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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter XI. 1809-1810

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
‣ Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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1809, 1810.
Mr. Roscoe resumes his literary studies—letter to the Rev. W. P. Greswell—meditates a Life of Dr. Currie—assists Mr. Cromek in preparing his Relics of Burns—writes the preface to the Gallery of British Portraits—his enquiries into the History of Art during the middle ages—projects a History of the Progress and Vicissitudes of Literature and Art.—Death and character of Mr. Rathbone.—Mr. Roscoe an active member of the African Institution—communications to that Society—controversy with Mr. George Harrison—letter to the Duke of Gloucester.—Essay on the Right of Great Britain to compel Foreign Nations to abolish the Slave Trade.—Letter to the Duke of Gloucester.—Liberation of nine negroes at Liverpool—thanks of the African Institution.—Publication of “Occasional Tracts on the War.”—Letter to Mr. Whitbread—Letter to Mr. Wilberforce.—Letter from Sir Philip Francis.—Publication of “Observations on the Speech of Earl Grey.”—Letter from Mr. Whitbread.—Letter to Lord Erskine—Letter to Dr. Aikin.—Letter from Sir S. Romilly.—Mr. Roscoe’s general opinions on peace.—Early writings on the subject.

From the tumult and anxiety of political controversy Mr. Roscoe was happy to turn away, and to resume those more congenial studies, from which his mind had been now for some time diverted. The prospect of a continued war, and a conviction of the futility of all attempts to give effect to more pacific sentiments, induced him to abandon for the present his fruitless opposition. “Whilst you,” he says in a letter addressed to his friend Mr. Greswell, “still continue to live, and converse with Horace and Virgil, with Pico and Politiano, I have launched out into the stormy ocean of politics, and been assailed with all the artillery that the advocates for war and desolation can bring to bear upon me. Their attacks, however, neither alter my opinions nor disturb my peace; and my only cause of regret is, that I have not been able to impress my own convictions more effectually on the minds of my countrymen, so as to have prevented, if possible, the calamities which have since taken place, and of which it is impos-
sible to see the termination. The rude reception which my advice has met with releases me, however, unless I have a wish to become a martyr, from further service; and I begin the year by devoting my leisure to pursuits more agreeable to myself and less invidious to others,—to the examination of such unpublished papers as I have by me on various subjects, and to the inspection and arrangement of my drawings and prints.”

In the course of this year he meditated with much earnestness the commencement of a work, which his friends had long expected at his hands, and which nothing but the urgency of public affairs had prevented him from attempting,—a Life of Dr. Currie. But the leisure which he had promised himself he was deprived of by circumstances which debarred him from the performance of this grateful duty.

In the mean time, as the literary representative of Dr. Currie, he watched with solicitude over the fame of Burns. Mr. Cromek, an engraver, and a devoted admirer of the poet, having, with much industry, collected a number of Burns’s letters, and some of his unpublished poetical pieces, resolved to publish them as a supplementary volume to the edition of the works which had appeared under the superintendence of Dr. Currie. Before taking this step, however, he requested the advice of Mr. Roscoe;
who, after perusing the whole of his materials, pointed out the pieces which, in his judgment, were fitted for publication. The following letter (April 9. 1808) to Messrs.
Cadell and Davies, the publishers of the intended volume, will show how anxious he was that Mr. Cromek (in conformity with the maxim that an editor is bound to suppress whatever the author himself would have suppressed) should give to the world nothing derogatory to the high character which the genius of Burns had obtained.

“A short time after Mr. Cromek had begun to print his volume of Burns, the proofs of the first sheets were sent to me, when I was equally surprised and sorry to see that the work opened with some poems, of the admission of which I very much doubt; but which, in that situation, would have given a very unfavourable idea of the work. I immediately wrote to Mr. Cromek, entreating him to stop the press till we had settled this point, as well as some others, which I had to remark to him. In consequence of this, he got into the mail, and came to Allerton, where we have gone over the whole work; and I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, the seven sheets now printed must be cancelled, and the work begun again, although it will undoubtedly be attended with a very considerable expense. This mistake has arisen from a misapprehension; it having been settled by Mr. Cromek and me,
when he was last here, that the letters should be printed in chronological order, and which I supposed would be done; but Mr. Cromek having these poems of earlier date, thought it would be proper to begin the book with them, and unluckily sent them to press before I knew of it.

“I am particularly anxious on this subject, as I consider it a matter of great importance not only to the character of the poet, but to the credit and interest of those concerned in the publication. Should any thing be admitted which may give just ground for censure, it will immediately be laid hold of, and the book will be condemned as containing only worthless and indecent fragments, which both the poet and Dr. Currie had rejected; and not only would this affect the sale of the work, but it would also injure the character of Burns; and, perhaps, depreciate, in a considerable degree, his other writings, for the property of which you have so liberally paid. In avoiding any imputation of this kind, the credit and interests of the author, the editor, and the publishers, all unite; and I am truly happy to say that, in my judgment, there is no danger of it whatever, if prudent precautions be taken, which Mr. Cromek is not only willing but anxious to do. The materials are, in fact, excellent, and the more I examine them the more I am convinced that they will make a most interesting volume. Every thing is
now arranged for its being immediately put to press, and the only circumstances to be regretted are the loss of time and the expense already incurred.”—“I have only to add that I have undertaken to arrange the materials for the preface, and shall have great pleasure in attending to the progress of the printing, as far as my distance from town will allow, or rendering any other service which you or Mr. Cromek may wish.”

About this period Mr. Roscoe was induced, at the earnest solicitations of his publishers, Messrs. Cadell and Davies, to furnish them with a preface for their magnificent volume, “The Gallery of British Portraits,” a work in the course of which a portrait of himself, from a miniature by Mr. Moses Houghton, was published, accompanied by a short memoir.

While engaged in the political discussions of which some account has been given in the last chapter, Mr. Roscoe sought amusement and relief in the prosecution of some literary enquiries to which he had at various periods of his life devoted a considerable share of attention. The history of art, and the cause of the vicissitudes of taste had furnished him with subjects for his lectures before the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts of Design, &c., in the year 1784, and after that period the same subjects appear to have been frequently the objects of his study. In the composition of the “Life of
Leo X.” he was compelled to enter largely into the history of the revival of art; and it was probably this circumstance which suggested to him the idea of a work upon which he bestowed much labour, but which he never completed.

