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CHAPTER X
    Determines to leave England—His arrival in America—Settles at Northumberland—His closing days—His death.

Priestley’s position in London for some time after his arrival there was very insecure, and so apprehensive were his friends of further outrage that it was thought necessary to provide him with a disguise and to arrange a plan of escape in case the house should be attacked. At first he was not allowed to appear in the streets. Ultimately he was moved to Tottenham, where he spent a month.

In the middle of October a house was taken for him in Hackney, but it was with difficulty that the landlord, who feared his property would be demolished, was persuaded to accept him as a tenant. Here, however, he proceeded to build himself a laboratory, and in a letter to Thomas Wedgwood, of October 18, 1791, he says:—

    “As soon as convenient I shall be obliged to your father if he will supply me, as usual, with such retorts as you make, viz., earthen tubes closed at the end and open, and some with two necks. Small retorts, evaporating-dishes, mortars and levigators. Perhaps your servants here can tell me the price at which I must estimate those that were destroyed by the riot. I must soon give in an account of my losses, and I fear that some person on your part must attend at Warwick to attest the value. Mr Nairn, Mr Parker and others have promised to attend. But I have prepared [proposed] a conference between my appraiser and those for the county in London, which, if they be disposed to do justice, will save much trouble and expense.
    146

    “Whether I shall be invited to succeed Dr Price is uncertain. Many apprehend public disturbance in consequence of my coming. I could not get a house let in my own name. A friend took it in his. I have, however, very handsome proposals from France, particularly the offer of a house completely furnished, two miles from Paris, and another polite invitation from Toulouse, to take up my residence in the South of France in ‘a monastery which reason has recovered from superstition.’”

Priestley’s claim for damages amounted to £3628, 8s. 9d. Hutton says his real loss was upwards of £4500 (Jewitt’s Life of Hutton, p. 255). The Court allowed £2502, 18s. In the town of Birmingham property to the value of £50,000 was destroyed, of which sum £26,961, 2s. 3d. was finally paid by a rate on the Hundred, in which Birmingham is included (Sam Timmins, Trans. Midl. Inst., 1875).

Lindsey, writing to his friend, Alexander of Yarmouth, under date October 15, 1791, mentioning Priestley, says:—

    “He is very well, and with his wonted cheerfulness, which has never forsaken him. Sunday last he preached for me for the first time since he has been expelled by fire and destruction out of his own place of worship, and he does me that favour to-morrow again. He has at last, though very reluctantly, and much to the concern of his late beloved people, given up the thought of continuing the pastoral office among them, as the exercise of it would not probably be consistent with his personal safety and liberty; such is the temper of his many adversaries still, and so hostile to him.”

The managers of other Dissenting chapels had not the courage of Lindsey and begged that he would refrain from preaching to their congregations. Eventually he was invited to take the position formerly occupied by his friend Price.
147

The rancour of his enemies now broke out afresh, and the most persistent efforts were made to damage and disparage him in the eyes of his congregation. His friends in the neighbourhood were advised to move their effects to some place of greater safety, as it was common rumour that his house was to be attacked on the succeeding anniversary of the Birmingham riot. His servants were afraid to remain for any length of time with him, and the tradespeople hesitated to take his custom. He was several times burnt in effigy along with Tom Paine. Coloured caricatures of him, of the grossest and coarsest kind, in which he was described as “the treacherous rebel and Birmingham rioter” were scattered broadcast. Insulting letters, in some of which he was likened to Guy Fawkes or the devil himself, were sent to him from all parts of the country, even from men calling themselves ministers of the Gospel. In one of these he was threatened with being burned alive before a slow fire. The Rev. Dr Tatham, Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, whose biographer compared him with Warburton (“There is much of the same rough, unpolished strength in his language”), thus addressed him:—

    “Long have you been the Danger of this country, the Bane of its Polity, and the Canker-worm of its Happiness. Long, too long, have your Principles tended to bereave it of its Religion, its Constitution, and consequently of its King.”

Burke, to his everlasting shame, inveighed against him in the House of Commons, and many of his associates in the Royal Society shunned him.

