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so honourably, and so "successfully exerted his talents. Mr. Sharp has himself given a detailed account of the proceedings in question, which is very properly inserted in the work before us. It traces the history of his efforts to effect the freedom of Jonathan Strong, an African, who had been a slave of David Lisle's, a lawyer of Barbadoes, whose inhumanity of conduct had reduced him to utter helplessness, and turned him adrift in the streets, in 1765. He was restored to health by the care of Mr. Sharp and his brother William, who was of the medical profession; and was afterwards placed in the service of Mr. Brown, a respectable apothecary. While in this situation he was recognized by his former master, who used his best exertions to regain possession of what he deemed bis improved property. After à severe conflict, Mr. Sharp triumphed over the persecution which both himself and his African prolegée had to encounter; and availing himself of the occasion to pursue the study of the law of the case, he produced a tract “ On the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery” in England, which he submitted to the perusal of Dr. Blackstone; and which evinces the indefatigable character of his mind, the acuteness of his research, the sublimity of his patriotism, and the illimitable ardour of his humanity. Besides this, he engaged in re-editing a publication printed in America, in 1762, containing * An Account of that Part of Africa inhabited by Negroes, and of the Slave Trade," superadding a “ Conclusion," calculated to awaken the slumbering sympathies of mankind on the subject; and addressing a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury, which is perhaps justly represented as having “ broken the first ground, in England, on the general subject of the slave trade.”
In 1767, Mr. Sharp was solicited to enter into holy orders by his uncle, who offered to resign a living of more than £300. per annum in his favour; but this, though repeatedly urged upon his attention, he respectfully, but firmly, declined; stating not only his consciousness of inability, but disinclination to the office: and intimating a conviction, that he might be of more service as a layman than as a clergyman, particularly in religious controversies. This is worthy of notice, and may afford salutary instruction to the mercenary hunters after official dignity, as well as to those whose zeal sometimes surpasses their discretion, by prompting them to lay hands on “skulls that cannot teach, and will not learn."
While the suit with Lisle was pending, another case occurred, in which, by the influence of our philanthropist, one Hylas was enabled to prosecute with success the aggressor who had kidnapped his wife, and sent her to be sold in the West Indies for a slave ; and some time after, the arguments which he had advanced produced a powerful effect in the courts of law, on occasion of a trial in defence of another negro, whom he, at the request and expense of Mrs. Banks, released, by writ of habeas corpus, from on board a ship then under sail in the Downs. This was a case of considerable importance to the negro cause, and Mr. Dunning, the leading counsel for the prosecutors, holding up Mr. Sharp's tract in his hand, declared before lord Mansfield and the court, that he was prepared to maintain before any of the courts in Britain, that “ no man can be legally detained as a slave in this country.” Some other cases of a patriotic nature stimulated his active and judicious interference, and though, in one instance, his interest as a dependant opposed his efforts as a philanthropist and patriot, he did not hesitate to avow in terms which are too honourable to the writer not to be transcribed :
Although I am a placeman, and indeed of a very inferior rank, yet I look on myself to be perfectly independent, because I have never yet been afraid to do and avow whatever I thought just and right, without the consideration of consequences to myself; for, indeed, I think it unworthy of a man to be afraid of the world; and it is a point with me never to conceal my sentiments on any subject whatever, not even from my superiors in office, when there is a probability of answering any good purpose by it.” (p. 67.]
Notwithstanding the benevolent and persevering exertions of Mr. Sharp in the great cause of African liberation, and the success of particular cases, the essential point remained still undetermined; and the rapacity of slave dealers, and slave holders, was not yet countervailed. The question, whether England had a constitutional right to emancipate every resident, of whatever climate or country, was not decided till the case of James Somerset arose, which had been selected, it is said, by the mutual desire of lord Mansfield and Mr. Sharp. Somerset had been brought to England, in November 1769, by his master, Charles Stewart; and, in process of time, left him. The master seized him unawares, and conveyed him on board the Ann and Mary, that he might be taken to Jamaica, and sold for a slave. The case was argued at great length, and the general ques
tion discussed at four sittings of the Court of King's Bench; after which lord Mansfield's judgment, contrary to his original feeling, established the axiom proposed by Sergeant Davy, that as soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground he becomes free." This decision in favour of negroes was received by the people with the most obvious demonstrations of grateful joy, and Granville Sharp was regarded with an affection worthy of the cause in which he had so laboriously engaged, and so eminently succeeded. It proved also the means of awakening an intense interest on the subject, and producing a more combined and powerful operation among the philanthropists of North America. The facts in question, and the decisions of our courts of justice, together with the publication of Mr. Sharp on the Injustice of Slavery, had traversed the Atlantic; and a correspondence was soon established between him and Anthony Benezet, a highly respectable and most benevolent Quaker, who had founded a free-school at Philadelphia, for the education of black people. Benezet, and other important individuals belonging to the Society of Friends, devoted the most strenuous exertions to the cause; and distributed great numbers of Mr. Sharp's tract during the years 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772: several of the colonial assemblies were also induced to wish and solicit the extirpation of slavery, as well as the slave trade :
“ The correspondence with Benezet, if it did not inspire, at least confirmed and enlarged Mr. Sharp's desire of inqniry respecting the general subject of the African slave trade. It conducted his view to an examination of the source of the evil, and he conceived the vast design of extending his endeavours gradually, and of augmenting and strengthening his means, until he should obtain an entire abolition of the infamous traffic carried on by Great Britain and her colonies. In justice, then, and no less in honour, to the memory of the pious but humble Benezet, let it be remembered, that, although his zealous labours failed to eradicate from his native soil the evil which he deplored, they contributed to strengthen the arm of the great champion of his favourite cause, and finally to wipe away no small portion of human disgrace.” [p. 115.)