In a letter to Mr. William Smith, written soon after the publication of the “Tracts on the War,” he says,—

“For a few days past I have sought for shelter from discussions about war, and parliamentary reform, and the bullion committee, which have for some weeks past occupied my attention, in the darkness of the middle ages; where I am endeavouring to trace out, amidst churches, and cemeteries, and popes, and Goths, and Vandals, the slender thread by which the arts of design were continued through the storms and desolation of this gloomy period. Of this subject I have often thought, and for some years past have collected memorials, as well in prints and drawings as in books, respecting it; and, although I am aware that there is not much to be discovered by the most diligent researches, yet I have found enough to convince me that the remarks of Vasari, Baldinucci, and other historians of the arts, as to their total annihilation before the time of Cimabue, are unfounded, and that the subject deserves rather more attention than has hitherto been paid to it; particularly as it seems to me, that if the present system
of warfare and desolation continues, we shall shortly have to plunge again into a similar gulf.”

In a letter to Sir James Smith, written about the same period, Mr. Roscoe says, “I am also looking into the state of the arts during the middle ages for a memoir, of which I have good materials.” The collecting of these materials had been the study of many years; and he appears at this time to have reduced them into order, and to have prepared the greater part of them for publication under the title of an “Historical Sketch of the State of the Arts during the Middle Ages.” Subsequently this design was enlarged; and he contemplated a much more extended work, to which he intended to give the title of “An Historical Inquiry into the Rise, Progress, and Vicissitudes of Taste, as exemplified in Works of Literature and of Art.” Of the nature of this work, which was to be comprised in two volumes, an accurate idea may be formed from the following heads of the chapters which it was intended to contain:—

“Vol. I. chap. 1. Introductory Chapter on the Causes of the Rise, Progress, and Vicissitudes of Taste.
“2. Origin of Taste, as exemplified in the History of the earliest People.
“3. On the State of Literature and Arts anterior to their Rise in the Grecian States.
“4. State of Letters and Arts among the Greeks.
“5. Introduction of Works of Taste into Rome, and Progress of Literature and Art to the Death of Augustus.
“Vol. II. chap. 6. Progress and Vicissitudes of Literature and Art to the Year 400.
“7. Progress and Vicissitudes of Literature and Art to the Year 1200.
“8. Literature and Arts of the Arabs.
“9. Progress and Vicissitudes of Literature and Art to the Year 1400.
“10. Progress of Literature and Art to the Year 1500.”

In another scheme of the work three additional chapters are inserted, on the Rise and Progress of Literature and Art in Italy, France, and England.

Of this extensive and interesting undertaking a small portion only was executed. The third and fourth chapters seem to be nearly complete, and ample materials remain for the composition of some other parts of the work. Those materials consist of various dissertations upon different branches of art;—“On the Cultivation of the Polite Arts and particularly those of Painting and Design,” written at an early period; “On Painters’ Drawings;” “On the Practical Part of Painting;” “On the German
Engravers;” “On the Origin of Engraving in Wood and on Copper;” together with several detached memoirs of the Italian painters.

In the spring of the present year (1809) Mr. Roscoe had the misfortune to lose his friend Mr. Rathbone, with whom he had lived for many years upon terms of the most confidential intimacy and the most attached friendship. The affection which had so long subsisted between them arose from the congruity of their opinions on all the most important subjects of human judgment, and from the equal devotion of their minds to objects of usefulness and benevolence. The character of Mr. Rathbone was of the highest cast; and it was ever the subject of deep regret with those who knew and appreciated him, that a genius, which might have shone with the brightest lustre in the most extended sphere, was restricted to comparative obscurity. The talents for public life manifested by him on various occasions, when he came forwards in support of liberal principles, were of the first order. A friend to peace, to toleration, and to improvement, had he been placed in a situation where scope could have been given to his lofty and benevolent views, his name must have been for ever associated with his country’s happiness and honour; but confined to the narrow limits of a private station, a man framed of the clay from which in former days heroes and martyrs were
moulded, expended the strength which might have ruled a nation, in contests, the recollection of which has already past away. It must not, however, be supposed, that the labours of such a man were lost. The influence of a mind like that of Mr. Rathbone, upon the community of which he was a member, was necessarily great; and it is to the efforts of him, and of those who, like him, in seasons of difficulty and danger, openly avowed their adherence to the interests of truth and freedom, that we may attribute the progress since made in the cause of political and social improvement. A short
memoir of his friend was written by Mr. Roscoe, and printed in the Athenæum, a periodical work, published under the auspices of Dr. Aikin.* The following is the sketch there given of Mr. Rathbone’s private character:—“True excellence is always the more highly esteemed as it is the more nearly approached and the more intimately

* “You will have heard with sorrow of the loss of our invaluable friend Rathbone, who bore his sufferings with the patience of a martyr, and died with the fortitude of a hero. His character was not only excellent but of a peculiar kind of excellence, which, if accurately described, must render it interesting. It is my intention to attempt a brief delineation of it, for the ‘Athenæum,’ which may perhaps occupy a page or two; and if you will have the goodness to reserve a space for it in your obituary for the present month, I will take care it shall be with you by the end of next week, or sooner if necessary.”—Mr. Roscoe to Dr. Aikin.

known; and notwithstanding the respect paid to his acknowledged merits in public life, it was in the social circle, and in the society of his family and friends, that his character appears in the most favourable aspect. On these occasions, it was impossible not be struck with that soul of benevolence which disclosed itself in every word and look, and with that simplicity of manner which indicated that he had not a thought to conceal. As his views were extensive, and his experience considerable, so the tenor of his conversation was always instructive; and it may most truly be said of him, that a word scarcely ever escaped his lips that was not directed to some benevolent purpose,—to impart pleasure, to communicate knowledge, or to do good. His person and appearance were strikingly impressive, and conciliated attachment whilst they inspired respect. His manner was peculiarly natural and engaging; and throughout his discourse, the aptitude of his illustrations, and the playfulness of his fancy, always confined within the strictest bounds of propriety and decorum, never failed to delight his hearers.

