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No. 3.

MARCH, 1818.

Vol. VI.

REVIEW of " Memoirs of the Life of Anthony Benezet. By Robert Vaux. Philadelphia. James P. Parke."


Too long have "all the world wondered after the beast," which makes desolate or fills the earth with crime and wo. The incendiary who to immortalize his name, set fire to the magnificent temple of Diana, was far less deserving of the censure and reprobation of mankind, than those conquer ors-or would be conquerors, who have sought for glory and immortality by spreading havoc, ruin and horror among their own species. Yet the pages of history, the charms of poetry, and the powers of rhetoric, have all been employed to give celebrity to military madmen, who were more deserving of the halter, than of the applause of their fellow-beings. So powerful has been this "wondering after the beast," that the eyes of men have not been capable of distinguishing their best friends from their worst foes; and too commonly the latter have, in public estima tion, occupied the place which reason and justice assign to the former. Hence multitudes have been encouraged to adopt Vol. VI-No. 3.


a course of barbarity and mischief, as the surest way of obtaining the admirations of a deluded world. Those who shall be instrumental of dispelling this fatal mist, and of causing mankind to make proper distinctions between the destroyer and the benefactor, the conqueror and the philanthropist, will be entitled to the respect of all future generations.

The time approaches, and the day, we hope, has begun to dawn, when the heroism of a host of worthies, who have, or shall have employed their days and their powers in humble endeavours to diminish the crimes and miseries of mankind, to prevent vice and ruin, to diffuse the light and warmth of christianity, and to swell the tide of human happiness, shall attain such an ascendency in public opinion that the heroism of desolating conquerors will be remembered only to be lamented and abhorred.

Among the benevolent heroes of our country, Anthony Benezet is entitled to a high rank. His heart, his time, his

tongue, his pen, his property, his all, were consecrated to the work of correcting the errors, reforming the vices, and preventing or relieving the miseries of his fellow beings. His benevolence extended to men of every complexion and every country. To him, as an instrument in the hand of God, thousands of the African race have been indebted for instruction, for liberty, for comfort and even for life. The Indian tribes were also regarded by him as his brethren. Nor was he less the friend of white men, than of the black or the red. The children of distress and want were the particular objects of his attention; but he Iwas the friend of ALL-the friend of God, and the friend of man.

In a former volume of this work a short sketch of his character was given, from such scanty materials as were then in our possession. We rejoice that his biography has been written by an intelligent and respectable gentleman of the Society of Friends, and of the city where he was best known. The volume is small, when considered in relation to the importance of the character delineated, and the magnitude and variety of benevolent objects which were pursued by this christian philanthropist. But this brevity is accounted for by the Author of the Memoirs, in his "Introductory Remarks:"-

"When this work was about to be undertaken, the writer presumed that ample materials might be procured, to render


it altogether worthy of the character of Anthony Benezet. But although only thirty two years have elapsed since his death, no traces are discernible of the mass of important and interesting documents, which must have accumulated during more than fifty of the last years. of his life-devoted as he was to the most benevolent labours,. in relation to many of which he maintained an epistolary correspondence with men of celebrity, in America and Europe. If access could have been had to the stock of original papers, which were doubt preserved by him, they would have minutely and regularly unfolded the history of his numerous and various transactions. Instead, there-fore, of a finished portraiture of the life of this excellent man, the Author regrets, that from the relics which have escaped an oblivion so unaccount-able, he is only enabled to furnish a sketch of some of its features. He trusts, however, that enough is developed in the subsequent pages, justly to entitle the subject of them, to be considered as having been an illustrious benefactor of the human race."

In the last remark, we believe, the reader of the Me-moirs will cheerfully acquiesce; and we hope they will be read by many, and particularly by young persons who may desire to form a character which will bear examination in a more improved state of society, when religion, humanity. and benevolence shall be held in higher estimation, than folly,

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Much of the little volume is filled with letters, and extracts of letters, from Benezet to eminent men and from others to him, or in relation to his writings and objects. Three of which we shall transcribe, one from Ambrose Serle, Sec. retary to Lord Howe, another from the Abbe Raynal, the third from the celebrated Patrick Henry. The letter from Ambrose Serle was written in the time of the revolution, while the British troops were in Philadelphia.


Philadelphia, June 2d, 1778. "I ought not to omit, my valued friend, the returning you my kindest thanks for your obliging present of books, which I shall peruse with at tention, and for your sake keep them by me. It would be happy for the world at large, and for individuals, if the principles they maintain rightly understood and cordially received; we should in this case have had no occasion to deplore the present miseries and troubles, which, as the certain effects of sin, naturally result from the ambition, dishonesty and other unmortified passions of mankind. The world on the contrary would be something like a paradise regained; and universal benevolence and philanthropy preside as they ought in the human heart. But though from long experience we may and must despair of the general diffusion of christian sentiments and practice, we have this comfortable trust, in our

own particular persons, that we have a peace which the world can neither give nor take away; and though the kingdoms of this world tumble into confusion, and are lost in the corrupted strivings of men, we have a kingdom prepared of God, incorruptible and that cannot fade away. There, though I see your face no more upon earth, I have the hope of meeting with you again; both of us divested of all that can clog or injure our spirits, and both participating that fulness of joy which flows from God's right hand forevermore. To his tender protection I commend you, and remain with sincere esteem your affectionate friend." p. 42.

