From Macclesfield. He has just torn up a letter of sixteen pages, ‘bathed with my tears, but it will not do. I cannot send it. I appeal to Ceasar’s judgement and then you will know what manner of man I was, & how cruelly you have wronged me. God bless you, my ever honoured madam…’
[Wrapped up inside the above is a letter addressed to Mary Fletcher]
Fletcher’s letter of January 3 came to hand a few days ago. He is enjoying reasonable health and spirits, considering everything that he has to cope with. His mind is at last at ease, as he has finally made his decision. ‘I cannot play the missionary here, unless I settle my family in an African wood, or leaving them at Free Town [Sierra Leone] desolate and spend the best part of my time at a distance from them. Could I get over these difficulties, our gentlemen vote the mission to the Moravians, with whom I could not [unreadable word]: & I could hope little from my own personal exertions’.
As for the colony; that was always a secondary consideration with him. He never supposed, nor could ever suppose that he has been called to sacrifice his usefulness in England because of it. No more than three hundred white or black people attend the word anywhere. There are seven[?] black preachers and three different religious bodies. It is very difficult to preach for them all and to establish any influence. Horne is always in hot water and there is always a tumult going on somewhere among the whites or the blacks. Whether Horne likes it not, he is required to be a politician. The circumstances makes it necessary that he is a representative of the civil government as well as a minister of God. The religious people rely on him more than anyone else and he must always be aware to ensure that they are not led astray. He is obliged to defend the [Sierra Leone] company and its governors and there is scarcely a measure taken which he does not need to explain and justify.
What with the religion and politics of the colony, he is almost at the stage of throwing this business up in despair and leave the place. Sometimes ‘they’ [the people] have been greatly exasperated with him, but it is not lasted for long and he is still able to maintain his influence. Through the negligence and inattention of [John] Clarkson or the directors [of the Sierra Leone Company], they have often been kept in a state of want for one commodity or another. This annoys the [black] people here and makes them unmanageable. As for the whites, they are few in number and will not submit to Horne’s religious instruction. He has no religious friend, no place of retirement [for the purpose of prayer?] and has to live in public. In short, his situation is hateful in every respect and he is astonished that he able to maintain his faith. He simply waits the arrival of his successor before he returns to England. He will leave immediately after the arrival of his replacement and hopes to be home by the end of September. Regardless of whether or not, a successor appears, he will not remain here after Christmas if he can find a ship to take him home.
Horne believes that he has been more useful in the civil and religious line than any minister the company could have procured. He has served the ‘piety & peace’ of the colony in many respects. The interests of the company in sending him here have been satisfied, but his own aims have been totally disappointed.
He had supposed himself to have been called by God to come here and he acted accordingly, yet he has never dared say to his heart that he has absolutely been called to this work. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
With respect to the Methodists here, Horne has preached to them and met their classes, wrote and given them tickets, reconciled their differences and done them all the good that he can. He has however declined all direct interference with their government and he thinks that he has been wise in so doing.
The natives who work for them are few in number and never stay for long, nor has he any means of doing them good. He hopes that the colony will be a success and that he may hereafter see the fruits of his labour which do not at present appear, although he has the credit of making some converts, recovering some backsliders and edifying those who believe - he is a popular preacher. He is obliged to live at a distance, for they will not tolerate much familiarity. He can certainly expect no reward from men, so it is as well, that his motivation is based on proper principles. Fletcher can be assured that if Horne can escape from this task with a tolerable reputation then he will consider himself well-off. For this is a place where there is a universal wreck of characters and the good and the bad are on much the same footing. The directors will see his work here therough the eyes of his ‘reporters’ and he certainly does not expect any thanks. ‘Thus I am labouring through fire for ill health, poverty, loss of character, perhaps my own death, widowhood to my wife & orphanage to my children. I have said ill health, tho I have never known the diseases of this country - but the exercises of my mind, bad food & the gradual influence of climate, all contribute to breaking my strength. However as I said I am now pretty well’. As for poverty, he will have spent at least £50 of his own money before he returns home. For he lives at the rate of more than £100 per annum, as well as having his family to support in England on a salary of £125. He shall however never ask for a shilling.
Horne’s letter of Christmas will have told Fletcher how serious his problems were then. He had almost died of a broken heart and he shudders with the recollection of that dreadful scene.His ‘storm’in the York was a calm and the worst problems that he has ever experienced were nothing compared to this. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
His own improvement in religion is very small. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
It has been a source of unhappiness for him to see religious people, and particularly the Methodists and almost all the preachers joining in the most violent spirits and adopting measures which if pursued, must ruin the colony.
As for ‘provision’, Horne has not been as bad off as Fletcher supposes. It has indeed been hard and he has eaten a larger portion of salt beef, pease soup and bad biscuits than he would have wished. He has often thought longingly of bread, rice, candles, sugar, butter and many other articles. The colony at large has been short of flour, beef, pork and molasses. Horne has however had enough fresh food and fish ‘to prevent my blood from a scorbutick habit, or my flesh breaking out in loathsome ulcers - a common disease here’.
