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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN

499

been evil purposes, baneful to the peace and to the rights of men, conducted—if I may not say, with prudence or with wisdom-yet with awful craft and most successful and commanding subtlety. If, however, I might make a distinction, I should say that it is the proud attempt to mix a variety of lordly crimes that unsettles the prudence of the mind and breeds this distraction of the brain. One master-passion, domineering in the breast, may win the faculties of the understanding to advance its purpose, and to direct to that object everything that thought or human knowledge can effect; but, to succeed, it must maintain a solitary despotism in the mind-each rival profligacy must stand aloof, or wait in abject vassalage upon its throne. For the Power that has not forbade the entrance of evil passions into man's mind, has, at least, forbade their union ;-if they meet they defeat their object; and their conquest, or their attempt at it, is tumult. To turn to the Virtues—how different the decree! Formed to connect, to blend, to associate, and to co-operate ; bearing the same course, with kindred energies and harmonious sympathy; each perfect in its own lovely sphere; each moving in its wider or more contracted orbit with different, but concentering powers; guided by the same influence of reason, and endeavoring at the same blessed end—the happiness of the individual, the harmony of the species, and the glory of the Creator. In the Vices, on the other hand, it is the discord that insures the defeat; each clamorous to be heard in its own barbarous language; each claims the exclusive cunning of the brain ; each thwarts and reproaches the other; and even while their full rage assails with common hate the peace and virtue of the world, the civil war among their own tumultuous legions defeats the purpose of the foul conspiracy. These are tte Furies of the mind, my Lords, that unsettle the understanding; these are the Furies that destroy the virtue, Prudence; while the distracted brain and shivered intellect proclaim the tumult that is within, and bear Their testimonies, from the mouth of God himself, to the foul condition of the heart.

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (1759-1833)

THE SLAVE'S ELOQUENT ADVOCATE

F William Wilberforce it has been said: "With talents of the

highest order, and eloquence surpassed by few, he entered upon

public life possessed of the best personal connections in his intimate friendship with Mr. Pitt.” Entering Parliament in 1780, his first movement toward the suppression of the slave-trade was taken in 1787, in conjunction with Thomas Clarkson and several others. From that time forward the abolition of slavery was the great object in Wilberforce's life. His bills defeated again and again, and bitter opposition to his purpose shown, he unyieldingly persisted, and at length, in 1807, had the satisfaction of seeing his bill passed in the House of Commons with a great majority. He had gradually educated the House and the nation to that point. About 1818 he began to agitate for the emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies. This he followed up in his old, inflexible manner, till the day of his death, his bill for the abolition of slavery passing its second reading only three days before the demise of its great projector.

ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE-TRADE

[From one of Wilberforce's many speeches on the subject of his most earnest attention, we select a brief passage in illustration of his style of oratory and the character of his appeals to his fellow-members.]

I cannot but persuade myself that, whatever difference of opinion there may have been, we shall this day be at length unanimous. I cannot believe that a British House of Commons will give its sanction to the continuance of this infernal traffic, the African slave-trade. We were for a while ignorant of its real nature; but it has now been completely developed, and laid open to view in all its horrors. Never was there,

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OLIVER CROMWELL ADDRESSING PARLIAMENT Oliver Cromwell was forcible in speech, and mighty in deed. His addresses were short and on subjects relating to his Government. Without the grace of an orator, yet his words always commanded respect. This is a copy of a famous painting representing the great Cromwell dismissing Parliament

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WILLIAM WILBERFORCE

501

indeed, a systeni so big with wickedness and cruelty; it attains to the fullest measure of pure, unmixed, unsophisticated wickedness; and, scorning all competition and comparison, it stands without a rival in the secure, undisputed possession of its detestable pre-eminence.

But I rejoice, sir, to see that the people of Great Britain have stepped forward on this occasion and expressed their sense more generally and unequivocally than in any instance wherein they have ever before interfered. I should in vain attempt to express to you the satisfaction with which it has filled my mind to see so great and glorious a concurrence, to see this great cause triumphing over all lesser distinctions, and substituting cordiality and harmony in the place of distrust and opposition. Nor have its effects amongst ourselves been in this respect less distinguished or less honorable. It has raised the character of Parliament. Whatever may have been thought or said concerning the unrestrained prevalency of our political divisions, it has taught surrounding nations, it has taught our admiring country, that there are subjects still beyond the reach of party. There is a point of elevation where we get above the jarring of the discordant elements that ruffle and agitate the vale below. In our ordinary atmosphere, clouds and vapors obscure the air, and we are the sport of a thousand conflicting winds and adverse currents ; but here we move in a higher region, where all is pure, and clear, and serene, free from perturbation and discomposure

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Here, then, on this august eminence, let us build the temple of benevolence; let us lay its foundation deep in truth and justice, and let the inscription on its gates be, “Peace and good-will towards men.” Here let us offer the first-fruits of our prosperity ; here let us devote ourselves to the service of these wretched men, and go forth burning with a generous ardor to compensate, if possible, for the injuries we have hitherto brought on them. Let us heal the breaches we have made. Let us rejoice in becoming the happy instruments of arresting the progress of rapine and desolation, and of introducing into that immense country the blessings of Christianity, the comforts of civilized, the sweets of social life. I am persuaded, sir, there is no man who hears me, who wou d not join with me in hailing the arrival of this happy period; who does not feel his mind cheered and solaced by the contemplation of those delightful scenes.

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