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pervaded and fettled the whole of that extenfive continent—that the banks of the Niger, not lefs fertile than thofe of the Euphrates or the Nile, had been the feat of the firft great empire—that the kingdoms of Tombufloo and HoufTa had been the AlTyria and Egypt of Africa, and that the arts and fciences had been communicated to a duller of little independent ftates, and, under the fame favourable circumftances, had been carried to the lame heights of excellence as that which they attained in European Greece—that thefe had been however in their turn fwallowed up, together with the whole of that vaft continent, by the arms of a fingle nation, the Romans of Africa, under the fhelter of whofe eftablilhed dominion the various nations throughout that fpacious extent, enjoying the bleffings of civil order and fecurity, the natural confequence had followed, that in every quarter the arts and fciences had fprung up and flourifhed—Might not our northern countries have been then in the fame ftate of comparative barbavifm in which Africa now lies? Might not fome African philofopher, proud of his fuperior accomplifhments, have made it a queflion, whether thofe wretched whites, the very outcafts of nature, who were banilhed to the cold regions of the north, were capable of civilization? And thus, might not a Slave Trade in Europeans, aye, in Britons, have then been juftified by thofe fable reafoners, on precifely the fame grounds as thofe on which the African Slave Trade is now fupported?
* However the laft fuppofition may mortify our pride, it will appear lefs monftrous to thofe who recollect, that not only in ancient times the wifeft among the Greeks confidered the barbarians, including all the inhabitants of our quarter of the earth, as exprefsly intended by nature to be their Haves; not only that the Romans regularly fold into flavery all the captives whom they took in the wars, by which on all fides they gradually extended their empire till it was almoft commenfurate with the then known world; but that our own ifland long furnifhed its (hare towards the fupply of the Roman market. Even at a later period of our hiftory, we Englilhmen have been the fubjects of a Slave Trade, for which it is remarkable that the city of Britlol was the grand emporium. That ancient city has now, 1 trufl, for the laft time, retired from that guilty commerce.' p. 8o—82. ,
This address concludes as follows; and we quote the passage, rather for its eloquence, than for any signal novelty or correct,, ness of reasoning which it exhibits.
* But it is often rather in the way of a gradual decline, than of violent and fudden (hocks,1 that national crimes are punifhed. I muft frankly therefore confefs to you, that in the cafe of my country's profperity or decline, my hopes and fears are not the fport of every paffing rumour; nor do they rife or fall materially, according to the fucceffive reports we may receive of the defeats or vi£tories of Bonaparte. This confederation opens the view into a wide field; and I muft abftain from fo much as fetting my foot on it. I will only remark, that a country circumftanced in all refpe&s like this, under an aufpicious Providence, and ufwg our various refources with energy and wifdom, has no cauft whatever for defpondency. But he who has looked with any care into the page of hillory, will acknowledge, that when nations are prepared for their fall, human inftruments will not be wanting to effect it; and, left man, vain man, fo apt to overrate the powers and achievements of human agents, mould afcribe the fubjugation of the Romans to the confummate policy and power of a Julius Cajfar, their flavery mall be completed by the unwarlike Auguftus, and (hall remain entire under the hateful tyranny of Tiberius, and throughout all the varieties of their fucceffive mafters. Thus it is, that, mod commonly by the operation of natural caufes, and in the way of natural confequences, Providence governs the world. But if we are not blind to the courfe of human events, as well as utterly deaf to the plain inftructions of Revelation, we mull believe that a continued courfe of wickednefs, oppreffion, and cruelty, obftinately maintained in fpite of the fulleft knowledge and the loudell warnings, muft infallibly bring down upon us the heavieft judgments of the Almighty. We may afcribe our fall to weak councils, or unfkilful generals; to a factious and overburdened people; to ftorms which wafte our fleets; to difeafes which thin ourlarmies; to mutiny among our foldiers and failors, which may even turn againft us our own force; to the diminution of our revenues, and the exceffive incrcafe of our debt: men may complain on one fide of a venal miniftry, on the other of a factious oppofrtion; while, amid mutual recriminations, the nation is gradually verging to its fate. Providence will eafily provide means for the accomplifhment of its own purpofes. It cannot be denied, that there are circumftances in the fituation of this country, which, reafoning from experience, we mull call marks of a declining empire; but we have, as I firmly believe, the means within ourfelves of arreting the progrcfs of this decline. We have been eminently bleffed; we have been long fpared; let us not prefume too far on the forbearance of the Almighty.' p. 349—351.
The bill for effecting the great object of Mr Wilberforce's public life, was at length brought into Parliament by the leading members of the late virtuous and enlightened administration, in both Houses. Lord Grenville introduced it to the Lords, and Lord Howick to the Commons, with the entire concurrence of almost all their colleagues. It was carried by the most triumphant majorities through evefy stage of its progress. On the chief division in the House of Commons, only sixteen members voted against the abolition, while two hundred and eighty-one gave their voices in its favour. The bill received the royal assent on the 27th of March, by commissioners; and it afforded some consolation to many persons, whose joy was damped, by reflecting that the most illustrious advocate of their cause did not live to share in this triumph, when they saw the chosen friends of Mr Fox, erecting the best monument to his memory, by accomplishing, before they laid down their offices, the work nearest his heart. *
"We cannot suffer this occasion to pass away, without reminding the friends of the abolition, how much remains to be done, even after this great measure has received the sanction of a law. To see this statute strictly executed; to watch over all the evasions which slave traders may attempt; and to pursue every hint which may be received of connivance on the part of colonial officers, or of new rulers at home, adverse to the abolition, will be the indispensable duty of those zealous and upright persons, whose efforts have already triumphed over so many difficulties, and who have, in fact, only succeeded at last, because they found a government honestly favourable to their cause.