“For a long time, the declining state of Mr. Rathbone’s health had caused the most serious apprehensions to his friends; but a few months since, his complaints attained a more alarming form, and he had to struggle with sufferings beyond what generally fall to the lot of humanity.
If there be a spectacle on earth more peculiarly deserving of admiration than any other, it is the contemplation of a firm and a virtuous mind, rising superior to corporeal sufferings, and shining forth in all its lustre amidst the ruins of its earthly frame.

“In the last period of the life of Mr. Rathbone, this spectacle was most eminently displayed. The moments that could be spared from actual suffering were assiduously devoted to the consolation of his affectionate family, and the society of his friends, with whom he conversed on his approaching death, not only with fortitude, but with cheerfulness. The faculties of his mind were unimpaired to the last moment; when, without a struggle, he resigned his spirit into the hands of his Creator.
“Thrice happy! who the blameless road along
Of honest praise hath reach’d the vale of death!
Around him, like ministrant cherubs, throng
His better actions—to the parting breath
Singing their blessed requiems; he the while,
Gently reposing on some friendly breast,
Breathes out his benisons; then, with a smile
Of soft complacence, lays him down to rest,
Calm as the slumbering infant.”

It had been the custom of Mr. Rathbone to inscribe, in a book devoted to that purpose, the names of those of his family, whom he had lost by death. In this volume, Mr. Roscoe has, in
his own hand, thus recorded the death of his friend:—

“11th February, 1809.

William Rathbone, died at nine o’clock in the morning, aged 51 years and 8 months.

“This domestic record, which contains the brief memorials of many of his beloved and respected relatives, registered by his own hand, and endeared by the warm expression of his affection, now receives the honoured name of

Of Liverpool, Merchant.

a name which will ever be distinguished by independence, probity, and true benevolence, and will remain as an example to his descendants, of genuine piety, patient resignation, and of all those virtues which give energy to a community, adorn society, and are the delight of private life.

“Through life beloved! O let this votive line
Unite in death its author’s name with thine.

William Roscoe.”


In the following sonnet, also, he has recorded the character and virtues of his friend:—

“Doom’d for a season to that frail disguise,
Whilst yet thy spirit felt its bonds of clay,
How through the gloom shone forth the imprison’d ray
Beam’d in thy smile and sparkled in thine eyes!
Prompting thee on to deeds of high emprise,
To plant thy foot athwart Oppression’s way;
To shield the weak, the sufferer’s pangs allay,
And soothe the widow’s woes, the orphan’s cries.
Thy mission now is closed. The sacred flame
From earth released, in other worlds expands,
Midst the blest regions of eternal love.
O glorious hour! when, midst her falling frame,
The imperishable soul superior stands,
Spurns her frail chain, and soars to realms above.”

From the period when, in 1806, Mr. Roscoe had assisted in founding the African Institution, he had actively endeavoured on all occasions to forward the objects of that association. Not only did he maintain a frequent correspondence with the President the Duke of Gloucester, and with Mr. Zachary Macaulay the Secretary, in which he offered many suggestions with regard to their course of proceeding, and urged especially the great necessity of prevailing upon foreign nations to abolish the Slave Trade; but he also zealously exerted himself in procuring
such information in Liverpool, as might tend to prevent those fraudulent evasions of the Abolition Act which for some years after its passing were of too frequent occurrence.

Amongst the papers which he occasionally communicated to the Institution was one, in the shape of a letter to the Duke of Gloucester (dated March 20, 1809), in which he urged the necessity of encouraging a trade with Africa, as one of the surest means of promoting the civilisation of that country. Upon this letter, which appeared in the Appendix to the third annual Report of the Society, Mr. George Harrison, a warm friend to the improvement of the Africans, made some remarks, which were afterwards published in a periodical work called the Philanthropist.* Amongst other observations this gentleman expressed his apprehensions lest the communication of Mr. Roscoe “might have the effect of damping the hopes and disappointing the expectations of many warm well-wishers to the cause of civilisation.” To a charge like this, publicly made, Mr. Roscoe conceived it to be incumbent upon him to give some answer; and accordingly, in the spring of 1811, he printed a very short tract, under the title of a “Reply to some Remarks by George Harrison, on a Communication from William Roscoe to the

* No. II., Jan. 1. 1811.

Duke of Gloucester, President of the African Institution, dated March 20, 1809.”

In this little tract he defends (what seems scarcely to have required defence) the proposition, that in attempting to civilise the natives of Africa the greatest assistance would be derived from a friendly and honourable traffic with them; “that whilst proper methods were adopted for civilising and instructing the inhabitants of Africa, the peaceful and friendly interchange of the conveniences and necessaries of life might assist in rousing their faculties to action, and engaging them by the most powerful principle in human nature to contribute to their own improvement.”—“In the consideration of this question it would have been incumbent on Mr. Harrison to have shown, from the history of past events, that countries in a state of barbarism have been civilised by persons sent as professed instructors; and to have demonstrated, on the other hand, that the production and interchange of the necessaries of life had no share, or at least a very inferior share, in producing that civilisation which has extended over no inconsiderable portion of the globe.”

On the subject of this controversy he addressed the following letter to the Duke of Gloucester, as President of the African Institution.

“Your Royal Highness will, I trust, excuse
the liberty I have taken in enclosing, for your perusal, a brief reply to some remarks made by
Mr. George Harrison, one of the Directors of the African Institution, in a letter which I had the honour to address to your Royal Highness in 1809, and of which the Institution published an extract in their report for that year.

“I confess, that as far as these remarks relate to myself, they appear, from his own statement, to be so unfounded, that I should willingly have left the decision to the candid judgment of his readers, but on further consideration, it appeared to me, that the sentiments avowed by Mr. Harrison were not only inconsistent with those enlightened views upon which the Institution has hitherto acted, but likely to prove injurious to the best interests of those for whose benefit it was established. In fact, a considerable degree of prejudice seems to prevail against all those who have engaged in a direct and legitimate trade with Africa, although their motives and conduct are as different from those of their predecessors as light from darkness, and the existence of such an intercourse is indispensably necessary to the civilisation of those countries.

“An idea has, I find, been entertained, that I had myself engaged in this trade; but, in fact, I never had in my life any share or concern in any ship or adventure. My second son is, indeed, a partner in a mercantile house in Liver-
pool, which has sent out three ships direct from Liverpool to the coast, two of which returned last year, and the third is daily expected; but with this voyage, I understand, their undertaking will close; as the duties upon African produce are such that it cannot be imported with advantage.

