LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter IX. 1806-1807

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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Requisition to Mr. Roscoe to become a candidate for the representation of Liverpool—commencement of the election—state of parties—his return—celebration of his election—his speech on that occasion—leaves Liverpool to attend his parliamentary duties—his feelings on his change of situation—letters to Mr. Rathbone and to the Rev. W. Shepherd.—Mrs. Roscoe joins him in London—letter from her.—Debate on the Slave Trade, and Mr. Roscoe’s speech.—Letter to Mr. Shepherd.—Speech on Sir S. Romilly’s Bill for subjecting Real Estates to simple Contract Debts.—Dissolution of the Ministry.—His speech on Mr. Littleton’s motion.—Speech on Mr. Whitbread’s Bill for the Education of the Poor.—Parliamentary patronage.—He assists in founding the African Institution—his speech on that occasion—termination of his parliamentary career—riot on his return to Liverpool—declines to come forward again as a candidate—his address—address to him.—Letter from Dr. Parr.—He is nominated without his concurrence—his address on the conclusion of the election—address to the freemen.—Letter to Dr. Smith, and answer.—Refuses the appointment of Deputy Lieutenant.

Although from a very early period of life Mr. Roscoe had taken a deep interest in public affairs, and had manifested, not only by his writings, but also by the part he had taken in promoting public meetings in Liverpool, the strong desire he felt to render himself useful to the country, he had yet never entertained the idea that he should be called upon to fill the responsible situation of a representative of the people. It was therefore with the greatest surprise that, on the eve of the general election in 1806, he received a requisition from a number of the most respectable burgesses of Liverpool, requesting him to come forward as a candidate for the representation of his native town. In the selection of a person to oppose the individuals who had long represented the borough, the friends of Mr. Roscoe were actuated by many considerations. His well known attachment to liberal principles; his long connection with the town; his acquaintance with business; his celebrity as a writer; and the universal respect with which
his personal character was regarded, were powerful recommendations in his favour; while the warm attachment of his numerous private friends added zeal to the efforts of those who supported him merely on public grounds. On the 30th of October, only two days before the commencement of the election, Mr. Roscoe received the requisition; on the following day he issued his address to the electors, and on the 1st of November the election commenced. The contest was a severe one. Of the former members, who again came forward as candidates,
General Gascoigne had represented the borough for ten, and General Tarleton for sixteen years. The former was a zealous supporter of Mr. Pitt’s administration; and had recommended himself to the corporation and to the merchants by his active attention to their interests. General Tarleton, after a long alliance with the Whigs, had joined the party of their adversaries; and though he had thus forfeited the support of many of his former partisans, he was still surrounded by a considerable body of personal friends. The party of General Gascoigne, which included the Corporation of Liverpool, finding the opposition on the part of Mr. Roscoe likely to become formidable, effected a junction with the friends of General Tarleton; in the hope that, by splitting the votes of their mutual supporters, they should be enabled to exclude the new candidate. The
friends of Mr. Roscoe, considerable in point of numbers, and distinguished by their respectability, wealth, and intelligence, comprised not only the Whigs, but persons of every shade of opinion attached to liberal principles. Though the ardent zeal with which they engaged in the contest seemed to promise ultimate success, yet for several days the system of splitting votes kept the other candidates at the head of the poll. It was not until the fifth day of the election, that Mr. Roscoe obtained a majority even on the day’s poll; but on that day it became obvious that the strength of his adversaries was exhausted; and on the seventh day the contest terminated, leaving Mr. Roscoe at the head of the poll, with a majority of nearly two hundred votes over General Tarleton, and of thirteen over General Gascoigne. When the number of single votes given for the respective candidates was examined, it was found that General Gascoigne had received 289; General Tarleton, 292; and Mr. Roscoe, 867.

Throughout the whole of the election Mr. Roscoe had been the popular candidate; the number of his supporters in the town quadrupling those of either of his antagonists.* His

* In the preface to “An Account of the Election,” published by a supporter of one of Mr. Roscoe’s adversaries, it is said,—“At this period the popular cry was completely in

return, therefore, was hailed with the most enthusiastic rejoicings; and he was chaired through a greater assemblage of people than the town had probably ever before witnessed.

The return of Mr. Roscoe was celebrated on the 25th Of November, by a large and respectable meeting of his friends, when he took the opportunity of declaring, more at large than he had hitherto done, the principles by which his public conduct would be guided. After adverting to the situation of the Continent, and expressing his hope that the course of events might lead to the accomplishment of that most desirable object, an honourable and lasting peace, and after pointing out the necessity of retrenchment, he entered upon the two great questions, of the African Slave Trade and of Parliamentary Reform. To speak of the former in an assembly where some were present who were still engaged in the traffic was a task of considerable difficulty; but Mr. Roscoe did not hesitate to avow, in the most distinct manner, his adherence to the opinions which he had so long held on the subject. He contended, indeed, as the justice of the case obviously required, that as the trade had been sanctioned by parliament, and long continued

favour of Mr. Roscoe; and to walk the streets quietly in an evening, it was necessary to re-echo his name to the innumerable persons who saluted you with it.”

under the authority of the government, the persons engaged in it were entitled to a full compensation for the losses they might sustain; but he pointed out the propriety of looking to other branches of commerce, and particularly to the East India trade, for an equivalent. On the question of parliamentary reform he thus expressed himself:—

“The other subject, on which I wish to say a few words, is one of considerable moment; it is that which is usually called a Reform in Parliament. But before I proceed, it may be necessary to enquire, what is meant by a reform in parliament? If by a reform in parliament be meant any alteration in the established constitution of this country, as it has long existed in its three estates of king, lords, and commons, then I declare I am totally averse to any reform in parliament. I consider the king as the keystone of the arch of the constitution, and that if he were taken away, the whole must inevitably fall into ruins. I consider the nobility as a body of hereditary counsellors, adding dignity to the crown, and forming a powerful and useful barrier, on many occasions, between the crown and the people. I esteem the House of Commons, properly purified and constructed, as the legitimate organ of the public voice; and, therefore, if any innovation be attempted upon any one of these, to that you will always find me a
decided enemy. But if by a reform in parliament be meant the purifying of the House of Commons from all kinds of bribery and corruption, whether that of electors, or of those who sit in that House, then I am a friend to reform in parliament. If it should be proposed that the elective franchise should be granted to great towns, and extensive bodies of men who do not at present enjoy them, then I am a friend to a reform in parliament. If it should appear that insignificant and corrupt boroughs have from time to time tainted the dignity of the house, and it should be thought proper to deprive them of the right of election, then I shall be found an advocate for a reform in parliament.”

The principles of reform, professed upon this occasion by Mr. Roscoe, and in a few years afterwards more fully developed in a letter addressed to the present Lord Chancellor, are in effect the same which have since formed the basis of the great scheme so happily accomplished under the auspices of Lord Grey.

