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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

Clarkson hastened to London to purchase


what proof is there, that if the Abolitionists had taken another method, the one more in accordance with the laws of mind and the dictates of experience, that there would have been at the South all this violence? Before the abolition movement commenced, both northern and southern men, expressed their views freely at the South. The dangers, evils, and mischiefs of slavery were exhibited and discussed even in the legislative halls of more than one of the Southern States, and many minds were anxiously devising measures, to bring this evil to an end.

Now let us look at some of the records of past experience. Clarkson was the first person who devoted himself to the cause of Abolition in England. His object was to convince the people of England that they were guilty of a great impolicy, and great sin, in permitting the slave-trade. He was to meet the force of public sentiment, and power, and selfishness, and wealth, which sustained this traffic, in that nation. What were his measures? He did not go to Sweden, or Russia, or France, to awaken public sentiment against the sins of the English.--He began by first publishing an inquiry in England whether it was right to seize men, and make them slaves. He went unostentatiously to some of the best and most pious men there, and endeavoured to interest them in the inquiry.

Then he published an article on the impolicy of the slave-trade, showing its disadvantages. Then he collected

information of the evils and enormities involved in the traffic, and went quietly around among those most likely to be moved by motives of humanity and Christianity. In this manner he toiled for more than fourteen years, slowly implanting the leaven among the good men, until he gained a noble band of patriots and Christians, with Wilberforce at their head.

The following extract from a memoir of Clarkson discloses the manner and spirit in which he commenced his enterprise, and toiled through to its accomplishment.

"In 1785 Dr. Peckhard, Vice-Chancellor of the University, deeply impressed with the iniquity of the slave-trade, announced as a subject for a Latin Dissertation to the Senior Bachelors of Arts: '_Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?_' 'Is it right to make slaves of others against their will?' However benevolent the feelings of the Vice-Chancellor, and however strong and clear the opinions he held on the inhuman traffic, it is probable that he little thought that this discussion would secure for the object so dear to his own heart, efforts and advocacy equally enlightened and efficient, that should be continued, until his country had declared, not that the slave-trade only, but that slavery itself should cease.

"Mr. Clarkson, having in the preceding year gained the first prize for the Latin Dissertation, was naturally anxious to maintain his honourable position; and no efforts were spared, during the few intervening weeks, in collecting information and evidence. Important facts were gained from Anthony Benezet's Historical Account of Guinea, which Mr. Clarkson hastened to London to purchase. Furnished with these and other valuable information, he commenced his difficult task. How it was accomplished, he thus informs us.

"'No person,' he states,[1] 'can tell the severe trial which the writing of it proved to me. I had expected pleasure from the invention of the arguments, from the arrangement of them, from the putting of them together, and from the thought, in the interim, that I was engaged in an innocent contest for literary honour. But all my pleasure was damped by the facts which were now continually before me. It was but one gloomy subject from morning to night. In the day-time I was uneasy; in the night I had little rest. I sometimes never closed my eyelids for grief. It became now not so much a trial for academical reputation, as for the production of a work which might be useful to injured Africa. And keeping this idea in my mind ever after the perusal of Benezet, I always slept with a candle in my room, that I might rise out of bed, and put down such thoughts as might occur to me in the night, if I judged them valuable, conceiving that no arguments of any moment should be lost in so great a cause. Having at length finished this painful task, I sent my Essay to the Vice-Chancellor, and soon afterwards found myself honoured, as before, with the first prize.

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