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Paley's sentiments on the subject which are supposed to be alluded to, may be better collected from a much more considerable comment in the same sermon. “If,” says he,“ other occurrences have arisen in our neighbourhood, which serve to exemplify the progress and fate of vice, the solid advantage and ultimate success of virtue, the providential discovery of guilt or protection of innocence, the folly of avarice, the disappointment of ambition, the vanity of worldly schemes, the fallaciousness of human foresight, in a word, any thing which may
what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue,' such occurrences may be made to introduce topics of serious and useful meditation." But as to the hint, for it is but a hint, given as delicately as possible against “party or political transactions and disputes which would tend to dishonourable motives," what was present to the preacher's mind on the occasion may be understood, by observing that Cumberland was at that time the seat of a more violent ferment than is usually met with in contested elections; and that the clergy, more particularly some amongst the higher stations of that body, were thought to be materially and improperly concerned. So far indeed was it carried about the period now spoken of, that it was the occasion of perhaps the only unpleasant occurrence that happened publicly during the course of his residence at Carlisle. It is connected indeed distantly with that “ formidable opposition, which he is said to have joineda, against the overwhelming influence of a nobleman;" and no doubt gave rise to the account, though imperfectly given,“ of the attempts made to weaken the elective franchise of the citizens of Carlisle.” His interfering or rather joining publicly in a party, was in an affair in which some of the magistrates of Cumberland were concerned, in committing to prison two or three respectable inhabitants of Carlisle, who had pulled up some encroachments of this same nobleman upon the river, which prevented its being of service to the community, and which had been already condemned by a jury. This was generally esteemed such an excess of authority, such an insult upon the independence of the city, the respectability of the inhabitants, and the prudence of a magistrate, that it produced a shyness, or rather a neglect, of such magistrates long after. There had never been any great intimacy or intercourse between Dr. Paley and them, so that
very little was gained by the accession of his name to the general sense of the inbabitants. As far as it went, he most highly and decidedly disapproved both of the act and the motive from which it seemed to proceed. When afterwards he was solicited by the dean of Carlisle, Dr. Ekins, who did not reside constantly, to come forward in compromising any misunderstanding, he expressed himself unwilling to commence an intercourse on that ground, but said, “ he saw no reason why the slight or grudge should be perpetual ;" and it is probable that his sermon on reconciliation of differences, which was preached about this time, was given in allusion to the difference then existing
It may be a part of this subject, or at least will serve for passing from his church duties to his public life as an inhabitant of Carlisle, to observe, that he did not join in electioneering, nor in any thing connected with it; but he expressed his opinions privately upon the general services of Mr. Curwen to the city and county, which was indebted to him for a great deal more than its independence. He lamented the growth of mushrooms in Cumberland, which was the name given to a number of colliers and others who were allowed or rather forced to purchase forty shillings' worth of property; and in a letter written from Carlisle some years after he had ceased to be a resident there, he says, “ Lord Lonsdale will be beat two to one, though joined by Lord Carlisle and the bishop. It is too soon for the freemen to forget the mushrooms.” He also suffered his children to go bedizened with blue ribands, which the agents of Mr. Curwen had given them in profusion. These were his electioneering manæuvres. His politics, indeed, were as strongly marked as during any other period of his life; but they were marked only by his being of no party, in fact no politician at all. He never seemed to know that he deserved the name of politician; and would probably have been equally amused at the grave attempts made to draw him into or withdraw him from any political bias, with which either this or any other writing may be concerned. He would always form his opinions upon what he considered substantial grounds, and if he could gain information enough to rest his opinion upon, it was sufficient for him. He could comment indeed upon passing events with an interest and eagerness which he seemed to have no power or wish to repress ; but it was the interest of a warm and ardent
mind, taking its own improvement and its own hints from whatever was curious or useful, or desirable or serviceable in the conduct of his fellow creatures. He was an eager devourer of a newspaper ; but one newspaper in a day which had been already read, was quite sufficient for his politics; and as it is not unusual for us to form an opinion of a man's politics by inquiring what newspaper he reads, or (which indeed may be the truth) as the side and party which some politicians take may often depend upon their newspaper, so it may be well to mention that his was the Sun. It filled up one hour after dinner; and whatever news was expected, or found to be contained in the post-bag, which every politician in the town knew at an early part of the day, he would not have thanked any one for letting him know before that hour. As a political dabbler, a reformer, or a staunch ministerial man, in the sense which that term is generally considered to bear, for the twenty years with which these memoirs are concerned, he was far too much involved in other pursuits, too ignorant of the general statistical history of his country, too desirous of a higher and more laudable and more benevolent use of his understanding, to savour in the least of a political clergyman. It is true there is a conscious and unconscious partisan. There is a party man whose principle is engaged without any force upon his inclinations or his interest, and who is scarcely known, or knows himself to be a party man, till circumstances call him out ; and there is another whose principle is so little affected, that he can deliver himself wholly up to whatever bias his inclination or his interest may prepare for him; but Dr. Paley was neither of these. It seemed to be the turn of his mind to seek out and attain a balance in his opinions, on whatever subject his mind was employed. No man could preserve a more just balance between an independent man and an eager politician. He was most truly independent, not as one who wishes to boast of being independent, who cares for nothing but himself and his own views, or who is afraid of being considered dependent; but as one who is independent, on the sound principle of looking with more fixed views for a better purpose of existence.
