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ZACHARY MACAULAY

By Iain Whyte

Talk given to a group at Rothley Court the day after the 200th Anniversary 26/3/07Zachary

In the 1950s we in Britain were carelessly uninterested in keeping our historical documents here so it is not surprising to find that the bulk of Zachary Macaulay’s letters and papers are not here, not in his native Scotland, not in Clapham his London home alongside Wilberforce and many of the abolitionists, but in the giant Huntington Library in California, USA. It is a rich Treasury, but fortunately some documents have escaped and remain here.

Mr. Humphrey Errington is a maker of goats’ cheese in deepest rural Lanarkshire. He is also the great great great grandson of our man Zachary Macaulay. Last month he took from an old leather suitcase and lent me a fascinating letter dated 30th July 1794 addressed to Thomas Babington Esquire,  Rothley Temple written from the freed slave colony of Sierra Leone where for several months Zachary Macaulay had been Governor.  Here it is. And there are some very interesting things in this letter.     

But firstly just a few facts about the man and his life. Zachary was born in 1768, son of the Church of Scotland minister in Inverary, Argyll. Educated locally he was a clerk in a Glasgow merchants house at the age of 14 and at 16 his father sent him to Jamaica where he worked as a ‘book keeper’ (a polite term for overseer of slaves) 5 years later he returned to Britain and came here to live with his sister Jean and brother-in-law Thomas Babington.  The Babington connection took him on a trial visit to the free slave colony in Sierra Leone where he became later Assistant Governor and then Governor in a very difficult time for the colony. He finally returned home, married Selina Mills, daughter of a Bristol Quaker. By this time he was well into the circle of abolitionists and became in 1804 a member of the London Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Employment wise he administered the African Institution which ran Sierra Leone and  edited the evangelical Christian Observer which had a strong anti-slavery emphasis. In 1815 he represented the Abolitionists in Paris at the Peace negotiations with France trying to ensure the abolition of the French Slave Trade.

We celebrate today the abolition of the Slave Trade. But perhaps Zachary’s greatest work was as Editor of the magazine of the new movement to abolish plantation slavery itself – the Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter which had an incredible circulation between 10 and 20,000.   This was the engine room or if you like the ammunition for the Parliamentary campaign. Wilberforce used to say ‘let us look it up in Macaulay.’ Zachary edited the Reporter in the crucial years between 1825-1831. He literally spent days and nights in exposing slavery and wore out his health. His business suffered and in his last years, though he had with others achieved abolition, he spent in illness and financial ruin.

Zachary died in 1838 and a bust of him with an inscription lies in Westminster Abbey.

In 1833 Wilberforce’s parliamentary successor, Thomas Fowell Buxton led delegates on the final push to Downing Street to lobby the Prime Minister. That evening at dinner Buxton ended  his speech by ‘gladly seizing a long wished-for opportunity of bearing testimony to the merits of the real leader of this cause – the anti-slavery tutor of us all – Mr. Macaulay.’

Back now to our letter. There are things in it which help us to get a picture of this man, not least of the influence of Rothley and those who came around it on his life. And they also indicate some of the curious contrasts and paradoxes of this great but fallible and faulty human being. One of the problems of biographical writing is that it either lionises the subject or it’s a put down. We’ve seen this in the treatment of men like David Livingstone, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King and of course William Wilberforce. Zachary Macaulay’s two biographers have been close relatives and so he has tended to come out as a bit of a plaster saint. History is rarely that simple. And it wasn’t with Zachary.

“Each time I take up my pen to write to you I am forced to send you apologies in place of the long letters I owe you and you will already have judged from the complexion of what precedes this that the same must now happen. If I write at more length to others than to you it is not that I love you less, but that I have more hope of indulgence from you.”

That kind of comment is what we might expect from a young man to his father or favourite uncle. But all the evidence is that Zachary’s father was a stern harsh figure whose scholarship the young man respected but between whom there was no affection and no uncle fulfilled this role. We have here a trust and an affection which was to be a unique experience for this young man unequalled until he met Selina, his wife to be.

