Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ling in and on stage-coaches. We are not told what came of his great plan for supplying the French regiments with bibles.

In his letters and diary while abroad there is a good deal-we do not wish to peak uncivilly, but we are at loss for a better phrase--of Quaker cant on the subject of war.

[ocr errors]

On his return he drew up a short report on the foreign prisons, and this so pleased Mrs. Fry and her allies, that he was induced to expand it into a volume for publicaThe Inquiry into Prison Discipline" (1817) was the first and by far the best of his literary performances: it is a clearly arranged and neatly written book—


Mr. Gurney, though a man of good fortune, was not only a regular preacher of that sect, but a leading superintendent of its religious missions; his time was largely preoccupied, and at any rate his persuasion was incompatible with Parliament. Mr. Buxton had now borne the burden of the brewery so long and so successfully, that in the It shocks him to think that opinion of the elder partners he ought to be more money than ever the Bible Society relieved by a junior, as they themselves had had had at its command should have been been by him; the business had already en laid out in fortifying Dover and Calais. He riched him too-he might henceforth, like meets nothing but courtesy and kindness them, participate in its profits without giv-over the water why, he exclaims, had ing the bulk of his time. His capacity as a "these two nations of friends been cutting speaker was ascertained-perhaps amiably each other's throats for twenty years toover-estimated; his ambition, it must have gether!" And he talks with lofty imparbeen obvious to eyes so near, had been tiality of our mutual rulers" having touched; the Frys and Gurneys were very" judged that expedient." But he answers willing to echo Wilberforce's hint. He re- himself with most effective simplicity by the ceived, in short, every domestic encourage- anecdotes which he is obliged to record of ment to enter on a public career; and from Buonaparte's insolent and inhuman ambithis time we have frequent appearances tion and tyranny. We fortified Dover, and at Bible Society and Missionary me tings, incurred other heavy expenses, in order which drew him into close relations with the that London breweries might not be plunmost prominent persons of what was then dered nor Norfolk Quakers conscribed. by far the most active religious party in the community-the party so long graced and dignified, and so immensely advanced in influence, by the character and talents of Wilberforce. His first exertions were na tion. tually in that walk opened by Howard, which Mrs. Fry had so effectively re-opened, and to this hour no third name stands above Mr. Buxton's in connexion with it. He the compilation of facts and documents had never yet been on the Continent. One careful and valuable, and the practical inof the first uses he made of his freedom was ferences drawn out and sustained with to visit France and the Netherlands-but shrewdness and ingenuity. It not only it was not a pleasure tour; he made part of raised his name among the classes with two deputations-one from the Bible So- whom Mrs. Fry had most sway, but made ciety, whose leaders were anxious to estab- a very favorable impression on Romilly, lish branches or affiliations; the other from Mackintosh, Brougham and others, who Mrs. Fry's Prison Society, to collect details had taken up in Parliament the question of as to the treatment of convicts in Ghent and a general revision of our criminal code. Antwerp. The authorities were very civil All our readers are well aware that when in giving facilities for inspecting prisons, Mr. Peel became Home Secretary, he apand he seems to have profited as much as plied himself to this subject with energy any man who could not speak French was and decision, and that from his official likely to do. Of the other Eubissy less exertions chiefly sprang those many wise is said, but enough to show that he came as well as merciful changes in that sy3away with very painful impressions as to tem which distinguished the reign of the religious condition of the Continent-George IV. Whether our sub-equent proespecially France. The Roman church was cedure in the direction of mitigation in punnever in his eyes anything but a thinly dis-ishments has always been wise-whether guised heathenism-but he saw a total in the views of Mrs. Fry and her original diference to the whole subject everywhere, Quaker colleagues have not of late been and after a long enumeration of minor hor-carried out to a dangerous extent, is a differrors at Paris, he finishes with "the eternal ent ques ion-one of the gravest on which ejaculation of Mon Dieu !" Yet he seems, opinion is now divided. In a late article when at home, to have been fond of travel-on the Pentonville Prison we gave Sir