“Anxious as I am that every measure should be adopted that may eradicate the traffic for slaves, I cannot perceive that the regulations now proposed to parliament for that purpose will be more effectual than those which preceded them. The former act has been evaded, not because of the inadequacy of the penalties, but because of the difficulty of conviction, in an intercourse which can be carried on between the coast of Africa and foreign ports, though with the property and for the use of British subjects.

“To increase these penalties will, therefore, only induce the slave-dealers to redouble their precautions; and if they have not been convicted when punishable only by fine, they will certainly not be convicted when punishable by transportation or death. I have already too far intruded on your Royal Highness’s indulgence on this subject, but I cannot relinquish my decided conviction, that it is only by one great and virtuous effort that the slave trade can be effectually abolished, and until it can be demonstrated that power is improperly exercised when employed
in restraining inhumanity and oppression, I am compelled to retain my opinion.

“Should the enclosed paper accord with the sentiments entertained by your Royal Highness on the subject in discussion, it will give me the greatest satisfaction.”

The subject adverted to at the conclusion of the foregoing letter had occupied much of Mr. Roscoe’s attention. After the abolition of the slave trade by Great Britain, other states still continued to carry it on, and under the protection of their flags, British subjects, in many instances, were still engaged in the traffic. The consequence of this was, that the natives of Africa were deprived of the full benefit of the sacrifice made by this country, and that all hopes of permanently improving their condition were at an end, so long as the European nations were permitted to carry on the traffic for slaves. It therefore became a matter of the highest importance to ascertain the right of this country to interfere with other nations, and to insist upon the abandonment of a trade contrary to the first principles of humanity and justice. This inquiry, involving a consideration of the great principles of general and international law, Mr. Roscoe entered upon with much industry and solicitude, and the result was a Dissertation of considerable length “on the Right of Great Britain to prevent other Nations
from carrying on the Slave Trade.” The greatest care and the most diligent research appear to have been bestowed on this paper, which presents an irresistible argument in favour of the right contended for, and is, perhaps, the most closely-reasoned of all Mr. Roscoe’s writings. It displays, at the same time, that animated style, which always distinguished his compositions when his heart was deeply engaged. After stating that it was probable that the remonstrances of this country might produce the desired result without resort being had to coercive measures, he thus proceeds:—

“By such representations as these, conveyed in that firm and temperate language which becomes a powerful nation, acting in a just and generous cause, there can be no doubt that all reasons for hostility would be avoided, and that the object would be accomplished not only without injury and without danger, but with the highest honour to this country. If, however, these expectations should be disappointed; if motives of pride, of obstinacy, or of interest, a predilection for tyranny and oppression, and an insatiable thirst of African blood, should frustrate the pacific efforts of this country to relieve the injured from the jaws of the oppressor, and to deliver him that is ready to perish, let her rise in her terrors, and repress the impious rage of the enemies of their kind. Let her venge-
ance be directed on those whom no admonition can convince, no example influence, no considerations of justice or of humanity restrain, till the objects of her resentment furnish to posterity an awful lesson, that the general rights and privileges of human society cannot, with impunity, be trampled under foot.”

How deeply he was interested in this subject appears by the following letter to the Duke of Gloucester, to whom he communicated the dissertation.

“I now perform a promise, which I some time since made to your Royal Highness, and take the liberty of submitting to you the result of my further thoughts on the means that yet remain to be adopted for terminating the African slave trade. The ideas principally intended to be illustrated are, the necessity of the immediate interference of this country to induce foreign states to assent to its abolition, and the propriety and justice in case of refusal, of capturing all such vessels, of whatever country, as may be found engaged in the trade. Your Royal Highness will, perhaps, recollect that this idea was first started in a conversation which I had the honour to have with you at High Legh, and it seemed to me at that time to be a consequence of some observations which your Royal Highness had made on the subject. I afterwards reconsidered an assertion, which, I
feared, had been too hastily made, but which further deliberation confirmed; and I have now the satisfaction to know, that on the principal point of the abstract right of this country to prevent other nations from carrying on the trade, your Royal Highness entirely coincides.

“The question of the expediency of such an interference, under present circumstances, as it involves the deepest considerations of national interest, is of more difficult solution, and on this account I postponed, in my last communication to your Royal Highness, entering upon its consideration, under an apprehension that a hasty and imperfect defence of it might rather injure than promote a cause on which so much depends. Since that time, I have deliberately reconsidered my former statement, and compared it with the opinions of the principal writers on general law, and the pages I now transmit to your Royal Highness are the result of this consideration. I cannot but be sensible, that the proposing any measures which may possibly tend to increase the causes of hostility between nations, unless such measures be indispensably necessary, is highly culpable, and I should consider myself as acting in contradiction to every principle and feeling of my life, if I were to place myself in such a predicament. But, greatly as I deprecate it, and thoroughly convinced as I am that war is often resorted to
upon insufficient and even criminal grounds, I cannot admit that the dearest and most indisputable privileges of the human race are to be abandoned to the caprice, the tyranny, or the avarice of those, who, in the plenitude of their power, may think proper to trample upon them. War, when engaged in for the defence of liberty, the vindication of justice, or the succour of the oppressed, is not only allowable, but when it can be waged with a reasonable prospect of success, is indispensable; and if it were not for this eternal and unshaken resistance of right to wrong, this rising up of justice, to crush and put down oppression, the interests of the human race would be surrendered, and their destinies decided upon by the most cruel, the most odious, and the most profligate of their kind.”

