Front Page Titles (by Subject) WILLIAM WILBERFORCE TO JAY. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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WILLIAM WILBERFORCE TO JAY. - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 4 (1794-1826).
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WILLIAM WILBERFORCE TO JAY.
Kensington-gore, near London,
My Dear Sir:
Calling to mind the friendly spirit which animates your letters to me, I am not ashamed of being deemed impertinently selfish, when I commence my reply to your last very obliging communication of November, 1809, by telling you that about a year and three-quarters ago I changed my residence, and find myself in the habitation which my family now occupies, and which we find more salubrious than Clapham Common. We are just one mile from the turnpike gate at Hyde Park corner, which I think you will not have forgotten yet, having about three acres of pleasure-ground around my house, or rather behind it, and several old trees, walnut and mulberry, of thick foliage. I can sit and read under their shade, which I delight in doing, with as much admiration of the beauties of nature (remembering at the same time the words of my favourite poet: nature is but an effect, whose cause is God), as if I were two hundred miles from the great city.
My parliamentary duties force me to be within easy reach of London all the winter, and even spring, and sometimes for a part of the summer. I have a very affectionate wife, who is always unwilling to be at a distance from me; and Providence has blest us with six children, the eldest of whom is not quite twelve, the youngest under two years of age. My family are breathing pure air, and taking exercise quietly and without restraint, while I am in the harness at St. Stephens or, to continue the metaphor, in a very good stable just opposite Westminster Hall, where I commonly, or rather chiefly, take both my food and rest during the whole session, often being unable to come over to Kensington-gore from Monday morning to Saturday night; always, however, within call, should domestic matters require my presence.
I was not aware that my egotism would be so tedious, yet again let me confess that I am not afraid of subjecting myself, with you, to any severity of censure. When I have a regard for any one, I like to know his habits of life, times, places, etc., and I recollect with pleasure, that you kindly gave me an account of your family matters, and of your present situation and pursuits. Let me beg you to be so obliging as to continue so to do, in any letter which you may do me the favour to write; next, let me not forget to inform you, that your friendly packet of the 8th November last, of which I received duplicates first, brought me two copies of your favour of 14th April, 1806, for which, however late, accept my best thanks. In conformity with the kind wish you express, that I should name to you some person in London to whom your letters may be addressed, let me name Robert Barclay, Esq. (the great brewer), or Samuel Hoare, Esq., the banker, both of whom I think you knew.
I wish I could recollect with certainty, how many of the reports of the African Institution I sent you. I will, however, transmit to you either to New York or Philadelphia, accordingly as on inquiry I shall judge best, all the reports but the first. Indeed on consideration I will send them all, as you may promote our common object, by giving away any copies you do not wish to retain.
I am grieved to tell you, that both your countrymen and my own are still carrying on the abominable traffic in human flesh, in spite of the abolition laws of their respective countries. I trust that a continuance of the vigorous methods we are using to carry our law into effect, will by degrees force our commercial men to employ their substance in some more innocent commerce. It has given me no little pleasure, to find all your several ministers (both Mr. King, Mr. Monroe, and Mr. Pinckney) warmly disposed to cooperate, so far as they properly could in their peculiar situation; and I am not without hopes of a practical, though not a formal adoption of the only effectual expedient for suppressing the slave trade, that of the armed vessels of both our countries taking the slave ships of the other as well as those of its own. There might be objections, though I own I can see none of sufficient importance to outweigh the countervailing benefits to a regular compact between our two countries for the above purpose; but it will answer the same end, provided we respectively abstain from claiming any of our vessels which may have been captured when engaged in the slave trade. I have received, within a few weeks, the opinion of your attorney-general in its practical tendency in favour of the system I am wishing to see established.
