But he had a higher and a nobler mission than that of mere money-getting. He was a practical philanthropist. Quietly, modestly, unostentatiously, "he went about doing good." Placed in a position of command over many young people, he, early in life, recognised the fact that his duty to them was not fully done when he had paid them their wages. He resolved to do his best to raise them, mentally and socially. In this he was so successful, that at this moment there are many men occupying positions in life unattainable by them but for his assistance. There are clergymen, merchants, musical professors, and others, who began life as boys at Winfield's; and there are probably some scores of large manufactories now in active operation in the town, the principals of which, but for Mr. Winfield's large-hearted and practical provision, would have remained in the ignorance in which he found them.
Some thirty or forty years ago there was, nearly opposite the manufactory in Cambridge Street, a long, low, upper room, which was used as a place of worship by a small body of Dissenters, and was called Zoar Chapel. Mr. Winfield became the tenant of this place for week-day evenings, and opened it as a night-school for the boys in his employ. In order to secure punctuality of attendance, he made the rule compulsory that every boy in the factory under eighteen years of age should attend this school at least three times a week. There was ample provision made for teaching, and no charge was made. The proceedings each night opened with singing, and closed with a short prayer. Once a week regularly, Mr. Winfield, Jun., held a Bible Class. Occasionally, too, the father would do so, and he frequently attended and delivered a short and simple address. Many parents eagerly sought employment for their children at the works, that their sons might secure the benefit of the school, and Mr. Winfield soon had the "pick" of the youths of the town. The school attendance grew rapidly, and the little chapel was soon found too narrow. Larger premises were taken, and a class for young men was established. This class Mr. J.F. Winfield—then rapidly rising to manhood—took under his own charge, while the juniors were under the care of voluntary teachers.
So beneficial in every way was the little institution found to be, that it was resolved to develop it further. Mr. John Winfield—inheriting his father's practically benevolent spirit—matured a plan, and requested his father to celebrate his coming majority by carrying it into effect. This was done, and the handsome school-room which now occupies a central position in the works was erected. Upon this building, including the cost of an organ and of the necessary fittings, Mr. Winfield spent no less than L2,000. The instruction was no longer left to voluntary effort. A properly qualified schoolmaster was engaged, and the Government Inspector was requested to pay periodical visits. Drawing was made a special feature of the instruction, and the successful pupils in this class received Government rewards. Music also was taught. In fact, the school became a model of what an educational establishment should be. Once every year—on Whit Thursday—there was a fete at The Hawthorns, to which the scholars were invited. These gatherings were looked forward to with much pleasure, and few were absent. Music was provided, and appropriate addresses were delivered. Sumptuous hospitality was shown, and every effort was made to make these occasions socially enjoyable and morally beneficial. The prizes and certificates of proficiency were distributed in the school-room, at Christmas, in the presence of the whole of the employes of the establishment.
The school soon obtained more than local fame, and was visited from time to time by distinguished persons. At the time of the establishment of the Institution of Social Science, when the great Lord Brougham delivered his magnificent inaugural oration in the Town Hall, he was the guest of Mr. J.F. Winfield, and visited the works. The pupils and workpeople were collected in the school, and there had the gratification of listening to some of the wise words of that "old man eloquent." At this time the average nightly attendance at the school was something like 250 pupils. No one can calculate the good that has resulted from the establishment of this institution. No one can tell the feeling of gratitude that still rises in the minds of hundreds of well-to-do people for the benefits they there received. It has been very gratifying to me on many occasions to see in pleasant villas and cozy cottages the engraved portrait of Mr. Winfield, occupying a place of honour on the wall, and to hear gray-headed men say of him that he was the best friend they ever had, and that but for him they might have remained in the degradation from which he assisted them to rise.
Mr. Winfield could scarcely be called a public man. Early in life he served the office of High Bailiff, and was placed upon the Commission of the Peace. He did not, upon the incorporation of the town, seek municipal honours, and he rarely took part in political action. He was a very warmly-attached member of the Church of England, and in this connection was ardently Conservative; but, although nominally a Conservative, he was truly Liberal in all secular affairs. He was an earnest helper in the movement for the better education of the people, and their elevation in other respects. He certainly always took the Conservative side at election times, but he never attempted unduly to influence his employes. Indeed, on polling days it was his habit to throw open the gates of his manufactory, so that his men might have full liberty to go and record their votes as they pleased. Whenever he did appear on a public platform, it was to aid by his presence or his advocacy the cause of the Church to which he was so much devoted, or to assist in some charitable or scholastic effort.
As a magistrate, he was one of the most regular attendants at the Public Office. I have seen him there many times, and have frequently been struck with the thought that when he passed sentence, it never sounded like an expression of the revenge of society for a wrong that had been done, but seemed rather to resemble the sorrowing reproof of a father, hoping by stern discipline to restrain erring conduct in a disobedient child.
Very early in life he married Lucy, the only surviving child of Mr. John Fawkener, of Shrewsbury, and took up his residence in a large red brick house in New Street, which has only lately been pulled down. It stood nearly opposite the rooms of the Society of Artists. Its last occupant was Mr. Sharman, professor of music. About the year 1828, Mr. Winfield built a house in the Ladywood Road, which he named "The Hawthorns," and here he resided all his life. The neighbourhood was then entirely open, and from his house to his manufactory was a pleasant walk amid fields, through the noble avenue of elms that led to Ladywood House and Vincent Street bridge, and from thence by the bank of the canal to the Crescent. I often walked to town in his company, and admired with him the gorgeous apple blossoms of the trees in the valley now filled up by the railway. We stood together one day in 1846 or 1847, and saw the first barrowful of soil removed from the canal bank, near the Crescent bridge, to form the opening which is now the railway tunnel.
In private life few men have been more generally beloved. He was the embodiment of kindliness and consideration for everybody. His domestic servants and workpeople were warmly devoted to him, and many of them remained nearly all their lives in his service. Only very recently one of his domestic servants, who had continued after his death in the service of a member of his family, died at an advanced age, fifty-five years after entering his household. He was essentially a "domesticated" man, and his conduct as a husband and father was marked by unvarying benevolent regard and affectionate consideration. The death, in 1861, of his only son was the great trial of his life. His hopes and his ambitions had culminated in this son; and when he was removed, the father staggered under the blow, and never properly overcame the shock it gave him. From that time he gradually failed in health, and retired from active life. Change of scene and release from labour were of no avail. He eventually became a confirmed invalid, and on the 16th of December, 1869, he passed away, to the great grief of his family. His loss was greatly deplored by his domestics and workpeople, and the whole population of Birmingham joined in expressions of regret at the loss of one who was so universally beloved and respected.
He was followed to his grave in the beautiful churchyard at Perry Barr by the few surviving members of his family, by many friends, and by the whole of the people employed at the works. The day was a bitter wintry one, and the rain came down heavily. It was a touching sight; thousands stood bare-headed beneath the inclement sky, as the body of their friend was laid to its rest, and, amid sobs and tears, joined with tremulous voices in singing—
"Earthly cavern, to thy keeping We commit our brother's dust; Keep it safely, softly sleeping, Till our Lord demand thy trust."
CHARLES GEACH, M.P.
I mentioned, in the sketch of Mr. Gillott, that all the members of the Edgbaston Quoit Club had very large heads, and that this fact seemed to bear out the phrenological theory, that size of head was indicative of mental power. As a further proof I may mention here, that the late Mr. Charles Geach had the largest head in Birmingham. I was told by the tradesman who used to supply him with hats, that such was the extraordinary size of his head, that his hats had always to be specially made for him. The theory in his case certainly was fully justified, for if ever a man lived who had powerful mental qualities, it was the gentleman whose name stands at the head of this sketch.
Mr. Geach was born in the county of Cornwall, in the year 1808; and at a suitable age took a situation as junior clerk in the head office of the Bank of England, in London. There, his quickness, accuracy, and ready grasp of complicated matters, soon proved to his superiors that he was no ordinary youth, and he was rapidly promoted. In 1826, when the branch was established in Birmingham, Captain Nichols, the first manager, who had noticed Geach at work, sought and obtained permission from the directors to include him in the staff of clerks which he brought down. Geach, accordingly, at the age of 18, came to the town with which his whole future life was destined to be connected.
For ten years he worked assiduously as a clerk, rapidly rising in position at the bank, quickly attaching to himself a large circle of friends, and gradually securing amongst business men a character for industry, perseverance, sagacity, and courtesy. In 1836 he was engaged in the establishment of two of the local banks, and in August of that year he became manager of the Birmingham and Midland Bank.
Mr. Geach, in the days of his great prosperity, often referred with manly pride and becoming modesty to these early days. I remember some twenty years ago his coming down specially from the House of Commons one night to take the chair, at the Temperance Hall, at a meeting of the Provident Clerks' Association. In the course of his remarks that evening, he spoke of the mercantile clerks as a body for whom he should always feel sympathy; a class to which he felt it to be an honour to have once belonged, and from which he himself had only so recently emerged. He mentioned then, that "when he first came to Birmingham some twenty-five years before, he did not know a soul in the place which had since elected him to be its Mayor, and in which he had, by industry and prudence, gained the esteem of so many friends, and achieved a position very far beyond his expectations and his merits." Only a very few weeks before his death, he made some observations of a similar character, at the annual dinner given by the Midland Bank Directors. Indeed, it was his frequent habit to point out to young men that, by the practice of habits of industry, prudence, diligence, and observation, success such as his—in kind, if not in degree—was open to them.
