Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

MEMOIR OF SAMUEL SLATER.

CHAPTER I.

From HIS B1RTH TO HIS LEAVING ENGLAND.

“Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail,
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise or blame; nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us, in death so noble.”
Milton.

In writing the volumes of biography so frequently presented to the world, the motives of their authors have been various, and the subjects diversified. Mankind take an interest in the history of those, who, like themselves, have encountered the trials, and discharged the duties of life. Too often, however, publicity is given to the lives of men, splendid in acts of mighty mischief, in whom the secret exercises of the heart would not bear a scrutiny. The memoirs are comparatively few of those engaged in the business and useful walks of life.

Biography, of late years, has been rendered interesting, chiefly, by an extensive and learned correspondence; so that the compilers have scarcely room for narrative or reflection. These collections of letters from eminent persons are read with avidity, as a matter of curiosity, and as an indulgence to the inquisitive desire to enter into the private moments and opinions of individuals extensively known to fame. It is of a man well known in the business transactions of this country that we write, Notwithstanding his business and acquaintance were so extensive, and his success so complete, the materials for writing his memoir are scanty and few. This is a complaint with all writers of biography who write the lives of persons that have passed through life in a uniform course, being little subjected to serious and important changes. To make it up from letters is out of the question, as there are only a few in existence, excepting those on business; so that this volume will be a counterpart to the publications above referred to." So that if I had not been favoured, in a personal acquaintance with my deceased friend, I could not, in any satisfactory manner, have accomplished my purpose, in wishing to give the public an account of a man whom they have long heard of, as the father of our manufactures; and as one who had been successful in establishing the cotton business, on an improved and permanent basis. I am writing of a man of business; not of a man devoted to literature, or what has been called the liberal arts; whose fame has been spread by means of publications, or who had in any way sought publicity, or made claim to any pretensions, but of one who all his lifetime avoided it. It is well known, that the late Samuel Slater, Esq. of Webster, Massachusetts, and for many years a resident citizen in the village of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was a native of England. I have the most direct information of the place of his birth, and of his parentage. His father, William Slater, inherited the paternal estate, called “Holly House,” near

* “The life of this gentleman presents nothing of that eclat and splendour by which mankind are most commonly attracted and fascinated; nothing of the “pomp and circumstance,” or stirring incidents of war; of murder and pillage, burning and havoc, which, pursued on the large scale, makes the man a hero; but, followed on a less extensive plan, would brand him as a felon. His glory is not the flitting ignis fatuus that rises from the charnel house, to dazzle and mislead ; but the bright, cheering, and durable halo of a well spent life; passed in successful efforts to better the condition of our race; in the cultivation and extension of those useful arts, which, by multiplying our comforts and conveniences, advance the empire of civilisation, and add to the sum of human enjoyment. If the mass of mankind were wise; if the chosen few, who sit in moral judgment on the actions of the great, and record their sentence on the page of history, were just—then would the false tinsel of military glory fade before the touchstone of truth, and that “shadow of renown,” which has followed the destroyers of our race, ‘from Macedonia's madman to the Swede,’ be no longer regarded. The true interests of humanity, and the dictates of political justice and wisdom, require, alike, that this should be the case; and that none but the real benefactors of mankind should be held up as objects of our gratitude, or examples for our imitation.”—Short sketch of the life of Samuel Slater.