Parliament having assembled early in the year 1807, Mr. Roscoe, unattended by any of his family, left Liverpool for the metropolis. Upon his entrance into public life he had many difficulties to contend with. He was called away from the active management of a very extensive mercantile concern, upon the prosperity of which
he was entirely dependent, and, unfortunately, soon after his election, his partner
Mr. Leyland, whose name stood at the head of the firm, and whose wealth contributed to its stability, withdrew suddenly from the partnership. These circumstances, together with his separation from Mrs. Roscoe and his family, made his removal from Liverpool a source of much anxiety and disquiet to him. In addition to this, he felt no inconsiderable difficulty in adapting himself to the new mode of life which his public duties required. He had gone into parliament at a more advanced age than is usual, and with the weight of much public and private business of importance pressing upon him. The novelty of his situation became, in some degree, painful to him. He was conscious, also, that much was expected from him, which naturally increased his anxiety. His change of life was far, therefore, from contributing to his happiness. In a confidential letter to his friend Mr. Rathbone, written soon after taking his seat, he thus expressed the feelings under which he laboured:—

“The rest of your letter, my dear friend, rather oppresses than cheers me, in my present difficult and laborious situation. If my friends have formed such high notions of the extraordinary effects which I am to produce in my public character, I fear they will only meet with disappointment, and that I must reconcile my-
self to that failure with which I am so strongly threatened. Excepting on the first night on which I entered the House, there has been no debate on a popular subject; and though I had some intention of speaking, yet, upon the whole, I believe it was better on many accounts that I declined it. I find great caution necessary on my first outset; and my present resolution is not to engage in any hasty or precipitate measures, nor to commit myself in any way where I cannot maintain my ground. For this reason you must expect at present to hear but little of me in public; but if on that account you think that I am insensible to the great objects of your letter, you will not do justice either to my intentions or my feelings.”

In reply to a letter from one of the most valued of his friends, the Rev. W. Shepherd, making some suggestions with regard to his new course of life, Mr. Roscoe says, “As to the rest of your cautions, they point not out the rocks on which I am likely to split. Deeper thoughts oppress and agitate me. I ruminate much, and do nothing; yet I keep some objects in view, of which I may say with Milton, ‘The accomplishment of them lies not but in a power above man’s to perform; but that none hath by more studious ways endeavoured, and with more unwearied spirit that none shall, that I dare almost aver of myself, as far as life and free leisure will
extend.’ I shall only add in the words of the same great man, ‘De cætero quidem, quid de me statu erit Deus, nescio.’ Believe me, however, always most affectionately yours.”

In another letter, written soon afterwards to the same correspondent, he says, “You cannot readily conceive the difficulties that are to be got over in the House of Commons, particularly in some minds, before a person can acquire the habit of expressing his sentiments in a way to do either himself or his cause any credit. I certainly, however, do not despair of attaining it, though, from the state of my health, and a consequent depression of spirits, I have hitherto been deterred almost wholly from the attempt.”

In the month of February, 1807, he was joined in London by Mrs. Roscoe; and her society, upon which he always set the highest value, contributed much to the ease of his mind and the restoration of his health. “You will, I am sure, all rejoice with me,” he says in a letter to Mr. Rathbone, “that last night my wife and Edward arrived safe in London. It was once my wish to have gone through the troublesome task which I have undertaken alone, without deranging my domestic connections; but to pass five or six months in banishment from my family and dearest connections I find is too bold an attempt.” As he became more familiar with the proceedings of parliament his confidence revived, and the feel-
ings which had oppressed him at his entrance gradually subsided. “By a constant attendance on the House,” he says, in a letter to the same friend, “I find myself more accustomed to its forms, and have made some good acquaintance. In a little time, when the election committees are over, its duties will be less laborious, and I shall begin to feel myself more at ease in my new station. I have spoken three or four times, which is, I believe, as often as any new member, but still find a reluctance to offer myself to the House. If the Catholic question be discussed, I shall, however, most probably attempt a bolder flight; but this will depend on circumstances. My wife’s presence has contributed to restore both my health and peace of mind, which, I believe, had suffered before her arrival.”

The favourable effect which a restoration to his usual domestic society produced upon the health of Mr. Roscoe, appears from the following extract of a letter addressed by Mrs. Roscoe to Mrs. Moss, her warmly attached sister, and the invaluable friend of Mr. Roscoe and his family:—

“I well know that Mr. Roscoe’s health and welfare are always an object of great solicitude to you. He is now nearly well of the nervous complaint which had assailed him from overexertion and want of exercise, and his spirits are very good. Edward will have informed you that he conducted us to our lodgings an hour before
he quitted London. The situation is within five minutes’ walk of the House, and close to St. James’s Park. This morning, being frosty, Mr. Roscoe rose from the breakfast-table and walked in the Park near an hour before he sat down to his writing. I yesterday returned the visit of a very intelligent woman, and had a most agreeable interview with her—
Mrs. Erskine, wife to the Lord Advocate of Scotland. They were both at home to us. We called on, and saw, our excellent neighbour Miss Ashton too, whom I hope to see again soon. In the evening Mr. Roscoe went to dine with the Duke of Gloucester, where were present the Lord Chancellor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Sidmouth, and a number more of the very great. The Duke pays Mr. Roscoe the most respectful attentions. Edward would tell you of his paying me a visit the morning after he knew I was in town. You know very well how I estimate all these things in themselves; but I never can be insensible to any mark of sensibility to Mr. Roscoe’s uncommon merits, and which his own extreme humility keeps him wholly unconscious of.”

As the period approached when the great subject was to be discussed in which, from his earliest youth, Mr. Roscoe had taken so deep an interest, his anxieties became great, lest he should not do justice to the cause which he had so much at heart. Mr. Rathbone having addressed
to him a letter on the subject, containing many just and valuable reflections, he replied as follows:—

“I have received your excellent oration on the African slave trade, which, if delivered by yourself, would have the intended effect on the House. If I speak on the subject, which, unless I am disabled by personal indisposition, it is my resolution to do, I shall probably adopt somewhat of a different line of argument, touching, however, though not so largely, on several of the topics in your sketch. If I should be able to get out all I have to say, it would perhaps be longer than yours, though I have not committed a word of it to writing. In this situation I cannot describe the anxiety I feel, lest I should be a weak and unworthy advocate of the great cause which I have espoused.”

The following report of the speech of Mr. Roscoe on this occasion, fuller than that given in the Parliamentary Debates, was corrected by himself immediately after its delivery:—