Soon after Mr. Geach came to live in Birmingham, he took apartments at Handsworth. An attachment soon sprung up between him and the daughter of a Mr. Skally, who kept a school at Villa Cross. After a short courtship, the young couple were married, Mr. Geach then being about 24 years of age. The house in which he wooed and won his wife is now an inn. It stands at the angle formed by the junction of the Heathfield Road and the Lozells Lane; and is known by the sign of the Villa Cross Tavern.
When the Midland Bank was opened, Mr. Geach went to reside on the premises, and here he lived for about ten years. He removed, about 1846, to Wheeleys Hill, and from thence, a few years later, he went to reside at a large mansion at Chad Hill. For the last two or three years of his life he lived principally in London, occupying the house, No. 9, Park Street, Westminster.
About the year 1840, the Park Gate Iron Manufacturing Company was in active operation at Rotherham, near Sheffield. Most of the shares were held in Birmingham, and the directors, with one exception, were Birmingham men. They were Joshua Scholefield, Joseph Gibbins, Henry Van Wart, Thomas Pemberton, Samuel A. Goddard, and Samuel Evans, of Cradley. For a time the company was prosperous, but about 1842 came a revulsion, and iron rapidly fell in price from L10 to L5 per ton. The company became greatly embarrassed. Most of the directors became sick of the concern, and lost all interest in it. The business was neglected by all the directors except the two last named. At one period the company was in such straits that their bills would have been dishonoured had not Mr. Goddard given his private cheque on the Bank of England for L3,000. At this period Mr. Geach was consulted, and after some negotiations he bought the whole concern for an old song. The nominal purchaser was Mr. Joshua Scholefield, but, somehow, Mr. Geach had secured for himself the largest share. The business was now carefully looked after, and began to recover itself. All at once came the "railway mania" of 1844 and 1845, when all England went mad for a time. George Hudson, the linen draper of York, from whom I once took an order in his little shop near the Cathedral, was then the most notable man in the country. He soon became known as the "Railway King," and, as he was presumed to have the faculty of transforming everything into gold, he was feted and almost worshipped by all classes of society. Under the excitement created by visions of untold wealth derived from making railways, iron rapidly rose in price to double its recent value. Mr. Geach at this time, I am able to state upon competent living authority, "took three orders for 30,000 tons of railroad iron, at L12, which did not cost over L6 per ton." This laid the foundation of Mr. Geach's marvellous success, and from this period he commenced to identify himself with large enterprises, until at length he was associated with some of the most important mercantile transactions of the period.
About this time there was living at Wednesbury an eccentric Independent Minister named Hardy. He is still remembered there for his extraordinary fancy for preaching about the "seven golden candlesticks." When he took this topic for a sermon, his hearers knew that for six or seven Sundays at least he would speak of nothing else. And, lest his hearers should not be duly impressed with the subject, his practice was never to go more than a year or two without going over the whole ground anew. This worthy minister was somewhat of a mechanic, and in connection with a coach-axle maker named Rollason, the plan was conceived of "faggoting" bars of iron radially round a centre-bar, so that the laminae of the iron should range like the concentric rings in a tree. The chief difficulty was the necessity of rolling the axles before they could be hammered. Mr. Dodd, of the Horseley Works, showed how this could be done by a reversing action, and Mr. Hardy patented both processes. Mr. H. Wright, who was afterwards a partner in the works, tells me that he assisted to draw up the specifications. Money being wanted to work the concern, a small private company was formed with a capital of L2,000. Mr. Hardy was manager, and Mr. T. Walker was clerk. This company was carried on for about two years, when, becoming involved, and none of the partners caring to invest more money in it, application was made to Mr. Geach. This was in 1838.
Mr. Geach, perceiving the superiority of Hardy's method over any other, induced some twelve or more gentlemen to join in the purchase of the works and patents, Mr. Wright and Mr. Hardy being of the number. The new company assumed the name of the "Patent Shaft and Axletree Company." Mr. Wright was appointed general manager; Mr. Hardy superintended the forge; and Mr. Walker assisted generally. Mr. Hardy withdrew about 1840, when Mr. Walker took the management of the forge. In 1841, Mr. Wright removed to Rotherham, to manage the Park Gate Works, and Mr. Walker became sole manager of the Shaft and Axletree business. In 1844, Mr. Geach bought out all the partners—Mr. Wright being the last—and so became the sole proprietor. Up to this time there had been no financial success, and no dividends had been paid. About this time the sudden rise in prices, consequent upon the railway enterprise of the period and the enormous demand for the manufactures of the works, turned the fortunes of the concern, which then commenced its career of marvellous success. It soon became one of the most important concerns in Staffordshire. It was carried on by Mr. Geach, as sole proprietor, until his death, when Mr. Walker purchased it. It was soon afterwards converted into a limited liability company, and it is now, under the chairmanship of Mr. Walker, who has been so long connected with it, one of the best conducted and most prosperous concerns in the district. The present number of people employed in the establishment is about six thousands.
In addition to these two important concerns, Mr. Geach was a partner in a large manufactory near Dudley. He was extensively engaged as a contractor for several railway companies. He was an active promoter and director of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, and of the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railways. He was also one of the concessionnaires of the Western Railway of France; and to his wonderful administrative ability and power of organisation the success of that company is mainly due.
Although so closely connected with the railway interest, and although, as a proprietor in most of the leading railway companies, he was constantly called upon to attend meetings, his great energies found other spheres of action. He was a promoter, and one of the most active directors, of the Crystal Palace Company, at Sydenham; and he was a director of the Great Eastern Steam-ship Company.
Busy as his commercial life was, he found time to devote to duties of a more public character. In 1843 or 1844 he was elected one of the Aldermen of Birmingham. Here he was very active and useful. Up to his time, the finances of the Borough had been managed with little skill or system. His great financial knowledge, and his clear vision of the right and the wrong, in public book-keeping, enabled him to suggest, and to carry into operation, great improvements in the management of the Corporation accounts. In 1847 he was Mayor, and in that office won the goodwill of everyone by his suavity of manner and his untiring industry. Two or three years afterwards, the pressure of other duties compelled him to retire from municipal office.
It is needless to tell Birmingham men that in politics Mr. Geach was a Liberal. His public political life commenced at the time of the agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws. During that exciting period he was the guiding spirit of the local Association, and transacted the whole of the business with the central body at Manchester. He was active in promoting the elections of his friends, Joshua and William Scholefield, with both of whom he was on terms of intimate friendship. His political creed was very wide and eminently practical. He had no abstract theories to which everything must bend. His eye saw at a glance the right thing to do, and he set to work energetically to do it, or to get it done.
In the year 1851 there was a vacancy in the representation of the city of Coventry, and Mr. Geach was solicited to stand as a candidate. I saw him on the platform of the old railway station, in Duddeston Row, on his way to the nomination. He was very reliant, and spoke of the certainty he felt that he should be successful. There was, however, no excitement, and no undue elevation at the prospect of the crowning honour of his life being so near his grasp. He was opposed by Mr. Hubbard, the eminent London financier, and by Mr. Strutt, who was afterwards created Lord Belper; but he was returned by a considerable majority, and at a subsequent election he was unopposed. He held the seat until his death.
In a very short time after his election, he began to take part in the debates. He was not a fluent speaker; indeed he was hesitating, and sometimes his sentences were much involved; but, as he never spoke except upon topics with which he was perfectly familiar, he was listened to with the respect and attention which are always, in the House of Commons, accorded to those who have "something to say." Upon financial topics he soon was looked upon as an authority, and there were many who looked upon him as a possible future Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Soon after his return to Parliament he became the host of the illustrious Hungarian patriot, Louis Kossuth. It was in Mr. Geach's carriage that the great exile rode triumphantly through the crowded streets of Birmingham, amid the plaudits of the entire population. Few who saw it can forget how Geach's face was lighted up with smiles of delight, as he sat beside Kossuth in his progress, with George Dawson on the box. Kossuth, albeit not unused to the applause and ovations of his grateful countrymen, said that he had never before received himself, or seen in the case of others, so magnificent and enthusiastic a reception.
In person, Mr. Geach was tall, and stoutly built. His height was, probably, two or three inches beyond six feet. He had a bright, clear, fair complexion, and an ample brow. His face would have been strikingly handsome but for an undue preponderance of the under jaw, which gave the lower part of the face too massive an appearance. He had singularly agreeable manners. His grasp of the hand was firm and cordial. He was entirely free from the "airs" which some self-made men put on. In his appearance there was evidence of power and influence that rendered any assumption superfluous. He was always ready to listen, and to give his friends the benefit of his large knowledge and experience. He was very generous, even to those who had in early life crossed his path. Only the other day I was told that one of his greatest opponents having died in straitened circumstances, Geach took charge of his sons, and placed them in positions to raise themselves to opulence. In private life he was greatly beloved. A lady, who had ample opportunities of forming a correct judgment, tells me that "as a husband and father his excellence could not be exceeded; and altogether he was the very best man I have ever known."
Soon after his retirement from the management of the Midland Bank, the shareholders and directors, to mark their sense of his services, and their esteem for him as a man, voted him a magnificent service of plate. A fine full-length portrait was about the same time placed in the board room of the bank. The painting is by Partridge, and is a very excellent characteristic likeness of Mr. Geach in the prime of his life.
In the autumn of 1854 he was somewhat enfeebled by the pressure of Parliamentary and commercial duties, and took a trip to Scotland to recruit his strength. Soon after his return to London, he was seized with an internal disorder, which reduced his strength very much. He was recovering from this attack, when a return of an old affection of one of his legs took place. From this time his ultimate recovery seemed doubtful. It was at one time contemplated to amputate the left foot, but in his prostrate condition this was considered unsafe and hopeless. He gradually became weaker, and on Wednesday, November 1st, 1854, he died, in his 46th year. He left a widow and four children to mourn his loss, and a larger circle than most men possess, of warmly-attached friends to honour and respect his memory.