The letter from the Abbe Raynal was also written in the time of the revolutionary war.

Bruxelles, Dec. 26, 1781. "ALL your letters have miscarried; happily I received that of the sixteenth of July, 1781, with the pamphlets, filled with light and sensibility, which accompany it. Never was a present more agreeable to me. My satisfaction was equal to the respect I have always had for the Society of Quakers. May it please Heaven to cause all nations to adopt their principles; men would then be happy, and the globe not stained with blood. Let us join in our supplications to the Supreme Being, that he would unite us in the bonds of a tender and unalterable charity.

I am, &c. RAYNAL." p. 38. The letter of Benezet, to which the above was a reply, was very affectionate and im··

pressive. The following from Patrick Henry was not address ed to Benezet, but to one who had presented a book written by this philanthropist on the slave trade.

"Hanover, Jan. 18, 1773. "DEAR SIR,

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of Anthony Benezet's book against the slave trade: I thank you for it. It is not a little sur prising that the professors of Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing and improving its finer feel ings, should encourage a practice so totally repugnant to the first impressions of right and wrong. What adds to the wonder is, that this abominable practice has been introduced in the most enlightened age. Times, that seem to have pretensions to boast of high improvements in the arts and sciences, and refined morality, have brought into general use, and guarded by laws, a species of violence and tyranny, which our more rude and barbarous, but more honest ancestors detested Is it not amazing, that at a time, when the rights of humanity are defined and understood with precision, in a country above all others fond of liberty,-that in such an age and such a country, we find men, professing a re ligion the most humane, mild, gentle and generous, adopting a principle as repugnant to humanity, as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive to liberty? Every thinking, honest man rejects it in specu

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"I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish the lamentable evil. Every thing we can do is to improve it, if it hap pens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot, and an abhorrence of slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished for reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity. It is the furthest advance we can make toward justice. It is a debt we owe to the purity of our religion, to show that it is at variance with the law which warrants slavery.

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"I know not when to stop. I could say many things on the subject; a serious view of which, gives a gloomy perspec tive to future times." pages

55, 56.

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In a little more than two years from the date of this eloquent letter on slavery, our country was in arms, contending for what they regarded as their natural rights. After eight campaigns of war and bloodshed, our independence

But Anthony Benezet was of a different character; he would suffer wrong rather than do wrong; he would not ever do evil that good might come. But although he would use no acts of violence in favour of his own rights; yet he would employ all the power he possessed in benevolent exertions for the freedom of others. His zeal and intrepidity were displayed, not in doing evil, nor in rendering evil for evil; but in doing good, both to friends and foes, aud in attempts to '". overcome evil with good." What a fanatic! how much like HIM who was despised and rejected of men 15,

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a schoolmaster, a peacemaker, and any thing by which he could promote the happiness or alleviate the miseries of his fellow men.

It is perhaps not known to all our readers that there was a time when the Quakers of this country were concerned in the cruel business of enslaving the Africans; but such was the fact, and Benezet was one of the principal agents in putting an end to the custom in his own Society. His Biographer observes :

was acknowledged by Great Britain. Since which we formed a Constitution "to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our posterity;" but in which we also took care to hold in absolute slavery, perhaps, a sixth part of the population of the country, and also to add to the number of these victims of avarice by further importations of fellow beings, to be bought and sold as property! To what quarter of the world shall we look for another race of such genuine friends" His ardent and pathetic of liberty and the rights of communications on this subman such virtuous, merciful ject, in the select assemblies and consistent Christians! of his brethren, were powerful and irresistible. He awakened the unconcerned, confirmed the wavering, and infused energy into the most zealous. On one occasion, during the Annual Convention of the Society at Philadelphia, when that body was engaged on the subject of slavery as it related to its own members, some of whom had not wholly relinquished the practice of keeping negroes in bondage, a difference of sentiment was manifiested as to the course which ought to be pursued. For a moment it was doubtful which opinion would preponderate. At this critical juncture, Benezet left his seat, which was in an obscure part of the house, and presented himself weeping at an elevated door in presence of the whole congregation, whom he thus addressed,

"Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God!"He said no more: under the solemn impression which suc

This extraordinary man exerted his powers not only for the abolition of the slave trade, but for the emancipation of the blacks who were already in bondage, and for the instruction of those who obtained their freedom. He was an author,

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