This truth they should always keep before their eyes, that the law which has just been made, will not execute itself. If left to the care of those who, by their stations, are bound to carry its provisions into effect, it will encounter all the difficulties, from their prejudices and interests, which have so long retarded its enactment. A vigilant attention—a constant interference— on the part of the government in the mother country, can alone give life to the letter of this statute in the colonies. Should the members of that government betray the sacred trust which their predecessors have left them, it will be no satisfaction to the community, that their names may then rise out of obscurity Into universal execration. The duty of those who have wiped away from the character of the British nation, the foulest stain that ever sullied the fame of a generous people,—who have caused the slave trade to be proclaimed a crime by the law of the land,—requires one other effort,—that they shall see the sentence executed which they have obtained, and the practice put a stop to, which has at length been declared illegal.
Before taking leave of this great question, we may be permitted to indulge in one reflexion of a very pleasing nature. It is not many months since the success of the abolition was contemplated, rather as highly desireable, than as greatly to be expected; and a few years ago, hardly any man looked for it. The measure has, no doubt, been carried through by the enlightened zeal of the late ministry. But there are predisposing causes to which the ultimate result must be ascribed. This is not, we apprehend, one of the cases where the wisdom of government has gone before the voice of the people,—where great statesmen, outstripping their age, have introduced changes, barely acquiesced in
* The late minifters gave the Royal aflent to the bill half an hour before they retired. Lord Holland was one of the con^milfione«, .,
for the present, and justly appreciated only by after times. The sense of the nation lias pressed the abolition upon our rulers. Parliament has complied with the general feeling, after the eyes of all men were opened, and their voices lifted up against the combined impolicy and injustice of the slave trade. There are other cases of the same kind, which the country has begun to think upon. The state of the Irish Catholics—the policy pursued to* wards our East Indian possessions—and the propriety of a pacific system in Europe—are subjects on which men only differ, because they have not fully discussed them. The further diffusion of information respecting these important questions, will probably, in the course of a short time, leave as few enemies to the sound doctrines which sensible men hold upon them, as are now found to the abolition of the slave trade. This consideration should both encourage the government to do its duty, independent of the popular feeling, and animate the instructors of the people, whose sense of right may in the end sway their rulers.
Art. XIV. Saul: A Poem in Two Parts.. By William Sotheby Esq. 4to. pp. 190. Caddel & Davies. London. 1807.
A Scriptural subject treated in blank verse unfortunately brings Milton to the thoughts of most readers; and the name of the translator of Oberon raises expectations which it is not easy to answer. This poem has Certainly disappointed us. It is not very like Milton; except in the multitude of Hebrew names: and it is strikingly inferior to Mr Sotheby's other compositions, even in those points where we reckoned with certainty on improvement. There was great beauty of diction in the Oberon; and, Considering the difficulty of the measure, an unusual flow and facility of versification. When we found the author writing in blank verse, therefore, we naturally looked for still greater freedom and variety of composition; and expected to be charmed with all those natural graces of expression, which are necessarily excluded to a certain degree by the bondage of an intricate stanza. The very reverse is the case, however, with the work now before us. Mr Sotheby's blank verse is as remarkable for harshness, constraint, and abruptness, as his stanzas were for ease and melody; and his muse, we are afraid, is like one of those old beauties, who, having been long accustomed to move gracefully in tight stays, high shoes, and hooped petticoats, feels her supports withdrawn when disencumbered of her shackles, and totters and stumbles when there are no longer any restraints on her movements*
The name of the poem is Saul; but the hero is David; and it contains just so much of his history, as is comprehended within the period of his first appearance as a harper before the king, and the death of that monarch. In accommodating this story to poetry, Mr Sotheby has run into two opposite excesses: he has in many places adhered to the narrative, and to the verv words of the scripture so closely, as to injure both the dignity and the interest of his composition; while, on other occasions, he has departed too widely from his original, and has used a much greater license both in suppressing and in interpolating, than we can easily pardon in the case of a narrative so famuiar. The work, after all, however, is the work of a poet; or at least of one who possesses poetical taste and feeling. There is delicacy and grace in many of the descriptions; a sustained tone of gentleness and piety in the sentiments; and an elaborate beauty in the diction, which frequently makes amends for the want of force and originality. The poem is divided, we do not well see why, into two parts, each consisting of four books; and each book is introduced with a proem, more or less connected with the feelings of the author or his subject. We shall now give our readers a short account of each of these books, with such specimens as we think deserving of their attention. '• .\
The first book opens with a long account of the symptoms of . Saul's possession with the evil spirit. Mr Sotheby's theory of the case, though it derives no support from the scripture. history, is poetical and ingenious. He supposes the unhappy king to be haunted by a spectre, which successively assumes his own form and character, as he was in the days of his shepherd innocence or aspiring youth, and tortures hira with the afflicting contrast of those happy times, befora he had tasted the cares of royalty, or known the pangs of remorse, for his disobedience of the divirte commandment. The first torm is that ot a beautiful youth i». shepherd weeds, who addresses the entranced monarch in these strains.
** Up from thy couch of woe, and join my path;
And I will wreath thy fav'rite crook with flow'rs. ".