“As the colleague of the honourable gentleman who spoke last, and as one of the representatives of a place where the trade, which it is the object of the present bill to abolish, has been carried on to a greater extent than in any other place in the kingdom, I cannot, I conceive, with propriety, give a silent vote on this occasion. That vote, Sir, will be in favour of
the bill now before the House for the abolition of that trade. In giving this vote I shall at least satisfy my own feelings and my own conscience. But I trust, Sir, that I shall at the same time perform my duty to my constituents. For whatever may be thought of the people of Liverpool in other parts of the kingdom, I must beg leave to inform this House that they are by no means unanimous in support of the trade in question. On the contrary, a great and respectable body of the inhabitants of Liverpool are as adverse to the slave trade as any other persons in these realms, and I should greatly disappoint their expectations and their wishes, if I were not to vote for the abolition of that trade. After the length of time during which this subject has been considered by the nation at large, after the frequent discussions it has undergone in this House, after the present bill has been passed by the Upper House of Parliament, and is now sent to this House for its concurrence, above all, after the full and able manner in which the noble Lord (
Howick), who introduced the bill, has brought it forward, it is perfectly unnecessary for me to discuss the principle of the bill, or to detain the House by additional arguments in its favour. There is, however, one argument which has always appeared to me so clear, so conclusive, and so short, that I will venture to state it. Sir, the
African slave trade has always subsisted only by an abuse. If we place the human race in any fair and reasonable situation, if we provide them with the necessaries and accommodations of life, they must, by the very law of their nature, inevitably increase. It is only, then, because the slaves in our West India islands are not in that proper situation, and are not provided with the proper necessaries of life, that a diminution of number continually occurs, and the slave trade becomes necessary to supply that deficiency. Now, Sir, the bill before the House will not only prevent the further prosecution of the trade to Africa, but will also effect another great and beneficial purpose, not contemplated on the face of the bill,—it will immediately improve and meliorate the condition of the slaves in the West Indies. For as soon as the planter shall be convinced that he cannot make up the deficiency of his slaves by purchase, as soon as he can no longer act upon the horrid maxim, ‘that it is better to buy a slave than to breed one,’ he will then be called upon, by a sense of his own interest, to pay that attention to the comfort and accommodation of his slaves which is so essentially necessary for their increase and their happiness. Whatever apprehensions may be entertained as to the security and welfare of our West India possessions from the present measure, I hesitate not to assert that, in my opinion, it
will, in the result, be found to be the first cause of the security and prosperity of those colonies. I well remember the time when the regulations made by this House on the middle passage were opposed by the merchants with the greatest warmth, as wholly destructive to their trade; but it is only a few days since that we heard their counsel at the bar of this House admit, that such regulations had rendered the trade much more advantageous than it had ever before been.

“In like manner, I trust that the time will ere long arrive when the West India planters will feel and acknowledge the beneficial effect, and will date the true prosperity of the British colonies from the time of the abolition of the slave trade. In discussing a question of this magnitude, affecting so great a portion of the human race, it is impossible to close our eyes to that part of the world which has suffered so greatly by the effects of the trade in question—I mean the coast of Africa. I should be sorry to accuse this country as being the sole cause of the state of ignorance and degradation in which that immense continent yet remains; but I must be allowed to say, that if we have not been the cause of the evil, we have at least contributed in a high degree to prevent its removal.

“When we consider the nature of the trade which we have carried on with that continent,
when we reflect that the objects of our commerce have been our fellow-creatures; and that the articles we have furnished in return have been chiefly fire-arms, ammunition, and brandy, articles of destruction, articles of debauchery, I cannot but fear that we have contributed in a great degree to prevent that civilisation and improvement in Africa which might otherwise have taken place. That this supposition is too well founded may be fairly inferred from the well-known fact, that the interior of Africa is more civilised and better cultivated than the coast, where our trade has been carried on, and where we have kept up that continual excitement so prejudicial to that unfortunate country. It is time that we should remove that excitement; and if we cannot contribute to the improvement of Africa, that we should not at least contribute any longer to her calamities and her degradation,

“But, Sir, although I think it unnecessary to enter into a further discussion of the principle of the bill, yet I have been well aware, that with respect to its mode of operation, or rather with respect to the time when such operation is to commence, some difference of opinion may be entertained. However anxious I have always been for the abolition of this traffic, it has been my uniform opinion that this should be effected by gradual and proper measures.


“And here I beg it may be most explicitly understood that, in speaking of gradual measures, it was never my idea that the trade should be continued for the advantage of those persons who are carrying it on. No, Sir, I would not continue the trade a month, a week, a day, on any such grounds.

“It was well observed on a former night in this House, that justice is due to all persons, as well to our own countrymen as to the natives of Africa. I fully assent to this observation. But in the distribution of justice we must cautiously distinguish between the rights of the claimants. It would be the height of injustice to balance the mere pecuniary interests of any one body of men against the lives, the liberty, and the safety of any other body of men. They are claims of a different nature, and cannot be weighed with each other. That justice is due to the persons in this country who may be affected by the bill 1 readily admit; but it is due from this nation, and not from Africa, which has already suffered sufficiently from us.

“Leaving, therefore, these claims out of the question at present, and regarding only the object of this bill, I must observe, that in a great measure, of this nature particularly, caution is necessary, that in producing a certain good we produce as little evil as possible.

“Sir, we must perceive how difficult it is
to legislate for those who are no parties to our deliberations.

“I certainly am not without apprehensions that if this trade had been terminated by a sudden and immediate act, it might have been productive of dreadful consequences on the coast of Africa, where there is a great conflux of slaves, whose numbers might accumulate, and who, from the sudden and total cessation of the trade, might fall a sacrifice to the avarice or resentment of their owners. Before I left Liverpool, to have the honour of taking my place in this House, I thought it necessary to make a particular inquiry on this subject from a person well conversant with, and who had frequently visited different parts of the coast. From him I learnt, that at Angola, and other places on the southern parts of the coast, slaves were brought down in scanty numbers, and, consequently, little danger was to be apprehended from the immediate termination of the trade; but that on the more northern parts, and particularly at Bonny, the slaves are brought down in great numbers, being carried from the interior parts of the country for four, five, or six months, and that there some fatal consequences might ensue if precautions were not taken against them. It was, however, his opinion, that a period of six, or at most nine months, would be a sufficient notice for terminating the trade; and as this space of time
will be afforded by the present bill, I shall cheerfully assent to it as it now stands, and do conceive that as the trade has been gradually narrowed by the regulations adopted by this House, and as some further time is yet allowed by the bill for its final termination, the friends of a gradual abolition ought now to unite with the promoters of the present bill, in carrying this great and beneficent measure into full effect.

“And now, Sir, as to the question of compensation to those persons who may be injured by the effects of the present measure, I cannot entertain a doubt that this House will be earnest to distribute justice in its proper degree to all who are entitled to it. The trade in question has been long carried on with the concurrence of the country, and under the sanction of the legislature, and has, till the present time, been thought indispensably necessary to the cultivation and possession of our colonial possessions. If, then, it should hereafter appear, that the persons engaged in carrying it on should sustain an actual loss by the operation of this bill,—not a loss of eventual or prospective profits, which they might have derived from continuing to carry on the trade (for to such a claim it would be absurd to listen), but a real and substantial loss, by not being able to withdraw their capital, and to close their concerns within the time limited by the bill,—then I must assert,
that the persons making such claims are as well entitled to compensation as any persons who ever solicited the justice of this House. But, Sir, there is another compensation of a much higher and better nature to which the merchants of this country are entitled. That compensation is to be found in the more extended trade and commerce of this country. When we consider the immense revenue which we are now called upon to pay, it is evident that the time is arrived when we must avail ourselves of all our resources; when we look at the immense power acquired by the great tyrant of the Continent, we must perceive, that it is necessary to oppose to him an immense colonial power, whereby we may maintain and enlarge the maritime strength of our country. Under such circumstances, we ought to extend ourselves to the East and to the West.

“It can be no longer concealed, that the question respecting the East Indies is now so closely connected with the safety and prosperity of this country, that they can scarcely be separately considered; nor can it be supposed that we can any longer allow ourselves to be crippled in this essential branch of our commerce. Let there be no monopoly but the monopoly of the country at large.

