But no external action could at any time make
him swerve from a rule of conduct which he ha<j[
once laid down for himself a^ right to be pursued.
He felt warmly the honour of such a mark of respect ;
but he was no hypocrite in his wish to decline it»
Although he felt, that, the office being assigned to
him, he was bound by the resolution of the Com-
mittee to consider it as an object of his duty ; and
although, in consequence, he regularly (when in town)
♦ " History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade," vol. i.
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S.} 8LATJt*TAADE ABOLITION SOCIETY. 2S1
abmded every meeting of the Society, and signed its
Chairman every paper that was handed to him, be •
was never once seated m the chair during the long
continuance of twenty years :~^' conscious '' (says
Mr. Clarkson) ^^ that he engaged in the cause of his
fellow-creatures solely upon the sense of his duty as
a Christian, be seemed to suppose, either that be
had done nothing extraordinary to merit such a dis*
tinction, or to have been fearful lest the acceptance
of it should bring a stain upon the motive, on which
alone he undertook it */'
* «' History of the Abolition of the Slave Traded toL i.
In another publication, before quoted, the same Author tays,
** In no one instance could Mr. Sharp be prevailed upon to
take the chair. The writer of this article has attended above
* seven hundred Committees and Sub-Committees with him, and
yet, though sometimes but few were present, be always seated
himself at the end of the room ; choosing rather to serve the
glorious cause in humility through conscience, than in the
character of a distinguished individuaL"
The solution of this apparent singularity will be partly found
in the following extract from a letter to one of his brothers.
'* The Committee associated for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade have thought proper to choose me their Chairman, and
sack business has been done in my name, though I have never
yet been in the chair, but have only signed the letters that
have been sent to me ; for I previously told the gentlemen, that
il would be impossible for me to undertake any additional trou-
ble ; and they answered, that they would only desire the use
of my name and signature, and would among themselves, in
notation, undertake to write all the letters. And they gave me
a reason, which was excellent (being chiefly Quakers) : they
wished to lay aside every peculiarity which might seem toi
belong to a particular sect ; (or they hoped to have the Society.
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232^ MEMOIRS OF GRANVILLE SHARP. [IV.
The great extent of action into wbtch he had
entered previously to the formation of the Committee,
in endeavouring to excite the feelings, and call forth
the reason, of men in every branch of power in the
state, to whom he could procure access, was now
consist of all denominations of Christians, and therefore they
would write the letters just as if they were formed by myself.
This U a great cancesnon,'*
That he also felt a real desire to avoid all appearance of
individual distinction in the Committee, is evident from bis
reply to the following request from Lord Muncaster. —
7a GranmUe Sharp, Etq,
•* Sir, '^ Mnncsster Home, 18th Febrnary, 1701.
** A print of our most admirable and excellent friend, Mr.
Wilberforce, is nearly linbhed, from a picture he was so good
as to sit for at my solicitation ; and as I do not know to whom,
with so much public propriety and gratification, it could pos-
sibly be dedicated, as to you, Sir, and the Society for the Abo-
lition of the Slave Trade, I beg leave to solicit your permis-
sion that it may be so... J felt it to be an attention due on
my part to apply for your approbation, before I gave the
order for its being done. With the fullest esteem,^ &c.
Q. S. in reply.
" My Lord, ** «Tth Avgmt, 1791.
'* The Gentlemen of the Committee concur in approving yonr
Lordship's proposal for the dedication of Mr. Wilberforce'a
portrait. As for myself, I have so sincere a respect for the
general character and abilities of Mr. Wilberforce, that I cannot
think myself worthy to be mentioned expressly by name in the
dedication of his picture, but only in my office of Chairman
— ^*To the Chairman and Committee,' &c. &c — though
perhaps there would be more propriety in dedicating merely '
* To the Society ;' or, perhaps, ' To the several Societies assem-
bled throughout the Kingdom,' &c. &c."
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5.] SLATE-TRADE ABOLITION SOCIEXY. 233
no lotiger incumbeDt on him. The zeal which he
had $0 strenuously laboured to communicate, now
burned in the bosoms of thousands, of all of whom
the Committee might be said to be the representatives,
or especial delegates ; and, in his appointment to
the chair, he seemed only to receive a commission
ta watch and guard the holy flame which he had
But the views announced by the Society, in their
* The respect attached to his character in this situation i»
impressively shewn in a letter of reply from Mr. ^ilberforce, ii^
the year 170*2.
