathies of all good men on behalf of the slave.
After years of protracted struggle, the slave-trade was abolished. But still another great achievement remained to be accomplished,—the abolition of slavery itself throughout the British dominions. And here again determined energy won the day. Of the leaders in the cause, none was more distinguished than Fowell Buxton, who took the position formerly occupied by Wilberforce in the House of Commons. Buxton was a dull, heavy boy, distinguished for his strong self-will, which first exhibited itself in violent, domineering, and headstrong obstinacy. His father died when he was a child; but fortunately he had a wise mother who trained his will with great care, constraining him to obey, but encouraging the habit of deciding and acting for himself in matters which might safely be left to him. This mother believed that a strong will, directed upon worthy objects, was a valuable manly quality if properly guided, and she acted accordingly. When others about her commented on the boy's self-will, she would merely say, "Never mind,—he is self-willed now,—you will see it will turn out well in the end." Fowell learned very little at school, and was somewhat of a dunce and an idler. He got other boys to do his exercises for him, while he romped and scrambled about. He returned home at fifteen, a great, growing, awkward lad, fond only of boating, shooting, riding, and field-sports,—spending his time principally with the gamekeeper, a man possessed of a good heart, and an intelligent observer of life and nature, though he could neither read nor write. Buxton had capital raw material in him, but he wanted culture, training, and development. At this juncture of his life, when his habits were being formed for good or evil, he was happily thrown into the society of the Gurney family, distinguished for their fine social qualities, not less than for their intellectual culture and public-spirited philanthropy. This intercourse with the Gurneys, he used afterwards to say, gave the coloring to his life. They encouraged his efforts at self-culture; and when he went to the University of Dublin, and gained high honors there, the animating passion in his mind, he said, "was to carry back to them the prizes which they prompted and enabled me to win." He married one of the daughters of the family, and started in life, commencing as a clerk to his uncles Hanbury, the London brewers. His power of will, which made him so difficult to deal with as a boy, now formed the backbone of his character, and made him most indefatigable and energetic in whatever he undertook. He threw his whole strength and bulk right down upon his work; and the great giant, "Elephant Buxton," they called him, for he stood some six feet four in height, became one of the most vigorous and practical of men. "I could brew," he said, "one hour,—do mathematics the next,—and shoot the next,—and each with my whole soul." There was invincible energy and determination in whatever he did. Admitted a partner, he became the active manager of the concern; and the vast business which he conducted felt his influence through every fibre, and prospered far beyond its previous success. Nor did he allow his mind to lie fallow, for he gave his evenings diligently to self-culture, studying and digesting Blackstone, Montesquieu, and solid commentaries on English law. His maxims in reading were, "never to begin a book without finishing it;" "never to consider a book finished until it is mastered;" and "to study everything with the whole mind."
When only thirty-two, Buxton entered Parliament, and at once assumed that position of influence there, of which every honest, earnest, well-informed man is secure, who enters that assembly of the first gentlemen in the world. The principal question to which he devoted himself was the complete emancipation of the slaves in British colonies. He himself used to attribute the strong interest which he early felt in this question to the influence of Priscilla Gurney, one of the Earlham family,—a woman of a fine intellect and warm heart, abounding in illustrious virtues. When on her death-bed, in 1821, she repeatedly sent for Buxton, and urged him "to make the cause of the slaves the great object of his life." Her last act was to attempt to reiterate the solemn charge, and she expired in the ineffectual effort. Buxton never forgot her counsel; he named one of his daughters after her; and on the day on which she was married from his house, on the 1st of August, 1834,—the day of negro emancipation,—after his Priscilla had been manumitted from her filial service, and left her father's home in the company of her husband, Buxton sat down and thus wrote to a friend: "The bride is just gone; everything has passed off to admiration; and there is not a slave in the British colonies!"
Buxton was no genius,—not a great intellectual leader nor discoverer, but mainly an earnest, straightforward, resolute, energetic man. Indeed, his whole character is most forcibly expressed in his own words, which every young man might well stamp upon his soul: "The longer I live," said he, "the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant, is energy,—invincible determination,—a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory! That quality will do anything that can be done in this world; and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it."
Notes for this chapter
While exerting himself on behalf of the little sweeps, one day he said to a little fellow who had been sweeping a chimney in his own house, "Suppose now I give you a shilling?" "God Almighty bless your honor, and thank you." "And what if I give you a fine tie-wig to wear on May-day, which is just at hand?" "Ah, bless your honor! my master won't let me go out on May-day." "No! why not?" "He says it's low life." Mr. Hanway was a religions man, and on one occasion, when hiring a coachman, and telling him the duty he required, he concluded, "You will attend with the rest of the family every evening at prayers." "Prayers, sir!" "Why, did you never say your prayers?" asked Mr. Hanway. "I have never been in a praying family," answered the man. "But have you any objection to say your prayers?" "No, sir, I've no objection; I hope you'll consider it is my wages."
[A handwritten note in the book crosses out Dodsley.—Econlib Editor.]
A clergyman once wrote to him, at the early part of his life, while clerk in the Ordnance Office, urging him to enter the Church, and offering to resign in his favor a living worth 800l. a year. The generous offer was declined with thanks, Mr. Sharp explaining that he had not the least inclination for the employment of a minister; and even if he could flatter himself that he was at all capable of serving the cause of religion, he was of opinion that he could do so much more effectually as a layman than as a clergyman, as his motives then would be beyond question.
End of Notes
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