صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

those which had been taken and condemned in the smuggling trade. His application was seconded by Mr. Wilberforce. The result was the donation of the little vessel Lapwing of about forty tons burthen. He then called a meeting, at the King's Head in the Poultry, of the mercantile men whom he had before visited. Here it was resolved to establish a trading concern, which should go under the name of the St. George's Bay Company. His next step was to petition the king, which he did in his own name, to give to this Company a charter of incorporation. In this manner things were going on to his entire satisfaction, even indeed to joy, when the most disastrous news arrived from the colony again, which would have damped the spirits and broken the heart of almost any other man. Captain Savage of His Majesty's ship Pomona, to avenge an outrage committed on the crew of a slavevessel, had burnt a town belonging to one of the native chiefs in the immediate neighbourhood; and the natives by way of retaliation had burnt the town of the settlers, the consequence of which was, that the settlement was broken up: It appeared that about 70 of the settlers, though they had been driven off, had returned, and tried to keep themselves together on the very ruins of the place. As to the rest, some went to the slave-factory at Bence Island, others to Rohanna under King Naimbanna, and others to other towns in the neighbourhood. Mr. Sharp was greatly afflicted at this news. He saw in a moment, that unless assistance was immediately sent out the colony would be irrecoverably lost, and that assuredly an opportunity would never occur again of getting such a number of persons together, so inured to the climate, and ready on the spot to support the free laws of British government on African soil. The poignancy, however, of his sufferings had only the effect of increasing his energy. He assembled immediately his mercantile friends before mentioned. It was resolved by them, that they would not wait for the charter of incorporation, but send out the Lapwing, as quickly as she could be fitted out, to afford the settlers a small temporary relief; to collect them, if possible, once more into a body; and to inform them of the progress made in establishing a trading Company to supply their future wants. The Lapwing sailed accordingly under the direction and command of Mr. Falconbridge, an experienced person, and one who had the good of the colony at heart. She arrived safe; Mr. Falconbridge found the settlers nearly all gone. He went, however, in quest of the others up the river, and presently collected 60 of them, whom he brought back and settled in a town in Fora Bay, which he called Granville Town in honour of Mr. Sharp. After this, the arrival and the errand of the Lapwing becoming known in the country, others joined their former companions in Fora Bay, till at length


nearly the whole of them returned; and thus the prompt arrival of this little vessel was the salvation of the colony again.

Soon after this the completion of the charter took place under the name of the Sierra Leone Company. Twelve Directors were chosen, among whom was Mr. Sharp. The late revered and lamented Henry Thornton, Esq. M.P. was chosen the chairman. From this period the Memoirs give the history of the colony up to the time of their publication; but it is unnecessary for us, as reviewers, to continue it. We should not indeed have entered so diffusely upon it, but that we have felt it due to the memory of Mr. Sharp to detail his undaunted courage, and his unwearied patience and perseverance, and to show that to him alone is due the formation of a colony, which will one day be the means of spreading the benefits of civilization and Christianity through a considerable part of the vast continent of Africa. Certainly without him the Sierra Leone Company would not have been formed; and had he not supported this colony, when it so often hung as it were by a thread, till the formation of this Company, all had been lost. It was he who collected the black poor, the original settlers; men who would have had no confidence in Mr. Smeathman, and who would never have ventured to trust themselves to the land of slavery, but on the faith of Mr. Sharp's word. It was he who sent out the Myro, and who kept them together when ready to fall asunder. It was he who sent out the Lapwing, and collected the different remains, after their dispersion, into one body. We trust, therefore, that we shall be pardoned for having entered so copiously into this subject. If the reader has a desire to know the subsequent history of this colony, we must refer him to the Memoirs for information.

Having now followed Mr. Sharp in his arduous task of African colonization, from about the beginning of 1787 to the beginning of 1792, (that we might have an uninterrupted view of his labours there,) we must go back to the former of these periods, in order that we may not pass over other of his transactions worthy of record.

In the year 1787, Mrs. Oglethorpe, widow of General Oglethorpe, mentioned in the former number, died at her seat at Cranham-hall, in Essex, and left. Mr. Sharp the manor of Fairstead in Essex, with a recommendation to settle it in his life-time to charitable uses after his death. Mr. Sharp was no sooner in possession of the estate, than he began to think of the best manner of fulfilling the will of the donor. His first idea was to promote 66 a general asylum in London, as a means of uniting more effectually and usefully some of the established charities." This plan, however, he gave up, after mature consideration, for another he thought it preferable

preferable to establish a reform in the London Workhouse. This reform was to be "for the encouragement of voluntary labourers there; that a que distinction might be made between industrious people when they cannot find employment, and the idle and vagrant poor, who are the proper objects for Bridewell Hospital; but more especially for the protection and employment of honest and industrious females, women-servants out of place, and poor girls." Having digested his plan, he made an offer of the Fairstead estate, after his decease, to the corporation of London, provided they would put it into practice. Many interviews took place between him and a Committee of the Common Council on the subject; but the committee, considering that it would cost the corporation a considerable sum of money to add those buildings to the London Workhouse which appeared to be necessary for the completion of the object, and that they should get no adequate profit from the estate till after the decease of Mr. Sharp, refused the offer; though he, Mr. Sharp, offered them an annual portion of the rent in the interim.