In the year 1809 Mr. Roscoe was so fortunate as to receive the thanks of the African Institution, for his services in assisting to rescue some Negroes from an attempt to re-capture them in this country. A Brazilian vessel, called the Monte de Carino, under the command of a person whose name was Joze Antonio Cardozo, having arrived at the port of Liverpool, nine of the crew, who were Negroes, and had been slaves in Brazil, were immediately arrested under process from the Borough Court of Liverpool, at the suit of the captain, Cardozo, and lodged in the borough gaol. The affidavit of debt, upon which this
process was founded, stated that these men were indebted to the plaintiff for advances of money. They were carried, in handcuffs, to the prison, where they remained for about a month; when the ship, being ready for sea, the captain, attended by his attorney and a gang of men, went to the gaol and produced discharges for all the prisoners from his suit. The unfortunate captives, aware that on their release from confinement they should be hurried on board ship and carried out again as slaves, refused to quit the prison; their fellow-prisoners declared that they would protect them; and the gaoler, with a humanity which did him credit, afforded them the protection of the prison walls. These circumstances reaching the ears of Mr. Roscoe, an immediate inquiry was instituted into them; bail was, by his direction, put in, in all the actions; and, with the assistance of the magistrates of the town, who acted with alacrity in the affair, such proceedings were taken as effectually secured the freedom of the Negroes. Mr. Roscoe’s exertions on this occasion procured him the thanks of the African Institution, conveyed to him in the following resolutions:—

“At a meeting of the Directors of the African Institution, on the 5th December, 1809,—

“A letter from Mr. Roscoe to the Secretary, dated the 22d November, 1809, having been read,


“It was unanimously resolved,

“That the thanks of this Committee, in the name of the African Institution, be given to Mr. Roscoe for his humane and successful interposition on behalf of nine black men, lately confined in the borough gaol of Liverpool by process for debt sued out by a Portuguese ship-master, with the purpose of securing them till he should be ready to sail, and then forcibly carrying them into slavery. The Committee congratulate Mr. Roscoe on his having thus been the instrument of delivering nine human beings from the dreadful state of Negro slavery, and vindicating at the same time the justice of the British laws, which were fraudulently abused for purposes of oppression. The Committee also request the favour of Mr. Roscoe to communicate the thanks of the Institution to Messrs. Stanistreet and Avison, whose humane and liberal conduct and assistance in this business he acknowledges; and also to the keeper of the prison, by whose humanity the fraudulent and iniquitous purpose of the Portuguese master and his accomplices was frustrated, when it might otherwise have been carried into effect. The Secretary, in communicating this resolution, is requested further to thank Mr. Roscoe for his remarks on the general means of effecting more fully the abolition of the Slave Trade.”


Though Mr. Roscoe seems to have made a resolution, after the publication of his pamphlets on the war, in 1808, to renounce, as vain, the attempt to promote the cause of peace, yet the interest with which he viewed the subject would not permit him to remain a passive spectator of the events around him. He determined to make one effort more to enforce the opinions which he deemed so essential to the safety of the country; and with this view he collected and published, in one volume, the various tracts which, since the commencement of the French war, he had given to the world in favour of peace. This collection contained three pamphlets, already noticed, which he had published anonymously:—“Thoughts on the Causes of the present Failures:” “Strictures on Mr. Burke’s two Letters, addressed to a Member of the present Parliament;” and “Observations on the relative Situation of Great Britain and France.” To these were added the two pamphlets published in 1808, of which some account has been given:—“Considerations on the Causes, Objects, and Consequences of the present War, and on the Expediency or Danger of Peace with France;” and “Remarks on the Proposals made to Great Britain for opening Negotiations for Peace in 1807.” The volume concludes with “Brief Observations on the Ad-
dress to his Majesty, proposed by Earl Grey in the House of Lords, June 13. 1810.”* “Of the following tracts,” he says in the advertisement to the volume, “the three first were published without the name of the author, at the times of their respective dates. In thus uniting them with his later pieces, his chief object is to recal the public attention to the awful subject which they profess to discuss, and, if possible, to impress upon others those convictions which the occurrences of the last eighteen years have produced and confirmed in his own mind. How far his statements and reasonings have been justified by subsequent events, the present state of Europe in general, and of this country in particular, may sufficiently show. But whatever reception this volume may meet with, the author has thought proper to avow all that he has at any time written on this subject, and to commit it, as far as in his power, to future times, as an appeal against the promoters of a war, as unjust in its principle as it has been sanguinary in its progress and calamitous in its result.”

That his expectations of making any impression upon the country by his arguments were very humble, appears from the following extract from a letter to Mr. Whitbread, written shortly before the publication of his “Tracts.”

* Post, p. 487.


“Having, at different periods since 1793, published my sentiments on the subject of the war (some of the earlier tracts anonymously), I have lately collected together and reprinted these pieces in an octavo volume, of which I hope soon to have the pleasure of sending you a copy. Should you ever find leisure to look into these melancholy and fruitless labours, I trust at least you will find nothing in the earlier part of them inconsistent with the latter,—a kind of merit which, in these days, must from its very rarity be of some value.”

In a letter to Mr. William Taylor, of Norwich, he says, “How little I expect from these efforts I need scarcely state to you. The question of peace or war is long since gone by. There may, indeed, be some shades of difference in opinion as to the best mode of prosecuting the war; but, in the necessity of its continuance, all are agreed,—ministerialists, oppositionists, and reformers. The favourite doctrine of the latter is ‘that peace can only be substantially obtained through the medium of reform.’ I hold the converse of this to be true, and that no reform is likely to take place while we have to contend with a foreign enemy. Experience, ancient and modern, has shown, that, in proportion as nations have been endangered by war, their governments have become more despotic. This effect is inevitable. The foreign
enemy must be kept out, and for this end the ruling powers must be strongly supported. When the storm blows hard, however the crew may quarrel, the first consideration will be to take care that the vessel does not drive on a rock.”

To Mr. Wilberforce he expressed, in the following letter, the painful feelings with which he regarded the continuance of the war, and the impossibility of giving a more pacific tone to the public mind:—

“Accept my thanks for the few lines with which you were so good as to honour me on the receipt of a copy of my Tracts on the War. I know of no right that I have to intrude upon you with opinions in which, I fear, you cannot agree; but I was desirous you should see that the pacific sentiments which I have of late avowed, and which have drawn down upon me so much odium and misrepresentation, are not new to my mind; but are the result of a serious and deliberate conviction, maintained through all the changes and fluctuations of the contest, and founded on a sincere and earnest desire to promote the interests and happiness of my country. I had certainly, at times, flattered myself with hopes that these efforts might have contributed to much more important purposes; but the obloquy I have met with from some quarters, and the neglect I have experienced from the community at large, have but too feelingly convinced
me of the inefficacy of my attempts, and induced me to lament, with more anguish than I can express, that such a cause has not fallen into abler hands, and been felt and promoted, as I conceive it was entitled to have been, by those enlightened friends of humanity whose exertions and whose eloquence could not have failed of success. Disappointed in my expectations, I have chastised my mind into submission; and though I should be truly sorry to forfeit the favourable regard of many persons whom I venerate and esteem, shall console myself with the reflection, that what I have done was intended for the best.