WILLIAM SANDS COX, F.R.S., &c.
Rather more than thirty years ago, I was very desirous to obtain an influential introduction to Dr. Jephson. I mentioned my wish to an old friend in Birmingham, who undertook to obtain one for me, and in a few days told me that if I called upon Mr. Sands Cox, at his house in Temple Row, some morning early, that gentleman would give me a letter introducing me to the great Leamington physician. I accordingly presented myself as directed, and was shown, by a somewhat seedy-looking old woman—who evidently looked upon me with considerable suspicion—into a small room in the front of the house, where, seated at a writing-table, I found the subject of this sketch.
I had expected to see a man of commanding appearance, with some outward indication of mental power, and with the intelligent brightness of eye and face which generally distinguishes men of the consummate skill and extensive knowledge which I was told he possessed. I was, however, greatly surprised to see only a heavy-looking, middle-aged, rather bulky man, with a miser-like expression of face. There was no fire in the room, and, for a cold morning, he seemed to be rather thinly clad, his only attire being a pair of trousers, without braces, and a night-shirt. The wearer had evidently hurried from his bed-room to his study, without the customary ablutions, and his tangled hair and scrubby beard were innocent of comb and razor. On being invited to be seated, I with some difficulty found a chair, for almost every square foot of surface in the place—floor, chairs, tables, shelves, and every other "coign of vantage"—was piled up with books, reports, law papers, printers' proofs, and other literary matter, begrimed with dust, and apparently in the most hopeless condition of muddle. On the table itself was the opened correspondence of the day, and although it was very early morning, a separated portion, consisting of fifteen or twenty documents, and an equal number of letters already written, folded, and neatly addressed, showed that he had been early at work; whilst a large quantity of manuscript, thrown, sheet upon sheet, upon the floor, and the stump of a candle, that had burnt very low in a very dirty candlestick, proved conclusively that he had been hard at work until late on the previous night.
He received me with courteous politeness, read my note, and said how happy he should be to comply with the request it contained; "but," said he, "you must excuse me now. I have to finish my correspondence, get my breakfast, and make myself a little more presentable. Will you call again in an hour?"
Of course I was punctual. I found him completely metamorphosed, and he now—in a soberly-cut coat of black, a brilliant black satin waistcoat, and white necktie—looked, as he always did in this dress, like a well-to-do English country clergyman. He was quite ready for me; handed me a very cordial recommendation to Dr. Jephson; and asked if he might trouble me with a small parcel for the doctor. I found afterwards that, in order to secure attention from a man whose time was so fully occupied, he had entrusted me with a presentation copy of a work he had just published, on "The Amputation of a Leg at the Hip Joint," an operation which, he had recently, I believe for the first time in English surgery, successfully performed.
Such was my introduction to William Sands Cox, and such the commencement of an acquaintance which resulted in intimacy of many years' duration, in the course of which I had frequent opportunities of studying his character, and becoming acquainted with his many peculiarities.
The family to which he belonged was one of the oldest in Warwickshire. His ancestors for many generations resided in the neighbourhood of Stratford-on-Avon. His father, the late Edward Townsend Cox, came to Birmingham in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He was articled to Mr. Kennedy of Steelhouse Lane—father of Rann Kennedy. He afterwards practised, with great success, as a surgeon, for more than half a century, dying at a very advanced age, only a very few years ago. His quaint figure, as he drove about the town in an antiquated phaeton, drawn by a patriarchal pony, must be familiar to the memory of all but the most juvenile readers.
William Sands Cox was born in 1802, in the house now occupied as offices by Mr. Barrows, No. 38, Cannon Street. Being intended by his father for the medical profession, he had a most liberal education; and, after passing a few years as assistant to his father, he was sent (a most unusual course at that time) to complete his studies at the very best medical schools in London and on the continent.
Upon his return to Birmingham, his foreign experiences enabled him to see that the greater number of country practitioners of that time were sadly deficient in medical and surgical knowledge; were lamentably ignorant of anatomy, pathology, and general science; and were greatly wanting in general culture. With rare self-denial he, instead of acquiring, as he easily might, a lucrative private practice, resolved to devote his life to the elevation of the character, and to the more regular and scientific education and instruction, of the future members of the profession to which he belonged.
With this view, he started a modest medical and surgical class-room in Snow Hill. He soon collected a number of pupils, and, in order to secure greater accommodation, he, about the year 1830, removed to an old chapel in Paradise Street. This, having been properly fitted up, was named the "School of Medicine," and it soon became a recognised institution. Being enriched from time to time by collections of medical and surgical preparations and appliances, it gradually grew in size and importance, and, being generously and very largely endowed by many benevolent persons, was eventually incorporated by Royal Charter as the "Queen's College." From this time the indefatigable founder determined that it should be worthy of the illustrious name it bore. From his own resources; by his father's assistance; by the aid of many influential inhabitants of the town; and by persistent appeals to the rich and benevolent of all ranks, money was rapidly accumulated. At length, with the princely and munificent assistance of Dr. Warneford, he had the satisfaction of seeing the noble buildings that adorn Paradise Street completed, and the kindred institution, the Queen's Hospital, in full and successful operation.
There was something marvellous in the power he possessed of influencing others. He was by no means fluent of speech; his manners were shy, awkward, and retiring. He had little grace of person or ease in conversation, yet he somehow was more successful than most men of his time in winning friends, and obtaining aid for the great work he had set himself to accomplish. Probably his indomitable perseverance lay at the root of the secret. How he influenced the good Dr. Warneford has long been matter of record. From first to last, I believe I am within the mark when I mention L25,000 as the sum which he induced Dr. Warneford to bestow upon the two institutions. As I write, I have before me a letter written from the Doctor's house to a member of the College Council, of which the following is a transcript:
"Bourton-on-the Hill, January 9th, 1852.
"My dear Sir,—I had the pleasure of submitting our supplemental charter this morning to Dr. Warneford. I have the gratification to announce a donation of L10,000.
"I remain, my dear Sir, yours faithfully,
"WILLIAM SANDS COX."
The amount of labour Mr. Cox expended for the benefit of the Queen's Hospital was something beyond belief. Early and late he was busy for its advantage; thousands of autograph letters appealing for help fell from his pen. No chance of help was too remote for him to see; no one too high in rank for him to appeal to; no one so poor but could be asked to do something. It was he who brought Jenny Lind to sing gratuitously for its benefit. It was he who induced managers of theatres, music halls, and other places of amusement, to set apart certain nights as "Queen's Hospital Nights." It was he who obtained Her Majesty's patronage and support; and "last, but not least," it was he who organised the annual ball at the Town Hall, which for fifteen or twenty years was the most fashionable and delightful re-union in Birmingham, and which brought in a very large annual profit to the funds of the hospital. His appeals to noblemen and gentlemen to become stewards at these balls were literally strewed broadcast through the land. Amongst others, he was bold enough once to ask the great Duke of Wellington; and he used to show, with some pride, the letter he received in reply, which was written in the Duke's most characteristic manner. The original, I believe, still hangs, framed, in the Secretary's room at the hospital; and as I think it likely to be interesting, as a specimen of the Duke's epistolary powers and peculiarities, I append a copy:
"Strathfield Saye, Dec. 11, 1842.
"F.M. the Duke of Wellington presents his Compliments to Mr. Cox and regrets much that his time is so much occupied that it is impossible for him to be able to find leisure to attend to the duties of the office of a Steward of a Ball. He hopes, therefore that he will be excused for declining to be nominated to fill an office the duties of which he cannot undertake to perform.
"W. Sands Cox, Eqre."
The last time I saw Mr. Cox, in connection with these institutions, was in 1862, at the time of the great bazaar on behalf of the hospital. It was a hard week's work for many, and it resulted in a profit of about L3,500. Mr. Cox's homely figure during that week, was "here, there, and everywhere," encouraging everybody, and assisting in every way, even to helping the college porter to carry large and heavy hampers of goods across the street from the college to the Town Hall. I have a perfect remembrance of his sitting, on the last day of the bazaar, with another gentleman, in the ticket office, to receive the sixpenny fees for admission. I recollect then to have seen again the strange, miserly expression which had struck me at my first introduction; and I noticed, too, the eager "clutch," with which he grasped the money as it came in, and how he chuckled with delight as he made up into brown paper parcels each pound's worth of silver as it accumulated. How, too, his eyes twinkled; how he rubbed his hands backwards and forwards over his mouth, as he jerked out "Another pound, Mr. ——; I believe we shall get L50"; and how, when the doors were closed, he triumphantly handed over to the treasurer more than sixty packets, of L1 each, as the result of the sixpences paid for admission on that one day.
Unfortunately, his mind was creative only. Like many parents, who never can be brought to understand that there comes a time when their children are mentally capable of "running alone," he, in his later years, failed to see that these two institutions, the children of his brain, no longer required leading strings, or his unaided nursing. Hence, as the establishments grew beyond his personal power of supervision, he became jealous of everyone connected with their management, and sought still to be sole director. As the founder, his will was to be absolute law; everybody must consult his wishes, and bow to his decision; and although he had, with advancing years, become less capable, and had always been wanting in the sustaining power which successfully carries on great work, he insisted upon regulating every matter of detail and discipline connected with the two institutions.
The result was inevitable. Difficulty after difficulty arose. A painful disease at this time attacked him, making him more irritable and exacting. Professors and other officers of the college retired one after the other. Friends fell off. Subscriptions were dropped. Pupils were withdrawn, and complete anarchy prevailed. At length Chancery was appealed to, and Mr. Cox, having been defeated, retired, somewhat sulkily and disdainfully, from the town—disappointed, dejected, dispirited, and with a feeling which embittered the remaining years of his life—a feeling that he had been very greatly misunderstood, and most ungratefully treated.
