But circumstances equally natural contributed to render an union between the members of the second and the third classes easily practicable also. For what was more natural than that William Dillwyn, who was born and who had resided long in America, should have connections there? He had long cultivated a friendship (not then knowing to what it would lead) with James Pemberton. His intimacy with him was like that of a family connection. They corresponded together. They corresponded also as kindred hearts, relative to the Slave-trade. Thus two members of the second and third classes had opened an intercourse on the subject, and thus was William Dillwyn the great medium, through whom the members of the two classes now mentioned, as well as the members of all the three might be easily united also, if a fit occasion should offer.
Fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to 1787—Dr. Peckard, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the first of these—gives out the Slave-trade as the subject for one of the annual prizes—Author writes and obtains the first of these—reads his Dissertation in the Senate-house in the summer of 1785—his feelings on the subject during his return home—is desirous of aiding the cause of the Africans, but sees great difficulties—determines to publish his prize-essay for this purpose—is accidentally thrown into the way of James Phillips, who introduces him to W. Dillwyn, the connecting medium of the three classes before mentioned—and to G. Sharp, and Mr. Ramsay—and to R. Phillips.
I proceed now to the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to the year 1787 in the great cause of the abolition of the Slave-trade.
The first of these was Dr. Peckard. This gentleman had distinguished himself in the earlier part of his life by certain publications on the intermediate state of the soul, and by others in favour of civil and religious liberty. To the latter cause he was a warm friend, seldom omitting any opportunity of declaring his sentiments in its favour. In the course of his preferment he was appointed by Sir John Griffin, afterwards Lord Howard, of Walden, to the mastership of Magdalen College in the University of Cambridge. In this high office he considered it to be his duty to support those doctrines which he had espoused when in an inferior station; and accordingly, when in the year 1784 it devolved upon him to preach a sermon before the University of Cambridge, he chose his favourite subject, in the handling of which he took an opportunity of speaking of the Slave-trade in the following nervous manner:—
“Now, whether we consider the crime, with respect to the individuals concerned in this most barbarous and cruel traffic, or whether we consider it as patronized and encouraged by the laws of the land, it presents to our view an equal degree of enormity. A crime, founded on a dreadful preeminence in wickedness—A crime, which being both of individuals and the nation, heaviest judgment of Almighty God, who made of one blood all the sons of men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty; and who, ruling all the kingdoms of the earth with equal providential justice, cannot suffer such deliberate, such monstrous iniquity, to pass long unpunished.”