His position in the Society became eventually so irksome that he withdrew from it, as he explains in the 148 preface to his Observations and Experiments on the Generation of Air from Water, which he published in pamphlet form at Hackney, with a dedication to the members of the Lunar Society.

In a letter to Withering, written from Clapton, October 2, 1792, he says:—

    “... One of the things that I regret the most in being expelled from Birmingham is the loss of your company and that of the rest of the Lunar Society. I feel I want the spur to constant exertion which I had with you. My philosophical friends here are cold and distant. Mr Cavendish never expressed the least concern on account of anything I had suffered, though I joined a party with which he was, and talked with them some time. I do not expect to have much intercourse with any of them.

    “I have, however, nearly replaced my apparatus, and intend not to be idle. I have already made some experiments relating to the doctrine of phlogiston, and when I have made a few more shall probably write something on the subject. I am surprised at the confidence with which the French chemists write; but I cannot yet learn what they have to object to my last paper in the Philosophical Transactions....

    “I was in hopes to have been able to pay my friends of Birm. a visit long before this time, but was always discouraged, so that I have now given up the thoughts of it, and must content myself with seeing as many of them as I can here.... I do not, however, think I shall continue here long. Though unwillingly, I shall some time hence follow my son to France. But as I can do nothing there I will stay here as long as I can.”

To what lengths the Government were determined to go was seen in their banishment, in 1793, of Thomas Fyshe Palmer, a gentleman of a highly respectable and opulent family in Bedfordshire, to Botany Bay for seven years, because he had been concerned in publishing a paper in favour of Parliamentary Reform; and in their treatment of Mr Winterbotham, a Calvinistic minister of Plymouth Dock, on account of his political opinions. 149 The mock trial of Mr Winterbotham at Newgate and the four years’ imprisonment which followed it, created a wide-spread feeling of indignation and alarm, and many families were constrained to leave the country in disgust. Among them was Priestley’s friend and fellow-sufferer, the worthy Mr Russell, who on his way to Boston, New England, was captured with his family by a French privateer and thrown into prison in Brest.

Priestley, at length, also determined to follow them. It was however with the greatest reluctance that he came to that decision. It meant parting from affectionate and devoted friends to whom he was warmly attached, whose zeal to serve him and to minister to his wants far outweighed the hatred of those who sought to cover him with oblivion. It meant too the relinquishment in large measure of his philosophical pursuits since he could not hope to procure elsewhere the same facilities for inquiry that he enjoyed here. More than all it seemed to mean the relinquishment of what was still dearer to him—his active efforts in the propagation of Unitarianism. Lastly it meant in all human probability a lasting severance from the daughter to whom he was so tenderly attached. He was largely guided to his decision by consideration for his sons, since, as he says, he found that the bigotry of the country in general made it impossible for him to place them here with any advantage. His second son, William, had been some time in France, but on the breaking out of the troubles in that country he had embarked for America, where his two brothers, Joseph and Henry, met him. They had a project of founding a settlement near the head of the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania, and several of Priestley’s 150 friends at home, among them Mr William Russell of Birmingham, a leader of the New Meeting-House, were directly interested in the scheme.

Priestley at length decided to throw in his lot with his sons, and in the preface to his Fast and Farewell Sermons, which he delivered to his Hackney congregation on the eve of his departure, he gave his reasons for leaving the country:—

    “After the riots in Birmingham it was the expectation, and evidently the wish of many persons, that I should immediately fly to France or America. But I had no consciousness of guilt to induce me to fly from my country. On the contrary, I came directly to London, and instantly, by means of my friend, Mr Russell, signified to the King’s ministers that I was there and ready, if they thought proper, to be interrogated on the subject of the riots.

    “Ill-treated as I thought I had been, not merely by the populace of Birmingham, for they were the mere tools of their superiors, but by the country in general, which evidently exulted in our sufferings, and afterwards by the representatives of the nation, who refused to inquire into the cause of them, I own I was not without deliberating upon the subject of emigration; and several flattering proposals were made to me, especially from France, which was then at peace within itself and with all the world; and I was at one time much inclined to go thither, on account of its nearness to England, the agreeableness of its climate, and my having many friends there.