" My dear Sir, '* Old Palace Yard, April ir.
*' I daily become, if possible, more and more strongly im*
pressed with a conviction of the utter wickedness and cruelty
of the Slave Trade ; and it is my determined purpose, so long
as it shall please God to spare me health and strength, never
to relax in my efforts for its abolition. Still keeping my eye
fixed on this great object, I will ever take such steps as shalt
appear to me likely to conduct us most speedily to its attain-
ment; and I need hardly say, I shall at all times be happy to
receive the Committee's free and unreserved advice.
<* I cannot conclude, without begging you, my dear Sir, to
accept my thanks for the obliging terms in which you have made
this communication ; and I am happy in the opportunity it
affords me of expressing the unfeigned esteem and regard f
have long entertained for you. When I call lo mind that 1 am
addressing the gentleman .who led the way in this glorious
struggle wherein we are engaged, I think I feel towards you
somewhat of the respectful reverence of a son ; whilst I ara
sure, I am conscious of all the affection of a brother.
" Believe me, my dear Sir, most sincerely yours,
'* W. WILBBRFORCE.*'
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234 MEHOIAS OF ORAKVILLE SHARF, [IV^.
adoption of the title which the}* assumed^ did bot^
correspond with the hopes which'his capacious mind
had formed, and he could not admit the diminu*
lion of them without a struggle. The vast object
of his benevolence, — the abolition of slavery through**
Out the world, — appeared to him to be at stak^. He
feared it might be compromised by the adoption ^
subordinate measures ; and, while he accepted the
honour designed for him, the ardour of his character^
the zeal of his hearty and the profound interest of
bis feelings in the sufferings of humanity, all pressed
forward and burst impetuoady forth. He rose ia
the Committee, and expressed himself with vehe-
mence on the criminal forbearance of all who de-
clined to engage in the great duty of associating for
the Abolition of Slavery, as well as of the Slave
Mr« Clarkson has recorded the discussion which
took place at this meeting "*; and the following anec-
dote is added from the same authority.— Of ten
persons who were present, Granville stood singly for
including the abolition of slavery in the title of the
Society. *• As slavery f''' he asserted, " was as much
a crime against the Divine laws as the Slave T^ade,
it became the Committee to exert themselves equally
against the continuance of both ; and he did not;
hesitate to pronounce all present guilly before Godj
for shutting those, who were then slaves all the world
♦ " Historj of the Abo^ ion,*' vol. i. p. 282, &c.
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5<] CORRESPONDENCE OK THE ABOLITION. 23S
WBT, oQt of the pale of their approaching labours.'*
He delivered this, his protest against their proceed*
ings, in the energetic manner usual to him whea
roused on the subject, — with a loud voice^ a
powerful emphasis, and both hands lifted up towards
Heaven. Finding, however, that be could not pro^
duce any alteration in the views of the Committee *,
he showed no further disposition to differ from it.
Unable to effect the whole of his wishes (which he
relinquished with regret, and but /or a while^) he
felt satisfied that he had delivered his testimony
against the proceedings which circumscribed (hemi
and from that hour proved himself thoroughly dei-
sirous to aid, to his utmost ability, the part which
he found could be undertaken with greater and more
general consent So strongly again, in this instance,
was marked his distinctive character : extensive in
his ideas, enthusiastic in his conceptions, vehement
in his efforts; temperate, prudent, earnest in his
It was very early recommended to him by the
Committee to keep up a frequent intercourse with
the Bishop of London (Dn Porteus), who had ex-
pressed the most favourable sentiments of. their
design, and an earnest desire of joining their labours.
* The Committee acknowledged the criminality in both cases
(Slavery and Slave Trade), but kept steady to the AboJiHon of
the Trade anfy, as the main root ; from a belief that, if both
were attempted, neither of them would be carried.— From Mr.
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236 MEUOIAS OF GRANTILLE SHARP. [IV.
He, therefore, placing his accustomed reliance on the
operation of Christian principles, hastened to call
into action, in behalf of their endeavours for the
Abolition of the Slave Trade, i^*hatever interest he
had raised among the Dignitaries of the Church for
the more general Qsxfse which he had pleaded.
G. S. to the Right Rev. Lord Bishop of London.
'' My Lord, ** Wickea Park, Bscks, Slat Aogott, 1787.