People here have been in a good state of health for five months, especially the black people. They have not had to bury more than ten people in a thousand, and half of those were white sailors. Nevertheless, few white people have completely escaped illness in that time - some have had one attack, others several and a few have been reduced to very low conditions. He hopes that they will suffer little in the rains which have just started.
The plots of land have been marked out and the town is building up well. The Nova Scotians [former black slaves who had previously settled in Nova Scotia] are building boats and the company is trading along the coast. They are also clearing away wood every day, their poultry is breeding fast and they have been delivered from fear of famine. Ground has been put under cultivation and eighteen months from now, the colony will be truly flourishing. One of their ships has just now come in from gambia with forty oxen, a few goats, sheep, fowls and some articles of provision or commerce. They are also expecting ships from England with supplies. Indeed, within this last fortnight, things have taken a very favourable turn and the comforts of life are increasing. Horne estimates that they have a dozen fowls, two or three dozen ducks, eight turkies, five or six dozen goats, a dozen geese and three dozen hogs and pigs. This number would have been greater still, if they could have refrained from eating them. Another problem is that ships which put in here for water, buy stock from the Nova Scotians either for more money than the colonists can pay, or for articles which the Nova Scotians prefer to the merchandise that the colonists can provide, namely sugar, rum etc - at a time when the colonists had none. They take pains to breed poultry and they are able to do so cheaply as the [unreadable word] constitute a major part of their diet.
The governors are active and able men - ships never lie idle in the harbour. In addition to the York, which is a store ship and the vessels which run between England and this place, they have six small vessels in constant use. These transport everything they can get and it is hoped that all the ships can now be loaded for England. Within a few years, the company should have twenty or thirty ships operating along the coast. The colony should prosper as all the comforts of life will be plentiful and cheap and the country cleared and cultivated - ‘But when all is done, Africa will be a grave for Europeans’.
The black people here will in time, provide sailors, clerks, overseers and labourers. If the company flourishes as much as is expected, there should not be need for more than five hundred white Europeans, of whom two thirds will be sailors. Certainly, England and Africa will be greatly benefitted at a far smaller loss of life than is associated with the slave trade.
His last letter and this present one, informed Fletcher of Horne’s intention to return home. The disappointments that he has experienced and the great trouble to which he has put his friends with little or no result and the fact that he has a family, combine to persuade him that he cannot continue in any missionary pursuit. The memory of the love, happiness and usefulness, he enjoyed at Madeley and the very kind expressed wish of Fletcher and his other friends to see him there again, and the very unjustifiable manner in which he left, conspire to persuade him that he should return to Madeley, should that be possible. Indeed, difficult as it was to procure a minister for Madeley, Horne will find it even more difficult to find a place which would suit him. He is unable to settle under a Calvinist Rector or Vicar, for Horne would be expected not to preach Arminian doctrine and this he could never tolerate. An ungodly minister would never employ him and in many place, he would get trouble from the bishops. He would be unable to settle among the Methodists - ‘If I were to be offered a chapel by my Bristol friends on my coming home, desireable as the situation would be on many accounts, I should never accept it as a matter of choice; for I should expect open war or insidious opposition from the quarter I have most and could least oppose - the Methodists. Have friends & interest to build a chapel in any large town in England. I should expect the same opposition. A small parish, I would not like to accept, & it would be to the last degree unpleasant to be tied up to strict Church Order. From every circumstance of my situation, temper, principles, attachment to Madeley is truly desireable. There, I was just as much & just as little of Methodist, as irregular & as stationary, as I wished to be. I know no place more peaceable & quiet & long experience shews me that I sooner tire of company than retirement. I know no place more favourable to piety & I shoud deem it the most gracious providence of my life to return thither again’.
There are two chaplains leaving the company; others must be engaged and will probably leave after a time as Horne and his colleague have done. ‘Surely it is easier to give no living to any, than livings to all. I really do not consider myself as having any claims upon him [ Henry Thornton] of this kind. The circumstance of the Taylor family, setting up a claim is a remarkable providence, & may affect the parish more ways than one: but trust that God who has so conspicuously watched over Madeley will in the end order the matter for his praise. If the Taylors can make good their claim, probably the Kynaston family may compromise the matter for a sum of money. But shd the Taylors prevail, & one of their family take the living, Mr [Samuel] Walters may be thrown out from the Cure. Should the living be sold, I suppose the purchase would be considerable, & I dare not indulge the thought that Mr [Henry] Thornton would lay out 2 or £3,000 for me. Putting the security & comfort of the parish out of the question, I had rather come back as curate than vicar, as it would evince that I had no pecuniary view of any kind in leaving it. And yet this is an idea which I dare not indulge. I cannot wish for a moment that Mr [Samuel] Walters after serving the parish in a time of trouble should meet with any but the most grateful returns.’
However, if the living is sold, or Mr Thornton entertain the distant idea of presenting it to Horne, then the a way may be open for Horne to return to Madeley without impropriety.