    “But I likewise considered that if I went thither I should have no employment of the kind to which I had been accustomed; and the season of active life not being, according to the course of nature, quite over, I wished to make as much use of it as I could. I therefore determined to continue in England, exposed as I was not only to unbounded obloquy and insult, but to every kind of outrage; and after my invitation to succeed my friend Dr Price I had no hesitation about it....”

He then goes on to show how insecure his position 151 was, and how impossible it was to follow his avocations in peace, in face of the odium and insult he continually met with:—

    “These facts not only show how general was the idea of my particular insecurity in this country, but what is of much more consequence, and highly interesting to the country at large, an idea of the general disposition to rioting and violence that prevails in it, and that the Dissenters are the objects of it. Mr Pitt very justly observed, in his speech on the subject of the riots at Birmingham, that it was ‘the effervescence of the public mind.’ Indeed, the effervescible matter has existed in this country ever since the civil wars in the time of Charles I., and it was particularly apparent in the reign of Queen Anne. But the power of Government under the former princes of the House of Hanover prevented its doing any mischief. The late events show that this power is no longer exerted as it used to be, but that on the contrary there prevails an idea, well or ill founded, that tumultuary proceedings against Dissenters will not receive any effectual discouragement.

    “After what has taken place with respect to Birmingham, all idea of much hazard for insulting and abusing the Dissenters is entirely vanished; whereas the disposition to injure the Catholics was effectually checked by the proceedings of the year 1780. From that time they have been safe, and rejoice in it. But from the year 1791 the Dissenters have been more exposed to insult and outrage than ever.

    “The necessity I was under of sending my sons out of this country was my principal inducement to send the little property that I had out of it too; so that I had nothing in England besides my library, apparatus and household goods.

    “By this I felt myself greatly relieved, it being of little consequence where a man already turned sixty ends his days. Whatever good or evil I have been capable of is now chiefly done; and I trust that the same consciousness of integrity which has supported me hitherto will carry me through anything that may yet be reserved for me. Seeing, however, no great prospect of doing much good, or having much enjoyment here, I am now preparing to follow my sons; hoping to be of some use to them in their present unsettled state, and that Providence 152 may yet, advancing in years as I am, find me some sphere of usefulness with them.”

He then goes on to deal with the charge that he was a factious, political parson who preached sedition:—

    “As to the great odium that I have incurred, the charge of sedition, or my being an enemy to the constitution or peace of my country, is a mere pretence for it; though it has been so much urged that it is now generally believed, and all attempts to undeceive the public with respect to it avail nothing at all. The whole course of my studies from early life shows how little politics of any kind have been my object. Indeed, to have written so much as I have in theology, and to have done so much in experimental philosophy, and at the same time to have had my mind occupied, as it is supposed to have been, with factious politics, I must have had faculties more than human.”

It is true, he says, he wrote a pamphlet “On the State of Liberty in this Country” at the time of Wilkes’s election for Middlesex, and at the request of Franklin he wrote an address to the Dissenters on the subject of the approaching rupture with America; but he has nothing to reproach himself with on that score, and posterity agrees with him. His connection with the Marquis of Lansdowne was in no sense political. “Although,” he says, “I entered into almost all his views, as thinking them just and liberal, I never wrote a single political pamphlet, or even a paragraph in a newspaper, all the time that I was with him, which was seven years.”

He had never preached a political sermon in his life, unless such as he believed all Dissenters usually preached on the 5th of November in favour of civil and religious liberty may be said to be political. Even on those occasions he had never advanced any sentiment that would have made him until then obnoxious to the 153 administration of this country. The doctrines he adopted when young, and which were even popular then (except with the clergy, who were at that time generally disaffected to the family on the throne), he could not now abandon merely because the times were so changed that they had become unpopular and the expression of them hazardous.

Although he did not disapprove of societies for political information, he never was a member of one, nor did he ever attend any public meeting if he could decently avoid it.