Belper, in the county of Derbyshire, England. This estate is now owned and occupied by his son, William Slater. The father of Samuel Slater was one of those independent yeomanry, who farm their own lands, now almost peculiar to that part of the country, as a distinct class from the tenantry of England. He did not, however, confine himself altogether to the business of agriculture, but added to his estate by the purchase of lands. He did so for the sale of timber, and was in fact a timber merchant. Being a neighbour of Jedediah Strutt, of whom we shall have occasion to speak, he once made a considerable purchase for him containing a water-privilege, on which there is now a very extensive establishment. He was otherwise engaged with Mr. Strutt in making purchases of consequence, who had a high opinion of his abilities and integrity as a man of business. This acquaintance, and these transactions, led to the connection of Mr. Strutt with Samuel, who was the fifth son, and is said to have resembled his father in his person, and to have inherited his talents. This enterprising son transplanted a branch of the Slater family into the new world, where we trust they will grow and prosper for many generations. The mother of Mr. Slater was a fine looking woman, and lived a short time since with her third husband, whom she survived, and often observed, she had been favoured with “three good husbands.” She had by her first husband, William Slater, a large family; William, who now lives on the paternal estate with many children, bids fair to keep up the family name on the other side of the Atlantic. John Slater, son of the subject of this memoir, visited him a few years since, at the Holly House farm, the place of his father's nativity, and viewed the establishment where his honoured parent served his long and important apprenticeship, as he did also the other mills owned by Messrs. Arkwright and Strutt, at Crumford, six miles from Belper. When on my last visit to Mr. Slater at Pawtucket, in 1833, he showed me the prints of Arkwright and Strutt, and pointing to that of Strutt, said, “Here is my old master,” and pronounced it a good likeness. Perhaps nothing could have had more influence on the subject of this memoir, to induce him to leave his business, than the desire to visit his aged mother, of whom he spoke always most affectionately, and corresponded with her." And to have viewed

* The following letter is just such an one as we should expect an affectionate son would write to his mother, on the loss of a beloved and interesting the place and scenes of his early days; his brothers and sisters, and their little ones, to the third generation; his school-fellows,

child. And it is expressive of that strong parental affection, which was peculiarly striking in Mr. Slater toward all his offspring. Towards his mother, Mr. Slater retained the fondest affection.

Eatract of a letter sent by S. Slater to his mother at Belper, England, March 28th, 1801. Providence, R. I.

Dearly Beloved Parent, In December last, I answered yours of June, 1800, in which I wrote you, that my little family enjoyed a good state of health. But now, under the most weighty load of sorrow and affliction, I have to inform you that my first born and only son, William, was numbered among the dead, January 31st, aged four years and five months. He was taken sick with a severe cold, on Jan. 23d ; the next day he had a bad cough, but was playful, and anxious to ride about four miles, to see one of my particular acquaintances. Therefore, to gratify him, I told him to go and tell the boy to put the horse in the chaise, and we would ride; accordingly he readily went to give his orders; but finally, we did not go to ride, and he never went out of the house afterwards. In the evening he was very much troubled with a shrill cough, and rested but little during the night. On the 25th he still grew worse, and on the 26th, in the afternoon, we called for a physician; he gave him some powerful medicine, but the operation of it was trifling, and his cough and hoarseness kept increasing during the day and night following. On the 27th, he was more troubled with hard breathing; and of course a more particular attention was paid by the physician, and medicine increased, but, alas! to no purpose. During this day and night, and on the 28th also, all our efforts and hopes were baffled. On the morning of the 29th, the physician judged him very dangerous, and from his knowledge of my great love and affection for my delightful child, he informed me that his case was very precarious, and said he knew I should take every method to have him restored. He said if I wished for further medical aid to assist and advise with him, he was entirely willing. Therefore I sent immediately for the most eminent physician, and on his arrival, they conversed, and pronounced his disorder the quinsey. They proceeded to give large and strong doses of medicine, which put him in the most deplorable misery; together with his most excruciating disorder. By this time his breath was so far stopped that he could not remain more than two or three minutes in one place, and remained so that day and all night following. On the morning of the 30th, his load of affliction was increased, but he bore all with calmness, and appeared lovely. Towards noon death had approached very near unto him, and about one o'clock his eyes were nearly closed, his little fingers stiff and almost cold, and his breath seemingly gone. He remained in that state till nearly three o'clock, then he appeared to revive for a little while, and sat up in the bed, and called for things to eat, and did eat freely; which gave us some flattering hopes of his recovery. But, behold, he was again seized as violently as ever, and remained so until the morning of the 31st, when, about three o'clock, he was summoned to quit this habitation of sorrow and trouble, for that of joy

« ForrigeFortsett »