Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Macaulay, Zachary
MACAULAY, ZACHARY (1768–1838), philanthropist, born 2 May 1768, was son of John Macaulay by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Colin Campbell of Inveresragan, Argyllshire. John Macaulay, eldest son of Angus Macaulay, was minister successively of South Uist (1746), Lismore (1756), Inverary (1765), and Cardross (1775), and died 30 March 1789. He is mentioned in Boswell's account of Johnson's ‘Tour to the Hebrides in 1773.’ He had twelve children by his second wife, of whom the eldest was Aulay [q. v.] Colin (1760–1836), another son, entered the Indian army, was present at Seringapatam, shared Sir David Baird's imprisonment by Hyder Ali, was M.P. for Saltash from 1828 to 1830, was promoted majorgeneral August 1830, and died a lieutenant-general at Clifton 20 Feb. 1836.
Another John Macaulay (1720–1776), brother of Kenneth Macaulay [q. v.], and son of Aulay Macaulay, minister of Harris, said to have given information with a view to the capture of the Pretender, was minister of Barra (1763–70), afterwards of South Uist (1771), and went to America in 1772, where he died in 1776. He is apparently confused by Sir George Trevelyan with the other John (see Hew Scott, Fasti, ii. 350, iii. 4, 75, 137, 142).
Zachary was sent out at the age of sixteen to be bookkeeper upon an estate in Jamaica, of which he became manager. He was deeply impressed with the miseries of the slave population. He gave up his position in disgust, and returned to England in 1792. The Sierra Leone Company had been founded in 1791 by Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, Henry Thornton, who became chairman, and others, in order to form a colony of liberated slaves. Thornton, who was an intimate friend of Thomas Babington, heard through him of Macaulay, and obtained the young man's appointment to be second member of the Sierra Leone council. Macaulay sailed early in 1793, and soon after reaching the colony became governor. The colonists were a rabble of ignorant freedmen amid barbarous tribes demoralised by the slave-trade. Macaulay, with the help of a single colleague, had to be governor, councillor, paymaster, judge, and clerk, to preach sermons and celebrate marriages. He set up schools and put down a threatened insurrection. In September 1794 the colony was occupied by a French squadron. The crews were ‘a set of ragamuffins,’ who bullied, plundered, and wantonly destroyed property. They left in October, and Macaulay succeeded in restoring order. His health, however, broke down, and he left the colony in 1795, taking a passage to the West Indies in a slave-ship, at some personal risk, in order to become personally acquainted with the horrors of the ‘middle passage.’ He reached England in July 1795. He visited Hannah More at Cowslip Green, and there met one of her former pupils, Selina Mills, daughter of a quaker bookseller at Bristol, to whom he became engaged. Her relations objected to her marriage, and especially to a life in Africa. He returned to Sierra Leone alone, leaving Miss Mills with his sister, Mrs. Babington. In spite of many difficulties from the insubordination of the negroes and outbursts of religious eccentricity, he succeeded in raising the colony to a tolerable state of prosperity, became fond of the people, and so far attached to the place that to the end of his life the one trial which almost upset his temper was an imputation upon the healthiness of Sierra Leone. He resigned his post in 1799, and upon reaching England was appointed secretary to the company, with a salary of 500l. a year. He held this position until, in 1808, the colony was transferred to the crown.
On 26 Aug. 1799 Macaulay married Miss Mills at Bristol. He first lived at Lambeth, and after two years in the company's house in Birchin Lane, settled in the High Street of Clapham. He started as an African merchant in partnership with a nephew, the firm being known as Macaulay & Babington. For many years the business prospered; but Macaulay soon became deeply absorbed in the labours which were the main interest of his life. He was editor of the ‘Christian Observer,’ the organ of the so-called ‘Clapham sect,’ from 1802 to 1816. It was especially devoted to the abolition of the British slave-trade, and afterwards to the destruction of the slave-trade abroad. Macaulay's intimate knowledge of the facts gave him special authority among the abolitionists, and he worked with the most unremitting zeal. After the abolition of the slave-trade in 1807 he became secretary to the African Institute, without accepting a salary. He held the post for five years, till in 1812 he found a successor willing to take it on the same terms. He afterwards served on the committee until the dissolution of the institute in 1834. He co-operated with Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton [q. v.] and others in forming the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823. He wrote most of the ‘Monthly Reporters’ issued by the society. He often sat up night after night imbibing blue-books and reports; and, though he was neither a speaker nor a writer under his own name, he supplied the popular leaders with facts and arguments. When information was required Wilberforce would say, ‘Let us look it out in Macaulay.’ He was bitterly attacked by the opposite party, especially in the ‘John Bull,’ and was made the object of calumnies which he never condescended to expose.