    “If, then, my real crime has not been sedition, or treason, what has it been? For every effect must have some adequate cause, and therefore the odium that I have incurred must have been owing to something in my declared sentiments or conduct that has exposed me to it. In my opinion it cannot have been anything but my open hostility to the doctrines of the Established Church, and more especially to all civil establishments of religion whatever. This has brought upon me the implacable resentment of the great body of the clergy; and they have found other methods of opposing me besides argument and that use of the press which is equally open to us all. They have also found an able ally and champion in Mr Burke, who (without any provocation except that of answering his book on the French Revolution) has taken several opportunities of inveighing against me in a place where he knows I cannot reply to him, and from which he also knows that his accusation will reach every corner of the country and consequently thousands of persons who will never read any writings of mine. They have had another, and still more effectual vehicle of their abuse in what are called the treasury newpapers, and other popular publications.

    . . . . . . .

    “I could, if I were so disposed, give my readers many more instances of the bigotry of the clergy of the Church of England with respect to me which could not fail to excite in generous minds equal indignation and contempt: but I forbear. Had 154 I, however, foreseen what I am now witness to, I certainly should not have made any attempt to replace my library or apparatus, and I soon repented of having done it. But this being done, I was willing to make some use of both before another interruption of my pursuits.... I hoped to have had no occasion for more than one, and that a final, remove. But the circumstances above mentioned have induced me, though with great and sincere regret, to undertake another, and to a greater distance than any that I have hitherto made.... And I trust that the same good Providence which has attended me hitherto, and made me happy in my present situation, and all my former ones, will attend and bless me in which may still be before me. In all events the will of God be done.

    “I cannot refrain from repeating again that I leave my native country with real regret, never expecting to find anywhere else society so suited to my disposition and habits, such friends as I have here (whose attachment has been more than a balance to all the abuse I have met with from others), and especially to replace one particular Christian friend, in whose absence I shall, for some time at least, find all the world a blank. Still less can I expect to resume my favourite pursuits with anything like the advantages I enjoy here. In leaving this country I also abandon a source of maintenance which I can but ill bear to lose. I can, however, truly say that I leave it without any resentment or ill-will. On the contrary, I sincerely wish my countrymen all happiness; and when the time for reflection (which my absence may accelerate) shall come they will, I am confident, do me more justice. They will be convinced that every suspicion they have been led to entertain to my disadvantage has been ill founded, and that I have even some claim to their gratitude and esteem. In this case I shall look with satisfaction to the time when, if my life be prolonged, I may visit my friends in this country; and perhaps I may, notwithstanding my removal for the present, find a grave (as I believe is naturally the wish of every man) in the land that gave me birth.”

As the time of his departure drew near his friends vied with each other in their expressions of esteem and affection and many evidences of their regret were 155 offered to him. Among these was a silver inkstand from some of his admirers in the University of Cambridge, on which was an inscription of their sorrow “that this expression of their esteem should be occasioned by the ingratitude of their country.”

On April 8, 1794, Priestley and his wife set sail from London, and arrived at New York on June 4.

On the way out he wrote some Observations on the Cause of the Present Prevalence of Infidelity, which he prefixed to a new edition of his Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of France.

Alas! one of the most distinguished of those philosophers and politicians was even then no more. Coffinhal had pronounced his judgment, declaring “the Republic has no need of men of science,” and whilst Priestley was on the high seas his great protagonist, Lavoisier, more unfortunate even than he, met his death on the scaffold.

    “Such was the treatment bestowed upon the best of their citizens by two nations which considered themselves as without exception the most civilised and enlightened in the world!”

Priestley was well received in New York, many people meeting him on landing, and he was presented with addresses of welcome from various societies. After a stay of about a fortnight he proceeded to Philadelphia and received an address from the American Philosophical Society, and by a unanimous vote of the trustees was offered the Professorship of Chemistry in the University of Philadelphia.

In the following July, in order to escape from the heat of the city, he moved to Northumberland, a town about a hundred and thirty miles north-west of Philadelphia 156 and situated at the confluence of the north-east and west branches of the Susquehanna, near to which place his eldest son, together with certain other persons, mainly Englishmen, projected a settlement. Priestley himself had no pecuniary interest, as has been stated, in the undertaking, and he was not consulted in its formation, nor had he even decided to join it if carried into effect. We learn from his son’s account that the scheme of settlement was not to be confined to any particular class or character of men, religious or political. It was set on foot to be, as it were, a rallying point for the English, who were at that period emigrating to America in great numbers, and who, it was thought, would be more happy in society of the kind they had been accustomed to than they would be if dispersed through the whole of the States.