“Sir, I have long resided in the town of Liverpool. It is now upwards of thirty years since
I first raised my voice in public against the traffic which it is the object of the present bill to abolish. From that time I have never concealed my sentiments upon it, in public or in private; and I shall always think it the greatest happiness of my life, that I have had the honour to be present on this occasion, and to concur with those true friends of justice, of humanity, and, as I most firmly believe, of sound policy, who have brought forward the present measure.”

Of his feelings on this occasion, which he justly regarded as the most important passage in his whole life, he has given some account in a letter, written immediately afterwards, to his friend Mr. Shepherd.

“You will, I am sure, rejoice with me most truly, on the triumphant manner in which the question on the slave trade has been carried through both Houses of Parliament; and you will also feel an additional gratification, that I have had an opportunity of speaking my sentiments publicly on the subject.

“It required, I assure you, no small share of resolution to seize the proper moment to obtrude myself on the House, and to persevere against several competitors, all of them eager to distinguish themselves on the occasion. Mr. Fawkes, member for Yorkshire, and I, were equally unwilling to give way, till the Speaker restored order, and decided in my favour. What I had
to say, was well premeditated, but had not been written. I delivered it with tolerable clearness, and, I believe, without embarrassment, but not with sufficient energy. I should tell you, that before the debate began, the Speaker called to me, as I was passing near him, and gave me, in very kind terms, the same advice which you had done; viz. to take my station at about two thirds of the House distant from him, that, in addressing him, I might be well heard. This I complied with, and found efficient I have reason to think that, upon the whole, my speech gave satisfaction, as both
Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Whitbread expressed themselves in particular terms to me to that effect. But what pleases me more is the idea, that by speaking so soon in the debate, and standing in the capacity of member for Liverpool, I may have contributed in some degree to that decision of sentiment which the House manifested in the result. My friend, Richard Sharp, who sat by me, says my vote was worth twenty. But it will be enough for me, if I can persuade myself that I have contributed in any degree to the success of such a cause.

“I afterwards, with the assistance of my son Edward, committed my speech to paper, which he took down with him, and which you have perhaps seen. I have since recollected some omissions, but it will give you a sufficient idea of it.


“We had a long debate on the same subject on Friday, and shall have another on Wednesday next. Wyndham has avowed his determination to oppose the measure; Lord Howick, and it is said Sheridan, will defend it. There are so many persons who have not yet spoken, that I shall not attempt it again, unless I feel myself called on to explain.

“On the whole, I find the attendance on the House of Commons, particularly whilst the election committees are sitting, a very arduous service. There are great difficulties to be surmounted, and it requires a degree of courage and of caution, not often united, to secure the favourable judgment of the House. Although I have spoken twice, my anxiety on this head is very little relieved, and I have reason to suspect that I partake this anxiety in common with many of those who have been much more accustomed to the House. I mean, however, to attempt it again when a proper opportunity occurs, being resolved that if there be any talent, it shall not, in times like the present, be buried in a napkin.”

To the vote given by him on this occasion he often referred, in his after-life, with expressions of the warmest satisfaction. In a letter written in 1812 to his friend Walter Fawkes, Esq., he says,—“I am gratified to find that the few but interesting conferences we had together
in St. Stephen’s are yet held in your remembrance. Tiresome as our sittings frequently were, we had our seasons of triumph and congratulation,—and the evening when we rejoiced together on the abolition of the slave trade will never be forgotten by me.”

There was no member of the House for whose talents and virtues Mr. Roscoe entertained a more sincere regard than for those of Sir Samuel Romilly; and when that distinguished and enlightened statesman brought forward in Parliament his bill for subjecting real estates to simple contract debts, the measure received the warm support of Mr. Roscoe. The following outline of his speech on this occasion is now given from a note of it, in his own hand, and may serve as an example of the style which he adopted in public speaking:—

“I must beg leave, Sir, wholly to dissent from the opinion of the honourable member on the other side of the House (Colonel Eyre), and am, on the contrary, of opinion that the country is highly indebted to the honourable and learned member who introduced the bill, for proposing a measure of such manifest utility. Sir, it is to me matter of surprise that in a country like this, where there is such a continual and daily interchange between real and personal property, this measure should not have been sooner adopted. With respect to the objections which have been
urged against the bill, as well on this as on a former night, I cannot allow to them any degree of validity. By some we are told that it will make a most dangerous inroad on the laws of our ancestors, and be an innovation on the constitution, as if laws were not to change with the changes and circumstances of the times to which they are applied. By others we are informed that it will be the downfall of the aristocracy, as if the aristocracy could only subsist by the nonpayment of their debts. Next we are informed that a law of this nature will throw the landed estates of the country into the hands of East Indian nabobs, and that it will even interfere with the elective franchise. Really, Sir, I can perceive nothing in the measure under consideration which can have the least tendency to produce any such effects. This bill, when passed into a law, will do nothing more than is done in this country every day. It will subject freehold estates to the payment of simple contract debts, a duty which is already performed by every honest man on making his will; yet what inconvenience has ever been derived from it? What injury to the constitution? Who ever discovered its injurious effects? Is it not, on the contrary, highly desirable that an honest creditor should be paid his just demands? In all cases of this kind, where the testator charges his estate with the payment of his debts, this bill will make no
difference whatever. Its provisions will only be concurrent with the will of the testator; and whether the creditor recovers his debt under the will, or by the operation of this act, is to him a matter of little importance.

“It is only, then, in cases where a person possessed of freehold estates dies without subjecting them to the payment of his debts that this bill will apply. Now, Sir, such cases can only occur from two causes. First, where a person, knowing himself to be indebted, wilfully and purposely avoids making a provision for the payment of his debts. This, Sir, I cannot but consider as a crime of the highest magnitude. The perpetrator of it avails himself of the law to defraud his just creditor. And what is the moment of the completion of his crime? That awful moment when he quits this state of being, to appear in the immediate presence of his Creator? Surely, Sir, a law to prevent so heinous a crime cannot be too soon passed through this House.

“The second case, Sir, is, when a person, intending to make a will and to do justice to his creditors, is snatched away without having an opportunity of carrying his intentions into effect. Perhaps in the midst of health he has postponed this important duty. Perhaps he feels that reluctance, common to some minds to perform what he considers as a last act. Perhaps he
perishes by some unforeseen accident, and leaves his estates to be inherited by some distant relation, who seizes upon them, and by refusing to pay the debts of his predecessor, leaves a stigma upon his name, which, if he had supposed that such a circumstance could have taken place, would have been regarded as the greatest calamity that could have befallen him.

“If, however, Sir, there be any gentleman in this House, whose moral taste is so peculiarly formed, as to be gratified with the injustice of the present system, there will still remain sufficient to satisfy him. In the first place, there is the whole class of estates for life, by which a person is enabled to live in high rank and great splendour, so as to obtain considerable credit among his tradesmen, yet at his death his estate passes to the person in remainder, wholly discharged from his debts. There will also still remain all the estates entailed in strict settlement, in which the present possessor either cannot, or will not, defeat the entail, and which pass to the person next in remainder, without being subject to the debts of his predecessor. Neither of these classes will be at all affected by the present bill.