There must have been a uniqueness about Thomas Babington. All we know of the slave societies of the West Indies indicates that men were brutalised and often women too. The horrendous conditions endured by slaves and the almost imaginable sadistic cruelty not only degraded those who suffered from it but those who perpetrated it. My generation was brought up on the chilling stories of the Holocaust and the Nazi camps and the slave societies paralleled these. Zachary’s only account of the society in which he spent five years shows that there was no middle way – you accepted the ruthlessness and brutal life and you participated in it or you got out. A letter to a friend at home describes him in a cane field with the noise of the whip and the cries of the victims and add “you might think of your friend in hell”   But chillingly he got used to this hell and even delighted in it at times so that he didn’t immediately jump at the chance to get out.  When he thought he was dying there was none to care for him – it was a totally selfish and indulgent society but in health that held some attractions for him.

So its hardly surprising that when he arrived at Rothley one of the daughters of the house described him as ‘a disagreeable conceited youth, with self-sufficient dogmatic manners.’

When I was a local minister I had to tell off the grandson of one of my members who was just back from apartheid South Africa and at the age of 10 started ordering around people in the church hall as if they were servants!! But behind the bombast and the arrogance lay a wounded and directionless young man, starved of love. It would have been all too easy for the Babingtons to censure him or to indulge him. They did neither. The subtle blend of tough love and gentle devotion to principle were undoubtedly crucial in his development. No wonder that he later described Babington as one ‘on which the lineaments of the divine character’ were ‘fairly and deeply drawn.’ From Thomas Babington (and also from his sister Jean) he learnt of a Christianity that was neither the formal cold observance in which he had been raised nor the obsessive  individual piety which had no bearing on ethics and practice which often sought to replace it. As we’ll see he struggled with religion and theology all his life but at Rothley he found a new direction to his faith that rested on the confidence and security which his relationship with his brother-in-law (and his sister) gave to him. They valued him and they challenged him to become involved in the cause that united them all. This was to start by his passage to Sierra Leone.

But Thomas and Jean Babington did more than that. They were crucial in assisting the development of the love of Zachary’s life, the one without whom, as he later confessed in a letter to her, he could not have done his crucial anti-slavery work. Lets take up the story in that 1794 letter. “Assure my sister” he wrote “that she need be under no apprehensions of my contracting myself in England. I wont say without her approbation, for that might be a promise too much, but without her knowledge. You may assure her likewise that there is no one woman in Great Britain for whom I have a predilection as once to have formed the notion of a union with.” That was to change dramatically within the next twenty months. A teacher in the Bristol school run by the poet and friend of the abolitionist, Hannah More, fell in love with the awkward serious young man about to embark again for Africa, and he with her. The More sisters were appalled, not just at the prospect of young Selina Mills going to Africa but one of them was so close to Selina that she put every obstacle in the way of this romance. The ‘understanding’ was reached between them literally as Zachary was about to embark on the ship for Sierra Leone. In a letter from Jean Babington to he brother in February 1796 there is a commitment to do everything possible both to reverse the opposition of the More sisters but to support Selina in her lonely absence from her fiancée.

Thomas and Jean Babington were not the only ones to notice the change in the austere young man who had at last found someone special. But they alone by inviting Selina to Rothley were able to take the risk of letting her know something of Zachary’s background. In January 1797 he, Zachary, wrote to Selina that Babington ‘knows me in some respects better than I knows myself’ and has helped him to this self knowledge. ‘His three hours narrative respecting me must necessarily have brought you more acquainted with my tempers and dispositions.’  Risky indeed, but far from Zachary feeling that this honest appraisal of his faults would result in turning Selina against him, it was the key to giving him confidence to reveal what we would otherwise never know – the bleakness of his years in Jamaica, his turning his back on God and any humanity, and his falling in with all the worst aspects of that planter society. We have to be a wee bit careful. Zachary once wrote from Sierra Leone “I am not a Paedobaptist, a Predestinarian or a Presbyterian” but he retained so much of his Calvinist upbringing with the emphasis on total depravity that all his life, though embracing the salvation offered in Christ he also remained tortured by the enormity of his sinfulness. The incomparable Albert Finney playing the elderly blind John Newton  in the film “Amazing Grace” is quoted as saying: “I know two things for certain…I am a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour.”