Owing to disagreements among the projectors, the scheme of the settlement fell through. Priestley, however, who was charmed with the beauty of its situation and the nature of its surroundings, determined to settle at Northumberland. Although at that time remote from any considerable town it was obviously destined to become a great thoroughfare. It was apparently healthy and less enervating, at least in summer time, than Philadelphia. Living was cheaper there than in that city, and he would be more free from care and more at liberty to follow his own pursuits than if burdened with the responsibilities of teaching. Lastly, his poor wife, who had never recovered from the shock of the Birmingham riots, needed rest and quiet. On these grounds, therefore, he decided to decline the offer of the Professorship at Philadelphia, as well as an invitation to take charge of an Unitarian congregation at 157 New York, and to spend his remaining days in peace and retirement on the beautiful spot he had chosen. The year before his death he was offered the principalship of the University of Pennsylvania in succession to Dr Euen, but this office also he declined.

On his first settling at Northumberland in 1795 he was mainly occupied with his theological and metaphysical studies. During this year he published the work which had occupied him during his voyage from England, his Fast and Farewell Sermons, some tracts in defence of Unitarianism, and the third part of his Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, in answer to Paine’s Age of Reason, and he continued his Church History from the Fall of the Western Empire to the Reformation. In the house he had first occupied, which was barely sufficient in size to contain the family, he had little opportunity or convenience for doing experimental work.

Still, he made some observations on the analysis of air, and continued his inquiries on the generation of air from water.

Having determined to make Northumberland his home, he proceeded to build a house more suitable to his needs and pursuits, and, as his letters of the period show, its planning and arrangement gave him much thought and greatly interested him.

The house, which still exists, is similar in character to many middle-class American houses built in the country, a plain substantial erection, covered with match-boarding and fitted with jalousies, and to the front a loggia or verandah. The laboratory is a small building to the side, partially shaded by a large, wide-spreading tree.

In the autumn of this year he lost his youngest son, Henry, a bright and intelligent youth, of whom he was 158 remarkably fond. This loss greatly affected him, for he had hopes that the young man would follow him in his theological and philosophical pursuits, to which he had shown an inclination. The death of his son was even more profoundly felt by his wife, whose health and spirits now began rapidly to decline, and she too passed away a few months later.

    “Through life,” says her son, “she had been truly a helpmeet for him; supporting him under all his trials and sufferings with a constancy and perseverance truly praiseworthy, and who, as he himself, in noting the event in his diary, justly observes, ‘was of a noble and generous mind, and cared much for others and little for herself through life.’”

At about this period he preached and printed another of his defences of Unitarianism and completed his Church History, and began the compilation of his last treatise in defence of phlogiston.

He spent the spring of 1796 in Philadelphia, where he delivered a series of lectures on the evidences of revelation to crowded audiences, including most of the members of the United States Congress, at that time sitting in Philadelphia, and of the executive officers of the Government. He delivered a second series on the same subject in the spring of the following year, but with less success, partly owing, his son imagines, to the novelty of the thing having passed away, and partly from prejudices that began to be excited against him on account of his supposed political principles. In reality Priestley took even less interest in the politics of America than he had done in those of his own country. He seldom read the debates in Congress, and beyond Adams and Jefferson he knew few of the leading politicians. He never attended a political meeting or 159 took part directly or indirectly in an election, and excepting an article in a newspaper called “Aurora,” or “Maxims of Political Arithmetic,” and signed “A Quaker in Politics,” he wrote nothing on the subject of politics. At that period political feeling ran high and politics were the one subject of conversation, and to some extent, therefore, he could not escape their discussion, but it was noticed that he always argued on the side of liberty. As regards British politics his speculations went no further than a reform in Parliament, such as that which was accomplished less than thirty years after his death. He had no desire to see changed the constitution of the kingdom as vested in King, Lords and Commons.

    “He used frequently to say,” says his son, “and it was said of him, that though he was an Unitarian in religion he was in that country a Trinitarian in politics. When he came to America he found reason to change his opinions, and he became a decided friend to the general principles and practice of a completely representative Government, founded upon universal suffrage, and excluding hereditary privileges, as it exists in this country. This change was naturally produced by observing the ease and happiness with which the people lived, and the unexampled prosperity of the country.”