Sands Cox, in private life, was gentleness and simplicity itself. At a dinner party, while ladies were present, he was very quiet; but the merry twinkle of his eye when the conversation became animated, showed that he was keenly alive to all that was going on. After the ladies had retired, he generally joined in the conversation, and had, almost always, some quaintly curious story, which, told, as it always was, in a shy way, as a schoolboy might tell it, was irresistibly droll.
He had few amusements. He was fond of a quiet rubber; kept a tame monkey, whose grotesque antics were to him a perpetual source of gratification; and he was very fond of fishing. With the fly rod he was very skilful, and he would occasionally steal a few days' holiday to indulge in trout or salmon fishing. He did not disdain, however, the far humbler sport that lay within an easy reach of Birmingham, and I occasionally went with him to a favourite spot for perch fishing. On one occasion, by an accident, he lost his bagful of baits, and had to use some of mine. Finding it inconvenient to come to me every time he wanted to bait his hook afresh, he took half the worms from my bag, which he crammed—all slimy and crawling as they were—into the pocket of a nearly new satin waistcoat. At another time, just as he was about to put on a fresh bait, his line became entangled in a bush, so as to require both hands to disengage it. Without the slightest hesitation he put the worm into his mouth to hold it while his hands were engaged with the line, and he seemed greatly to enjoy the laughter which his queer proceeding forced from those who were present.
In the course of his professional career, many honours were bestowed upon him. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society; was elected a member of the French Institute; and was honorary member of nearly every important surgical school in Europe. He was also created magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for the County of Warwick. He had, though few knew it, considerable influence in quarters where his name might hardly be expected to be known. He was generally consulted as to the fitness of local gentlemen proposed for magisterial honours; and as none of the parties are now alive, I may state that some days before the Queen's visit to Birmingham, in 1858, it was to Mr. Cox that application was made for information respecting the then Mayor, upon whom there was some hesitation as to whether the honour of knighthood should be conferred. Mr. Cox suggested, in reply, that the honour, although of course nominally given to the Mayor, would really be granted as a compliment to the town, which had chosen him as the chief magistrate. Acting on this suggestion, the Government of the day, as is well known, decided on the honour being bestowed.
I have alluded to some indications of a miserly disposition in Mr. Cox. These were, at the time, a psychological puzzle to my mind; but I have learned since that a man may have strong acquisitive instincts, and yet be without selfishness; that he may be even greedy to acquire, and yet deny himself in almost every possible way, in order to benefit others; and that the faculties of benevolence and conscientiousness will, in many cases, direct into unselfish channels the riches which have been accumulated by the mere animal instinct of selfish acquisitiveness.
Such is a faithful and honest attempt to exhibit something of the character, habits, and manners of one of Birmingham's most worthy sons; a man who, whatever his faults and failings, did much to elevate the noble profession to which he belonged, and thereby to alleviate the sufferings of thousands of his fellow creatures, not only of his own time, but for generations to come. To him, unquestionably, we owe the existence of two of our noblest institutions—the Queen's College and Hospital; and yet, strange to say, the town possesses no memorial of him. Others, who have done comparatively little for the place, have their portraits in the Corporation Gallery; yet Sands Cox is unrepresented. Surely the time has arrived when this should be remedied; surely, now that the grave has closed over his remains, the irritation and ill-feeling created by his somewhat imperious will and dogmatic manner, should be forgiven and forgotten, and only his self-denying devotion to the good of his native town should be remembered. Surely it is not too late to see that some fitting memorial of the man, and his work, should show to posterity that his contemporaries, and their immediate successors, were not unmindful of, nor ungrateful for, the great and noble work he was privileged to accomplish.
In the early part of the present century, a house, which is still standing, in Kenion Street, was occupied by a Dissenting Minister, who had two sons. One of these sons, fifty years afterwards, told the following story:
"When I was a boy, I was going one evening up Constitution Hill. On the left-hand side, at that time, there was a raised footpath, protected by railings, similar to the one which now exists at Hockley Hill. I was on the elevated part, and heard some one running behind me. Upon turning, I found a soldier, out of breath, and so exhausted that he sank to the ground at my feet. He implored me not to give information, and asked me for protection, telling me that he had been sentenced, for some neglect of duty, to receive a large number of lashes, at certain intervals, of which he had already been indulged with one instalment. Having been thought incapable of moving, he had not been very closely watched, and he had just escaped from the barracks, having run all the way to the spot on which he had fallen. I took him home, and told my father, who was greatly alarmed; but he fed him, and sent him to bed. The next morning I dressed myself in the soldier's clothes, and danced before my father, as he lay in bed. He was angry and alarmed, particularly as, on looking out of the window, we saw a non-commissioned officer of the same regiment standing opposite, apparently watching the house. Nothing came of that; but the difficulty was, what to do with the man. At night, however, we dressed him in some of my clothes, and sent him off to Liverpool. He promised to write, but we never heard any more of him. His clothes were tied up in two bundles; my brother James took one, and I the other, and we walked with my father to Hockley Pool, where we loaded the bundles with bricks, and threw them into a deep part of the water."
The narrator of this story, and the chief actor in the simple drama was George Edmonds. I mention this little event because it shows that the spirit of hostility to tyranny, and the scorn of oppression, cruelty, and persecution, which he manifested in his after life, were inborn, and a part of his nature. The same noble spirit which induced him, like the good Samaritan, to bind up the wounds, and to succour and defend the friendless soldier, gave his tongue the eloquence, and his soul the fire, to denounce, in the presence of assembled thousands, the malpractices of those then in power, and the injustice of the laws under which the people groaned.
George Edmonds was born in the year 1788, at the house in Kenion Street of which I have spoken. His father was the Minister of the Baptist Chapel in Bond Street. He was very popular as a preacher, and he appears to have been a man of much culture. An engraved portrait of him may be seen in the window of Mr. Massey's shop at the top of Mount Street. He was possessed of considerable humour, and was almost as celebrated as the great Rowland Hill for making droll remarks in the pulpit. It is told of him that, reading the fourth chapter of Philippians, and coming to the thirteenth verse, he read, "I can do all things;" here he paused, and said, "What, Paul?—do all things? I'll bet you half-a-crown of it;" then, suiting the action to the word, he placed the coin on the leaf of the book; but on reading the concluding portion of the verse, he said, "Oh, that alters it! I withdraw the bet," and then went on with his reading.
Under his father's care, George Edmonds received a really good education, and became an excellent classical scholar. His knowledge of Greek was extensive and profound. He was not apprenticed or articled to any business or profession, and he appears to have devoted his early manhood entirely to study. His favourite pursuit was the science of language, and in this branch of learning he became probably one of the best-informed men of his day. He was in constant correspondence with the most eminent and learned philologians of his time. I shall have occasion, further on, to mention this topic again.
In the year 1823, I find that he was keeping a school in Bond Street, near the chapel; his pupils, no doubt, being mainly the sons of the members of the congregation. This life appears to have been, to him, somewhat of a drudgery; and he longed for more active duties, and a larger sphere of work. At that time the strict etiquette which now governs all legal matters did not exist. The young schoolmaster having volunteered on one occasion to assist a friend to conduct a case in the old "Court of Bequests," found the self-imposed task very much to his taste. He took up the profession of an Advocate, and in that court and the magistrates' room at the Public Office he soon became a busy man. His clear insight gave him the power of instantly possessing himself of the merits of a case, while his fluency of speech, his persuasive manner, and his scholastic acquirements were great advantages. He soon obtained considerable influence among the respectable old gentlemen who at that time sat as judges in the one court and magistrates in the other. His intense love of fun, and his powerful irony, made these courts, instead of dull and dreary places, lively and cheerful. Many droll stories are told of him, one of the best of which relates to his cross-examination of a pompous witness. Edmonds began by asking, "What are you, Mr. Jones?" "Hi har a skulemaster," was the reply. In an instant came the crushing retort from Edmonds, "Ho, you ham, his you?" He continued to practise in the Court of Bequests until it was abolished, but he was ineligible in the newly-established County Court, not being an attorney. He then articled himself to Mr. Edwin Wright, and in the year 1847 was admitted as a solicitor, which profession he followed actively, up to the time of the illness which removed him from public life.
He was a powerful and successful advocate. His fault, however, in this capacity was that he identified himself too much with his case. He seemed always determined to win. True justice and fairness were not considered, so long as he could gain the day. Hence, when another advocate was opposed to him, the matter assumed, generally, the aspect of a professional tournament, in which victory was to be gained, rather than that of a calm and impartial investigation, in which the truth was to be ascertained and a just award made.
At the time of the incorporation of the town in 1838, and the establishment of Quarter Sessions, Mr. Edmonds was appointed Clerk of the Peace. He was then seriously ill, and was supposed to be dying. It was understood at the time, that the appointment was made as a solace to him in his then condition, and as a recognition, which would be pleasant to him, of the services he had rendered to his native town. It was not expected that he would survive to undertake the duties of the office. He, however, lived to perform them for more than thirty years. He himself had so little expectation of recovery that, from what he supposed to be his dying bed, he wrote to Mr. William Morgan, urging him to announce himself as a candidate for the office, so soon, in all probability, to become vacant. Mr. Morgan refrained from so doing, and Mr. Edmonds nominated him his deputy. In that capacity Mr. Morgan acted at the first Sessions held in the town.