" /ust before I left London, I received a letter from
Dr. Franklin, Governor of Pennsylvania, addressed to me ^
in the name of a new American Society, (of which he is
President,) established for the charitable purpose of
abolishing the Slave Trade; eamesdy exhorting me, in
very strong but polite terms, to continue my endeavours
against that abominable traffic. A Society has been also
lately instituted in London for the same purpose, the
members of which intend to promote a Bill in Parliament,
early in the next session, for prohibiting the African Slave
** The Archbbhop of Canterbury, to whom I commu*
nicated the subject, has assured me of his hearty desire to
oppose that trade ; and on a former occasbn, some years
ago, I obtained similar promises from nineteen other
Bishops; and I flatter myself that your Lordship, and many
others, of the Lay Peers, will very readily concur in this
common cause of humanity. But my hopes with respect to
the House of Commons are not so sanguine, though Mr.
Wilberforce, and several other respectable members, have
already declared an earnest desire to abolish the Slave
Trade. ** With the greatest respect and esteem,
•• My Lord," &c. &c.
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5.] CORBESPONDENC^ ON THE ABOLITION. 237
The foHowing letter is of the same nature.
' *O.S. to th4 Right Rev. Lord Bishop of Chyne.
** My Lord» ^ LeadeahaU Street^ London, 16th Fab. 1786.
'' The just sentiments concerning the gross iniquity of
the African Slave Trade* as welt as the impolicy of it, so
forcibly and unanswerably asserted in your Lordship's
letter to your worthy friend Dr. Bever, having been com-
municated by me (with the Dootor^s permission) to the
Committee of the Society instituted in London for the
Abolition of tiie Slave Trade, I am desired by the Com-
' mittee to inform your Lordship, that your hearty concur-
rence witii them in sentiment, and full approbation of the,
purposes for wUcfa tiieir Society was instituted, have given
them the most sincere satisfaction ; and thaX they have
enroQed your Lordship's name in their Society, as an
honorary and corresponding member, that their cause and
design may be promoted by your Lordship's abilities and
" The Marquis de la Fayette, a nobleman of great
fortune, and very considerable influence in the Court of
France, has, by his friend the Chevalier de Temant, now
in England, signified his earnest desire to establish a
Society in France on the same principles as our own;
and has expressed his hopes, that if both France and
England should really lay aside the infamous traflBc, all
* The generality of letters from the Society were written by
different members of the Committee (principally Messrs.
ClarksoD« Dilwyn, Llo^fd, Harrison, Phillips, Woods, ftc), and
merely received Mr. Sharp's signature as Cbairmao. Some few»
en particular occasions, were written by himself. The rough
draft of the present letter is among his MS. papers.
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238 MEMOIflS OF &EANVIUE SHAH?. [IV.
other nations would pi^aUy follow so good w ei^iaDple*
These two benevolent strangers were entered on the list
of onr society, as honorary and correspondiog members,
at the same time with your Lordship.
** Whether any ships for the Slave Trade iiave ever
been sent from any of the Irish ports of late y^ars, I am
not at all infonned ; but if the Parliament of Great Britain
shonld really prohibit the trade from the ports of Engtaad
and Scotland, some precaution will be necessary to pr«iEMit
onr Liverpool and Bristol slave-mongers from transfeniag
their iniquitous traffic to Irish ports, especially as the
distinct legislative rights of Ireland are now so jusfiy and
'' A prohibition, therefore, of the Slave Trade, by the
distinct Legislature of Ireland, concurrent with what |s
the national voice, or present demand, from the Parliament
of Great Britain, or, if possible, to have the honour even
of preceding, or anticipating, that British act of jnstice, is
a step very desirable, and seemingly necessary, to prevent
our unnatural hardened slave-dealers from evading the
intended British prohibition, by sheltering their inhumanity
under the distinct privileges of the Irish nation.