But in his feelings he was still an Englishman. He never was naturalised, saying that as he had been born and had lived an Englishman he would die one, let what might be the consequence.

Towards the end of 1797 his new library and laboratory were finished, his books once more arranged and much of his old apparatus installed. He found workmen in Northumberland who could repair his instruments and make such new ones as he wanted. He was thus able to resume the kind of life he led at Birmingham, spending much of the day in the laboratory or alternately 160 in his study, sometimes engaged on experimental philosophy, at other times in the composition of the theological works which seemed to flow in an unending stream from his pen. He delighted to walk in his garden and to view the beautiful prospect it afforded him of the river and the distant landscape. He had, too, a kindly interest in the whole community, and noted with pleasure the many little improvements going forward in and about the town. There was no apparent abatement in the vigour of his mind or in the keenness and enthusiasm with which he followed the extraordinary expansion of the science he loved so well during the opening years of the nineteenth century. In a letter to Humphry Davy, then at the outset of his brilliant career, he says:—

    “It gives me peculiar satisfaction that, as I am far advanced in life and cannot expect to do much more, I shall leave so able a fellow-labourer of my own country in the great fields of experimental philosophy.... I rejoice that you are so young a man; and perceiving the ardour with which you begin your career I have no doubts of your success.”

The following letter to his old friend Mrs Barbauld, with whom he kept up a correspondence to the last, gives some account of his condition at this time:—

    “Dear Madam,—This will, I hope, be delivered, as it will be conveyed by my son. How happy should I think myself to wait on you and Mr Barbauld in person. Should there be a peace, I do promise myself that pleasure, but at present this great blessing seems to be at a great distance. How many melancholy changes have taken place since I left England, and among these is the death of Dr Enfield, a man at least ten years younger than me, and to appearance more healthy. I am also much alarmed at the accounts I receive of your brother [Dr John Aiken], whom I left in perfect health, 161 but the last were rather more favourable. His life is of great value, both to his relatives, acquaintances and the world at large, few men having been more usefully employed. I am willing to hope he is yet reserved for more usefulness.

    “When I compare the perturbed state of Europe with the quiet of this place I wish all my friends were here, provided they could find sufficient employment to be happy; but if they be like myself they must be content to be idle, except so far as they can make themselves employment in their closets. My library and laboratory sufficiently occupy me, and of common society I have as much as I want. A few more rational Christians to form a society would make this place a paradise to me, and this would be wanting in many parts of England.

    “It is a pleasure to be in a place that is continually and visibly improving, and this is the case here to an astonishing degree. In every year we find a very sensible difference, and in all probability improvements of all kind will go on more rapidly than ever. Nature has done everything that can be done for any place. Perhaps you have seen the views of it taken by Miss Daich. They are not by any means too flattering.

    “Could I have my daughter here I should be happy indeed. But this, I fear, is not likely to be accomplished, owing to the strange obstinacy and prejudice of Mr Finch. Her trials must be very great, but she is naturally cheerful, and has a strong sense of religion, which, I hope, will support her. This, sufficiently impressed, will make us equal to everything. Your kindness to her affects me much. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Something will, I hope, be done for her before my son returns, but what it can be I do not know. Her uncle has some proposal to make to my son in her favour, but the obstinacy of Mr Finch may defeat everything.

    “You have obliged me very much by the exquisite little poem you sent me. I hope you will add to the obligation by the communication of the fragment on the ‘Game of Chess,’ or any other little piece you may think proper to send me. You had no copy of your first poem to my wife, or I should value that above any other, and also the little poem you wrote on the birth of Joseph.

    “I shall always be very happy to hear from you; and, with my 162 best respects to Mr Barbauld, I am, dear Madam, yours sincerely, J. Priestley.

    “Northumberland, Dec. 23, 1798.

    “Mrs Barbauld, Hampstead,

    near London.”

His son has given us a faithful picture of his closing years and of the serenity of the evening of his life.

