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was only a great bore; or been accounted wiser than his more vivacious associates, because he wore a stolid visage and held his tongue--completely putting to rout the venerable maxim of “nothing venture, nothing have."
Though few public speakers of his time dealt more with the lighter graces of oratory-wit, fancy, epigram, anecdote, historical illustration, and classical allusion-So, few excelled him in the clearness of his statements, the solidity of his arguments, and the skill with which he brought all his resources to bear upon the point to be reached, and the power with which he pressed it home to the conviction of his hearers. A burst of laughter from all sides, cxcited by his infectious wit, or a round of applause from his friends when some galling sarcasm pierced the mailed harness of the Opposition, relieved the tedium of a currency debate, intolerably dull in most hands, but which he, by mingling figures of speech with the figures of the budget, always made interesting, and thus kept his party in good humor while he drove these wearisome topics through the thick skulls of knights of the shire and country squires, of which material the Tories were largely made up. Throwing around the path where he led his auditors a profusion of flowers, gathered in all climes and refreshing to all tastes, he was ever carrying forward the heavy chain of argument, delighting while he convinced, and amusing that he might convert.
But these rare qualities produced their drawbacks. So skillful a master of so bewitching an art could not be spa: ing in the exhibition of his peculiar powers. His pleasantry and byplay, when handling momentous questions, offended graver men, who could not belicve that so much levity was consistent with sincerity. He excited the jealousy of plainer understandings, who saw things as clearly as he, but could not set them in so transparent a light.
His coruscations were not only glittering, but they often dazzled and confounded less ornate minds. His sarcasms stung his enemies to madness ; and, not content merely to drive his opponents to the wall, he hurled them there with such force, that they rebounded into the arena, to become in turn the assailants; and his friends found that a brilliant attack led on by him often resulted in a counter assault, which summoned to the rescue all the forces of his party. And more than this, his port and bearing left the impression upon most minds that a consummate artist was acting a part, and not a sincere man speaking from the heart. His obscure origin, (obscure for one who aspired to be a Tory Premier,) and his early coquetry with the Whigs, affixed to him the epithet of “ an adventurer ;' and he never shook off the epithet, nor effaced the impression that it was fitly bestowed. The people of England, whether he was Treasurer of the Navy, Foreign Secretary, Prime Minister, or Parliamentary orator, never wholly escaped from the suspicion that the son was following the profession of the mother, but had chosen the chapel of St. Stephen's rather than the theater of Drury Lane, for the display of his genius.
Turning from the orator to the man, we find much to delight the eye. George Canning never forgot the humble mother that bore him. So soon as his resources would permit, he made ample provision for her support, and for years after he entered Parliament, and even when a foreign ambassador, he wrote her a weekly epistle, breathing the kindliest affection. Though he could never elevate her tastes and associations above the connections of her youth, he used to throw aside the cares of office, that he might visit her, and the humble cousins with whom she dwelt, at Bath ; and there, when in the zenith of his fame, would walk out with his plebeian relatives, and receive the homage of the lordly visitants at that fashionable resort, in their company. This marks him a noble man. He delighted in literary pursuits--would drop the pen when preparing a diplomatic dispatch, to talk over the classics with his university acquaintances—was a brilliant essayist, and wrote Latin and English verses with grace and beauty.
Abolition of the African Slave Trade-Granville Sharpe—Wilber
In tracing the foreign policy of Pitt, we have been led beyond the period of the great philanthropic achievement of 1806 -7—the Abolition of the African Slave Trade. I shall not trace the origin and growth of this traffic, nor describe its horrors, nor detail the measures, in and out of Parliament, which led to its legal prohibition. They are familiar to those who will be likely to read this chapter.