His business had so far prospered that about 1818 he estimated his fortune at 100,000l., and moved from Clapham to a better house in Cadogan Place. Absorption, however, in higher aims forced him to trust to an incompetent partner, and symptoms of commercial disaster soon appeared. In 1823 he moved to a smaller house at 50 Great Ormond Street, where he lived till 1831. In the beginning of that year his wife died, having never recovered the loss of a daughter, Jane, in September 1830. The firm, without becoming bankrupt, ceased to exist, and Macaulay had to depend partly upon his sons, Thomas Babington and Henry, the last of whom had been appointed to a position at Sierra Leone. His eyesight and his health failed, and he had to give up active work at the Anti-Slavery Society. He visited France, where he was made honorary president of the French Society for the Abolition of Slavery, and contributed to its publications some papers upon Hayti and the French colonies. In the winter of 1836 he returned to England, and never afterwards left his house and scarcely his couch. He died 13 May 1838, and was buried in the now disused ground at Mecklenburg Square. At a meeting held on 30 July 1838, with Sir T. F. Buxton in the chair, it was agreed to erect a memorial to him in Westminster Abbey. A bust was accordingly erected and an inscription written by (Sir) James Stephen (1789–1859) [q. v.], which commemorates his share in the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade, and adds that ‘he meekly endured the toil, the privation, and the reproach, resigning to others the praise and the reward.’ For obvious reasons another inscription was substituted in the abbey.
Macaulay's services towards abolishing the greatest wrong existing in his time can hardly be over-praised. Few men have devoted themselves so entirely and unselfishly to a noble cause. He found time, however, to be ardent in many others of the benevolent movements of the day. He was an active member of the British and Foreign Bible Society, of the Church Missionary Society, and of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. He promoted Sunday and infant schools, took an interest in the educational movements both of Bell and Lancaster, and was one of the principal founders of the London University. Although strongly in favour of religious education, he thought that the university would provide secular education for sons of dissenters and others, while their religious wants could be otherwise supplied. In spite of a defective education, he had read much general literature, and he was acquainted not only with the politicians of his day, such as Brougham and Horner, but with such distinguished foreigners as Chateaubriand, Sismondi, Madame de Staël, and Dumont. He was a fellow of the Royal Society.
Although his character had a certain austerity, he was on the most affectionate terms with his children, and did not object to their reading novels or taking Sunday walks, recreations which were not to his own taste. He was repaid by their veneration and confidence.
His works were anonymous, as he thought that the publication of his name would be injurious rather than beneficial to his cause, and consist chiefly of papers issued by the societies to which he belonged.
Macaulay left nine children: (1) Thomas Babington [q. v.]; (2) Selina, b. 27 Feb 1802, d. Aug. 1858; (3) Jean, b. 15 June 1804, d. 1830, unmarried; (4) John, b. 19 Aug. 1805, d. 16 April 1874, rector of Bovey Tracey and Aldingham; (5) Henry William, b. 3 Dec. 1806, held a position at Sierra Leone, married in 1841 a daughter of Lord Denman, and died at Bon Vista in 1846; (6) Frances, b. 25 May 1808, d. 16 Nov. 1888, unmarried; (7) Hannah More, b. 1 Jan 1810, d. 5 Aug. 1873 (Lady Trevelyan); (8) Margaret, b. 31 Jan. 1812, d July 1833 (Mrs. Cropper); (9) Charles Zachary, b. 15 Oct. 1813, educated as a surgeon, assistant to Sir B. Brodie, became his brother's private secretary in 1839, and was afterwards a commissioner of audit. He died 7 Aug. 1886.
[Christian Observer for 1839, pp. 756–68, 796–817, giving the substance of a life in the appendix to a Review of the Principal Proceedings of the Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society subsequent to the passing of the Abolition Act in 1833 (1839); Trevelyan's Life of Lord Macaulay; Sir James Stephen's Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography—essay on the ‘Clapham Sect,’ where there is an admirable sketch from personal knowledge; information from Lady Knutsford and Sir G. Trevelyan.]