As years rolled on, Mr. Edmonds became at times very absent in mind, causing occasionally great merriment in court by the ludicrous mistakes he made. When the Sessions-room was altered a few years ago, the jury box was placed on the opposite side of the court to that it had formerly occupied, but Mr. Edmonds's mind never realised the change. While juries were considering their verdict, it was Mr. Edmonds's practice to engage in conversation with some of the barristers; and he sometimes became so lost in these discussions as to take no heed of his duties. Mr. Hill, the Recorder, enjoyed these little scenes intensely. On one occasion, when the jury was waiting to deliver a verdict, the Recorder had to call him from one of these little chats, to receive it. Edmonds turned to the old spot, and seeing no one there, said, "There is no jury, sir." Upon which, Mr. Hill, smiling, said, "If you'll turn round, Mr. Edmonds, you'll see the jury laughing at you." In some confusion, Edmonds turned round, and, his mind being somewhat uncollected, he asked, "What say you, Mr. Foreman, are you guilty or not guilty?" On another occasion he took up, by mistake, from his desk, an indictment against a man who had been tried and sentenced, and charging the prisoner, who was a female, read, "John Smith, you stand indicted," &c. The Recorder, jocularly rebuking him, said he had never known a woman named John Smith before. The woman was sent down, and Edmonds insisted in having the real John Smith up, and he again began the charge. The prisoner laughed in his face, and told him he had been tried once, and got ten years, but he wouldn't mind being tried again if the judge would make it five.
But George Edmonds had a higher claim to grateful recollection than could be based upon mere forensic skill or professional duty. His it was to help to apply the first impulse to the movement which eventually broke down the strong bulwarks of territorial oligarchy. His it was to wear the political martyr's crown; his to beard a profligate Court, and a despotic, tyrannical, and corrupt Government; his to win, or to help to win, far nobler victories than were ever gained by Marlborough or Wellington: victories of which we reap the benefits now, in liberty of thought and speech, in an unfettered Press, in an incorrupt Parliament, in wiser laws, and in unshackled commerce. His manly voice never counselled aught but obedience; but it was never silent until it had assisted to ensure for his fellow-countrymen, that the laws he taught them to obey were just and impartial, and were equitably administered.
When Mr. Edmonds was a mere child, the great Revolution in France gave the English advocates of freedom hopes that the "appointed time" would soon arrive. The obstinacy of the King, which had already caused the loss of America, once more made itself manifest, and crushed these hopes. War was declared against France in 1793, and (with the exception of a period of thirteen months, from March, 1802, to April, 1803, and a few months in 1814-15) raged until the Battle of Waterloo, in June, 1815. Daring the whole of this long period the hopes of English freedom lay dormant. With the return of external peace came fresh visions of internal reformation. Major Cartwright, Sir Francis Burdett, and other advanced politicians formed themselves into a society, which, in memory of one of England's most worthy sons, they named the Hampden Club. They advocated annual Parliaments, universal suffrage, and vote by ballot. Provincial reformers adopted their creed. George Edmonds, then some 27 years old, took up the cause with great zeal, and advocated it with much eloquence and fervour. Cobbett, by his writings, and Hunt, by his speeches, aided the movement. The Tory party was alarmed, and Lord Liverpool's Government was so exasperated, that a crusade against the popular cause was resolved on.
Meanwhile, the Hampden Club counselled their Birmingham friends to bring matters to an issue, by electing a "Legislatorial Attorney," who was to proceed to the House of Commons, and formally demand to be admitted as the representative of Birmingham. The advice was taken, and on the 12th of July, 1819, a great meeting was held on Newhall Hill, for the purpose indicated. George Edmonds was the chairman and principal speaker, and was admittedly the local leader.
The Government was not slow to take action. On the 30th of the same month, the Prince Regent issued a proclamation, warning all His Majesty's subjects against treasonable and seditious meetings, and malpractices generally, and saying, inter alia—
"And whereas, it hath been represented unto us, that at one of such meetings the persons there assembled, in gross violation of the law, did attempt to constitute and appoint, and did, as much as in them lay, constitute and appoint, a person then nominated, to sit in their name, and in their behalf, in the Commons House of Parliament; and there is reason to believe that other meetings are about to be held for the like unlawful purpose.
"And whereas, many wicked and seditious writings have been printed, published, and industriously circulated, &c.
"And whereas, we have been given to understand ... that in some parts of the kingdom, men, clandestinely and unlawfully assembled, have practised military training and exercise.
"And whereas, &c., we have resolved to repress the wicked, seditious, and treasonable practices, &c. We do charge and command all sheriffs, magistrates, &c., to discover and bring to justice, all persons who have been or may be guilty of uttering seditious speeches or harangues, and all persons concerned in any riots or unlawful assemblies, which, on whatever pretext they may be grounded, are not only contrary to law, but dangerous to the most important interests of the kingdom," &c.
At the time this Proclamation appeared, Edmonds was editing and publishing in Birmingham a weekly political paper, under the title of Edmonds's Weekly Recorder. Number 8 of this paper, dated August 7, 1819, lies before me. The Proclamation is printed at full length on the front page, and the next column contains the opening sentences of a letter from Edmonds to the Prince Regent. This letter is of great length, and is written in a well-supported strain of splendid irony all through. To copy it at length would occupy too much space. I may, however, be allowed to quote a short extract or two. Speaking of the meeting on the 12th July, of which he acknowledges himself to have been the chairman, he says: "I, and may it please you, sir, being a very loyal man, was very careful, although it was quite unnecessary, to admonish the people to obey the laws; and I can assure you, sir, that I have not heard of a single instance of disloyalty, or violation of the laws, which occurred during the said meeting. And while we are upon the subject, permit me, sir, to lament that your Royal Highness did not in your Royal Proclamation lay down the law which had been violated by the people of Birmingham." "Finding, however, contrary to our expectations, that your Royal Highness considers that we have acted unlawfully, we must humbly petition that the precise law we have violated may be pointed out, that we may not, through ignorance, be led to do wrong again. Some persons have supposed the Proclamation to be law, but I have said to them, 'A Proclamation is a Proclamation, and not the law of Parliament.' In the same manner as your Highness profoundly speaks, in your Royal Proclamation, of those 'unlawful assemblies' which are 'contrary to law.' Truisms, an please your Royal Highness, are much better than falsehoods."
The number of the Weekly Recorder for August 14th, 1819, contains a long address to his "Fellow-townsmen," signed by George Edmonds. It commences by stating that "the last week has been a very important one in the annals of Warwickshire, and indeed of England.... Five of us, Major Cartwright, Mr. Wooler, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Maddocks, and myself, have had true bills found against us for a conspiracy to elect a Member of Parliament, and at the next Assizes the indictment will be tried."
The grand jury brought in the "true bill" on Monday, August 9th. The trial did not take place at the Assizes then being held, and the indictment was afterwards removed by certiorari into the Court of King's Bench. It came on for trial at Warwick, on August 7th, 1820, before the Lord Chief Baron Richards. When the special jury was called, only four answered to their names. Mr. Barber was the foreman, and on taking the book into his hands, one of the defendants asked him whether he had "ever expressed any opinion as to the merits or demerits of this case." The Judge interfered, and said that "as a special juryman he was not bound to answer the question." Eight names were then added from the common jury list, and the trial proceeded. Denman was counsel for Edmonds, and Matthew Davenport Hill for Major Cartwright. The others defended themselves in person. The Judge summed up unfavourably, and after twenty minutes' deliberation the jury gave a verdict of guilty against all the defendants. Judgment, however, was deferred.
On May 28, 1821, the Attorney-General moved the judgment of the court. The Lord Chief Justice Abbott, afterwards Lord Tenterden, recapitulated the arguments as to the legality of the jury, and held that no legal challenge could have been made until a full jury appeared; and as in this case the challenges had been made before the full jury had assembled, there were no grounds for a new trial. Several motions in arrest of judgment were subsequently made, but eventually Mr. Edmonds was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment in the common gaol of the county, and he was thereupon removed to Warwick, where, within the walls of the gaol, he spent every minute of the period for which he had been sentenced.
Upon his restoration to liberty, he published the following characteristic advertisement in the Birmingham newspapers:
"George Edmonds begs to inform his friends, his enemies, and the public, that on leaving Warwick Jail he recommenced his profession of a schoolmaster; that by the zeal of his patrons he has succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations; that he has taken for a period of seven years those extensive premises opposite Bond Street Chapel, and that the school re-opened on Monday last.
"The public are respectfully referred by G.E. to his enemies as the judges of his capacity to instruct and correct.... To his enemies—if it be possible that he can have any—G.E. offers the most entire absolution for their sins against the best of men, on the following most reasonable terms: That they henceforth zealously trumpet forth his merits; and on his part he agrees to receive their children at his academy, as hostages for the performance of these conditions. Quid rides?
"Bond Street, July 2, 1823."
Mr. Edmonds's trial, so far from impeding the popular cause, gave it a forward impetus. It was contended that the jury had been improperly impanelled; and Mr. Peel, afterwards Sir Robert, was compelled to admit in the House of Commons that such was the case, as the panel did not contain the proper number of names. The great Jeremy Bentham took up the case, and published a pamphlet impugning the legality of the whole proceedings, and exposing the utter sham of the special jury system. Peel, much to his honour, brought into the House, and carried, a bill to amend the whole jury system, and thus Edmonds's trial led to the abolition of a great public scandal and a national grievance.