“But I have already said more to you on this subject in the way of complaint than I have ever said to any other person; and I will not, therefore, conceal from you that, in a general view, I am tranquillised and consoled by the reflection that the Great Disposer of events stands in need of no such feeble aid as any of his creatures can give, for accomplishing any purpose which he may in the course of his providence see proper to carry into effect; and that, therefore, to lament the failure of our individual efforts is equally wicked and presumptuous.”

In the same tone of depression, or rather of resignation to evils which he had no power to remove, he addressed Sir Philip Francis, from whom he received the following answer:—


“I am not surprised at your giving up all hope of the country, much less at your intention to withdraw yourself from political discussion. An author whom I greatly respect has told me ‘that in all ages the rage of popular violence has been principally directed against the best friends and benefactors of mankind.’ So, if you are fortunate enough to escape unpunished from the public service, you must be satisfied with impunity, and consider it as a reward. There may, probably, be an exception in your favour, but the general rules of human justice are against you. The only traveller I know of whose veracity is not to be suspected, informs us that, in the island of Glubdubdrib, he had an opportunity of conversing with the spirits of the dead; and he says, that ‘having read of some great services done to princes and states, he desired to see the persons by whom those services were performed. On enquiry, he was told that their names were to be found on no record, except a few of them whom history hath represented as the vilest rogues and traitors. As to the rest, he had never once heard of them. They all appeared with dejected looks, and in the meanest habit; most of them telling him they died in poverty and disgrace, and the rest of them on a scaffold or a gibbet.’ Nevertheless, if you believe, as I do, that great faculties are given in trust, and that duty may survive hope, I cannot
allow you to quit your station. The very worst of all the symptoms in the present case, is the universal indifference of the country to the dangers that surround it. Something must be done to rouse the people and bring them to their senses; and I, for one, shall look to you for some great contribution to that service. While I am here at
Lord Thanet’s, I shall read and study all your tracts again. You cannot give me wealth or power; but you can, and shall, give instruction. I will not suffer you to forget me, if I can help it. I would rather have accompanied Charles Fox to his grave, and into it, egenus et exul uterque, than have been witness to what I heard and saw in the last six months of his life. He missed the moment—e curru descendens Teutonico. He might have commanded, as you will do, his own Euthanasia. To my knowledge, more than twenty years of his life were heroic. Farewell, dear sir; do not yet despair of the Republic.”

While the collection of tracts on the war was in the press, an address to the King was moved by Earl Grey in the House of Lords, on the subject of the war, which left little hope of peace from the exertions of any party in this country. The advocates of peace had gradually deserted her ranks, till at length Lord Liverpool triumphantly declared, that whatever difference of opinion formerly existed on the subject of the
war, he believed, amongst all sober and rational men, but little contrariety of sentiment remained. Some few there were, however, who despising these imputations, still continued faithful to their principles, and amongst these
Mr. Roscoe was conspicuous. In Parliament Mr. Whitbread, with honourable consistency, still raised his voice in the cause he had so long and so ably supported. “I much fear,” he says in a letter to Mr. Roscoe on the publication of his Collection of Tracts, “that the friends of peace are daily diminishing, and that the advocates for war are gaining proselytes. However small the band, I continue firmly attached to the standard, and am happy to have this additional proof that I have so able an associate.”

The motion of Lord Grey occasioned the deepest feelings of regret in the mind of Mr. Roscoe. He saw those to whom alone he could look for support, yielding to the torrent which he had vainly endeavoured to stem; yet even this circumstance did not lead him to forego his own individual efforts in the cause he loved. Anxious to counteract, as far as lay in his own power, the effect of Lord Grey’s motion, he immediately sent to press a short pamphlet, to which he gave the title of “Brief Observations on the Address to his Majesty, proposed by Earl Grey, in the House of Lords, 13th June, 1810,” which he printed also at the conclusion of his
Tracts on the War. In this publication he endeavours to show, that so far from peace being rendered less desirable, the progress of the war had demonstrated the still greater necessity of it, and he exposes the unreasonableness of those who were desirous of persisting in the war, lest France should take advantage of an interval of peace to increase her resources and augment her power. The low-minded jealousy which leads one nation to dread the prosperity of another is thus justly reprobated:—

“The Creator of the universe has not so disposed his works that the prosperity or aggrandisement of one state must necessarily imply the debasement or misfortune of another; and the two great communities of Great Britain and France are not less calculated to assist each other in the cause of national honour and felicity, than they are to oppose each other by arms and violence. It must, however, unhappily be admitted, that so fortunate a result must be the offspring of more generous sentiments and more enlightened views, than are at present to be expected from the recent conduct of either of those two powerful countries; and that until such an event takes place, it will be incumbent on us, by every fair and justifiable effort, to maintain ourselves upon an equality at least with our rival state; but it would be no less criminal than it would be absurd to suppose, that the mere
superiority of one state is a sufficient ground for the permanent hostility of another. In the community of nations as in that of individuals, Providence has determined that there shall be degrees of pre-eminence; and it is no more justifiable to attack a nation by war, on account only of its superior strength or greatness, than it would be in private life to assassinate every person of higher rank than ourselves. It is only by industry, by integrity, by knowledge, by the encouragement of enlarged and virtuous sentiments, by the cultivation of the human mind in every department of science and of art, that we ought to contend for superiority over others. It is by such contests only that the human race can be effectually improved, and it is these alone that counteract the calamities which the brutal struggles of physical strength have hitherto inflicted upon mankind.”