    “For the last four years of his life he lived under an administration, the principles and practice of which he perfectly approved, and with Mr Jefferson, the head of that administration, he frequently corresponded, and they had for each other a mutual regard and esteem. He enjoyed the esteem of the wisest and best men in the country, particularly at Philadelphia, where his religion and his politics did not prevent his being kindly and cheerfully received by great numbers of opposite opinions in both, who thus paid homage to his knowledge and virtue.”

In 1800 he put together his last scientific work, and the one which he regarded as the crown of all his efforts, viz., his Doctrine of Phlogiston Established. It can never be said of Priestley that he was to one thing constant never: versatile as he was, and with an extraordinary capacity for adaptation and change in matters of philosophy and theological doctrine, he was ever constant to phlogiston.

During the spring of 1801, whilst on a visit to Philadelphia, he had an attack of fever from which he never wholly recovered. It left him predisposed to the fever and ague at that time prevalent at Northumberland and he had a succession of attacks which weakened him greatly. Nevertheless, his spirits were uniformly good and his complacency and cheerfulness of manner never left him; and although he was incapable of taking much physical exercise and had to give up working in his garden, he spent a considerable amount of time in his 163 laboratory, experimenting with all the enthusiasm and eagerness of his most active period with the newly-discovered pile of Volta, and sending his results to Nicholson’s Journal.

In 1802 he was enabled to send his Church History to press, owing to the action of his friends in England, who, unknown to him, had set a subscription on foot sufficient to cover the expense of publication.

Although he was obviously failing in strength, owing to gastric troubles, he continued to work on either in his study or in his laboratory. He sent a couple of papers to the American Philosophical Society on scientific subjects, and he published an essay on Jesus and Socrates Compared. In the November of 1803 it was evident that his end was approaching. Still he struggled on, hoping by careful attention to his diet he might still see the spring. He told the physician who attended him that if he could but patch him up for six months longer he should be perfectly satisfied, as he should in that time be able to complete the printing of his works. So precarious did he consider his life that he took the precaution of transcribing one day in longhand what he had composed the day before in shorthand, that he might by that means leave the work complete as far as it went should he not live to finish the whole.

With the beginning of 1804 his weakness had greatly increased. In his diary for January 31 he notes:—“Ill all day—not able to speak for nearly three hours.” Still he rose, dressed and shaved himself (which he never omitted doing every morning till within two days of his death), went to his laboratory and lit his fire, but found his weakness so great that he was obliged to get 164 back to his study. During the next and following days he was better, and was able to see to the correction of his proof-sheets, but on February 4 he took to his bed, although he was able to read and look over a sheet of proof and to check the Greek and Hebrew quotations.

    “In the course of the day,” says his son, “he expressed his gratitude in being permitted to die quietly in his family, without pain, with every convenience and comfort he could wish for. He dwelt upon the peculiarly happy situation in which it had pleased the Divine Being to place him in life, and the great advantage he had enjoyed in the acquaintance and friendship of some of the best and wisest men in the age in which he lived, and the satisfaction he derived from having led a useful as well as a happy life.”

In the evening he had his grandchildren brought to his bedside, saying it gave him great pleasure to see the little things kneel. After prayers they wished him a good-night and he gave each his blessing, exhorting them all to continue to love each other.

    “And you, little thing,” speaking to the youngest, “remember the hymn you learned: ‘Birds in their little nests agree.’ I am going to sleep as well as you; for death is only a good long sleep in the grave, and we shall meet again.”

He lingered through the night, and in the early morning requested his son to take down some additions and alterations he wished inserted in his proofs, dictating as clearly and distinctly as he had ever done in his life. When these were read to him he said, “That is right; I have now done.” Shortly afterwards he put his hand to his face and breathed his last so easy that those who were sitting close to him hardly perceived he had passed away.

What was mortal of him now rests in a little hill-side 165 cemetery overlooking the beautiful river. The spot is marked with a simple headstone on which is engraven—

To
the memory of the
Revd. Dr JOSEPH PRIESTLEY,
who departed this life
on the 6th Feby. 1804.
Anno. ?tatis LXXI.

“Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the

Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

I will lay me down in peace and sleep till

I awake in the morning of the resurrection.”


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