James Graham's last summary of facts and figures; and our readers may draw their own inferences. We must note, however, that Mr. Buxton never adopted Mrs Fry's opinion (or rather sentiment) on one point; he never gave any countenance to the crowning philanthropy which would abolish capital punishment altogether, even in the cise of murder. From this extravagance he was saved by his respect for the Bible, whose plainest words he durst not with feminine rashness misinterpret.

peculiarity marked to us--though whether, or how far, this peculiarity was personal, or, so to speak, sectarian. we are hardly qualified to judge. While his head-quarters. were in the brewery, he appears to have usually rented a villa near London in partnership with some other family of the Gurney connexion-which is not, we believe, a sort of thing at all common in this country-indicating no doubt much of the amiable, but also, perhaps, a departure from what constitutes on the whole not the least valuable among the social characteristics of Englishmen. He now became joint-t nant with a brother-in-law of a large mansion and manor on the Windham estate, near the coast of Norfolk, and throughout a great part of his parliamentary life it was here alone that his wife and child-en had a home

The success of this book gave its author additional encouragement in his parliamentary views, and he soon attained his object. At the general election in 1818 he stood for Weymouth, which in those days returned four members. Two Tories came in-and two Whigs-of whom he was one, though perhaps he hardly knew it; for in his letters he being contented with a lodging for he seems almost as anxious to separate himself from "the party" whose colors he wore, as from the violence of the blue mob. The editor says, "elections at that time present ed very different scenes from what they now afford;" and proceeds to tell us how Mr. Buxton had to preach against "corruption and bludgeons"--which, we must infer, are now alike abolished. It is not for us to guess what Mr. Buxton's definition of corruption would have been in 1818-but we find him writing on the eve of more than one subsequent election for the same place, in a style from which it is obvious that in bis mind the end might occasionally justify the means.

For instance :

“I feel warranted in depriving my family of the sum my election will cost, considering the very peculiar situation in which the slave ques tion stands. Without extravagantly overrating my own usefulness, I think it would be inconvenient for me to be out of Parliament just now (1826). There are plenty of people with more talents, but a great lack of those who truly love a good cause for its own sake, and whom no price would detach from it; and so, for this time, I feel warranted in robbing my family.”—p. 188.

As for "bludgeons," many elections of 1818 were attended with disgraceful violence: it was the same on every subsequent occasion of strong pa ty excitement. We hope Mr. Charles Buxton may never see the like hereafter.

himself in Westminister during the Session. There may have been special reasons for health-but we do not find anything of that kind stated in the book-and if there were not, the whole arrangement has to us a strange look. We understand why many members of parliament follow some such plan-they have inherited houses and estates in the country, and economy may be necessary-this separation is, perhaps the heaviest price they pay for the seat. With others possibly the opportunity of the separation may be one of the seat's charms: but in the case of a virtuous and affectionate head of a family, blest with abundant fortune, it appears an odd device to choose to be quite apart from one's own fireside for more than half the year Having no light but from the book, we are apt to conjecture that the ruling motive was neither more nor less than his now "ruling passion" for field sports--all the means and appliances of which he henceforth possessed on a scale of costly magnificence, and used and enjoyed with a zeal not surpassed in East-Anglia.

"No Arab ever took a greater delight in horses than Mr. Buxton; and several of his favorites,

especially John Bull, Abraham, and Jeremie, He was considered a very good judge, and never were renowned for their strength and beauty. hesitated to give any price in order to render his stud more complete. Of dogs, too, he was very fond. He never lost his taste for shooting, and had the reputation of being a first-rate shot. Great pains were taken by him in the management of his game, especially in rearing his pheasants," &c, &c.—pp. 162, 163.

Before we attend his father to the House of Commons, we ray obse ve that the account of his domestic arrangements before, but especially after, the point we have He must have been a problem to the reached in his history, presents features of squires. The biographer gives every now