" With this idea, I beg leave to submit to your Lord-
ship^s better judgment the propriety of exerting your
interest and influence amongst your friends, and more
especially with the Bishops and other members of the Irish
Parliament, for promoting the above-mentioned necessary
** Tour Lordship already entertains so just a sense of
the iniquity as well as unprofitableness of slavery, that it
would be superfluous in me to urge or write any thing
iGartber to yourself on that head : yet, for the sake of
making a deeper impression on the minds of your friends
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SJ] conusPdMDxycE on the aboIiITIon. dS 9
.m Ii4lfto4f I tntit jon vitt woiife my fcaiaiidtog you. of a
yeiy ancient testiaiooy againgt slayery by the Ajrcbbiyhop
and Bishops of Ireland^ at the first council of Armagh, in
. the reiga of King Henry II,» when the venerable prelates
and clergy of almost all Ireland, after proclaiming liberty
to the EDglish slaves, declared their apprehensions and
belief that the miseries, with which their island was then
aflicted, were really the effects of God's wrath for having
'tokrattd tiavery among thmn !
*' With the greatest respect, ngr Lord," &e« &c«
The Chevalier de Teroant, mentioned in the
last letter, procured an introduction to Mr. Sharp ia
the beginning of the year 1788, at the request of the
.Marquis de la Fayette, whose wishes be was charged
to conommaicate to him for the abolition of the Slave
Trade, and for an union of the Governpients of
'France and England to that effect. Mr. Sharp
referred him to Mr. Wiib^oree, and at the samfe
time entered into ooirespondence urith La Fayette ;
tmd the names of the Marquis and his friend were
consequently enrolled among the honorary corre-
spondents of the Society.
His intercourse with Brissot, Lantbenas, and
Atbera of the National Revolatiomsts, commenced
shortly afterwards, from the same source.
- It has been mentioned in the preceding pagetf,
Ihat, when Mr. Wilberforco was prevented by illnesft
from making the first proposed motion in Parliament
in behalf of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, Mr.
pitt unexpectedly took that arduous part on hinoself^
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!240 . M£M0IR8 OF GRANVILLE SHARP* [IV*
and introduced the subject to the notice of the House
of Commons. Previously, however, (having pledged
himself to so great a national duty) he thought it
requisite to investigate the views and character of
the Association to which he was to lend his support :
he therefore requested the attendance of the Chair-
man of the Committee. Mr. Sharp waited on him^
in obedience to his commatid ; and, as vve ere in-
formed in the ** History of the Abolition," reported
to the Committee, that he had been allowed to ex-
plain fully to Mr. Pitt, that the desire of the Society
extended to the total abolition of the Slave Trade; —
that Mr. Pitt had assured him of his cordial parti-
cipation in the wishes of the Society ; but observed,
that the subject was of great national importance, .
and that it was requisite to proceed with temper and
prudence; adding, that, as the examination before
the Privy Council would take up some time, he
apprehended that the subject could not be fully
investigated in that session of Parliament, and he
should therefore propose the farther consideration oi
it in the ensuing session.
In the arduous contest for national character and
human privileged, to which this subject gave rise, it
was remarkable, that the great Statesman above
mentioned, who was then at the head of the Admi-
nistration, was found, on each parliamentary division,
in the minority ; his speeches and his vote being uni-
formly in favour of the Abolition, and those of the
party vohich generally obeyed fiis voice as uniformly
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5.] SLAVE-TRADE ABOLITION SOCIETY* 241
OA the Other side. To read the heart, is in the
power of One Being alone; but the recollection
of some few circumstances, which regard the real
springs of action in so singular a procedure, may not
Mr. Pitt appears to have first directed bis atten-
tion to the subject of the Slave Trade early in the
year 1788*— -probably at the instijgation of his friend
Mr. Wilberforce ; on whose recommendation Mr.
Clarkson, who had zealously collected information of
the mc^t useful kind on the subject, was permitted
to have an interview with the Minister. In that
interview Mr. Pitt expressed his doubts as to the
reality of the treatment of the slaves, as well as of
the mortality of the seamen in the trade, and also as
to the riches, * genius, and abilities of the African
people. " Mr. Pitt," says Mr. Clarkson, " appeared
to me to have then but little knowledge, of the
subject." To elucidate these points, therefore, Mr.
Clarkson was desired to wait again on him the next
day, with such proofs as he could bring of all that
he had stated. *^ At the time appointed," continues
Mr. Clarkson, '^ I went, with my books, papers,
and African productions. Mr. Pitt examined the
former himself. He turned over leaf after leaf, in
which the copies of the muster-rolls were contained,
with great patience ; and when he had looked over
above a hundred pages accurately, and found the
name of every seaman inserted— his former abode or
service — the time of his entry — and what had become
VOL. II. " R
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^42 MEMOIRS OF GRANVILLE SHARP. . [IV;.
of him, either by death, discharge^ or desertion-^be
expressed his surprise at the great pains which haii^
been taken in this branch of the inquiry, and cob**
fessed, with some emotion, that his doubts ulerei
wholly removed with respect to the destructive
nature of the employ ; and he said, moreover, that
the facts contained in these documents, if they had
been but fairly copied, could never be disproved."