It was not just the Babingtons who influenced Zachary’s religious development. From these long exchanges between Sierra Leone and Bristol, informed by passionate love, came theological dialogue. For a young man from Calvinist Scotland, instructed in evangelical Anglicanism, to listen to and allow his own religious thinking to be shaped by a woman from a Quaker family was remarkable. But they did have theological discussions by post and Selina’s views on contemporary theology were taken on board by Zachary. He and his colleague in the abolition movement James Stephen were incidentally very much keener on the participation of women in the campaign than Willliam Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, who definitely did not approve. What I think we have in religion is a series of tensions in Zachary’s life which were never entirely resolved. He says he rejects infant baptism (I am no Paedobaptist) but he could not abide what he sees as the lawless kind of free worship he finds amongst the followers of Baptist missionaries in Sierra Leone when he was Governor. He says he is no Presbyterian yet some of the most unfortunate aspects of Presbyterianism where guilt rather than grace dominate he retains. And the all too Presbyterian work ethic which made him such an efficient Governor of Sierra Leone and such an effective anti-slavery campaigner also made him afraid to enjoy the pleasures of life in a way that Wilberforce and I suspect Babington never suffered from. In 1807, 4 months after the abolition bill he confessed in a letter to Selina from London “You cannot imagine what a dissipated afternoon Babington and I had,” a described a tour of entertainment instead of being in the office!

Zachary wrote to Selina from Sierra Leone that her letters had helped ‘to soften down a few of the asperities of my rugged nature.’ Yet it was that same ‘rugged nature’ that enabled him to stay at his post as Governor after the invasion and sacking of the colony by the French in 1794, to withstand the constant storms between this colony of freed slaves and the surrounding ships and stations of the most active slaving industry in West Africa, and to adjudicate between rival religious groups and the duties and rights of the settlers. Imagine being the Governor of Honk Kong or the Mayor of West Berlin during the cold war or Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India on the eve of independence and you have some idea of the magnitude of the task facing the young Macaulay. Almost every historian condemns Macaulay’s governorship as severe and unbending, even cruel or racist. Ironically when he was campaigning against slavery it was the West Indian Party in Parliament which accused him of allowing a black jury to try and condemn a white man. Inexperience and insensitivity led him to make some bad judgements and to act undiplomatically at times towards the settlers who were frustrated by being denied much that had been promised. But given the situation in which he found himself I believe such judgements to be wide of the mark.

Back to our letter for a moment.  In contrast to the stiff upper lip austerity that his detractors portrayed and far from the despising of the place over which he ruled Zachery wrote to Babington “I become more and more attached to Africa, and should similar events to what have haped in France be likely to hap in great Britain I should resolve …on burying myself in its quiet and peaceful bosom.” This despite the slave trade which he never ceased to condemn. But in his journeys to meet local chiefs and in his walks around the colony, despite the dangers, the climate and the incessant fevers that struck him and others threatening their lives, this love of the place is very apparent.  He shared much of the paternalism of his time towards other races – it would have been strange if this were not so – but never do we find anything of the philosophy of some other ‘progressive’ Scots such as David Hume in claiming the inferiority of those with black skins. Historians such as Adam Hochschild  and  Simon Shama for all their research have fallen into the trap of concluding that his missionary zeal, patriotic fervour, and assumption of moral leadership, tedious though this is to a 21st century observer amounted to a doctrine of racial superiority.      

His journals sent home to Henry Thornton the Secretary of the Sierra Leone Company whose servant he was, give us an insight into daily life and those to Selina a more personal picture of his constant tensions. As Acting Governor he was to do something which he justified at the time but was forever haunted by. In July 1793 the settlers,many of whom had been American slaves who fought with the British in the American War of Independence brought 5 slaves who had run away from Richard Horrocks a local English trader to Zachary expecting him to shelter them in the colony. To their horror he returned them to Horrocks claiming that he had no authority to otherwise – the slave trade was legal under British law however much they loathed it and longed to see it abolished. They were not the only ones who were horrified. The Directors of the Company could hardly believe that this had happened.  Zachary argued that any other action would lay the colony open to attack or denial of the supplies on which they depended and no protection would be given to them. Technically he was right. But even though abolition was a long way off all the time he was in Africa in similar circumstances which often arose he found some legal pretext or another to avoid this kind of return to captivity whilst continually pressing on the merchants whom he came to know to abandon the evil trade.