and then a bit of his diary-we wonder if he kept one note book only, or, like Mr. Wilberforce, two or three at the same time --if there was but one, a page or two of it in extenso would have been a curiosity. Any honest diary must show enough of patchwork, but we think we might safely back his for oddity of mosaic. We mean nothing disrespectful-we give him credit for simplicity and sincerity: but we can hardly fancy any reader keeping gravity before a running panorama of devout meditations and exhortations, philanthropic plans and petitions, notes of communings with black missionaries and murderers under cncern-passionate lectures on the urgent necessity for mitigating the penalties of rape and robbery-interlarded at every other leaf with hacks, hunters, cubs, and covertsbrushes here and battues there--experiences of trolling for jack, and tribulations in wading after geese-controversies on percussioncaps, and backslidings of poachers-the only tract proof sinners, to be left to the Cromer quorum until Michaelmas Sessions next before the Millennium. We give Mr. Buxton, we repeat, entire credit for sincerity -we believe him to have been a pious philanthropist, as well as a keen shot and an expert horse-breaker-but still one cannot but feel how very queerly innodaunins would look as an epithet in any hagiography. Sad and grievous lapses in the morality of a saint are, we confess, quite intelligible in comparison. Mr. Buxton's case, however, we must also acknowledge, appears to us less puzzling than others that we might refer to. He was an exceedingly short-sighted man, and he was destitute of music. We do not believe that the imaginative faculty ever can be highly developed unless the eye or the ear (one or other of them at the least) comes in exquisite perfection from the hand of Nature and, after all, the only faculty of man in which, as far as observation goes, the inferior animals have no part, is imagination. We are 1 ss surprised than distressed to see a child blowing up a frog, or impaling a but terfly; but of 1l this world's wonders none is to us more incomprehensible than the fact, that there have been deep philosophers, solemn divines, nay, tender, thoughtful, meditative poets, who could wander from morn to dewy eve among woods and waters torturing fish and massacring birds.

There are several passages of Mr. Buxton's Diaries and letters in which he expresses dissatisfaction with these habits; but it is only the excessive indulgence in them

that he laments, and that simply as occupying so much of his time as to interfere with his study of this or that Calvinistic Treatise or Sugar-question Blue-book. Not a word of his own intimates that he who toiled for twenty years to emancipate the Negro, had ever allowed his mind to dwell for a moment on the question of man's right to inflict needless pain on any of God's humbler creatures. His son appears to have felt this silence as we do and he therefore takes pains to assure us that Mr. Buxton was a humane fowler-that he never fired unless he was confident he could kill, and had a great aversion to the opposite practice of inferior sportsmen, in consequence of which the wounded far outnumber the slain-especially at great Norfolk gatherings (p. 163). It is obvious, however, that it is only a consummate artist who can be in this sense a humane one, and that such skill can only be the result of long practice. It is therefore admitted that the preparatory practice was a course of cruelty; and, as the narrative shows Mr. Buxton to have put guns into bis boys' hands as soon as they could hold them, we doubt if the story is much mended by this filial supplement. Moreover, the supplement applies only to the shot. rawest stripling, the rudest clown, is as anxious to kill outright as the most polished gentleman in the field can be-for, to send a pheasant or partridge away torn and helpless, to bleed out life by slow degrees in its thickets, or be pecked and gnawed to death by ravens and weasels, is on all sides allowed to be discreditable for the marksman. On the other hand, the greater the skill of the virtuoso, the longer does he play his salmon. Cruelty in this department gives the measure of accomplishment. Neither father nor son alludes to the mercy of the angler. But, in fact, the whole subject is not one that will bear arguing. If you once let in the question of degrees of pain, there is an end. In no sport is the mere extinction of the animal's life the principal object-the very word implies the reverse-it implies time for pursuit—that is, time for mortal feartime for anguish. In the exact proportion that you abridge your pastime you bring yourself nearer to your butcher abridge the process as you may, you never can be so humane, in your actual character of executioner, as the tradesman in the blue apron easily may be-and as the law should compel him to be in all cases whatsoever.