Henceforward, Edmonds was the recognised leader of the Birmingham Radicals, and the agitation for Parliamentary Reform commenced anew. The Whigs, though favourable, held aloof, looking upon it as a hopeless case. In the year 1827, Mr. Charles Tennyson, afterwards known as Mr. Tennyson D'Eyncourt, proposed to the House of Commons that the two seats forfeited by the disfranchised borough of East Retford should be transferred to Birmingham. The proposition was supported by Sir James Mackintosh and others, but was eventually negatived. The mere proposition, however, revived the dying embers of Birmingham political life. All classes, and all sections of politicians, hailed the proposal with delight. Tories, Whigs, and Radicals united in a requisition to Mr. George Attwood, who was then High Bailiff, to hold a town's meeting, which was held accordingly on June 25th, 1827, at Beardsworth's Repository. At this meeting, resolutions in favour of Mr. Tennyson's proposition were proposed and seconded by gentlemen belonging to the three parties, Tories, Whigs, and Radicals. A committee, thirty-two in number, composed of men of all shades of opinion, was appointed to work in support of the enfranchisement of the town. Edmonds's name was left out for strategic reasons: a convicted conspirator, it was thought, would do the cause no good. He, however, endorsed the scheme heartily, worked energetically, and spoke frequently and eloquently in its favour.
The proposition, as I have said, was negatived by the House of Commons, but it had borne good fruit in Birmingham. Henceforth the timid Whigs came once more into the sunlight of political life; and the Tories, being divided in opinion on the measure, split into two sections, with the result that the ultra party, which had monopolised all municipal power, was broken up. Prom this time united action became possible, and more reasonable relations were established between the active and the passive Liberals. The extreme Radical section, seeing that the men of moderate views had joined in the movement for the Reform of Parliament, became less extravagant in their demands. On the 14th of December, 1829, sixteen gentlemen, called together by circular, met at the Royal Hotel, and founded the great Political Union. Rules having been prepared, it was proposed to hold a Town's Meeting, under the presidency of the High Bailiff—Mr. William Chance—to ratify them. That gentleman, on the proposal being made to him, stated that he could not view it as "any part of his duty to call a meeting of the inhabitants of the town for any such purpose." The meeting was, notwithstanding, held at Beardsworth's Repository, on the 25th January, 1830, Mr. G.F. Muntz being chairman. About 15,000 persons were present, and a number of resolutions, embodying the principles and objects of the new organisation, were proposed and carried; some "unanimously," some with "one dissentient," and some "by a majority of at least one thousand and one;" and the "General Political Union between the Lower and Middle Classes of the People," became an accomplished fact.
From this time, for more than three years, nearly the whole of Mr. Edmonds's time was devoted to the cause he had so much at heart. Night after night, and month after month, he fanned the flame of popular feeling, until it culminated in the unparalleled meetings on Newhall Hill. At the one held on May 14th, 1832, there were nearly 200,000 persons present. Mr. Attwood occupied the chair, and the proceedings commenced by the vast assembly singing a hymn composed for the occasion by the Rev. Hugh Hutton, the two final verses of which were as follow:
"God is our guide! From field, from wave, The plough, the anvil, and the loom, We come, our country's rights to save, And speak a tyrant faction's doom. And hark! we raise, from sea to sea, Our sacred watchword, Liberty!
"God is our guide! No sword we draw, We kindle not war's fatal fires; By union, justice, reason, law, We claim the birthright of our sires! And thus we raise from sea to sea, Our sacred watchword, Liberty!"
At this meeting, what has been described as "one of the most solemn spectacles ever seen in the world" took place. After it had been determined to petition the House of Lords "not to drive to despair a high-minded, generous, and fearless people," Mr. Clutton Salt took off his hat, and, calling upon the people to follow his example, the entire assembly stood uncovered as they repeated after him the Union vow: "In unbroken faith, through every peril and privation, we devote ourselves and our children to our country's cause." The sound of the thousands of voices in unison, as they uttered these words, has been described as resembling the sound of the waves of the sea on a rocky shore.
Earl Grey, on the adverse vote of the House of Lords, had resigned on the 9th of May. The Duke of Wellington and Sir R. Peel endeavoured to form a Government, but failed utterly; so that on the 18th, Earl Grey returned to power. "At the personal request of the King, a large number of the Tory peers consented to absent themselves from the House of Lords during the further discussion of the Reform Bill." "By the first week of August the bills had received the Royal assent, and the political excitement which had kept the country agitated for nearly two years was suddenly changed into complete listlessness and apathy."
Meanwhile, the personal sacrifices which Mr. Edmonds had made, and the sufferings he had endured, were not unheeded by his friends. On April 25th, 1831, a meeting was held, under the presidency of Mr. John Betts, at which it was resolved to raise a subscription in his behalf, in recognition of "his superior talents, his tried integrity, and the persevering industry with which he has, for a long series of years, devoted himself to the great cause of public liberty, and more especially to the rights, privileges, and welfare of his fellow-townsmen." Mr. Thomas Attwood was appointed the treasurer, and a committee of twenty of the leading Liberals of the town took charge of the movement, which resulted in a handsome sum being presented to Mr. Edmonds.
Mr. Edmonds was not one to become politically listless and apathetic. He considered the passing of the Reform Bill to be only the stepping-stone to other beneficial measures. At his instigation it was resolved that the Political Union should not be dissolved, but should be "kept firmly united." On May 20th, 1833, another monster meeting was held on Newhall Hill, at which the Government was censured for passing the Irish Coercion Bill; for refusing the right to vote by ballot; for persevering in unjust and cruel Corn Laws; and for continuing the House and Window Taxes.
George Edmonds was one of the most active agitators for the grant of a Charter of Incorporation to the town. He was generally selected to be either proposer or seconder of the Reform candidates, at the elections. Few political meetings of any kind, were held at which he was not only present, but took an active part; and even when old age had bent his frame and weakened the tones of his once trumpet-like voice, he would occasionally make the walls of the Town Hall ring, as he denounced oppression, or called upon his fellow-townsmen to rise to vindicate a right. His spoken addresses were singularly clear and forcible in their construction. His language was very simple, and was nearly pure Saxon, and his enunciation of every syllable of each word distinct and perfect. He was a born politician, and a bold and fearless leader. He had a very genial disposition, and a charitable heart; but was impulsive, and was very strong in his resentments. He was what Dr. Johnson might call "a good hater." He combined the fierceness of the lion with the gentleness and docility of the lamb.
Hitherto, I have spoken of Mr. Edmonds chiefly in reference to his professional career and his political activity. I now turn to a phase of his character which is little known, but which is not in any way less remarkable. As a scholar and a philologian he had rare abilities, and a rarer industry. Having, somewhat early in life, possessed himself of a copy of the works of Dr. Wilkins, who was a bishop in the reign of Charles II., he became impressed with the thought that a universal language was within the bounds of human possibility, and he set himself diligently to work out the problem. During the whole of his busy political life; all through his active professional career; amid the strife and the worry, the turmoil, and the rancour, of the controversy in which he was so prominent; it was his habit to rise from his bed at three or four o'clock in the morning to endeavour to master this intricate task. In the failures of others who had essayed this gigantic work, he saw only incentives to fresh exertions. Nothing daunted him. Failing to find in ordinary type, as used by printers, the necessary symbols to embody his thoughts, he, at enormous expense, had an entirely new fount, from his own designs, made expressly for the book which was to be the crowning monument of his life. Finding no printing-office willing to undertake a work of so unaccustomed a nature, he fitted up a room in his house in Whittall Street, and here, by his own hands, the whole of the type was set. Mr. Massey, of Friday Bridge, informs me that he printed the book, and he has obligingly placed at my disposal a few specimens of the peculiar types used. The result was, a thick quarto volume, every page of which bristles with evidences of acute erudition, and the most accurate reasoning and discernment. It bears the title of "A Universal Alphabet, Grammar, and Language," and it has for a motto a text from the book of Zephaniah—"For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord."
He seems to have aimed at the production of an "Alphabet of Characters," which should indicate the various sounds of the voice, and he succeeded. "I thought," he says, in the preface to his book, "and still think it, theoretically, a near approach to perfection. Into this character I translated the whole of St. Matthew's Gospel, and various extracts from the Psalms and other books." "With great reluctance, and not without much pain," he came to the conclusion that this system was impracticable, and he "therefore gave up the idea altogether of that character, and looked about for some other." It then occurred to him that the Roman alphabet "might be supplemented by certain marks, so as to represent all the elementary sounds;" and this resulted in his compiling an alphabet containing forty symbols, of which five—ai, au, oi, ou, and oo are compounds; the remaining thirty-five are the ordinary letters, some of which have marks under them, like the dash we make under a word in writing to indicate greater force or emphasis, thus—U D Z o d z.
Having arrived at this point, he intimates his belief that his next discovery was the result of direct inspiration. "I am far from superstitious, yet I must confess, with regard to this discovery, I have long felt as though I had been no more than a mere instrument, accomplishing the will of Another; and that the direction of my thoughts, and my ultimate convictions, were only a part of the development of my own mind, enforced and controlled by some internal law, which ensured its own effects without any original exercise of my own reason. One thing is certain: I cannot tell how it was brought into my own i mind, and I have no recollection of the process which ultimately revealed to me a knowledge of the power and essential importance of the discovery."
The discovery of which he speaks is that the "success of the Philosophic [language] turned upon the proper use of two short vowels and three nasal consonants. These are the short u, as in faithful, and the i in pin, and the consonants, m, n, and n [i.e., ng]. One of these three consonants is to be found in the centre of every root of the [philosophic] language. They resemble the reed in the hautboy—they give B metallic ring in the words where they occur. They may be compared to the sound of the trumpet in a concert; the other consonants are the sound of the drum—rub-a-dub-dub."
It is of course impossible, in a short notice like this, to give a thousandth part of the methods and arguments by which Mr. Edmonds works out his theory; but I shall attempt to make his process clear by one or two short examples.
