Before the commitee broke up, I represented to them the necessity there was of obtaining further knowledge on all those individual points, which might be said to belong to the great subject of the abolition of the Slave-trade. In the first place, this knowledge was necessary for me, if I were to complete my work on the Impolicy of this Trade, which work the Summary View, just printed, had announced to the world. It would be necessary also, in case the Slave-trade should become a subject of parliamentary inquiry; for this inquiry could not proceed without evidence. And if any time was peculiarly fit for the procuring of such information or evidence, it was the present. At this time the passions of men had not been heated by any public agitation of the question, nor had interest felt itself biassed to conceal the truth. But as soon as ever it should be publicly understood, that a parliamentary inquiry was certain, (which we ourselves believed would be the case, but which interested men did not then know,) we should find many of the avenues to information closed against us. I proposed therefore that some one of the commitee should undertake a journey to Bristol, Liverpool, and Lancaster, where he should reside for a time to collect further light upon this subject; and that if others should feel their occupations or engagements to be such as would make such a journey unsuitable, I would undertake it myself. I begged therefore the favour of the different members of the commitee, to turn the matter over in their minds by the next meeting, that we might then talk over and decide upon the propriety of the measure.
The commitee held its fourth meeting on the twelfth of June. Among the subjects, which were then brought forward, was that of the journey before mentioned. The propriety and indeed even the necessity of it was so apparent, that I was requested by all present to undertake it, and a minute for that purpose was entered upon our records. Of this journey, as gradually unfolding light on the subject, and as peculiarly connected with the promotion of our object, I shall now give an account; after which I shall return to the proceedings of the commitee.
Author arrives at Bristol—Introduction to Quaker families there—Objects of his inquiry—Ill usage of seamen on board the ship Brothers—Obtains a knowledge of several articles of African produce—Dr. Camplia—Dean Tucker—Mr. Henry Sulgar—Procures an authenticated account of the treacherous massacre at Calebar—Ill usage of the seaman of the ship Alfred—Painful feelings of the author on this occasion.
Having made preparations for my journey, I took my leave of the different individuals of the commitee. I called upon Mr. Wilberforce, also, with the same design. He was then very ill, and in bed. Sir Richard Hill and others were sitting by his bed-side. After conversing as much as he well could in his weak state, he held out his hand to me, and wished me success. When I left him, I felt much dejected. It appeared to me as if it would be in this case, as it is often in that of other earthly things, that we scarcely possess what we repute a treasure, when it is taken from us.