Having failed of success in this quarter, he proposed next to give the estate to the Bishop of London, and other Trustees, for the charity lately established "for the Conversion and religious Instruction and Education of Negro Slaves in the West Indies." He proposed, however, to make a reservation of a few acres of the estate for another purpose, which cannot be better explained than by quoting his own words in a letter to the bishop on the subject. "I wish," says he, "to create a small charge upon the estate, to provide for the instruction of the poor children in the parish of Fairstead itself, in reading, working and spinning, as a mere matter of justice to the poor labourers of the soil from whence the revenue arises; for it would seem a gross partiality to send away the whole revenue of the little district for the instruction of foreigners, and exclude the poor natives of the manor from the same advantages." I wish to reserve, under the same trust, about fourteen acres of land to be distributed or let from time to time in small portions, among the poor cottagers of the parish, for gardens or potatoe ground, under particular regulations which I have to propose, while they hold no other land; for without such small portions of land, mere labourers in agriculture can scarcely subsist, since they have been deprived of the benefit of common land.

It appears that the Bishop of London accepted the estate in trust; but he was obliged ultimately to give it up on account of the laws of mortmain; so that the attempt of Mr. Sharp to settle the reversion of it agreeably to the humane views of the testatrix became then impracticable.

Mr. Sharp began now to realize what he had suggested to the

bishop relative to a small portion of the estate. He says in a letter to a friend: "I have already disposed of a few acres of the land. It is laid out in small lots as cottage land; some lots consisting of one acre and a half, but mostly of one single acre only; which lots are let to a few farmers' labourers (those who have the largest families in the parish) at a low rent; the income of which is expended in the instruction of all the poor children in the parish, whose parents cannot afford to pay for their schooling. The number of children in general has been from 15 to 20, and the cottagers are perfectly contented, and pay their rents most thankfully.'

[ocr errors]

Such was the conduct of Mr. Sharp, in the capacity of landlord, to the poor labourers upon the Fairstead estate; a conduct which it becomes us to stop for a time and eulogise, not only because the principles, which led to it, would, if put into practice, be vitally efficient at all times in agricultural concerns, but because they would be particularly so at the present day, when our poor-rates have assumed a most awful appearance, and when the spirit of independence of our labourers is broken. Mr. Sharp conceives that there are duties due even from the proprietor of the soil, though he be not the farmer of it, to those who cultivate it, upon the principle that he obtains his revenue through their means; but more particularly since they, the cultivators, have been deprived of their ancient rights and privileges by the division of commons, a division, no doubt, which has frequently taken place to their detriment, and which, in our opinion, has been one, though not the greatest, of the great causes of the increase of our poor-rates. These duties, according to Mr. Sharp's notions, ought to be fulfilled in two ways;-by attending to the temporal comforts of the labourers themselves, and by the education of their children; under which ideas are evidently included both their temporal and eternal interests :-and mark how he himself attempted to realize these desirable objects. In the first place, he gave to each of his labourers, who had large families, an acre of land for gardens and potatoe ground at a low rent. This proved so beneficial to them, that, notwithstanding a rent-charge, they were all contented and thankful. In the second place, he reserved the rent arising from these gardens, as a fund for the instruction of their children, and it was efficient for this purpose. Here, then, we see, under this admirable system, the poor not only comfortable in their circumstances, but actually enabled to educate their own children themselves: and to our minds nothing is more evident, than that a spirit of independence was either generated among them or preserved; for these labourers were no more obliged to Mr. Sharp for his kindness in admitting them to become farmers, than a common farmer to his landlord, only that the former had their land at an easier rate. We mean to be understood to say, that the pay


ment of a rent took off to a certain extent from the weight of obligation. Such an example as this ought to be followed on every large farm in the kingdom; and though we might still hear of agricultural distress, we should hear of but few complaints from the labourers. An acre of good land (and none but good land should be selected for their use), one half to be planted with wheat, and the other with potatoes, and vice versa each succeeding year, would give, including two pigs which might be reared, nearly half-a-year's solid subsistence to a family of five persons. It would be strange if their wages would not supply the rest. The united sources of the produce of their land, and of their wages, would render their situation comfortable, and not only comfortable, but independent. A plan precisely similar to this, i. e. of letting an acre of land to a poor family and of introducing upon it the culture now described, has been adopted at the village of Terrington, in Norfolk, with the most signal success. The labourers there, for whose benefit it has been put in force, are not only comfortable and happy, but their spirit of independence, which had been broken, is restored. These, but three or four years ago, were constantly resorting to the parish for relief; but since the introduction of this plan they have made no application there, and the consequence has been that the rates have been much diminished. We cannot therefore too much admire the justice, the benevolence, and the wisdom of Mr. Sharp on the occasion now related. It is of a piece with his other good works, produced by the same spirit, and producing the same effects. No subject seems to have come before Mr. Sharp, to which his mind was not equal, and which did not prosper in his hands. The truth is, that he never undertook any thing in which there was not commixed with his plan, his duty to God and his fellow-creatures. Hence every thing which he undertook seemed, both in its beginning and in its progress, to have been the result of the most consummate wisdom :-but what indeed is true wisdom, as distinguished from that which is only specious, but the effusion of intellectual light tempered and limited by religion?

In this year (1787) the society was formed for the abolition of the slave-trade. Mr. Sharp having diffused so much light on this interesting and important subject, and having rendered himself so conspicuous by his persevering efforts in the cause of Somerset; by his publication of the tragical circumstances of the ship Zong; and by his meritorious interference in behalf of the black poor, and his subsequent attempts through their means to introduce colonization into Africa, was not only invited to become a member of the committee of that society, by those who were concerned in forming it, but was unanimously called to the chair. Here a wide field presented itself for the renovation of his labours. It can scarcely be necessary

« السابقةمتابعة »