Horne was conversing a few days ago with Mr [Zachary] Macauley, who is the second in command of the colony and very intimate with Thornton, ‘on the peculiar embarassment I should meet with in settling on my return to England. To this he answered merrily, “Perhaps Mr Thornton will give you a living”, I replied, “If the parish is not large I wont accept it; besides I would rather be curate of Madeley than have any living Mr Thornton could give me. However I wish he would offer me one, perhaps Mr [Samuel] Walters would exchange his curacy for my living, or words to that purpose”. This was all that passed; but unknown to me, he has written to Mr Thornton how much I lamented leaving Madeley & wished to return there. And added, “I wish you could give a living to Mr Walters & induce him to resign Madeley to Horne”, or to that effect’. If Thornton takes this hint and makes possible such an arrangement, then Horne thinks that no offence could be given by the offer. That is all that Horne can say on the subject, but can only leave it in the hands of the Lord.
Horne’s letter from his wife, gave him good news of the health of his family. The knowledge that he has left them behind and how much their welfare depends on his staying alive, in a place where life is extremely precarious, has been for Horne a continual martyrdom. His wife is getting very uneasy and wishes him to return to England, especially as her fears have been sparked by an account which she has lately received of this country. Indeed, as Horne can actually do nothing for the cause of the missions, she has good reason to want his speedy return. The Council here however is pressing him to remain and is citing many reasons, which Horne is little disposed to take heed of. Yet he cannot leave until the Company has had enough time to get a replacement, if that is possible. Horne has suffered so much in this business, that he does not really care if he is reproached. He would however be hurt if there was any unfortunate consequence of his leaving the colony. He will therefore stay for another two or three months after September (the first anniversary of his arrival here), rather than have his conduct criticised. Horne has therefore set Christmas Day as the terminal date, after which he will find a passage. He thinks that this would satisfy any reasonable man as to his conduct. He does however expect that the company will not be willing to part with him at all.
[Horne’s cousin Nathaniel] Gilbert embarked for Antigua a few days ago in consequence of letters which he received demanding his presence and he will go from there to England where he has put his affairs in proper order. He was healthy when he left here and they parted in the same ‘amity’ as when they met. ‘If I have given up most, suffered the most cruel disappointment, yet he has spent his time & risked his life for less valuable puposes than myself. If I have not done what I wished, I have yet done something essential to the welfare of the colony; but he is so little suited to the colony that he really has done just nothing. If we learn, the one to sit down contented, where his labours are blessed, as his were at Alveley, & the other to subdue that glow of imagination & warmth of affections which have kept him in a long dream of vanity for 16 years, as has been my ease, we may both have cause to bless God for it’.
Horne rejoices that Samuel Walters, Fletcher, Sally [Lawrence] and Matty are prospering.
In a postscript dated June 10th, he informs Fletcher that he has decided to come home in a ship leaving Sierra Leone in September. 
- John Clarkson (d. 1828) was born at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, the son of the headmaster of the Wisbech Grammar School. He entered the Royal Navy at the age of twelve and was promoted lieutenant in 1783 whereupon he retired on half pay. In 1791, Clarkson was sent to Nova Scotia by the directors of the Sierra Leone Company to recruit settlers from among the free black population. In 1792 he brought nearly two thousand of them to West Africa and was appointed governor of the colony of Sierra Leone. His tenure lasted less than a year, when his willingness to champion the cause of the colonists against the company led to his dismissal. He then went into business in Essex and was a founder of the Society for the Promotion of Universal Peace. Clarkson was a devout evangelical Christian and a fervent supporter of the anti-slavery cause. His brother Thomas was also a leading light of the abolitionist movement. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995 )
- Nathaniel Gilbert junior (1761-1807) was the son of Nathaniel Gilbert (c. 1721-74), the pioneer of West Indian Methodism. He was born on the island of Antigua and was ordained into the Church of England as a young man. Like his cousin Melville Horne, he served as a curate to John Fletcher of Madeley and in 1792 was appointed as the first chaplain to the settlement of freed slaves in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He returned to England after a stay in Africa of less than two years and spent his remaining years as the Vicar of Bledlow in Buckinghamshire. The architect Sir George Gilbert Scott was Gilbert’s great grandson. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995).
- Sarah Lawrence (1756-1800) was the neice of John Wesley’s housekeeper Sarah Ryan, one of a circle of female Methodists which included Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher and Sarah Crosby. Lawrence was raised from an early age in the orphanage established by Bosanquet-Fletcher, a woman with whom she established a mother-daughter relationship. She was effectively converted by the age of ten and was accepted into the Leeds Methodist society at the age of eighteen. A year later she was converted into the Church of England. Lawrence spent much of her life within the Bosanquet-Fletcher household where she played a very active role in the work of the Methodist societies. She had a particular gift for working with children and was accustomed to exhort and pray in public. Lawrence enjoyed a considerable reputation for saintliness of character. Source: Methodist Magazine 1803, pp160-167 and an unpublished account of Sarah Lawrence by Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher in the Fletcher-Tooth collection.