THOMAS CLARKSON was the father of the movement for the abolition of the slave trade, and, consequently, for the destrucvi utgru stavery isen, vi wuvu au a
The circumstances which turned his attention to it are novel. In 1785, he was a senior bachelor of arts of St. John's College, Cambridge. The vice chancellor, impressed with the iniquity of the slave trade, announced to the seniors as a subject for a Latin dissertation, (I translate it,) “ Is it right to make slaves of others against their will ?" He little thought of the farreaching consequences of this proposal. Young Clarkson, haying secured the Latin prize the previous year, was anxious to obtain it again. He went to London, and procured all the books relating to the subject he could find. His sensitive mind was shocked beyond measure at the horrors of the middle passage,” which they disclosed. Sleep often left his pillow, while digesting the materials for his essay; and during its preparation he resolved to devote his life to the destruction of so
appalling an evil. Noble resolution! Little did the young philanthropist then imagine that he should live, not only to see this trade abolished by Great Britain, and declared piracy by all Christian Powers, but to witness the abolition of slavery itself in those islands of the West, around which his warm sympathies clustered; that he should see the humanity of the world roused in arms to put down the crime of chattelizing mankind; and should himself, after a lapse of fifty-five years, preside,
the observed of all observers," in the metropolis of England, at a large Convention assembled from the four quarters of the globe, to devise means to achieve a final victory in this war upon the “wild and guilty phantasy, that man can hold property
But, I anticipate. Clarkson finished his essay, won the prize, and, true to his vow, commenced, friendless and without resources, the work of abolition. He translated and enlarged his essay, and committing it to press, started on a pilgrimage through the kingdom, in search of facts to illustrate the character of the traffic, and friends to aid him in its destruction. A singular instance of his patient zeal may be stated. He was anxious to ascertain whether slaves were kidnapped by the traders in the interior of Africa. He was told by a gentleman, that about a year before, he had conversed with a common sailor, who had made several excursions up the African rivers, in pursuit of slaves, and presumed he could inform him on this subject. He knew not the sailor's name, nor his residence, nor where he sailed from, and could only say, that when he saw him he belonged on board some man-of-war in ordinary. Clarkson started on the forlorn hope of finding this sailor. He successively visited Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, Portsmouth, and Plymouth-boarding, during the tour, which occupied several weeks, 317 ships, and examining several thousand persons.
persons. I give the result in his own words: “At length, I arrived at the place of my last hope, (Plymouth.) On my first day's expedition I boarded forty vessels, but found no one who had been on the coast of Africa in the slave trade.
One or two had been there in King's ships, but they had never been on shore. Things were now drawing to a close ; and my heart began to beat. I was restless and uneasy during the night. The next morning I felt agitated between the alternate pressure of hope and fear; and in this state I entered my boat. The fifty-seventh vessel I boarded was the Melampus frigate. One person belonging to it, on examining him in the captain's cabin, said he had been two voyages to Africa ; and I had not long conversed with him before I found, to my inexpressible joy, that he was the man.” This long-sought witness confirmed his suspicions in regard to kidnapping. In 1786, Clarkson pullished a tract, embodying a summary of the various information he had obtained, and in June 1787, organized, in London, the first committee for the abolition of the slave trade, and was appointed its secretary and agent. When visiting this patriarch of humanity, at Playford Hall, in 1840, he showed me the records of this committee. There were the original entries, in his own handwriting, made more than fifty-three years before ; and he was alive to read them to me, accompanied by many lively anecdotes of the early friends whose names and deeds were there recorded. In 1787, he had his first interview with Mr. Wilberforce, and found a ready access to the heart of that great and good man. In 1788, he published his important work, “ The Impolicy of the Slave Trade." The next year he visited France, to enlist the friends of liberty in that country in favor of his scheme. He had interviews with Mirabeau, Neckar, and others. He was denounced as a spy, and came near being seized. Owing to the revolutionary storm then rising over the kingdom, he accomplished little by this tour, except to present copies of his printed works to the King, and obtain promises from Mirabeau and Neckar to call public attention to the subject when the agitations of the period had subsided. These promises were soon engulfed in the earthquake which shook, not only France, but Europe to its center.