He starts by assuming that, as all words are reducible to nouns as a first principle, so the whole of the nouns can be classified into forty "genera." These genera are each divisible into "differences," and the differences are sub-divisible into "species." He gives a list of the "genera," each of which is composed of two vowels and two consonants; and then, in a series of very elaborate tables, he proceeds to show how words of every possible signification can be built up from the materials thus provided and classified. For instance, amongst the genera, onji is the root-word for insects, anji for fish, enji for birds, and inji for beasts. Taking anji—or fish—for my example, because it is the shortest, I may mention that he divides fish into nine "differences," two of viviparous, five of oviparous, one of crustacea, and one of scaly river fish. I will give one example of each class, merely pointing out that the letters anj occur in the middle of each name. The final letters give the species, and the initials the specific fish indicated, thus: Panjoo is whale, Banjoi is skate, Danjo is herring, Kanja is gurnet, Danji is sea-perch, Danjai is eel, Banjino is plaice, Vanjoinoi is star-fish, and Fanjino is salmon.
The same process of building up words from simple roots is carried on all through the whole range of thought and action; and the result as a whole is that, as a theoretical system, the entire subject is successfully worked out.
Whether it will ever be carried out in practice is extremely doubtful. Some Spanish enthusiasts were so enraptured with Mr. Edmonds's book that they sought and obtained an interview with the late Emperor Napoleon, with a view to secure his patronage of the new scheme. The expression of his opinion was short, but shrewd. He said the only way to establish universal language was to first establish universal empire; and that, he thought, would not be possible just yet.
In July, 1867, Mr. Edmonds, when 79 years of age, married, at the Old Church, Leamington, as his second wife, Miss Mary Fairfax, of Barford, near Warwick, the descendant of a truly noble family. She was 75 years of age at the time. Their natures and dispositions, however, being so very dissimilar, this proved to be an unhappy union, and after living together three weeks only, they separated by mutual consent. His mind at this time—and, indeed, for some previous time—must have been giving way. Eventually, he was placed in the asylum at Winson Green. From thence he was removed to a private asylum at Northampton, where he died in the year 1868, being 80 years of age.
His funeral at the General Cemetery was attended by most of the leading Liberals of the town, and by great crowds of admirers. Charles Vince, who was so soon to follow him, delivered a very eloquent address over the open grave, in which he said, "For the firmness with which he maintained his convictions, and for the zeal and ability with which he advocated them, he will always have a name and a place in the history of his native town, if not in the history of his country. To the honour of his memory it will be said that he held his opinions honestly; laboured for them diligently; devoted great gifts and rare energy to their promotion; and amply proved his sincerity, and won the crown of the conscientious, by the things that he suffered."
It is, in my opinion, not very creditable to the Liberal party in the town that George Edmonds has no public memorial. The generation passing away may remember his face and figure; but before it goes, it has a duty to its successors to perform. That duty is to leave some lasting memorial, in the shape of a statue, bust, or portrait, of the man, who, sacrificing his own freedom, helped thereby to gain for his countrymen liberty of thought, liberty of speech, and liberty to carry on in the future the beneficent policy which he advocated with, so much eloquence and perseverance.
THE EARLY DAYS OF CHARLES VINCE.
With reverent pen and loving spirit, I sit down to write of one whose sunny smile brightened every circle upon which it shone; whose massive intellect and clear mental vision discovered subtle truths and deep symbolic meanings in common things; whose winning and graphic eloquence made these truths and meanings clear to others, showing them that not a blade of grass springs by the roadside, nor an insect flutters for a day in the gladdening light of the spring-time, but has its lesson, if men will but search for it, of tender mercy and fatherly care. His broad and catholic spirit was wide enough to embrace within his friendship men of widely divergent thought and belief. His life was one long and eloquent lesson to us all. If ever man deserved the blessing following the words, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me," that man was Charles Vince, for of him, more emphatically than can be said of most of us, it may be recorded that "he went about doing good."
It is not necessary to sketch the mature character of one so recently taken from amongst us. The shadow of his homely figure has scarcely faded from our streets, and the sound of his eloquent voice still seems to vibrate in our ears. It seems but yesterday that, on that cold and cheerless day, his lifeless but honoured remains were borne to the grave through the crowds of sympathising people who thronged the busy streets to see the last of him they knew so well and loved so heartily. Little could be added to the warm tributes that were paid so recently to the memory of the gifted, truthful, fearless, earnest, hard-working Christian teacher, who, in the prime of his life and the zenith of his powers, was removed from the sphere which he adorned by the purity of his character, and benefited by the power and graces of his intellect.
But these tributes referred mainly to what he was, and what he did, in the later part of his career, and in the maturity of his powers. In some of them the references to his parentage, his birth, and his boyhood, were singularly inaccurate. In one periodical of large circulation and great influence, statements full of error and misrepresentation went forth to the world unchallenged. It is my purpose, therefore, in this paper, to correct the mistakes of those who wrote, being imperfectly informed; and to give, as I had it from the lips of his friends, his schoolfellows, and his relatives, a simple, but at all events a strictly accurate, record of the few and unromantic events of the early days of one who became so fruitful in goodness and in charity.
With the view that this little sketch should at least be free from serious error, I made, the other day, a special pilgrimage to Vince's birthplace—the pleasant town of Farnham in Surrey. I stood before the lowly cottage in which he first drew breath; I sat in the little room where his father and his mother taught him practical lessons of truthfulness and sympathy; I looked into the little plain deal cupboard his father made for him, in which he stored the books he loved so well and studied so intently. I talked with his schoolfellows and the companions of his boyish days, and listened to those who were the chosen friends of his youth-hood, and I noted the brightening of the eye, and the more fervid tones of the voice, as one after another told me of the budding intellect, and of the germination of the warm and tender spirit, of him they were all so proud of.
After a long continuance of cold and cheerless weather, the morning of Saturday, the 26th of May, 1877, was bright and genial. An unclouded sun, and a warm south-western wind, awoke the birds to melody, and gave the flowers new fragrance. As the train bore me through pleasant Surrey, the fields not only smiled—they absolutely seemed to laugh with joy at the advent of the first day of summer, and when we stopped at the pretty station of plutocratic Surbiton, the air was laden with the perfume of lilacs and of hawthorn blossom. From a dense thicket, nearly overhead, came cheerfully the melodious notes of "the careful thrush," who, as Browning says—
"Sings his song thrice over, Lest I should think he never could recapture That first, fine, careless rapture."
As the train passes on, I see, beyond the silvery Thames, the stately front of Hampton Court Palace. A little further on we pass Esher, where, on a tree-girt hill, the lofty pediment of Claremont peeps through the trees, and reminds me that here, sixty years ago, the hopes of England were quenched by the death of the youthful Princess Charlotte. Strange, that this house should have been the death-place of the unthroned heiress of England, and, forty years afterwards, of the dethroned crafty old French king, Louis Philippe.
When we stop at Woking Common, I feel at home. Here, half-a-century ago, when there was not even a hut on the spot which is now a busy town, I used to play as a boy. Yonder is the Basingstoke canal, where, with willow wand and line of string from village shop, I used to beguile the credulous gudgeon and the greedy perch. Just up that lane to the right, on the road to Knap Hill—famed the world over for its hundreds of acres of rhododendrons—is the nurseryman's shed to which, in the summer, cart-loads of the small, wild, black cherries came from Normandy, for seed. Here the boys of the neighbourhood had the privilege of gorging themselves gratis with the luscious fruit, on the simple condition that they placed the cherry-stones in bowls provided for the purpose. As the train moves on, we dash through a deep cutting of yellow-coloured sand, and emerge upon a wild and dreary region. On the hills to the right are a gaol, a reformatory, and a lunatic asylum; and on the left is the "Necropolis," where London, in the black and sandy soil, deposits the myriads of its dead. All around, the ground is olive-coloured with unblossomed heath, bright and golden here and there with the flowerets of the prickly gorse. Dense and dismal plantations of black-looking Scotch firs are enlivened at intervals by the delicate and tender green spikelets of a sprouting larch. On we rush for miles through this sombre region, through dank morasses, and past dark and gloomy pools, from one of which a heron rises majestically. On, until, in a broad and airy region, the red coats of soldiers are seen dotted here and there amongst the heather. In the distance are the serried lines of the tents of Aldershot. Just beyond this point the train suddenly enters the chalk formation, and comes simultaneously into a cultivated district. A mile or two further, and the train stops at Farnham; birthplace of Toplady, who wrote the beautiful hymn, "Rock of Ages;" of William Cobbett, sturdiest of English yeomen; and of Charles Vince, who, coming to Birmingham an utter stranger, so endeared himself to its people, that he was universally beloved; and when he died, was followed to his grave by thousands of the principal inhabitants, amid the tearful regrets of the entire population.
As I leave the station, and approach the town, I see on my left, nestling under a cliff, an old timbered house, bearing on its front the inscription, "Cobbett's birthplace." It is an inn, and I enter in search of refreshment. A somewhat surly man appears, and tells me that he "ain't got no cold meat." I persevere, and am told that I can have some bread and cheese, which are accordingly served. I ask the landlord—for such the man is—if there are any relics of Cobbett remaining in the house? The reply is, "not as I knows on." I am told, however, that he is buried in the churchyard hard by, and that his grave is "right agen the front door," and this is all the man knew, or cared to tell, about the matter.
The most striking peculiarity of Farnham, as seen from the cliff behind the "Jolly Farmer," is the abundance of hop gardens. As far as the eye can reach, in all directions, little else appears to be cultivated. At the time I visited it, the appearance was very singular. From the tops of distant hills; creeping down into the valleys; even to the back doors of the houses in the principal street, the whole surface of the earth seemed clothed with stiff bristles. About two thousand acres of land in this parish alone are planted with hop bines, and as each acre takes three thousand hop-poles to support the climbing crop, it follows that there were five or six millions of these poles standing bare and upright before the astonished eye. No wonder that a conical hill at a little distance looked like a gigantic hedgehog.