Upon the scheme of a defensive and protracted warfare, to which Lord Grey appeared to be favourable, Mr. Roscoe observes, “That war, under every form, is an evil greatly to be deprecated will readily be allowed: but when the passions are irritated by wrongs, and inflamed by resentment; when to these are superadded the love of glory and the thirst of revenge, we feel, from the sentiments of our common nature, a sympathy with those who engage in the contest, which, in victory, elevates and expands,
and even amidst defeat and slaughter, soothes and consoles the mind: but when these incentives are withdrawn; when the courage and ardour of the soldier are extinguished for a cold, calculating, and inextinguishable hatred; when valour and enterprise, the shock of armies and the tented field, are no more, and a nation of warriors devotes itself to lie in wait for opportunities to attack the enemy with advantage, and to protract the calamities of war,—we sicken at the cheerless and deathlike prospect, and feel no emotions but those of horror and disgust.

“From the infirmities of our nature, war, as an ultimate appeal, is at times inevitable; but the common interest and the common consent of mankind require that the struggle should be speedy and decisive, and that the miseries of those who suffer by its consequences, without being partakers in its guilt, should not be unnecessarily prolonged. The thunder may roll, and the bolt may fall; but when the storm is passed, let us hope once more to see the atmosphere clear, and to enjoy the brightness of day. The calamities of the physical world are temporary. Earthquakes, plagues, and tempests have their season; but a protracted warfare is a perpetual earthquake, a perpetual pestilence, a perpetual storm; and to propose to any people the adoption of such a system, is to propose that they should resolve, not only to live in sorrow, in wretchedness, and in peril
themselves, but to entail the same calamities on their descendants.”

Such were the sentiments which Mr. Roscoe wished to substitute for the violent, unjust, and destructive maxims, by which, at that time, the Government of this country were swayed. But these sentiments, as he himself truly said, were given to the winds; and the resources of the country were taxed to their utmost to support the sanguinary struggle.

In transmitting this pamphlet to Lord Erskine, he accompanied it with the following letter:—

“The decided opposition which your Lordship has uniformly shown to the war with France, from its unhappy commencement in 1793 to the present time, and the great and patriotic effects which you have repeatedly made to terminate so disastrous a contest, induce me to intrude upon you with a short publication, in reply to such part of Earl Grey’s speech in the House of Lords, on the 18th June last, as relates to the subject of peace.

“Your Lordship will readily believe that it is not without great regret that I have undertaken thus publicly to controvert the opinions of one whom I so highly respect as Earl Grey, and that in this instance I fully participate in the feelings expressed by your Lordship on the debate; but I know your Lordship would be the last man to suppose that any motives of this
nature ought to interfere with that imperative duty, which not only authorises but commands every individual, who conceives that he has any thing to advance that may serve the interests of his country, to state it freely and fully, without regard either to enmity or favour, and regulated only by the rules of decorum and the limits of the law.

“At the time the debate took place, I had collected together a few tracts which I had published at different times, from the year 1793, on the subject of the war, and reprinted them in one octavo volume, which was just ready for publication, when the unexpected avowal of Lord Grey’s sentiments, including the express assent of Lord Grey in favour of the prosecution of an indefinite war, deprived me of the hope of producing the slightest effect upon the public by any arguments which had been before advanced. I therefore thought it incumbent on me to obviate, as far as was in my power, any thing that might appear like new reasons for the continuance of hostilities; and if in this I have not been able to succeed, I am well convinced it is not because of the validity of such reasons, but of the inability of their opposer.”

The public mind had become averse to the idea of peace, and Mr. Roscoe had to regret the little effect which his pamphlet appeared to pro-
duce,—a circumstance which he has touched upon in the following letter to
Dr. Aikin:—

“How I can have delayed so long to thank you for your last kind letter, appears to me perfectly unaccountable. It is natural in sickness to reflect on our sins, and in the course of a ten days’ confinement, I vowed to St. Cosmus and St. Damienus, that as soon as I was able to hold a pen I would employ it in writing to you, and telling you how much I was gratified in finding that the observations I had ventured to publish on Lord Grey’s speech coincided so nearly with your own sentiments. This vow I now perform, and assure you most sincerely, that nothing could have been more gratifying to me than to find my statements approved by one who can look with an impartial eye, not only on the politics and parties of one country, but on the relative situation, conduct, and pretensions of all. It is to such critics alone that I confess I should wish to appeal; but, as they are of rare occurrence, I must not be surprised that this last effort should share the fate of all the rest of the same nature, and should be equally disregarded by those who are in and those who are out of office; by the friends of corruption and the friends of reform; all of whom labour on in their purblind occupations with as obstinate a blindness to all general views, as if they had no more
concern with the rest of the world, and cared no more for the destruction of our countrymen and the desolation of Europe, than they would for a war in the interior of Africa.”

From Sir Samuel Romilly, to whom he had presented a copy of his “Observations,” he received the following letter:—

“I return you many thanks for your ‘Observations on Lord Grey’s Address.’ I have read them with the greatest interest. To all your general reasonings I entirely agree; and I have been very much struck with the great force and irresistible eloquence of the concluding passages. I cannot, however, but confess to you, that the present state of Spain appears to me to throw very great difficulty in the way of making an immediate peace. I agree that there seems very little prospect of the Spaniards succeeding ultimately against their oppressors; but as long as there is a possibility of their success, I cannot think that we ought, by abandoning them, to seal their doom.* It is very true, that in an answer to Lord Grey, it was by no means necessary to discuss this difficulty, but I own I should have been extremely glad to have seen how you had considered it.

“I am very highly gratified by the kind things you say of me, and of the late unsuc-

* Mr. Roscoe’s sentiments on this question have been stated in a previous page.

cessful attempts I have made to introduce some improvements into our criminal law. I greatly lament that they cannot have your powerful support in parliament, and that the distance we are removed from each other leaves me so little opportunity of cultivating your friendship, on which I shall always set the highest value.”

With this tract terminated Mr. Roscoe’s publications against the war, which had appeared at intervals, during the course of nearly twenty years. The motives by which he had been actuated in these long-continued endeavours to prevent the effusion of blood, were founded not only upon principles of political expediency, but upon more extended views of human conduct. He regarded war as one of the worst of human evils, not only inconsistent with the interests of mankind, but in direct opposition to those Christian precepts by which the nations of Europe profess to be governed. Yet the peace which was the ardent object of Mr. Roscoe’s wishes, was far from being the peace which is coveted by the timid or the servile: it was the peace which arises from the removal, by the exercise of reason and of justice, of all the causes of contention—the peace which coexists with freedom, with honour, and with virtue.