“Nor are the copyhold estates of the country within its operation; and, indeed, I conceive this to have been the strongest objection which was, on a former night, raised against this bill by an honourable and learned member high in the law
department. But although I could have wished to have seen copyhold estates included, yet I am satisfied with the reasons alleged, in this respect, by the honourable and learned member who introduced the present bill; hoping that on some future occasion its principle will be extended also to copyhold and customary estates.

“Nor am I deterred from expressing this hope by any apprehension that in these wise, and just, and necessary regulations, we are encroaching on the institutions of our ancestors, or making alterations in the established law of the land.

“Sir, it is the very end and object of our meeting to make such regulations as may from time to time be found necessary, and to vary the law, according to the circumstances of the times and the different situations in which the country is placed. In our present situation the measure now proposed is highly necessary and advisable, and I shall therefore give the bill before the House my most hearty assent.”

The circumstances under which the ministers were deprived of office in the spring of 1807 will not be easily forgotten. In accordance with the principles which they had always professed, and which they were known by the King to entertain, when he submitted to their appointment, they deemed it their duty to bring before parliament a question connected with the Roman Catholic claims. A measure so
obnoxious to the prejudices of the King was received by him, not only with decided disapprobation, but with a command that his ministers should give a pledge that they would never in future attempt to bring forward the question. To this command, so unconstitutional in its tendency, they refused to submit, and the administration was immediately dissolved. Frequent and angry debates ensued in the House of Commons; in the course of which the late
Mr. Canning threatened the House with a dissolution in the event of a majority against the new ministry. On the 15th of April, the Hon. W. H. Littleton moved a resolution, declaring the regret of the House at the late change in his Majesty’s councils, which afforded Mr. Roscoe an opportunity of expressing his sentiments both upon the question which had given rise to the change, and upon the manner in which that change had been effected. In the course of his speech, he adverted particularly to the conduct of Mr. Canning. “Another striking proof of the disregard paid by the present ministry to the constitution of the country, and to the privileges of this House, may appear in the conduct of the right hon. member, to whom I have before alluded, as filling the office of one of his Majesty’s principal secretaries of state, and who, towards the close of the debate to which I have before referred, thought proper to threaten this
House, that if its members did not vote according to the will of the ministry, his Majesty would be advised to appeal to the people, or, in other words, to dissolve his parliament. Sir, I deeply regret, and shall regret to the close of my life, that not a member was found in this House to rise in his place and call upon you, Sir, to interpose your authority, and to stay the proceedings of the House, till it had expressed its resentment at the indignity which was thus offered to it.” In recurring to this subject, as he occasionally did in his after-life, it was always with the strongest expressions of regret that he had not, on the instant, made an attempt to rouse the House to a sense of its privileges, when thus openly threatened by a minister of the crown.

In the course of this speech, he took an opportunity of stating, in a pointed manner, the cruelty of inflicting penalties and disabilities on those who, notwithstanding the injustice to which they were subjected, did not hesitate to range themselves in the ranks of our armies.

“Sir, I remember that when it was urged that the bill, to which I have alluded, would induce the Roman Catholics to enter into our armies and navies, that right honourable and learned gentleman observed, that, in this respect, the bill was useless; for that in spite of the Test Laws the Roman Catholics did enter into our armies and our navies; and that, therefore, we
might as well avail ourselves of their services, and still retain the test laws to be used or not as might be found necessary. What, Sir! shall we then distrust those men who offer themselves to shed their blood in our defence, and to die by our sides? And what is this privilege which we are so desirous to retain? And what is the use which, under such circumstances, we could possibly make of it? Why, Sir, it is the privilege of saying to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, when they return from their service, You have been righting the battles of your king and country; and therefore the law has determined that you for ever be rendered incapable of suing either at law or equity; in short, you shall be put out of the protection of the law, and every one who pleases may plunder you with impunity. It is the privilege of saying, You have been faithful to your trust, and therefore the law has determined that you shall be disqualified from being an executor or administrator, or the guardian of the child of your nearest relation. It is the privilege of saying, You have devoted yourself to a military life, and have returned home in poverty but with honour, and therefore the law has determined that you shall pay a penalty of five hundred pounds. I am ashamed that it should be necessary at this day to answer such ungenerous arguments.”


The last occasion on which Mr. Roscoe addressed the House of Commons was upon Mr. Whitbread’s bill for establishing a plan for the education of the poor; the object of which was to provide a school, at which the children of the poor might be instructed, in every parish. This was the first of a series of measures which the enlightened statesman, from whom it emanated, had it in contemplation to propose, with the view of rescuing the poorer classes of the community from that state of degradation to which the operation of various causes, and more especially the weight of taxation, have reduced them. The basis of all improvement Mr. Whitbread justly regarded as consisting in that intelligence and knowledge of their real interests which education can alone confer, and in this view of the question he was warmly supported by Mr. Roscoe.

In the course of his short parliamentary life, Mr. Roscoe, as a friend of ministers, had considerable experience in that system of patronage which was thought necessary to keep the machine of government in motion. Innumerable applications were made to him, both by those who had claims upon him, and by those who had nothing to urge but their own desire of preferment. The rule which he laid down with regard to these applications he thus states in a confidential letter to one of his friends, whose
request carried with it every recommendation which long friendship and sincere esteem could confer:—

“You are right in supposing that the applications from Liverpool for places, &c. are very numerous. I divide them, however, into two classes, viz. first, such as relate to places already vacant, for which the applicant brings good recommendations; and, secondly, such as require generally a good place, a tolerable place, an easy place, a place in the customs, &c. or, in short, any place that may happen to offer. To the first of these I think myself bound to pay attention, and have not hesitated, where I thought the persons proper, to recommend them to his Majesty’s ministers; but in the latter cases it is impossible for me to do any thing, as I could scarcely expect that they would promise me the reversion of a place not yet vacant, but on which some provident expectant might have set his eye. You will therefore see that your friend ——— comes under this latter class, and that I can be of no service to him, for it is impossible for me here to know what places become vacant. If he will take an opportunity, when such an event occurs, to furnish me with proper testimonials, I will do the best I can for him consistently with the merits and pretensions of other candidates that may appear; and this I think is all you would wish me to say on the subject.”


During his residence in London, and before the dissolution of that parliament of which he was a member, Mr. Roscoe was much gratified by being enabled to assist in founding “The African Institution,” a society, the object of which was the civilisation and improvement of the natives of Africa. The first meeting, which was a highly respectable one, was held at the Freemasons’ Hall, and the Duke of Gloucester, whose zeal on behalf of the enslaved Africans has reflected the highest credit on his character, took the chair. Mr. Roscoe, having been requested by Mr. W. Smith and Mr. Robert Thornton to address the meeting and to propose its thanks to Mr. Wilberforce, did so in a short speech; which he closed by observing, “That as this was the first public meeting held by the friends of the abolition after their great measure had been accomplished, he trusted it would not be passed over without marking the deep sense which they entertained of the pre-eminent services of him who had laboured so successfully in their cause. Not that even this approbation, however grateful it might be, was necessary to him,—that his reward was not to be found in the applause of that meeting,—not in the admiration of the whole country, but in the conscious rectitude of his own conduct, and in the approbation of his God.” On the passing of the resolution, Mr. Wilberforce rose and ob-
served, that however he might be gratified by the honour which was done to him, it was rendered much more estimable in his opinion by the quarter from which it came. That when he considered that the person who had thus seconded the motion had resided all his life in the very midst of a place which had been particularly distinguished by the share which it had taken in the African slave trade; and that, by his own strength of mind, he had risen above all the prejudices that surrounded him, and opposed himself with firmness to so great an abuse; when he considered that he had not only done this, but that he had also obtained the favourable opinion of his townsmen in so eminent a degree, as to be returned their representative in parliament, in a manner equally honourable to him and to themselves, he did, indeed, consider this as a great triumph.

