Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands - Volume 2 - By Harriet Beecher Stowe


Against these sentiments, on the other hand, I had to urge that I had
been designed for the church; that - Page 20
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"Against These Sentiments, On The Other Hand, I Had To Urge That I Had Been Designed For The Church; That

I had already advanced as far as deacon's orders in it; that my prospects there on account of my connections

Were then brilliant; that, by appearing to desert my profession, my family would be dissatisfied, if not unhappy. These thoughts pressed upon me, and rendered the conflict difficult.

"But the sacrifice of my prospects staggered me, I own, the most. When the other objections which I have related occurred to me, my enthusiasm instantly, like a flash of lightning, consumed them; but this stuck to me, and troubled me. I had ambition. I had a thirst after worldly interest and honors, and I could not extinguish it at once. I was more than two hours in solitude under this painful conflict. At length I yielded, not because I saw any reasonable prospect of success in my new undertaking, - for all cool-headed and cool-hearted men would have pronounced against it, - but in obedience, I believe, to a higher Power. And I can say, that both on the moment of this resolution and for some time afterwards, I had more sublime and happy feelings than at any former period of my life."

In order to show how this enterprise was looked upon and talked of very commonly by the majority of men in those times, we will extract the following passage from Boswell's Life of Johnson, in which Bozzy thus enters his solemn protest: "The wild and dangerous attempt, which has for some time been persisted in, to obtain an act of our legislature to abolish so very important and necessary a branch of commercial interest, must have been crushed at once, had not the insignificance of the zealots, who vainly took the lead in it, made the vast body of planters, merchants, and others, whose immense properties are involved in that trade, reasonably enough suppose that there could be no danger. The encouragement which the attempt has received excites my wonder and indignation; and though some men of superior abilities have supported it, whether from a love of temporary popularity when prosperous, or a love of general mischief when desperate, my opinion is unshaken.

"To abolish a _status_ which in all ages God has sanctioned, and man has continued, would not only be robbery to an innumerable class of our fellow-subjects, but it would be extreme cruelty to the African savages, a portion of whom it saves from massacre or intolerable bondage in their own country, and introduces into a much happier state of life; especially now, when their passage to the West Indies, and their treatment there, is humanely regulated. To abolish this trade would be to ' - shut the gates of mercy on mankind.'"

One of the first steps of Clarkson and his associates was the formation of a committee of twelve persons, for the collection and dissemination of information on the subject.

The contest now began in earnest, a contest as sublime as any the world ever saw.

The abolition controversy more fully aroused the virtue, the talent, and the religion of the great English nation, than any other event or crisis which ever occurred.

Wilberforce was the leader of the question in Parliament. The other members of the antislavery committee performed those labors which were necessary out of it.

This labor consisted principally in the collection of evidence with regard to the traffic, and the presentation of it before the public mind. In this labor Clarkson was particularly engaged. The subject was hemmed in with the same difficulties that now beset the antislavery cause in America. Those who knew most about it were precisely those whose interest it was to prevent inquiry. An immense moneyed interest was arrayed against investigation, and was determined to suppress the agitation of the subject. Owing to this powerful pressure, many, who were in possession of facts which would bear upon this subject, refused to communicate them; and often, after a long and wearisome journey in search of an individual who could throw light upon the subject, Clarkson had the mortification to find his lips sealed by interest or timidity. As usual, the cause of oppression was defended by the most impudent lying; the slave trade was asserted to be the latest revised edition of philanthropy. It was said that the poor African, the slave of miserable oppression in his own country, was wafted by it to an asylum in a Christian land; that the middle passage was to the poor negro a perfect Elysium, infinitely happier than any thing he had ever known in his own country. All this was said while manacles, and handcuffs, and thumbscrews, and instruments to force open the mouth, were a regular part of the stock for a slave ship, and were hanging in the shop windows of Liverpool for sale.

For Clarkson's attention was first called to these things by observing them in the shop window, and on inquiring the use of one of them, the man informed him that many times negroes were sulky, and tried to starve themselves to death, and this instrument was used to force open their jaws.

Of Clarkson's labor in this investigation some idea may be gathered from his own words, when, stating that for a season he was compelled to retire from the cause, he thus speaks: -

"As far as I myself was concerned, all exertion was then over. The nervous system was almost shattered to pieces. Both my memory and my hearing failed me. Sudden dizzinesses seized my head. A confused singing in the ear followed me wherever I went. On going to bed the very stairs seemed to dance up and down under me, so that, misplacing my foot, I sometimes fell. Talking, too, if it continued but half an hour, exhausted me so that profuse perspiration followed, and the same effect was produced even by an active exertion of the mind for the like time.

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