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The welcome intelligence flew with rapidity from mountain to mountain. Every goatherd immediately threw aside his pipe and crook, and armed in the
Staufacher, Melchthal, Tell, and Walter Furst were received by their exulting countrymen with every demonstration of gratitude which the simplicity of rustic manners would allow. The joy was universal. The opulent farmer set wide his hospitable door to his poorer neighbor, and, amid the festivity that prevailed, the names of their deliverers resounded with blessings from every tongue. The world, perhaps, never exhibited a spectacle more congenial to humanity. It was the triumph of innocence over the unjust attempts of despotism.
Of the subsequent events of Tell's life we know but little. He is said to have taken part in the war which was afterwards waged with the Austrian government, and to have lost his life in an inundation, about the year 1350. We may lament this barrenness of detail, yet enough has been rescued from the obliv. ion of the past, to excite our sympathy, to furnish a lasting lesson to tyrants, and to show us that liberty may find a champion even in the unlettered peasant, in a dark age, and amid the wildest and most rugged recesses of nature.
Who has justly obtained a celebrity over the whole civilized world for his extraordinary and unceasing efforts in the cause of suffering humanity, and for which he has been generally and justly entitled “the Benevolent Howard,” was born about the year 1727, at Clapton, in the parish of Hackney, a large village immediately adjoining London. To this place his father seems to have removed from the pursuit of his business as an upholsterer, in Long Lane, Smithfield, where he had acquired a considerable fortune. The education of young Howard was extremely superficial; and when he left school, he was put as an apprentice to a wholesale grocer in the city; but this situation not being at all to his taste, he embraced the opportunity, on coming of age, of purchasing from his master the remainder of his time. By his father's will, he was not to be the possessor of his inheritance until he reached his twenty-fourth year, and then he became entitled to the sum of seven thousand pounds, in addition to the whole of his father's landed property, his plate, furniture, pictures, &c.
Coming thus into the possession of a respectable patrimony, he was now at liberty to follow out the bent of his inclinations, which he did by setting out on his travels through France and Italy. On his return, being of delicate health and inclined to consumption, he was put upon a rigorous regimen, which is said to have laid the foundation of that extraordinary abstemiousness and indifference to the gratification of his palate, which ever after so much distinguished him. In 1762, when twenty-five years of age, he married a lady in her fifty-second year; a step he took in consequence of having received from her many marks of kind attention during a sickness with which he was overtaken. The death of his wife in a few years put an end to this somewhat imprudent connexion. Soon after this event, he resolved upon leaving England on another tour, with a view to divert his mind from the melancholy reflections which that dispensation of Providence had occasioned.
The country which Howard first intended to visit was Portugal, then rendered particularly interesting by the situation of its capital, still smoking in ruins from the effects of a tremendous earthquake. A great part of its capital, Lisbon, and thousands of its inhabitants, had been embowelled in the earth. It was to this sublime spectacle that Mr. Howard's attention was principally directed; and he accordingly took his passage in a vessel, which, unfortunately, was captured by a French privateer. This event, unlucky in itself, gave a turn to the fate of the young philanthropist, and proved ultimately beneficial to mankind. His captors used him with great cruelty; for, after having been kept forty hours without food or water, he was carried into Brest, and confined, with the other prisoners, in the castle of that place. Here, after being cast, with the crew and the rest of the passengers, into a filthy dungeon, and there kept a considerable time without nourishment, a joint of mutton was at length thrown into the midst of them, and, for want of a knife, they were obliged to tear it in pieces, and gnaw it like dogs. In this dungeon he and his companions lay for six nights upon the floor, with nothing but straw. He was afterwards removed to Morlaix, and thence to Carpaix, where he was two months upon parole.
He had no sooner obtained his own freedom, than he exerted all his influence to procure the liberation of some of his fellow-countrymen. Whilst at Carpaix, he obtained abundant evidence of the English prisoners of war in France being treated with inhuman barbarity, and he did not rest till he influenced the government in their behalf. It is to this event that we may refer the first excitement of his attention to those who were sick, and in prison, which afterwards occupied the greater part of sixteen years. Soon after his return to England, he formed a connection with an ainiable young lady, whom he married, and with her assistance he carried into effect various schemes of benevolence, for meliorating the condition of his tenantry and the poor in his neighborhood. Of this valuable assistance he was, however, deprived, by the death of his wife, soon after she had given birth to a son.
In 1769-70, Mr. Howard paid a third and fourth visit to the continent, and of which he has left various memoranda, written in a strain of unaffected Christian piety. In 1773, while in his retirement in England, he was created high sheriff of the county of Bedford. In this office he had numberless opportunities of inspecting the condition of the jails and bridewells under his jurisdiction, of remedying grievances, and alleviating the distresses of poor prisoners. The more he saw of the condition of the English prisons, the more he became anxious to pursue his investigations all over the country. Ile proceeded upon tours into several counties, and the scenes of misery which came under his notice were truly deplorable. At Salisbury, just without the prison gate, was a chuin passed through a round staple fixed in the wall, at each end of which a debtor, padlocked by the leg, stood offering to those who passed by, nets, laces, purses, &c., made in the prison. At Winchester, Mr. Iloward saw a destructive dungeon for felons, eleven steps under ground, dark, damp, and close. The surgeon of the jail informed him that in this, twenty prisoners had died of the jail fever in one year. One of the places which Mr. Iloward inspected in the