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the human form. With a perseverance which is only not unexampled because it set an example afterwards followed by other labourers in the same cause; with a benevolence which was quite universal, and made the aspect of human suffering so painful to him, that he would suffer any privation to lessen it; with a piety which, though it rose to an enthusiasm that oftentimes warped his otherwise clear and sound judgment, was yet wholly unattended with any the least vestige of harshness or intolerance; he pursued, in privacy and seclusion, the paths of charity which lead to no fame among men, which conduct to that peace the world cannot give, and which would have enabled him to hide a multitude of transgressions, if Granville Sharp had had any transgressions to hide. But he was not a mere tolerant follower of religion, and anxious dispenser of secret benevolence, high and rare as these attributes are. He was one of the most learned men of his time, and could maintain the parts of lettered controversy, classical and theological, with the most accomplished scholars in the Church. The wholesale violation of all human rights, and flagrant wreck of all Christian duties, with which the Slave Trade and West Indian Slavery had so long outraged and insulted the world, early attracted his regard; and he persevered in trying the legal question, at first held to be desperate,-How far a slave coming to this country under the power of his master, continues subject to that authority, or gains his personal liberty in common with the other subjects of the realm. Although not bred to the legal profession, he devoted himself to the study of the law, for the purpose of prosecuting this contention; he enlightened lawyers with the result of his researches; he over
powered opposition by the force and the closeness of
He was soon after followed in his bright course by
which he collected and brought before a committee formed to obtain its abolition, drew the attention of Mr. Wilberforce, and secured at once the services of that great man as the leader in the cause.
Few persons have ever either reached a higher and more enviable place in the esteem of their fellow creatures, or have better deserved the place they had gained, than William Wilberforce. He was naturally a person of great quickness and even subtilty of mind, with a lively imagination, approaching to playfulness of fancy; and hence he had wit in an unmeasured abundance, and in all its varieties; for he was endowed with an-exquisite sense of the ludicrous in character, the foundation of humour, as well as the perception of remote resemblances, the essence of wit. These qualities, however, he had so far disciplined his faculties as to keep in habitual restraint, lest he should ever offend against strict decorum, by introducing light matter into serious discussion, or be betrayed into personal remarks too poignant for the feelings of individuals. For his nature was mild and amiable beyond that of most men; fearful of giving the least pain in any quarter, even while heated with the zeal of controversy on questions that roused all his passions; and more anxious, if it were possible, to gain over rather than to overpower an adversary; disarming him by kindness, or the force of reason, or awakening appeals to his feelings, rather than defeating him by hostile attack. His natural talents were cultivated, and his taste refined by all the resources of a complete Cambridge education, in which, while the classics were sedulously studied, the mathematics were not neglected; and he enjoyed in the society of his intimate friends, Mr.
Pitt and Dean Milner, the additional benefit of foreign travel, having passed nearly a year in France, after the dissolution of Lord Shelburn's administration had removed Mr. Pitt from office. Having entered Parliament as member for Hull, where his family were the principal commercial men of the place, he soon afterwards, upon the ill-fated coalition destroying all confidence in the Whig party, succeeded Mr. Foljambe as member for Yorkshire, which he continued to represent as long as his health permitted him, having only retired to a less laborious seat in the year 1812. Although generally attached to the Pitt ministry, he pursued his course wholly unfettered by party connection, steadily refused all office through his whole life, nor would he lay himself under any obligations by accepting a share of patronage; and he differed with his illustrious friend upon the two most critical emergencies of his life, the question of peace with France in 1795 and the impeachment of Lord Melville ten years later.
His eloquence was of the highest order. persuasive and pathetic in an eminent degree; but it was occasionally bold and impassioned, animated with the inspiration which deep feeling alone can breathe into spoken thought, chastened by a pure taste, varied by extensive information, enriched by classical allusion, sometimes elevated by the more sublime topics of holy writ—the thoughts
“ That wrapt Isaiah's hallowed soul in fire."
Few passages can be cited in the oratory of modern times of a more electrical effect than the singularly felicitous and striking allusion to Mr. Pitt's resisting the torrent of Jacobin principles :—“He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague was staid.” The singular kindness, the extreme gentleness of his disposition, wholly free from gall, from vanity, or any selfish feeling, kept him from indulging in any of the vituperative branches of rhetoric; but a memorable instance showed that it was any thing rather than the want of force which held him off from the use of the weapons so often in almost all other men's hands. When a well known popular member thought fit to designate him repeatedly, and very irregularly, as the “ Honourable and religious gentleman,” not because he was ashamed of the cross he gloried in, but because he felt indignant at any one in the British senate deeming piety a matter of imputation, he poured out a strain of sarcasm which none who heard it can ever forget. A common friend of the parties having remarked to Sir Samuel Romilly beside whom he sat, that this greatly outmatched Pitt himself, the great master of sarcasm, the reply of that great man, and just observer, was worthy to be remarked, “Yes,” said he, “it is the most striking thing I almost ever heard; but I look upon it as a more singular proof of Wilberforce's virtue than of his genius, for who but he ever was possessed of such a formidable weapon, and never used it ?" Against all these accomplishments of a finished orator there was little to set on the other side. A feeble constitution, which made him say, all his life, that he never was either well or ill; a voice sweetly musical beyond that of most men, and of great compass also, but sometimes degenerating into a whine; a figure exceedingly undignified and ungraceful, though the features of the face