Charles, Joseph (DNB00)

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CHARLES, JOSEPH (1716–1780), author of ‘The Dispersion of the Men of Babel,’ and the principal cause of it enquired into' (1755, 2nd edition 1769), was born at Swaffham, Norfolk; the register of his baptism is 6 Nov. 1716. If he studied at any English university, he took no degree; he must not be confounded with his father, Joseph Charles, who graduated at Oxford 1710. He was presented in 1740 to the vicarage of Wighton, which he retained till his death on 4 July 1786. He was buried at Swaffham, of which his father had been vicar. The ‘Dispersion’ is his only known book. The argument is based on a literal acceptance of the narrative in Genesis, supplemented by harmonising interpretations of prophecy and concurring testimonies of profane writers. It is written in a style prolix even for the time, but characterised by much naïveté. To Japhet was given the possession of all Europe and America, and the sentence against Ham -‘servant of servants’-is now in full force. ‘Are we not trading constantly to Guinea for them? . . . How many millions of negroes have been transported from their own country since Japhet got possession of America?’ The city afterwards called Babel ‘must needs have been built in the district of Ham.’ Nimrod was the head of the undertaking, which, being contrary to the divine purpose, was defeated by a miraculous gift of languages. ‘These men therefore must have had their new languages, as the first man had his, by divine inspiration, and Moses tells us that this was the case . . . so that this miracle is one grand and living demonstration of the truth of Moses' history.’

[Blomefeld's Norfolk, ix. 209; Swaffham parish registers. and information from vicars of Swafham and Wighton.]

J. M. S.