Page images

was there, and ready, if they thought proper, to be interrogated on the subject of the riot. But no notice was taken of the message.

Ill treated as I thought I had been, not merely by the populace of Birmingham, for they were the mere tools of their superiors, but by the country


general, which evidently exulted in our sufferings, and afterwards by the representatives of the nation, who refused to inquire into the cause of them, I own I was not without deliberating upon the subject of emigration; and several flattering proposals were made me, especially from France, which was then at peace within itself, and with all the world, and I was at one time much inclined to go thither, on account of its nearness to England, the greeableness of its climate, and my having many friends there.

But I likewise considered that, if I went thither, I should have no employment of the kind to which I had been accustomed; and the season of active life not being, according to the course of nature, quite over,

I wished to make as much use of it as I could. I therefore determined to continue in England, exposed as I was not only to unbounded obloquy and insult, but to every kind of outrage ; and after my invitation to succeed my friend Dr. Price, I had no hesitation about it. Accordingly I took up my refidence where I now am, though so prevalent was the idea of my insecurity, that I was not able to take the house in my own name; and when a friend of mine took it in his, it was with much difficulty that, after some time, the landlord was prevailed upon to


[ocr errors]

transfer the lease to me. He expressed his apprehensions, not only of the house that I occupied being demolished, but also à capital house in which he himself resides, at the distance of no less than twenty miles from London, whither he supposed the rioters would go next, merely for suffering me to live in a house of bis.

But even this does not give such an idea of the danger that not only myself, but every person, and every thing, that had the slightest connexion with me, were supposed to be in, as the following. The managers of one of the principal charities among

the Diflenters applied to me to preach their annual fermon, and I had consented. But the treasurer, a man of fortune, who knew nothing more of me than my name, was so much alarmed at it, that he declared he could not sleep. I therefore, to his great relief, declined preaching at all.

When it was known that I was settled where I now am, several of my friends, who lived near me, were seriously advised to remove their


and other most valuable effects, to some place of greater safety in London. On the 14th of July, 1792, it was taken for granted by many of the neighbours, that my house was to come down, just as at Birmingham the year before. When the Hackney association was formed, several servants in the neighbourhood actually removed their goods, and when there was some political meeting at the house of Mr. Breillat, though about two miles from my house, a woman whose daughter was servant in the house


a 3

contiguous to mine, came to her mistress, to entreat that she might be out of the way; and it was not without much difficulty that she was pacified, and prevailed upon to continue in the house, her mistress saying that she was as safe as herself.

On several other occasions the neighbourhood has . been greatly alarmed on account of my being so near them. Nor was this without apparent reason. I could name a person, and to appearance a reputable tradelman, who, in the company of his friends, in the hearing of one of my late congregation at Birmingham, but without knowing him to be fuch, declared that, in case of any disturbance, they would immediately come to Hackney, evidently for the purpose of mischief. In this state of things, it is not to be wondered at, that. of many servants who were recommended to me, and some that were actually hired, very few could, for a long time, be prevailed upon to live with me.

These facts not only shew how general was the idea of my particular insecurity in this country; but: what is of much more consequence, and highly interesting to the country at large, an idea of the general disposition to rioting and violence that prevails in it, and that the Diffenters are the objects of it. Mr. Pitt very justly observed, in his speech on the subject of the riots in Birmingham, that it was the “ effervescence of the public mind.” Indeed the effervescible matter has existed in this country ever since the civil wars in the time of Charles I. and it was particularly apparent in the reign of queen Ann. . But the power of government under the former princes



of the House of Hanover prevented its doing any mischief. The late events thew that this

power no longer exerted as it used to be, but that, on the contrary, there prevails an idea, well or ill founded, that tumultuary proceedings against Diffenters will not receive any effectual discouragement. After what has taken place with respect to Birmingham, all idea of much hazard for insulting and abusing the Diffenters is entirely vanished; whereas the disposition to injure the Catholics was effeétually checked by the proceedings of the year 1780. From that time they have been safe, and I rejoice in it. But from the year 1791, the Diffenters have been more exposed to insult and outrage than ever.

Having fixed myself at Clapton; unhinged as I had been, and having lost the labour of several years; yet flattering myself that I should end my days here, I took a long lease of my house, and expended a considerable sum in improving it. I also determined, with the assistance of my friends, to resume my philofophical and other pursuits ; and after an interruption amounting to about two years, it was with a pleasure that I cannot describe, that I entered my new laboratory, and began the most common preparatory processes, with a view to some original inquiries. With what success I have laboured, the public has already in some measure feen, and may see more hereafter.

But though I did not choose (notwithstanding I found myself exposed to continual insult) to leave my native country, I found it necessary to provide for &y sons elsewhere. My eldest son was settled in a



business, which promised to be very advantageous, ať Manchester ; but his partner, though a man of liberalicy himself, informed him, on perceiving the general prevalence of the spirit which produced the riots in Birmingham, that, owing to his relationship to me, he was under the necessity of proposing a separation, which accordingly took place.

On this he had an invitation to join another con-, nexion, in a business in which the spirit of party could not have much affected him ; but he declined it. And after he had been present at the assizes at Warwick, he conceived such an idea of this country, that I do not believe that any proposal, however advantageous, would have induced him to continue in it; fo much was he affected on perceiving his father treated as I had been.

Determining to go to America, where he had no prospect but that of being a farmer, he wished to spend a short time with a person who has greatly distinguished himself in that way, and one who from his own general principles, and his friendship for myself, would have given him the best advice and assistance in his power. He, however, declined it, and acknowledged some time after, that had it been known, as it must have been, to his landlord, that he had a son of mine with him, he feared he thould have been turned out of his farm.

My second son, who was present both at the riot, and the assizes, felt more indignation still, and willingly listened to a proposal to settle in France; and there his reception was but too flattering. However,


« EelmineJätka »