My dear sir, I know not how I have been able, with the pen in my hand, to abstain so long from expressing the sincere and great pleasure it has given me to find affairs taking a more favourable turn between our two countries. I can only account for my not breaking out on this topic, on my first sitting down to write to you, by the consideration that when once there is a favourable issue in any case, in which we have been receiving or communicating from time to time the tidings of the day, with extreme anxiety and earnestness (the French word empressement better expresses what I mean), as for instance in the case of the illness of a friend, we become so cool that we perhaps forget to inquire about, or to name at all, the very topic on which, during the state of suspense, we were continually asking for or giving intelligence with such feverish solicitude. Really, the idea of a war between our two countries is perfectly horrible; and I am really happy to say, that I think in this country this most just sentiment gains ground. Like all propositions which are founded in truth and reason, it gradually sinks into the minds of men, and, though perhaps slowly and insensibly, by degrees it leavens nearly the whole mass. It will tend to produce this friendly disposition on your side of the water, if more of your countrymen would come over and live awhile among us. We are not an idle people; we are a busy people, and may not have leisure or disposition to pay all the personal attentions which politeness might prescribe; but I am persuaded that any gentleman of character and moderation who should visit this country, would meet with such a friendly reception as would show him that the circumstance of our being the descendants of common progenitors is not forgotten, or rather, that it is reviving and diffusing itself with increasing force.
Before I conclude, let me express the satisfaction it gave me to find that you were safely laid up, if I may so express it, in a comfortable and tranquil harbour, after having figuratively as well as literally been so long, or at least so often, tossed on the stormy sea of public life. May I confess to you, at very near fifty-one only in years, but with only a weakly constitution and after having been in parliament very near thirty years, that I begin to look forward to the same secession from public life; meaning, however, to form no positive determination for the future, but to follow the leadings of Providence, and do on the day the duties of the day.
In three or four years, my four boys, the eldest especially, will be attaining that period of life when a father’s eye and tongue may be most useful and necessary to their future well-doing; and really the business of parliament has increased so much of late years, as to render it next to impossible for any man who cannot live for six or seven months in every year with a very small proportion of food or sleep, especially the latter, to attend at all, as he would otherwise be glad to do, to domestic or social claims. Then let me add,—and if you will take it as intended in the way of a hint to yourself, excuse only my freedom in giving it, and you will not greatly mistake my meaning: any man who has acted his part at all creditably on the stage of public life, may render very great service to mankind, especially to his own countrymen, with whose opinions, prejudices, and errors he is well acquainted, by his pen; for instance, by bearing testimony to the truth of the position which, however trite, it is still useful now and then to repeat and enforce, that honesty is the best policy, etc.
I happen to have just now many claims of an epistolary nature, which have been too long neglected, owing to my having left them, as in your case, to be attended to when the recess of parliament should afford me a little more leisure. Much writing also affects my breathing. I must therefore conclude. But before I lay down my pen, let me, recollecting your kindly opening your mind to me on one important occasion, in, I think, 1795 (or 1796), beg that when you next write to me, you would favour me by telling me how you would vote, etc., if you were in our House of Commons, on the question of parliamentary reform. I do not ask you to take the trouble of entering into a detailed statement of the premises which may lead you to form your judgment on that point, whatever it may be; I wish only (unless you have a little leisure) for your conclusion. I will own to you, that one main motive with me for having supported, on a late occasion, the motion for parliamentary reform, was the persuasion that by taking away what must be confessed to be a blemish or blot, in an assembly which is professedly formed on the principle of representation, we are lessening the power of bad men to misrepresent and defame our constitution, and to mislead the well-intentioned but perhaps less acute and long-sighted, into a concurrence in their measures. 2dly, if the measure should be adopted at all, it is desirable that it should be so at a time when, as is really the case now, notwithstanding the confident assurances of such men as Cobbett and his adherents, the country feels coolly on the subject, and is therefore not likely to push its representatives to go dangerous lengths; for I think you will agree with me, that it is a species of reform, all things considered, concerning which, in this country and at this time, it is better of the two not to go quite far enough, than to go too far.
Farewell, my dear sir, and believe me, with cordial esteem and regard,
Your faithful servant,
P. S.—As I shall be sending you a parcel, and I do not recollect that I ever begged your acceptance of a religious publication, which I first sent into the world the year I married (and what I say of wedded life, I thank heaven I should not now alter), let me now transmit it as a testimony of my esteem and regard. It was, in truth, principally intended for the use of my friends, and therefore I may send it to you with great propriety. I will also accompany it with another on the slave trade. May these books preserve in your family the memorial of our friendly connexion, and if you will not call me impertinent, I will request from you some similar memorial.