At the extreme westerly end of the main street of the town there is a small house on the left, standing some twenty feet back from the line of the other buildings. The space between the house and the street is now covered by a conservatory. A greenhouse adjoins the house on the west side, and a large piece of ground fronting the street for some distance is occupied as a nursery, and, when I saw it, was gay with flowers and verdure. In the year 1823 this house, together with a large plot of adjoining land (now built upon), was the property of Charles Vince's father, and in this little house Charles Vince was born. The father was by trade a builder and carpenter, and was very skilful. If he had any intricate work on hand, it was his habit to go to bed, even in the day-time, in order that he might, undisturbed, work out in his mind the proper means of accomplishing the end in view. He held a sort of duplex position. He was foreman to, and "the life and soul of the business" of, Messrs. Mason and Jackson, builders; but he had a private connection of his own, which he worked independently. He was greatly liked, and the late Sir George Barlow, a landed proprietor of the neighbourhood, made him a kind of factotum on his estate. He seems to have been a very original character; to have had superior abilities as an artificer; and to have had most of the qualities which go to form what is called a "successful" man. He was, however, a bad financier; he did not understand "business;" and so he went on through life, contented to remain where he was; his abilities securing to him competence and comfort; enabling him to give his children a good education; and to maintain his position as a respectable and worthy member of society. He had something of the old Puritan about him, and was "brimful of fun and humour." He was very original in speech and thought, and he was very earnest in his religious life and practice. A good story was told me of his quaint manner. At the chapel of which he was a member, one of the ministers having died, a successor was appointed, who in some way caused a division amongst his people, some of whom seceded. Mr. Vince, senior, remained. Some weeks afterwards it was decided by those who still held to the old chapel that it would be better for the minister to leave, but this decision was not made public. A few days after, one of the seceders, meeting Vince, said, "I understand you're going to buy your minister a new pulpit gown." "No," was the reply, "you've missed it; we're going to buy him a new travelling cloak."
Mrs. Vince, senior, was a member of a very good family in Sussex, and was a woman of superior mental powers. She is described as a very industrious, careful, motherly woman; one to whom all the neighbours applied for advice and assistance in any trouble or emergency, and never in vain, for her heart was full of sympathy and her brain of fertility of resource. She was a pious, humble, God-fearing woman, who did her duty; trained her children carefully; set them the example of a truthful, practical, and loving Christian life; and had the satisfaction of seeing the results of her excellent example and precepts carried into full life and activity in the career of her only son.
Such were the parents of Charles Vince, and such the influences which surrounded his childhood. He was a bright, intelligent boy; he never had any trouble with his lessons, and was remarkably quick in arithmetic. His father was very proud of him, and he was sent to the best school in the place. It was kept by a nephew of the celebrated William Cobbett. "Tommy" Cobbett, as he was always called, seems to have been a favourable specimen of a country schoolmaster in those days. On his leaving the town, about 1837 or 1838, a Mr. Harrington took his place, and Charles Vince remained as a pupil for a time, but Harrington went to old Mr. Vince to say that he felt he was dishonest in taking his money, for "Charles ought to take my place and teach me."
Upon leaving school, Charles was duly bound apprentice to Messrs. Mason and Jackson, where he was taught by his father. Without indentures of apprenticeship in those days, an artificer had no status in his trade; yet it would seem, in this case, that the "binding" was regarded by each party as little more than a necessary formality, for the youth did not spend the whole of his time in the service of his nominal employers. He was always with his father, and Sir George Barlow took a great fancy to him. He worked on at his trade, however, for some years, and only left the workman's bench to assume the vocation of a teacher.
His parents were members of the Congregational Chapel in the place, and their son was a constant attendant at the Sunday school, first as a scholar and afterwards as a teacher. When he was about 17 or 18 years of age, one of his relatives, and the then master of the British School in the place, conceived the idea of establishing a Mechanics' Institute. Vince joined the movement with ardour, and the little institution was soon an accomplished fact. A grammar class, to which Vince attached himself, was very popular among the young men of the town, and they soon after established a debating club. Here the latent talents in Vince developed themselves. He became a fluent speaker, and was soon asked to deliver a lecture. Being half a poet himself, he chose Poetry as his topic, and seems to have given himself up to the preparation of his subject with a determination to succeed. One of his old I companions (whose towering head, by the way, would be a splendid artist's "study" for an apostle) told me that at this time they read together "Paradise Lost," a great part of which he said he could still repeat from memory. Vince used to declaim aloud the "bits" that pleased him, and "he was never tired" of the passage in the tenth book, where the poet, describing the change which followed the Fall, says—
"Some say He bid His angels turn askance The poles of Earth some ten degrees or more From the sun's axle; they with labour pushed Oblique the centric globe,... ...to bring in change Of seasons to each clime; else had the spring Perpetual smiled on Earth with verdant flowers, Equal in days and nights."
The condition of his mind at this time was so eloquently described to me by this friend, that I shall quote his words as I took them down from his own lips: "To ordinary appearance his mind was like a common flower; with beauty, perhaps, that would not catch the unobservant eye; but intimate as I was, I could discover in his homely talk, beauties that those who only knew him slightly could not observe, because he kept his petals closed. He did not open to many, but I saw, or thought I saw, the germs of what he afterwards became."
The lecture was a great success, and the conductors of the Sunday school had no difficulty afterwards in persuading him to give short addresses to the children. He appears about this time to have decided to become a preacher, and his character became deepened and intensified by the determination. This is so well described in a letter from Farnham that I shall again quote: "When he first fully made up his mind to give his attention to preaching and teaching, he and I were deputed to visit a village about an hour's walk from this town to canvass the houses, and see if a Sunday school could be established. I remember it was about this time of the year, and with what delight my friend seemed to drink in all the beauties of Nature on that quiet Sunday morning. He seemed, to look on these things with new eyes; and he often, in years long after, referred in sermons and in speeches to that Sunday morning's walk."
The Sunday school was established, and here, "in one of Surrey's prettiest villages," Vince preached his first sermon in a cottage.
At this time, too, he became a politician, taking his lessons and forming his political creed from a most unlikely source, apparently. This was the Weekly Dispatch, a paper that in those days was scarcely thought to be proper reading for young people. He read it, however, with avidity, and there is no doubt that it had much to do with forming his political character, and in laying the foundation of the sturdy inflexibility with which he held to his political principles. One of his early friends says, "He liked the Weekly Dispatch. The politics, being racy, had a great attraction for him, and he used to drink them in ravenously."
From this time he was the "pet speaker" of the place. His lectures at the Mechanics' Institute were delivered frequently, and became immensely popular. The lecture-room was far too small for the eager listeners who crowded to hear him. "A large market room" was taken, and here, when he lectured, there was no space for many who wished to hear him. He preached on Sundays in the villages around, and at length was asked to occupy a pulpit in Farnham itself. "I remember," says one of his friends, "his first sermon in the old Congregational Chapel. The place was crammed to excess, by people too who were not in the habit of attending such places."
All this time, this "carpenter, and son of a carpenter," worked diligently at his trade; but a sudden vacancy occurring in the management of the Farnham British Schools, he was asked to become the master. He did so. He left the carpenter's bench on a Saturday, and became schoolmaster on the following Monday. This, however, was but a temporary arrangement, for he was at the time negotiating with the managers of Stepney College to become a pupil there; and, an opportunity shortly afterwards occurring, which he had very promptly to accept or refuse, he somewhat abruptly vacated his seat as a schoolmaster, and became once more a scholar.
This was in 1848. He remained in the college four years, and he soon learned to laugh heartily at his Farnham Latin and his Farnham lectures. He was in the habit, while at the college, of going on Sundays to hear the best preachers in the Metropolis, and he has told me that he often walked from Stepney to Camberwell to hear Melvill, who was then the most popular preacher in London.
At the end of his academic career he was invited to become the minister at Mount Zion Chapel, in Birmingham. How he laboured here every one in the town can testify, and I need not say one word; but there is one fact that should be more generally known, as it shows one result of his work. In the year before he came to Birmingham (1851), the sum collected in this chapel for the Baptist Missions was L28 4s. 11d. The report for 1874—the last under his care—gives the amount collected in the year as L332 5s. 5d.
I am obliged to omit much that is interesting, but I have at least shown that his childhood's home was comfortable and respectable, and that he did not spend his boyhood among companions unworthy of him. In his native town his memory is as warmly cherished as it is in Birmingham. His last public act there was to preach the first sermon in a new and remarkably handsome Congregational Church, and it is said that on that occasion, the number of people who sought to hear him was so great, that the Church, although a spacious one, would not contain the half of them. "There was no room to receive them; no, not so much as about the door."
A handsome gothic cross has recently been erected over Vince's grave. It bears the following inscription:
TO THE MEMORY OF
BORN, JULY 6, 1824; DIED, OCTOBER 22, 1874: WHO FOR TWENTY-TWO TEARS WAS THE MINISTER OF GRAHAM STREET CHAPEL, IN THIS TOWN.
As a Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, his teaching was especially characterised by perfect faith in the infinite love and mercy of God, and by deep and tender sympathy with the hopes, the sorrows, and the struggles of men. As a Citizen, his generous zeal for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed, made him the strenuous advocate of all efforts for social and political reform. The sweetness of his nature, the purity of his life, and the manliness and simplicity of his character, compelled the respect and attracted the friendship of those who differed from him. His courage, integrity, courtesy, and charity, won the affection, and his eloquence commanded the admiration, of all classes of his fellow-townsmen, by whom this memorial is erected as a tribute to his personal worth and public services.