In 1774, Mr. Sharp was advanced a degree in official eminence, by succeeding to the place of assistant to Mr. Boddington, the secretary of the Ordnance Office : but, ultimately, he resigned his situation, in consequence of his objections to the public measures respecting America resignation which placed him in circumstances of great dependance, the difficulties likely to ensue from which were,
however, precluded, by the truly fraternal conduct of his more prosperous brothers. He accepted their offer to reside with them, and was domesticated in their household for several years; during which period he sedulously pursued that literary course to which he had evinced very early predilections—in which he made such important acquisitions, and issued from the press so many valuable and highly estimated publications. His writings and public activity procured him the friendship of Dr. Franklin, and afterwards of general Oglethorpe; with the latter of whom he exerted himself very benevolently in the cause of seamen, supporting the views of the general on the illegality of their impressment. In his manuscripts he records an interview with Dr. Johnson on the subject, who remarked, with his usual severity of manner, " it was a condition necessarily attending that way of life; and when they entered into it, they must take it with all its circumstances; and knowing this, it must be considered as voluntary service,- like an innkeeper, who knows himself liable to have soldiers quartered upon him.” Sharp was incapable of opposing with any success his sturdy adversary in an extemporaneous debate, but his benevolent mind assisted him in the hour of reflection to unravel the sophistry which had at first perplexed his judgment, and he thus expresses his views to a friend :
“ I am far from being ready at giving an immediate answer to subtle arguments, so that I may seem to be easily baffled; indeed, even when I am by no means convinced that they have the least weight. If this doctrine were really true, that men choosing a sea-faring life do thereby forfeit their natural rights and privileges as Englishmen, and lose the protection of the law, some immediate remedy ought to be applied, to remove so unjust a premunire from an honest and necessary calling. For whatever takes away the protection of the law, and common rights, from any man, or set of men, is, to all intents and purposes, a premunire, which, if we except judgment of death, is the severest prohibition that is known in the English laws; and, therefore, it is unjust and iniquitous, as well as impolitic in the highest degree, that the honest mariner's condition and employment should be loaded with such a baneful contingency, which must be considered as the most effectual discouragement to the increase of British seamen in this maritime island (though the defence of it depends upon their help), that could possibly have been devised.
.But we see,' says an advocate for power, ‘that it does not discourage; men are still bred up to a sea-faring life, and in times of peace multitudes are allured by the merchants' service to choose
that condition, whereby they are subjected to the impress.' True it is, that the necessities of poor labouring men compel them to earn their bread in any way that they can get it; and when a war is over, the discouragement of pressing is, in a great measure, forgot, and the number of seamen of course is again increased, But this makes no difference with respect to the injustice and illegality of the oppression itself; for if the poor man is not protected in an honest calling (which is his estate and most valuable dependence), as well as the rich man in his estate, the law, or rather the administrators of it, are unjust and partial; having respect of persons, which the law itself abhors, and which religion strictly forbids. And, therefore, if we can form any precise definition of iniquity, this partiality, of which I complain, comes fairly within the meaning of that term.” (pp. 170, 171.]
During the commencing era of American independence, the opinions of Mr. Sharp were highly appreciated,
and his personal influence distinctly sought. In 1774, Dr. Franklin sent to America 250 copies of his “ Declaration of the Rights of the People to a Share in the Legislature,” which were circulated in the different principal towns, and the work was frequently reprinted there. The object of his most anxious solicitude was, however, the reconciliation of England with her American colonies, previous to a confirmation of their independence by foreign powers. After holding some conversation with two gentlemen, whose connexions with the Americans by relationship, and mercantile correspondence, rendered them perfectly acquainted with American affairs, on the 14th of March, 1777, he waited on the secretary of state, and conferred with him on the expediency of making peace with America; and of giving such a proof of the sincerity of our government, in treating on the subject, as would effectually promote an attempt to bring that country back to its allegiance to the crown of Great Britain. During the conference, it became evident that the proof demanded must have included such an alteration in our House of Commons, as would ensure to the Americans as fair and equal rights as those enjoyed by the several counties of England. The mode of effecting this measure was then investigated, and several days were devoted by Mr. Sharp to the search and examination of precedents. He published on the subject; and tendered to the duke of Richmond his personal services in support of his propositions. General Oglethorpe aided his views, and considerable discussion ensued among the existing ministers, on his plan having been submitted to them ; but it was overruled : and the