In 1794 Zachary became passionately concerned about the French Revolution and this is reflected in the letter. As with many of the abolitionists he had a fear of civil unrest and an innate conservatism – another irony since it was revolutionary stirrings that they were all accused of by their enemies. He describes here the energy of Revolutionary France withstanding all defeats in battle “in spite of the wickedness and impiety of her mad, ferocious and diabolical rulers” – he really sees the full measure of the threat to all morality, peace and security posed by the France of this time. Yet it is his love of France that makes him grieve for the terrible state of government terror that it has become.  Zachary learnt French at an early age, some of his closest friends were to be French citizens, he was held in huge respect by the French abolitionists and by their society  Les Amis de Noirs (Friends of black people) and he was as I mentioned the chosen representative to go to Paris in 1815.  As present day Treasurer of the Britain Zimbabwe Society I can feel the same desolation over a country and people with so much to give being caught in the icy grip of a vicious tyranny again.

Once more in this letter we find a clue to the complexity of the man. A lover of order and correctness he nevertheless is able to see the dangers of a clamp down on freedom that there certainly was in the Britain of the 1790s. “I fear,” he wrote “that the vigorous measures which are taken to secure obedience and the immense levies of militia making, will in the end prove a lever to overthrow it. A war with opinions will perhaps never prove successful for opinions cannot be killed by cannonballs.” Such democratic sentiments might bring a wry smile to the face of a Sierra Leone settler who railed against what he saw as an authoritarian governor. For my part I wonder what Zachary would make of the number of freedoms lost by us today in the cause of ‘anti-terrorism’ or of the value of spending untold billions in renewing the Trident nuclear weapons. Do we learn from history – or not?

Before we leave Sierra Leone and this particular letter I want to take up the image of  Zachary Macaulay as what Hochschild described in ‘Bury the Chains’ as “this humourless and unlikeable man.” Such a judgement I believe is superficial. Certainly in the journals there are passages that seem to be very censorious and his descriptions of his relationships with the Settlers and some of the missionaries show him with the insecurity of youth as dogmatic and determined to have his way, worse still to assume that it was always God’s way. The other side of that coin as we have seen was a humility in his confessions to his boss Thornton and his fiancé Selina. I’ll come back to that element of humility at the end. In fact his capacity for friendship grew and the correspondence not just with the Babingtons but with William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton, his French friends Baron De Stael and   Louis Dumont, but above all with his old friend and co-worker in the cause James Stephen show a very different side to him. In writing to his son Tom at University he says “Your mother went to hear Mrs. Williams preaching yesterday” and we think “a woman in the pulpit in the early 1800s” but in fact it’s  poking fun at a guest preacher in Clapham that the Macaulay family find not to be robust enough in his leading of worship. As a pre-Victorian father he had the traditional Scottish reluctance to be seen giving praise to his son – when Tom makes his first speech at an anti-slavery meeting and Wilberforce is ecstatic Zachary, although bursting with pride simply tells Tom that a young man shouldn’t keep his arms folded in the presence of a royal duke! Yet as a father there are many stories of his games with his children. If there is any doubt about his humour lets look at this last quote from the letter of July 1794.  Although he assures Jean Babington through Thomas that he has no present intention of marriage to an English woman there is an addition to that. “But” says Zachary “she will remember that these appearances don’t extend to Africa. If therefore I should have the honour of presenting to her some sable princess in the Character of a Sister she must not accuse me of a Breach of Promise.” It is of course possible that he considered marrying an African though this is most unlikely not on racial grounds but on religious ones – only a Christian woman would suit and daughters of chiefs were not normally of the faith. No, it is surely a gentle, somewhat dry, but mischievous sending up of his sister and brother-in-law who would after the initial shock have no doubt chuckled over it.

Time and space is not sufficient to do justice to what was the most important part of Zachary’s life as far as the anti-slavery movement is concerned. The characteristics of thoroughness, endurance, and attention to detail,  found in him at an early age, part of his heritage, immensely useful in Sierra Leone, were to come to full fruition in the 1820s, the key period of his life. When on leave from Africa in 1795 he sailed to England via Barbados on a slave ship. There are all kinds of stories about this and some mixed messages about dates in the history books. It may be that Wilberforce asked him to gather evidence on the voyage and in Barbados. The records show that the ship had 225 slaves bound for Jamaica and his diary shows notes not on the voyage but of conditions in Jamaica. Detailed statistics and accounts were to prove immensely valuable in the later campaign to get rid of slavery itself but when he returned home finally in 1799 he was immediately involved in the lobbying of government by the abolitionists. He had one supreme advantage. Wilberforce, Clarkson, Sharp, Babington, Gisborne, and Thornton were the giants of the abolition movement. But none of them had first hand experience of the West Indies or of the West African slave trade. James Ramsay had, and in the 1780s had instructed both Clarkson and Wilberforce. But he was long since dead. Zachary was the only one who could fulfil that role. In a guilt ridden letter (another one!) to Selina he shows his frustration at being kept in London instead of coming to Rothley to see her (she had almost taken up residence here!) but the demands of the cause meant that he needed to be in London and on hand to provide the evidence.