In a short paper, written apparently about the year 1790, to which Mr. Roscoe had given the form of a sermon, and prefixed the text of
“Blessed are the peace-makers,” he has defined his own idea of those qualities in which the character of a peace-maker consists. This discourse, never intended to meet the public eye, exhibits so forcibly and clearly the principles which were the invisible spring of the unyielding and undaunted perseverance, and even pertinacity, with which, in despite of all opposition and obloquy, he continued to hold and assert his views on the subject of the war, that the following extracts will perhaps not be thought misplaced.

“That the peace-maker is in a high degree acceptable to the Supreme Being, is evident from the positive assurance of our Saviour; but, in endeavouring to obtain this honourable distinction, it is indispensably requisite that we should form proper notions of the character and office of a peace-maker, for until we know its proper scope and aim, our endeavours to attain it will be to no purpose. In all our concerns we should take care that we distinguish the mark before we draw the bow, and we shall then be sure our exertions, be they what they may, are not misdirected.

“Accustomed as we are to confine our views to the little circle that surrounds us, we often lose, or, at least, weaken, the spirit and purport of the moral precepts of our Saviour. Instead of taking them in the full extent in which he
undoubtedly meant that they should be understood, we childishly apply them to trivial purposes and occasions. It is thus that the term of Charity, that prime spring of moral virtue, which inculcates forbearance, good-will, benevolence, and kindness to all the race of man, is often confined to mere pecuniary assistance, or the giving of a trivial alms; but envy, resentment, haughtiness, and pride, are as inconsistent with true charity as avarice itself. In like manner, when we speak of the Peace-maker, we are apt to consider him as one who bestows his time and attention in healing the little breaches that, in the common intercourse of life, may arise between those around him. But though this be, in some cases, a very meritorious employment, it is far short of that exalted virtue which has entitled its possessor to the appellation of blessed, from the mouth of Jesus Christ. Let us, then, endeavour to extend our views beyond these narrow limits, and to acquire more suitable notions of the dignity and importance of the character which is here recommended to our attention.

“Nothing can be more clear, than that he who employs his time and labour in reconciling those who are at variance, without removing the cause of contention, has ill performed the office he undertook,—such reconciliations, however sincere they may be in appearance, are seldom
of long continuance. To remove, then, if it were possible, all causes of contention from the face of the earth, is the great office of a peacemaker. And though this will not be in the power of any individual; yet it is only by attending to this view of his duty, that he will be able to do any considerable portion of that great good. Nay, it is, on the contrary, very possible, that instead of being of service to his fellow-creatures upon the whole, he may, notwithstanding the sincerity of his endeavours, be doing them, upon some occasions, an essential injury. To explain more fully this important point, let me suppose that a disagreement has arisen in consequence of some civil or political law or regulation, that is evidently vague, imperfect, severe, or unjust. It may seem the part of a peace-maker to accommodate, to soothe, and to suppress the differences to which such a law may have given rise, and to unite in harmony the discordant parties. But is this attacking the evil at its root? Had the mediator a proper idea of his office, he would endeavour not only to reconcile the particular quarrel to which he was a witness, but to have the law in question amended, explained, or abrogated; so as to prevent, in future, similar dissensions. Omitting this, he has only cut off a shoot from a tree that will send out a hundred others; and so far from being of service to mankind, has, perhaps, pro-
longed the abuse, by concealing from the eye of the world its hateful effects.

“Who, then, is the true peace-maker? Not he who, sitting in voluptuous apathy, exclaims against every attempt to improve society, and remove the causes of contention, as an infringement on the doctrines of peace. Not he whose mild and timid disposition leads him to soften, to soothe, and to accommodate the dissensions that may sometimes occur, by prevailing on the unjust man to relax his harsh pretensions, or on the oppressed to submit to his further oppression.

“These are neither peace-makers, nor the true friends of peace.

“But, blessed is the man who, with undeviating rectitude, endeavours to procure for every one that to which he is justly and indisputably entitled; who, instead of reconciling the master to the slave, dissolves the odious relation; who, instead of teaching to one sect of religion, principles of toleration, and inculcating on others a factitious gratitude, contends for an universal liberty of sentiment; who, in a nation whose high privileges are reserved to one class of its inhabitants and refused to others, instead of exhorting the injured to acquiesce in their deprivations, adopts every firm and manly method of abolishing such absurd distinctions, and thereby placing all around him upon a just
and equal footing; and for ever removes those degrading, wicked, and preposterous regulations which have always been the disgrace of society, and will never cease to occasion hatred, jealousy, and contention, so long as they are allowed to exist.”

“The peace recommended in the text is not the peace of tyranny and subjection, it is the peace of equality and brotherhood. The despot may hold in awe his trembling slaves, who may quietly submit to his imperious commands; but the peace-maker, whom our text pronounces blessed, will neither be found in him who orders nor in those who obey. Let him, then, who aims at the glorious distinction, begin by divesting himself of his unjust pretensions, and removing from himself the causes of offence; let him be as willing to impart as he is to receive; and when he has placed himself on a fair equality with those around him, he will then have proceeded so far towards meriting the appellation of a peace-maker, as not to be a maker of dissensions. He will have attained, at least, a degree of negative virtue that must, in its nature, precede any positive acquirements. And let me be allowed to remark, that it is on the exercise of this disposition, that every noble and generous effort, every expectation of public and private happiness, depends. So much, then, for the character of a peace-maker, as it is connected
with individual conduct; and if the same justice and forbearance were practised by all, we should arrive at that happy period when we should experience ‘peace on earth, and good-will to men.’

“But, alas! the admonitions of reason are too ineffectual to control the passions of mankind, by which they are continually prompted to seize with avidity every opportunity of personal aggrandisement and selfish gratification. Here, then, a wider field is opened for the exertions of the virtuous and the just. And it is only in performing their part with firmness, that they can entitle themselves to the full reward that attends on the promoters of peace, and the friends of human kind. Raise, then, thy views, thou who aspirest to this dignified character, beyond the narrow limits of private life; and contemplate, as far as is allowed to mortal faculties, the views and dispensations of Providence. There wilt thou discover that the intention of the great Creator of all, is the happiness of all His creatures; and thou wilt thence feel it thy most important duty to concur, as far as lies in thy power, in promoting that beneficent end.”

Printed by A. Spottiswoode,