[William Wilberforce, celebrated abolitionist, on Roman Catholicism ('better than no Religion at all') and vaccination.] Autograph Letter Signed ('W Wilberforce') to the Bristol MP Richard Hart Davis, discussing his daughter's inoculation by Jenner.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833), celebrated abolitionist and Tory politician [Richard Hart Davis (1766-1842), Member of Parliament and West Indies merchant; Edward Jenner (1749-1823); vaccination]
Publication details: 
Bath. 16 December 1820.
SKU: 21067

2pp., 8vo. In good condition, lightly aged. Folded into a packet in the customary fashion, with slight loss to paper (and text) as a result of the breaking of the red wax seal, minor traces of which still adhere. Addressed on reverse, with postmark: 'Bath Decr Sixteen 1820 [to free?] Wilberforce | Rd Hart Davis Esq | MP | Conduit Street | London'. For information on Davis, see his entry in the History of Parliament, which states that he 'presented a planters' petition against the slave registry bill, 22 May 1816'. Whatever Davis's views on the slave trade, his eldest daughter Louisa married the abolitionist John Scandrett Hartford (1785-1866), and from the letter he is clearly on friendly terms with Wilberforce. Wilberforce's handwriting is not entirely straightforward and the following reading is in part tentative. He begins by asking Davis if he would 'let the inclosed go with one [of] your Letters to ye [Isle of?] France. It is to ye Bishop who has written me a very civil & indeed gratifying Letter which you shall see.' After a while he continues: 'I almost feel as if I were insincere in communication with him […] & yet I am not so, for I can with truth declare, that when I can not introduce ye Protestant Relign I should gladly promote ye prevalence of the R. Catholic as far better than no Religion at all. And as much as a sensible Man be aware of my feelings they prefer ye sense of my own faith. He gave me however to believe that He is a moderate Romn Cathc – He concurred with me in my Condemnation of the Jesuits'. In the postscript he writes: 'PS I really advise you to vaccinate as many of yr Children who had before ye vaccine disease. We are adopting that course – you know that my daughter Eliz – 10 years old [?]was vaccinated by Jenner in her Infancy at 4 years old. Was again vaccinated & inoculated, [?] appeard [sic] incapable of receivg either the Cowpox or Smallpox. Now hoever she has had a small pox, mildly indeed, but decidedly. She was very full of marks, on her arms &c There are here many Instances of persons havg Small Pox, who were vaccinated, but always they have Smallpox in a mild & mitigated form – I thought you would like to know this'.