It may be worth saying a brief word about dates. The slave trade was abolished in 1807. The idea was that if the supply of slaves was cut off, conditions on the plantations would improve and eventually slavery would wither and be replaced by free labour. The reverse happened. The ban was flouted despite the British Navy’s efforts and foreign imports were obtained. Many planters fearing the end of slavery worked their charges even harder and certainly resisted any changes or ‘improvements. In this atmosphere the disbanded committees formed to campaign against the trade restarted with the modest aim of “The mitigation and eventual abolition of negro slavery” I have here a letter which is unsigned and was therefore didn’t cost me much, but which is highly significant. It reads “18th January 1823 Mansion House Place. Mr. Macaulay presents his compliments to the author of an excellent paper on West Indian Slavery signed “Observer” which appeared in the Imperial Magazine for January 1823. He would feel himself particularly indebted to the author if he would afford him an opportunity of personal communication, as the subject is one which deeply interests him.”

Two things about this simple but important note. The London Committee for the abolition of slavery was formed just a few months later with Zachary as a leading member. He was therefore ahead of the field. And he was combing for information, reading widely in any sources he could find. I have seen that issue of the Imperial Magazine. The article on slavery was a one-off and anonymous – it was not central to the magazine’s concerns. Yet Zachary ferreted it out. As he was to do throughout the 1820s keeping providing ammunition for the campaign.

The Anti-Slavery Reporter was a monthly magazine which was launched in June 1825. Zachary was the first editor and continued in that position even through ill health in the early 1830s at one time running it from France where he was helping out the French abolition movement to publish their own journal. The Reporter served two main purposes. It provided facts and figures, accounts and evidence for the campaign in Parliament. And it provided a source of news and encouragement for the many local committees up and down the country. For those of my generation it was perhaps the equivalent of the Anti-Apartheid News though sadly unlike the demise of apartheid, slavery is still so much a part of this world that the Anti-Slavery Reporter continues to this day. Although so long away from his native land with few visits back to it there is a particular note of pride on page 39. of  the January 1831  edition when he writes “before leaving Scotland for the present we have to add, with great satisfaction, that this cause has been advocated by the ministers of religion, in that country, both of the established church and other denominations, with particular zeal and ability.”                  

Through correspondence we learn that Zachary laboured day and often into the night digesting reports, articles, and reviews of slavery from voluminous Government tomes that most would have baulked at tackling, to small items in Caribbean newspapers or speeches at anti-slavery meetings. It was a Herculean task undertaken almost entirely on his own.  But it was no blunderbuss task but skilfully worked out. If you look at the Reporter you will see that there is very little in the way of comments or anecdotes which could be used by the enemies of abolition as prejudiced and inaccurate. Macaulay used the sources that could not be challenged by the pro-slavery party because they came from their own sources on the islands. In 1826 and 1830 he reproduced a series of advertisements in the Royal Jamaica Gazette which detailed sales of slaves to pay their master’s debts with the marks of whipping on their bodies or loss of ears or other body parts.  When he detailed a particularly notorious case of Henry and Helen Moss in the Bahamas who were found guilty of torturing to death several female slaves, Zachary used as his source the dispatches of successive Governors of the island to the Colonial Secretary. His sole comment made was “We will not cease to all the attention of our countrymen to these abominations, as long as they are suffered to exist.”

And that he did. But not without cost. Infuriated by their inability to contradict him by facts, his enemies descended first of all to mocking him and then to digging up stories of his Sierra Leone enterprises.  John Bull, the London newspaper and unashamed organ of slavery interests bracketed him with Wilberforce, Buxton, and Stephen in what the paper called “Bible dinner snuggeries and Godly tea drinkings” claiming to care for black slaves but not British labourers (that was a favourite attack on the abolitionists) His name was a gift for lampoons as he was termed “Saint Zachariah” and his support for the highly successful sugar boycott campaign led to a taunt of “Zaccarine.”  More seriously it accused him of feathering his own nest in Sierra Leone, monopolising trade, profiting by a bounty on captured slaves and ruining the colony which they had always seen as a foolish scheme. The evidence that they produced was the testimony of a judge in the colony with whom Zachary had clashed and been indiscrete in his comments to one of his successors.

