Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/507

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491
SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF DR. PRIESTLEY.

series of letters to the inhabitants of Northumberland, in which he expressed his sentiments fully on all political questions, and which had the effect of removing unfavorable impressions which had been made on the minds of the people.

It is important to state, in illustration of Dr. Priestley's principles and character, that he believed most thoroughly in the efficacy of private enterprise for carrying on all works of popular beneficence. A powerful opponent of state-enforced religion, he was led to go much further and to condemn government patronage in numerous other cases. And this was very far from being a matter of sour grapes, or a repudiation of advantages, because he could not himself participate in them. On the contrary, he had the most brilliant and tempting opportunities. His residence and intimacy with Lord Shelburne brought within his reach the largest prospects of political and ecclesiastical preferment, both of which he resolutely declined. Under two different administrations, overtures were made to him to accept a pension from Government; but he stands conspicuously alone in his age in resisting the temptation and preserving his independence. He, however, accepted assistance from private generosity, and was always grateful for donations from this source. As an illustration of how he continued to be appreciated in England after leaving it, it should be stated that Mrs. Elizabeth Rayner allowed him a pension of $250 a year, and in her will left him $10,000. Mr. Dodson left him $2,000; Mr. Salte, $500; and the Duke of Grafton remitted him annually $200. About the time he died, a few other friends made up $1,000 a year, which was quickly increased to $2,500, which was to have been continued during his life. These contributions were made in consideration of the heavy expense of his experimental researches, and the printing of his Church history and other theological works. These examples of generous appreciation were peculiarly grateful to Dr. Priestley, after the treatment he had received at home.

In 1801 Dr. Priestley had a severe illness in Philadelphia, and, after that, never fully recovered his strength. He was subject to attacks of inflammation of the stomach and paralysis of the throat, which prevented swallowing. In January, 1804, his complaint grew so serious that life began to be doubtful, and he used to tell the physician that, if he could but patch him up for six months longer, he should be perfectly satisfied, as by that time he could complete the printing of his works. This, however, was not granted, for he died on the 6th of February, seventy years ago, after working to almost the last hour. His old congregation, at Birmingham, erected a monument to his memory in their place of worship after his decease, and a fine marble statue has been recently put up in his honor in the University of Oxford. The accompanying engraving is from a portrait by the celebrated painter Gilbert Stuart.

It remains to add, that Dr. Priestley was eminently fortunate in