While on this subject, it may not be improper to advert to what is said by his two contending biographers, on his refusal of the offer made to him by the bishop of Ely in 1789. It is suitable enough to
the subject now mentioned, and occurred about the time of which we now speak. It is first to be observed, that what is said a and repeated about "some men not being fit to be trusted with the loose talk of their betters,” though most decidedly to be reprobated in the use to which it is applied, is far too applicable to the general purposes of biography to dismiss without a great share of approbation. It is of use in explaining most of the misunderstandings that have arisen as to the public conduct of Dr. Paley, and of special use in this particular instance. There seems to be ground sufficient for Meadley, who knew but little of the parties to whom, or the occasion on which, it was spoken, to conclude that the offer was refused partly from such motives, as "not being able to keep in with Pitt a week ;" but if this was said at all, it was given as a loose expression of what need not to have been repeated. It was one of those sentiments that were no sooner conceived than uttered, and no sooner uttered than forgotten. In this case as in many others, it is probable that the conversation from which such proof sentiments are drawn might lead to points on which he expressed agreement, but it is much more probable that such sentiments might take their complexion from the hearer rather than the speaker.
He was not at all unlikely, at any time of his life, from the substantial brevity and positiveness of his sentiments, to have many sayings and expressions palmed upon him, which he never thought of; but more than that, he was the most unfit, though perhaps the most liable, to fall into the hands of those dry retailers of other men's loose sayings, who dress up for their own purposes whatever may be dealt out by men of some weight: but who that has any character to support is not made sensible of this! He indeed of all others was a perfect example of consistency on principle, and of discretion on any subject which he thought worthy of consideration, yet the most rash conceiver and utterer of hasty sentiments, of the most grave off-hand speeches, of the most undesigned, unpremeditated blunders in addressing or conversing with strangers for friends, and friends for opponents, that ever entered into common society. So weighty was his very sportiveness, so much in the style of seriousness did he produce his humorous sallies and lighter sentiments, that it not only re
Quarterly Review and Chalmers apply this not more indecently than inju. diciously to Meadley, who was far too candid and careful and painstaking to de. serve any such insinuation.
quired a penetrating discerner to tell what was joke and what was earnest, but a perfect and full acquaintance with his character. Though he was not one who was alarmed for consequences, if he could have foreseen them, yet such speeches were so unsuspected, that it is quite unfair to draw any conclusions from them. The following extract from one of his letters will set this matter at rest. « June
-89. I send the inclosed letter for my father to see from the bishop of Ely, a man I know no more of than I do of the pope. I was never in a greater quandary.—I have great reason to believe that the situation would be a step to the highest preferments.-On the other hand to leave a situation with which I am much satisfied, and in which I am perfectly at ease in my circumstances, is a serious sort of a change. I think it will end in declining it."
From the perfect conviction of his general freedom from all political bias, as well as a lively feeling of his character, his friends were convinced at the time, that he refused it chiefly from an unwillingness to enter upon another sphere of life and into a different society, fixed as he then was in a certain line of engagements. In the quarter whence the offer came there appears to have been no suspicion, much less grounds for supposing, that the refusal proceeded from any other cause. Certainly no one of his more intimate friends ever had occasion to think him influenced by any such consequences as “quarrelling with Mr. Pitt." He himself seems to have been aware, or at least his family were, by hearing the opinion of his best friend, that he might have missed a mitre by it; but to an offer so handsomely and disinterestedly made, neither he nor any of his friends ever thought of adding any probable consequences.
Another occasion on which he came forward rather more publicly and prominently than was his custom, was in the year 1792, at a meeting held by the inhabitants of Carlisle, for the purpose of petitioning parliament for the abolition of the slave trade. He had already found occasion to notice this traffic in the course of his Moral Philosophy, though it is not to be found in his Lectures. He had been in correspondence for three or four years previously with the committee in London, but nevera set himself fairly to any extraordinary activity,
It does not appear to me, that what is called his treatise entitled “
arguments against the unjust pretensions of slave dealers and holders to be indemnified by pecuniary allowances at the public expense, in case the slave trade should be abolished,” was sent as, or intended to be, a regular treatise. Mr. Clarkson's cor