In 1824 Zachary instituted libel proceedings against John Bull but after the magazine applied to the Court of Chancery for two commissions to take evidence in the West Indies and Africa Zachary’s friends, including Wilberforce and Babington persuaded him to drop the case. If lost it would spell financial ruin but more importantly the dragged out proceedings over the years would have sucked in his time and energy and the anti-slavery cause would have become diluted. Zachary was reluctant to drop the case. The very tenacity or in Scotland we use a word “thrawnness” that kept him terrier like at his task of exposing slavery made him reluctant to let go, but in the end as in most things, he saw what was truly important. And that was getting rid of the evil of slavery.

The merchant company which Zachary set up to trade with Sierra Leone had prospered at the start. He took the oldest Babington son, Thomas Gisborne into partnership and as anti-slavery matters took over his life he left the business affairs to this nephew and another Kenneth who was situated in Sierra Leone. It was a disaster. It is difficult to see whether Thomas and Kenneth helped themselves to money or simply mismanaged the business – few books, accounts or records were kept. Kenneth pulled out early with apologies – Thomas remained evasive and refused any investigation until Zachary in the end sacked him. It is a measure of the strength of the ties that this break with Thomas and Jean Babington’s eldest son did not strain the relationship between the Babingtons and the Macaulays. A letter from Rothley 17 Feb 1829 to Zachary declines to judge Thomas Gisborne but admits “it is altogether a grievous affair and falls heavily on an old man like me” but the affection towards Zachary is kept in tact. Meanwhile Zachary had to move to more modest accommodation, his own debts piled up and he became bankcrupt. His remaining years saw increasing dependence, after Selina died, on his family for accommodation and often on his own son Tom for money.  Henry, his next son went out to Sierra Leone in 1830 but could do little to rescue things. Characteristically Zachary’s loss of worldly wealth brought no emotional or passionate response – these were reserved for the great religious and educational causes that he embraced and above all for abolition. “The Lord gives.. the Lord takes away “ was his attitude of resignation.

The last impression I want to leave of this remarkable man is that of acceptance and humility.   Hard one virtues and not always consistently practised otherwise he would have been a saint. But while Clarkson’s family bickered with the Wilberforces over the attention given to Thomas’ part in the movement and while Clarkson’s History denies some of his colleagues an honourable place Zachary is content with a back seat role to the extent that he has received less recognition than his due. Lord Brougham, Edinburgh lawyer, abolitionist, and Lord Chancellor of England (funny how they always have Scots for this – Lord Mansfield and now a different kind of Chancellor in our neighbour Gordon Brown) Brougham promised to get Zachary a small post as commissioner of charity which would have given him a little income . Tom Macaulay MP was annoyed that he was delaying and prevaricating over it. “Oh no,” said his father, “don’t trouble him – it will all come in the end. He has much to do.”  In his Westminster Abbey memorial bust the opening words read “In grateful remembrance of Zachary Macaulay who during a protracted life, with an intense but quiet perseverance which no success could relax, no reverse could subdue, no toil, privation, or reproach could daunt, devoted his time, talents, fortune and all the energies of his mind and body to the service of the most injured and helpless of mankind.” All eulogies, all epitaphs over simplify and of course this complex character is no exception. But who of us would not be immensely proud to have even a small part of that as a remembrance of our lives.

A last story to lighten things. Zachary’s love for Selina when he was in Sierra Leone bordered on the obsessive.  When she sent him a painted miniature he complained that the artist had dared to improve on the unimproveable – her looks. He loved her passionately and sought a way of showing it. He bought a parrot from a trader but unfortunately the bird only spoke Fulani. He then, in the solemnity and privacy of the Governor’s office taught it to say “I love you” in English. It was to be sent to England o the next available ship as a living token of his devotion. Alas, like John Cleese’s parrot, the bird expired before the ship sailed. But Zachary’s love for Selina lasted for over four decades and was not broken by death.

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