Mr. Roscoe having been appointed one of the committee, took an active and zealous part in preparing the laws of the Institution, and in bringing it into operation. For many years he continued to manifest an interest in its success, and corresponded at considerable length with the Duke of Gloucester on the subject.

Thus terminated Mr. Roscoe’s short parliamentary career, before he had become well accustomed even to the forms of the House, or had acquired that confidence in his own powers
which is so essential to render a man distinguished in public life. He had acted the part of an independent member of parliament, and though from principle a strenuous supporter of the government, he never enrolled himself amongst the followers of the minister. Upon all questions of importance he formed his own conclusions, on which he invariably acted with firmness and decision. His natural turn of mind rendered any thing like intrigue, or even partisanship, distasteful to him, and he was therefore probably regarded as a person not altogether qualified to be admitted into the mysteries of ministerial arrangements. His station, as one of the representatives of the second commercial town in the empire, gave him considerable weight, which was not lessened by his personal character; and had he remained in the House, it is probable that he would have rendered himself extensively useful. He had the good fortune while there to acquire the friendship of several very excellent and distinguished persons, and amongst others, of
Sir Samuel Romilly and Mr. Whitbread, with whom, after his retirement from parliament, he continued occasionally to correspond.

The inconvenience and anxiety that he had experienced during the short period of his public life did not induce him to shun a renewal of the same duties. As the dissolution
of parliament approached, he expressed his resolution to his friend
Mr. Rathbone in these terms:—“What line I am to take in this case, or what will be the wishes of my friends, I shall not anticipate. All I know and feel is, that I will not desert them as long as they think I can render any services, either to them or to the country. I do not,” he added, “augur much opposition from my conduct on the slave trade, as my opinions on it were well known; and I do not yet think so ill of the world as to suppose that an adherence to one’s own principles can be made a very substantial cause of reproach.”

Unfortunately, in this supposition, Mr. Roscoe was mistaken. The part taken by him on the question of the slave trade, and the triumphant passing of the bill for the abolition of that traffic, had excited a strong feeling against him amongst the lower classes in Liverpool. In that town, as in other parts of the empire, the “No Popery” cry had been renewed; and the speech of Mr. Roscoe in favour of the Catholics was made use of, in order to excite against him the odium of the populace. The dismissal of the ministry also was not without its effects on the minds of many, while the short period, which had elapsed since the former contest, might be expected to create a degree of unwillingness on the part of his supporters, so soon again to incur the labour and expense which a contested election in Li-
verpool has always occasioned. Of these circumstances his adversaries eagerly took advantage. The cry that the trade of the port had been ruined was raised: every artifice to render him obnoxious to the electors was resorted to; and preparations were made to convert the spectacle of his return into a scene of tumult and bloodshed.

Mr. Roscoe made his public entry into Liverpool in the month of May. A numerous body of his friends, mounted and on foot, met him at the outskirts of the town. They had not, however, proceeded far on their return when it became evident that their progress to Mr. Roscoe’s bank, from the windows of which it was intended that he should address the people, would be opposed. Strong parties of seamen, chiefly consisting of the crews of vessels lately engaged in the African trade, armed with bludgeons and other weapons, were disposed along the streets to obstruct the passage of the procession; and when it reached Castle Street, the principal street of the town, a scene of the greatest tumult and riot prevailed. At length the number and resolution of Mr. Roscoe’s friends enabled them to force a passage through their adversaries, but not without many personal injuries to both parties. The horse on which Mr. Williams, a magistrate of the county, and a warm friend of Mr. Roscoe, was mounted, was stabbed
in the body with a knife; and the most fatal consequences might have ensued, had not great forbearance been displayed towards the assailants. On reaching the bank, Mr. Roscoe attempted to address the crowds collected beneath the windows, but the tumult was renewed, and he was compelled to desist. Fortunately, the day passed off without further violence.

It now became necessary for Mr. Roscoe to decide upon the course which, under circumstances like these, it was his duty to adopt. While some of his friends strongly urged him to disregard the attempt to drive him from the contest by threats and by violence, to which they did not doubt their ability to offer a successful resistance, others expressed the most serious apprehensions as to the result. The great body of the electors, it was represented to him, were still favourably disposed towards him; and though it could not be denied that his popularity had, in some degree, suffered by his vote on the slave trade, yet his parliamentary conduct had entitled him to the continued confidence and exertions of his friends. These topics, though strongly pressed on the mind of Mr. Roscoe, failed to produce the effect which those who urged them desired. He saw, in the exasperation displayed upon his entrance, a determination to decide the contest by tumult and by violence; and he did not find it consistent, either
with his feelings or with his principles, to take any part in transactions which must, in all probability, have terminated in bloodshed. At the same time, it is not improbable that motives of a different kind, the weight of which he himself could scarcely estimate, had their influence over him. After some experience of political life, he had found it distasteful to him, and he earnestly longed to be relieved from a burden which he had been unaccustomed to bear,—a burden rendered still weightier by the reflection that it interfered with the performance of those private duties, upon which his own happiness and that of those around him depended. An opportunity now offered itself of retiring with honour from a contest, into which his sense of duty, rather than his inclinations, had led him to enter; and it is not surprising that, under such circumstances, he should have declined to act upon the advice which many of his friends so earnestly tendered.

His determination was conveyed to the public in the following address; in which he both enters into an explanation of his parliamentary conduct, and details the motives which induced him to retire from a second contest.

To the Independent Freemen of Liverpool.

“After the many proofs of attachment and confidence with which you have honoured me,
and which will ever be remembered by me with the warmest gratitude, it is with sincere regret that I announce to you my determination to withdraw myself as a candidate at the approaching election.

“Called upon as I was by you on a former occasion, I laid aside all considerations of private interest and personal convenience, and cheerfully obeyed your summons. From that time I have devoted myself to your service by a diligent performance of my duty in Parliament, and have uniformly maintained those principles and opinions which first recommended me to your choice. To the best of my power I have asserted the cause of justice, of humanity, of toleration, and of true constitutional British freedom; and amidst the changes which I have witnessed around me, I have certainly remained and now return unchanged.