** Me was equally astonished at the various woods^
and other productions of Africa, but most of all at
the manufactures of the Natives in cotton, leather^
gold, and iron, which were laid before him. These
he handled and examined over and over again. Od
the sight of these, many sublime thoughts seemed
to rush in upon him at once ; some of which he ex-
pressed, with observations becoming a great and a
dignified mind. He thanked me for the light I had
given him on many of the branches of this great
question ; and I went away under a certain convic*
tion that I had left him much impressed in our
Mr. Sharp's Notes confirm these sentiments : —
MS. - ' 1788. April 21. Wailed on Mr. Pitt at
' one o'clock. Mr. Pitt said, ^* bis heart was with
'us; that he had pledged himself to Mr.Wilber^
* force that the cause should not suffer ' [during his
♦ " History of the Abolitioo of the Slave Trade/' vol. i.
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S.] SLAVE-TRAOK ABOLITION tOCIETT. 243
indififpositionX 'but believed that the best way would
' be to give time to collect all possible evidencei and
' to obtain an order of the present session (if the
' rules of the House would permit, of which he would
' idform^ himself) to resume the business early in the
' next session." '
The circumstance of Mr. Sharp's interview with
the Minister may also assist in illustrating the fol-
lowing anecdote, related by Mr. Clarkson. —
" The way in which Mr. Pitt became acquainted
with this question has already been explained : a few
doubts having been removed, when it was first
started, he professed himself a friend to the Abolition.
The first proof which he gave of his friendship to it^
is known but to few; but it is nevertheless true, that
so early as in 1788 he occasioned a communication
to be made to the French Government, in which he
recommended an union of the two countries for the
promotion of the great measure *."
It can scarcely be doubted, that during Mr. Sharp's
conversation with Mr. Pitt, he had not neglected to
mention the correspondence, into which the Society
had entered with men of considerable personal in*
fluence in France. His own intercourse with them,
in particular, as the champion of the African cause,
and the overtures which be had received from that
* <' Hutory of the AboUtion of the SI«t« Trade,'' fol. it.
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244 MEMOIRS OF GRANVILLE SHARP. [IVv
country on the subject*^, were calcalated to give a
strong appearance of plausibility to the proposal
which Mr. Pitt is stated to have made f.
An occurrence about this time, already alluded
to X} while it shows Mr. Sharp's strict attention to
his official duty, presents a further instance of his
* One of the letters from Ibe Cheyaiier de TeniftQt to ICr.
Sharp, dated 28th February 1788, expresses a desire that;
*' independent of the intended (Mr. Wilberforce*s) parliamentary
motion, an address to the King should be moved for, requesting
his Majesty to propote to and enter wWk the King of France,
and other interested Powers, into snch arrangements as may
facilitate the Abolition of the Slajre Trade,** &c. — Carre^fHrn^
t In further justice to Mr. Pitt*s character, it is requisite to
state an additional testimony, given by Mr. Clarkson, in no*
ticing the event of his death. After expressing that ** be took
an active, strenuous, and consistent part in the cause year after
year,'' — ** in my own private commuoications with him " (he
adds), ** which were frequent, he never failed to give proofs of
a similar disposition. I had always free access to him. I had
00 previous note or letter to write for admission. Whatever
papers I wanted, he ordered. He exhibited also, in his con-
versation with me on these occasions, marks of a more than
ordinary interest in the welfare of the cause. Among the
subjects which were then stated, there was one which was
always near his heart : this was, the dvilizatUm of Africa*
He looked upon this great work as a debt due to that continent,
for the many injuries we had inflicted upon it ; and bad the
AboHium wceeeded sooner, as in the infaneif of his exertiom he
had hoped, Ihnow he had a plan, suited no doubt to the capa-
ciousness of his own mind, for such establishments in Africa as
he conceived would promote in due time this important end.*
X Vol. i. p. 3T0.
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5.] 8LAVK-TRAD£ ABOLITION SOCIETF. 245.