Who could have looked for a paragraph like this in a Nimrod's diary ?—

[ocr errors]

"I am bound to acknowledge that I have al- Holy Spirit, that, free from views of gain or ways found that my prayers have been heard popularity-that, careless of all things but fideland answered-not that I have in every instance ity to my trust, I may be enabled to do some (though in almost every instance I have) re good to iny country, and something for manceived what I asked for, nor do I expect or wishkind, especially in their most important conit. I always qualify my petitions by adding, cerns. I feel the responsibility of the situation, provided that what I ask for is for my real good, and its many temptations. On the other hand, and according to the will of my Lord. But with see the vast good which one individual may this qualification, I feel at liberty to submit my do. May God preserve me from the snares wants and wishes to God in small things as well which may surround me; keep me from the as in great; and I am inclined to imagine that power of personal motives, from interest or pasthere are no little things' with Him. We see sion, or preju lice or ambition, and so enlarge that His attention is as much bestowed upon my heart to feel the sorrows of the wretched, what we call trifles as upon those things which the miserable condition of the guilty and the igwe consider of mighty importance. His hand norant, that I may never turn my face from is as manifest in the feathers of a butterfly's any poor man' and so enlighten my underwing, in the eye of an insect, in the folding and standing, that I may be a capable and resolute packing of a blossom, in the curious aqueducts champion for those who want and deserve a by which a leaf is nourished, as in the creation | friend.' "—pp. 80, 81. of a world and in the laws by which the planets move. To our limited powers some things appear great and some inconsiderable: but He, infinite in all things, can lavish his power and his wisdom upon every part of His creation. Hence I feel permitted to offer up my prayers for everything that concerns me. I understand literally the injunction, Be careful for nothing, but in everything make your requests known unto God;' and I cannot but notice how amply these prayers have been met.”—p. 197.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Buxton, when in the House of Commons, took an active part in the late Mr. Martin of Galway's measures for prevention of cruelty to animals. Thus in 1825 he writes to his wife :

[ocr errors]

February 25.-Mr. Martin brought forward last night a new Cruelty Bill. Sir M. Ridley and another meniber opposed it, and I evidently saw that there was so much disposition to sneer at and make game of Martin, that the bears and dogs would suffer. Up I got, and when I found myself on my legs I asked myself this cutting question: Have you anything to say? Not a syilable,' was the answer from within; but necessity has no law; speak I must, and so I did. We saved the bill, and all the dogs in England and bears in Christendom ought to how us a congratulation.” ”—p. 176.

The first important debate after he took his seat was (February, 1819) on the motion for a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the Manchester Magistrates on the occasion of the riot at Peterloo"for so gravely writes the biographer, adopting, perhaps without knowing it, the slang phrase of the riot party. Next day Mr. Buxton says to Mr. John Joseph Gurney :-

"We have had a wonderful debate; really it has raised my idea of the capacity and ingenuiand almost all outdid themselves. But Burdett ty of the human mind. All the leaders spoke, stands first; his speech was absolutely the finest and the clearest, and the fairest display of masterly understanding that ever I heard; and with shame I ought to confess it, he did not utter a sentence to which I could not agree. Canning was second; if there be any difference between eloquence and sense, this was the difference between him and Burdett. He was exquisitely elegant, and kept the tide of reason and argument, irony, joke, invective, and declamation flowing, without abatement, for nearly three hours. Plunkett was third; he took hold of poor Mackintosh's argument, and griped it to death; ingenious, subtle, yet clear and bold, and putting with the most logical distinctness to the House the errors of his antagonist. Next came Brougham-and what do you think of a fourth man who could keep alive the attention of the House from three to five in the morning, after a twelve hours' debate? Now, what was the impression made on my mind, you will ask. First, I voted with ministers, because I canBut we must go back to the commence-gistrates to a parliamentary inquiry; but nonot bring myself to subject the Manchester mament of his parliamentary career. This is thing has shaken my convictions that the magisthe entry of his diary on being elected in trates, ministers, and all, have done exceedingly wrong. I am clear I voted right; and, indeed, ministers, the bias being on the other side. Did I never need have any doubts when I vote with the debate influence my ambition? Why, in one sense, it did. It convinced me that I have the opportunity of being a competitor on the

Very well-but after all, have men more right "to mix their pleasure or their pride" with the panting agony of a stag, than with the discipline of a dancing squirrel or the

madness of a baited bull?