“Short as the duration of that parliament has been, its proceedings will always be recorded, in the annals of this country, with peculiar honour. During that period, I have had the satisfaction of giving my humble but disinterested support to men who, from their rank, their property, and their independence, could have no object in view but to promote the permanent interests and prosperity of the country; and of adding my public sanction to measures of the greatest national benefit and importance. Of these measures,
some were carried into complete effect, and others were only frustrated by the premature dissolution of parliament, which his Majesty’s ministers thought it expedient to advise. A system of finance was proposed and matured, which surprised and gratified the country, by demonstrating, that no new taxes were necessary, and which regulated the public revenue and expenditure for a long series of years. The great principles of justice and humanity were asserted by the abolition of the African slave trade. A committee was appointed to examine into the abuses of excessive salaries and peculations in office, which had discovered frauds in public functionaries to a considerable amount A bill was introduced, which was intended to add to our national security at this dangerous crisis, by uniting his Majesty’s subjects of all religious persuasions in the common defence of the country. To these great measures of public benefit I must be allowed to add the bills introduced by an enlightened member of the House of Commons, for improving the condition, raising the character, and providing for the education of those lower classes of the community, on which the strength and prosperity of a nation so essentially depend, and which, carried into effect, would ere long have alleviated those enormous parish rates which have of late increased with such alarming rapidity. To have had a share in
these deliberations will ever be remembered by me as the chief pride of my life.

“No sooner was the dissolution of this parliament known than I announced to you my intention of offering myself again to your choice. But on my arrival in Liverpool I found that the same arts of ministerial misrepresentation, which had been so industriously employed in other places to mislead the public mind, and had induced so many persons of independent character to relinquish their pretensions to a seat in parliament, had not been without their effect there also. To this more general prejudice was added a particular disapprobation, in some few individuals, of the part I had taken on the abolition of the slave trade. On these and other points it was my most earnest desire to have addressed myself to you. After having been met on my approach, and accompanied into the town by such a concourse of the most respectable inhabitants as was perhaps never before witnessed, except on the memorable occasion in November last, I made several attempts to obtain a hearing, and to perform what I consider a sacred and indispensable duty, by rendering an account of my conduct to my constituents. But, to the disgrace of themselves and their employers, persons evidently stationed for the purpose prevented me, by their clamours, from all possibility of addressing my friends. Prepared for outrage,
they suddenly attacked the large and respectable body of freemen by whom I was surrounded. Without the least restraint from the police of the town, many of my friends were grossly insulted, and some of them much wounded. Persons, whose peculiar province it was to have repressed such outrages, were observed actively employed in promoting them. An officer of the highest reputation and independence of character, to whom the town of Liverpool is under particular obligations, and who had honoured me by his presence, was insolently attacked, and his horse stabbed with a knife. Happily for the peace and character of the town the feelings of resentment, thus wantonly and arrogantly excited, were suppressed by the consideration of the dreadful consequences which must have ensued, had my friends indulged themselves in that retaliation which was decidedly in their power. The example of firmness and moderation which they at this moment evinced confers on them the highest honour.

“Under these circumstances, and wholly hopeless, in the present situation of public affairs, of rendering those services to my constituents or to my country, which could alone justify me in entering upon a contest, I have finally resolved not to afford, by my further perseverance, a pretext for those excesses, which, from what has already occurred, there is but too much reason
to apprehend would be experienced in the course of the election. What will be the character of a parliament chosen under such auspices I shall not pretend to determine; but if the representation of Liverpool can only be obtained by violence and bloodshed, I leave the honour of it to those who choose to contend for it, nor will I accept even that distinction, accompanied by reflections which must embitter every future moment of my life.

“I have the honour to be,
“With the greatest gratitude and respect,
“Your most obliged and most faithful Servant,
(Signed) William Roscoe.
“Allerton Hall, May 5. 1807.”

On the appearance of this address, a numerous meeting of Mr. Roscoe’s friends was held, and the following letter was transmitted to him, expressive of their feelings on the occasion:—


“It is with heartfelt concern that we have read your address, announcing your intention to withdraw yourself as a candidate for the representation of Liverpool.

“Impressed with a high respect for your talents and your virtues, confident in your abilities, and still more so in your integrity, we
invited you, the last autumn, to offer yourself as a competitor for that honour. At the expense of considerable sacrifices you complied with our invitation. Our joint efforts were crowned with the most brilliant success, and.you took your seat as one of our representatives in the great council of the nation.

“It is with pleasure that we discharge an incumbent duty in assuring you, that your conduct in that assembly meets “with our entire approbation. In most of the particulars of that conduct you expressed our unanimous sentiments, and in whatever cases any of us might differ from you in opinion, we paid cheerful deference to the purity of your motives. It was never our object to send into parliament a party agent, or an instrument of faction. Our honest ambition was, and is, to be represented by a man of undeviating honour, who would uniformly act according to the dictates of his conscience.

“Regarding you, Sir, as such a man, we have cherished an earnest desire that you should again yield your services to the independent burgesses of Liverpool, under the full persuasion that you retain the affectionate esteem of a great majority of your late constituents. We were not, indeed, insensible of the effects which had been produced by the misrepresentations of your opponents. But we were assured that a simple explanation on your part would have convinced
those who have been deluded by groundless clamour, that an enlargement of the royal prerogative entrenches not on the privileges of the sovereign; that your political friends, who comprise almost the whole body of the ancient nobility and gentry of the realm, can have no interest separate from the welfare of their country; that the enabling his Majesty to permit such of his Catholic subjects as he may think deserving of trust, to fight his battles, cannot possibly endanger the church establishment; and that the contest which now convulses the kingdom is not a struggle between the throne and a faction, but between honesty and peculation, between integrity and corruption.

“We are the more persuaded that these truths would have been brought home to the general feelings, from the unexampled attendance with which you were honoured on your arrival in Liverpool on Saturday last. As to the outrages which took place on that day, be assured we reflect upon them with mingled sensations of indignation and contempt. And we are confident that could you have been persuaded to authorise our firm but peaceable exertions in your favour, we should soon have demonstrated that the sense of the town is not to be ascertained by the chalk or the pen of the incendiary, nor its spirit by the clamour and violence of intoxicated ruffians.


“As, however, you have declined to accept our services, however cheerfully proffered, we pay reluctant deference to your decision, expresssing our warmest wishes for your health and comfort in your retirement, and assuring you that the concern which we cannot but feel on this occasion is much lessened by the prospect of your again residing amongst us, and gratifying us by the attentions of private friendship. “Signed on behalf of a most numerous and respectable meeting of Mr. Roscoe’s friends,

Thomas Rawson.”

From many quarters Mr. Roscoe received communications expressive of the strong regret which the late occurrences at Liverpool had occasioned. “I am seized alternately with stupor and indignation,” says Dr. Parr, in a letter written at this time, “at the state of public affairs. Do not suppose that I am a tame or careless observer of the strange and disgraceful events which have occurred at Liverpool. Disdain, I beseech you, to repel any accusations. All wise and all virtuous men will deplore your removal from parliament, and will detest or despise the artifices of your opponents. Reading, reflection, the society of wise men, and the conscious rectitude of your own intentions, will preserve you and me from the perturbation and dismay which
other men may experience in these strange and eventful times. The yell of ‘No Popery’ has been heard even at Cambridge: the effects of it were visible in the late election; and on the walls of our senate house, of Clare Hall chapel, and of Trinity Hall, I saw the odious words in large characters. The good sense of the country will not speedily return. There is a great and portentous change in the public mind, and you and I are at a loss to assign the cause, or to predict the consequences. So it is, that, amidst the fury of the tempest, and the wreck of our fairest hopes, I feel myself sustained and animated by the reflection that you, and those who supported you, deserved a better fate.”

The resignation of Mr. Roscoe did not prevent the freemen of Liverpool from attempting to assert their own cause. A number of the electors, without any communication either with him or his late committee, met together for the purpose of considering the best means of securing his re-election. A subscription was set on foot, and instead of receiving bribes, the poorer voters cheerfully contributed their half crowns or half guineas to the expenses of the contest. About one hundred pounds having been raised in this manner amongst the common freemen, a number of gentlemen stepped forwards and offered their exertions in the same cause; still without the sanction of Mr. Roscoe or his immediate friends.
On the day of election he was nominated as a candidate, and the contest was kept up for seven days, when it terminated in favour of Generals
Gascoigne and Tarleton by a large majority.

An effort so zealous and disinterested called for the acknowledgments of Mr. Roscoe; which were accordingly expressed immediately after the conclusion of the election, in an Address, of which the following is the termination:—

“In taking my leave of you in a public character, and returning to the avocations of private life, I feel consolations of which no change, either in the opinions or the conduct of others, can ever deprive me. I have faithfully discharged, to the best of my abilities, the trust reposed in me; not by sacrificing my principles to my popularity, but by consulting the true honour and character, and, let me add, the real and permanent interests of the town of Liverpool, as well as of the empire at large. In the great questions that have of late agitated the country, I have taken that part to which I have been induced by an unalterable attachment to my king, a strict regard to the dignity and security of his crown, and a firm adherence to the genuine principles of the British constitution; and I have contributed my humble efforts towards promoting that affection, attachment, and brotherly union, amongst his Majesty’s subjects
of all religious denominations, which are now become indispensably necessary, as well to the internal tranquillity as to the general defence of these realms.

“With these reflections I could easily have consoled myself under much greater changes of popular favour than any that I have ever experienced. But your unsolicited patronage has removed all impressions of the kind; and I retire with the additional satisfaction of knowing that my public conduct, during the short but eventful period in which I have been your representative, has obtained the approbation of a great and respectable body of my constituents, and has preserved to me undiminished those connections of private attachment and friendship, which have hitherto been the chief honour and happiness of my life.”

Great regret was expressed by the political friends of Mr. Roscoe, when his resolution to retire from public life became known. How highly his services were valued, and how much the loss of them was felt, will appear from the following extract from a letter addressed to him on this occasion by Lord Holland:—“Among the many mortifications to which an interest in political events exposes one, there is none greater than the success which a senseless cry sometimes insures over tried worth and a steady attachment
to the cause of the people. Representative governments and popular elections being the best devices which human wisdom has contrived for the security of liberty, and the preservation of its spirit among the people, it disgusts one’s feelings, and humiliates one’s pride, to see them rendered the instruments of bigotry and prejudice; and to find the enemies of liberty triumphant in the very sanctuaries instituted for her protection. The instances of such a perversion of our best institutions have not been so numerous on this occasion as the fomentors of the cry expected that they would be; but, I assure you, your rejection at Liverpool is considered by us all as one of the greatest disgraces to the country, as well as misfortunes to the party, that could have happened.”

Of the line of conduct pursued by him on this occasion Mr. Roscoe never repented, firmly persuaded that it had prevented the occurrence of evils which his return to parliament could never have counterbalanced. In a letter to the Duke of Gloucester, written immediately after the publication of his address, he says, “At a time like the present, it was not without great reluctance that I withdrew myself as a candidate; but the more I reflect upon it, the more reason I have to be satisfied with my determination; for the violence of my opponents and their friends, and the prejudices of the town, are such, that I
am persuaded my further interference must have produced the most unhappy consequences.”

How joyfully his mind reverted, from the cares and tumults of public life, to the calm pleasures of a private station, may be best learned from his own words. In a letter to Dr. J. E. Smith, written in the summer of 1807, he says, “I have for some time past rejoiced in the thought that I am likely to see you in Lancashire in the course of the present summer. I already anticipate the happiness I shall have in your society at Allerton, where I must at least claim some portion of your time, and where I shall be delighted to stroll and saunter with you through the fields in an evening, instead of being locked up, balloting for committees, in St. Stephen’s. In truth, my dear friend, it requires but little of the efforts of others to drive me from public life. The only wonder is, that I was ever brought into it; and I sink back with such a rapidity of gravitation into my natural inclination for quiet and retirement, that I totally despair of ever being roused again to a similar exertion. Add to this, that the one great object which was continually before my eyes is now attained, and I shall have the perpetual gratification of thinking that I gave my vote in the assembly of the nation for abolishing the slave trade to Africa. Though not insensible to the state of the country, yet I see no question of equal magnitude; and am fully aware how
little my efforts could avail in the political struggles of the times. Come then, my friend, and let us again open the book of nature, and wander through the fields of science. Your presence will increase my reviving relish for botanical pursuits; and when we are tired with those subjects, we will call in the aid of the poets and philosophers to vary our entertainments.”

“After all the agitation and anxiety of mind,” says Dr. J. E. Smith in reply, “which I have felt for some weeks past on your account, how delightful it is to find, by your most welcome and interesting letter of the 25th of June, that you still possess yourself in undisturbed tranquillity; not like a reed that has bent before the storm, but like a palm-tree, around whose polished and upright stem the winds have whistled, without ruffling the lofty honours of its head! Such a plant can no more be nursed in St. Stephen’s chapel; than the Norfolk Island pine, 250 feet high, in any of our stoves. You are now in your proper element; and very long may you continue so! The world is not worthy of you, ‘nor the world’s law.’

“The line of conduct you have pursued secures you from regret; and I trust you will soon look back on all that is past, with no less satisfaction, on every account, than self-approbation. I wished it rather for your triumph than your happiness; and really triumphs of any kind are
worth but little:—‘One self-approving hour,’ &c., you know the rest; and that a good man has, independent of triumphs founded on the accidental justice of the world.”

Soon after his retirement from Parliament, Mr. Roscoe was gratified by receiving, in the following letter from the Earl of Derby, the Lord Lieutenant of the county of Lancaster, an expression of his Lordship’s wish that he would suffer himself to be appointed one of the Deputy Lieutenants of the county:—

“Dear Sir,

“I have lately been applied to and desired to appoint some gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Liverpool to be Deputy Lieutenants of this county. I think I cannot in a better manner comply with this request than by applying to you, and desiring your permission to propose you to his Majesty to fill this office. If I obtain it, I assure you I shall have great pride and pleasure in laying such a name before his Majesty, with the recommendation of,

“Dear Sir,
“Your obliged and faithful humble servant,

To this communication Mr. Roscoe returned the following answer:—

“My Lord,

“I should have esteemed it a very great honour to have been recommended by your Lordship to his Majesty as a Deputy Lieutenant of the county, had I not been one of those, whom the operation of the test laws excludes from all offices of trust under government. I well know that if others thought with the same liberality as your Lordship, these disabilities would be removed; but whilst they remain, I think it better that those affected by them should implicitly submit to them, rather than by an occasional conformity to, or an open disregard of them, invalidate the reasons for their repeal.

“With the deepest sense of this mark of your Lordship’s confidence, I remain,

“My Lord,
“Your Lordship’s most obliged
“And most faithful servant,
W. Roscoe.”