"Now that I am a member of Parliament, I feel earnest for the honest, diligent, and conscientious discharge of the duty I have undertaken. My prayer is for the guidance of God's

for I am not a Whig. I am one of those amphibious nondescripts called Neutrals: but how can I be anything else?"—p. 91.

greatest arena that ever existed; but it also taught me that success in such a theatre is only for those who will devote their lives to it. Perhaps you will admire the presumption which entertains even the possibility of success. I am, In the course of that Session he delivered I believe, rather absurd; but I hold a doctrine to a maiden speech on his then pet theme, the which I owe-not much, indeed, but all the little harshness of the Criminal Law, and it gave success I ever had,-viz. that with ordinary him at once the place he ever after held in talents and extraordinary perseverance all things are attainable. And give me ten years the estimation of the House as a speaker. in age-ten times my constitution-and oblivion He was not ready-he could do nothing of the truth which paralyzes many an exertion without very careful preparation-he was of mine, that "vanity of vanities, all is vanity," no debater and he had sense never to try and especially that fame is so, I say, give me at being an orator: but he seldom or never these things, and I should not despair of parlia-rose unless when he took a serious interest mentary reputation; but to one who cannot in the subject; and he arranged his facts bear fat gue of mind, who loves sporting better, with remarkable clearness. Having usually who will not enlist under the banners of partyto such a being fame is absolutely forbidden. I new and distinct information to communiam well content; I cannot expect the commodi- cate, and being by earnestness of purpose ty for which I will not pay the price."-p. 82. raised above the tremors of personal vanity, there never was a time when he would not The inconsistencies of this passage, and have been well received in the House. of his own feeling and conduct, are glaring His commanding person and voice, his -but there is something very pleasing in known wealth and influence, were in their the effusion of the new Member. Soon became second only to Wilberforce in the combination powerful advantages. He soon esteem of his own party, a small one in the House, but a large and most important one out of it.

afterwards there was a rumor of his old friend North's desiring to come into the House-and his letter on that occasion shows how he had already studied the


"April 19.-Perhaps you will like to hear the impression the House makes upon me. I do not wonder that so many distinguished men have failed in it. The speaking required is of a very peculiar kind the House loves good sense and joking, and nothing else; and the object of its utter aversion is that species of eloquence which may be called Philippian. There are not three

men from whom a fiue simile or sentiment would be tolerated; all attempts of the kind are punished with general laughter. An easy flow of sterling, forcible, plain sense is indispensable; and this, combined with great powers of sar-, casm, gives Brougham his station. Canning is an exception to this rule. His reason is seldom above mediocrity; but then it is recommended by language so wonderfully happy, by a manner so exquisitely elegant, and by wit so clear, so pungent, and so unpremeditated, that he contrives to beguile the House of its austerity. Tierney has never exerted himself much in my hearing. Wilberforce has more native eloquence than any of them, but he takes no pains, and allows himself to wander from his subject: he holds a very high rank in the estimation of the House. And now let me tell you a secret these great creatures turn out, when viewed closely, to be but men, and men with whom you need not fear competition. I again, therefore, say, Come among us,' and I shall be greatly deceived if you do not hold a foremost place. I know you will be a Tory; you always were one in heart, and your wife will make you still worse; but we will contrive to agree together,

In March, 1820, having been again success'ul at Weymouth (although his " eight children" are mentioned in the diary as arguments against the contest), he visits Mr. William Forster, a Quaker who had married one of his sisters, and who had just returned from a missionary expedition to America. He writes thus to Mr. J. J. Gurney:

"How truly and exactly do the words They left all and followed him, convey my view of William's two years' absence from a home, a wife, a boy (not to mention the dear horse, and ducks, and flowers), the very darlings of his heart, all his wishes and desires centring in this spot! Well, I cannot pity him, I am more inclined to envy one who is wise enough to make a bargain so incontestibly good. I went to Meeting with him twice to-day; his morning sermon on Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding: In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths, was one of the very best I ever heard. But the text is one particularly interesting to me. I return home on Wednesday, and mean to study hard till Parliament mee's, having at this time the following subjects in my mind:-The Criminal Law; the Prisons; the Police; Botany Bay; the Slave Trade; the Practice of burning Widows in India; Lotteries; Colonization; viz. Land for supporting Schools, and emancipation of Slaves; the Prosecution of the Quarterly Review by Order of the House, for Libels on America :-cum multis aliis.' ”—p. 95.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »