One Man’s Fight For Justice

John Rising’s William Wilberforce, age 29,  circa 1790
John Rising’s William Wilberforce, age 29, circa 1790

William Wilberforce was born on August 24, 1759.

“Wilberforce was a deeply religious English member of parliament and social reformer who was very influential in the abolition of the slave trade and eventually slavery itself in the British empire…Wilberforce retired from politics in 1825 and died on 29 July 1833, shortly after the act to free slaves in the British empire passed through the House of Commons. He was buried near his friend Pitt in Westminster Abbey.” BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilberforce_william.shtml

 

Shackles used to control slaves in South Africa in the 18th century on display at the Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa Thursday 22 March 2007. The city of Cape Town was built by slave labourers under the control of the Dutch East India Company which brought slaves from East Africa and India as well as enslaved thousands of local San and Khoi peoples after the Company arrived in the Cape from Europe. EPA/NIC BOTHMA
Shackles used to control slaves in South Africa in the 18th century on display at the Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa Thursday 22 March 2007. The city of Cape Town was built by slave labourers under the control of the Dutch East India Company which brought slaves from East Africa and India as well as enslaved thousands of local San and Khoi peoples after the Company arrived in the Cape from Europe. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

 

God has used brave men and courageous women down through human history to bring about change. God never meant for another person to be the property of another or for another person (male or female) to be treated unequally.

William Wilberforce 6
British Slave Ship Brookes

Slavery was a human invention that arose from the baser instincts which we all strive against. However those baser instincts have tainted our history on this planet traversing the cosmos.

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Unfortunately, religious texts have been used for thousands of years to justify slavery, the subjection of women, the cruel and unusual punishment of individuals who were different than the established norms of societal mores, the murders of the innocents who could not defend themselves and other atrocities which should have no place in civilized society. Pure and undefiled religion is to help those in need and make the world a better place for all to enjoy.

Even today in 2015 those baser instincts are on full display in how men and especially women and children are treated by those in power. Cruelty, misery and suffering are a sad commentary on the human race.

In the face of major opposition even from the churches, it took courage to challenge what was then considered the natural order of the world to achieve some of what should be the rights of all. Equality is more than a word; it’s the right of every individual on this earth.

Whatever the struggle is today, there will be men and women who will heed the call to challenge the status quo, even if the status quo is found in their religious communities and embraced by leadership who are too blind to see God’s plan. It is a terrible plight to be in opposition to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

One does not need to embrace a religious calling in order to fight for social justice and equality in the geopolitical regions of the world or in your own community. It takes one moment of deliberation to take a stand against those baser instincts of those who inflict their brothers and sisters with their distorted reality of life.

 

William Wilberforce:

“Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties?”

G. D. Williams © 2015

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References:

William Wilberforce

In 1789, following his conversion to Christianity, Wilberforce became the voice in Parliament of the Abolition Movement; joining campaigners such as theQuakers, Thomas Clarkson and the former enslaved African Olaudah Equiano. For Wilberforce the slave trade was a sin for which Britain had to repent or be damned.

It took twenty years to end the British trade in enslaved people and almost thirty more before slavery itself became illegal.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/people/williamwilberforce_1.shtml

The Black Man's Lament, or, how to make sugar by Amelia Opie. (London, 1826)
The Black Man’s Lament, or, how to make sugar by Amelia Opie. (London, 1826)

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833

http://www.pdavis.nl/Legis_07.htm

http://www.historyextra.com/slavery

http://durhametfo.ca/workers-rights/everyone-wants-to-know-2/

The Better Hour

The Better Hour ( http://www.thebetterhour.org ) is the story of a man who, inspired by faith, used his political and social influence to change the world for the better. At the beginning of the 19th century, almost a third of the British economy depended on the trade of human beings. William Wilberforce was determined to end this horrific practice, by persuading both Parliament and British society to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The full documentary can be purchased at PBS (http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index…. )

The inspirational and remarkable story of William Wilberforce, who used his position as a British parliamentarian to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade and launch 69 organizations for the betterment of society. “Let no man forget the name of William Wilberforce” said Frederick Douglas.

http://www.thebetterhour.org/tbh/

A British Milestone in the Fight for Freedom

The British officially abolished slavery throughout their empire on Aug. 1, 1834, freeing some 800,000 Africans from bondage. The date should be forever commemorated—but so should slavery’s own history of resistance and rebellion.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-british-milestone-in-the-fight-for-freedom-1438267070?mod=e2fb

Breaking The Chains

So integral to the British economy was the slave business that there were few men and institutions of wealth who did not want to invest in it, from the royal family and the Church of England downwards. Slavers could count on the Archbishop of Canterbury to defend them before God, and on politicians, like the young William Gladstone, himself the son of a plantation-owner, to plead their case in Parliament.

Given how entrenched the slave trade was at the time, it is remarkable that a campaign to abolish it which began in 1787 succeeded only two decades later.

http://www.economist.com/node/8749406

Josiah Wedgwood created this medallion circa 1787.
Josiah Wedgwood created this medallion circa 1787.

International Slavery Museum

Ships of the British Empire carried just over 3.4 million Africans to slavery in the Americas between 1662 and 1807

Liverpool was responsible for transporting nearly 1.5million Africans into slavery – more than 10% of all Africans transported.

Sir John Gladstone was a merchant, slave owner, Member of Parliament, and the father of the late 19th century British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. He was born in Leith in Midlothian, Scotland, the son of Thomas Gladstones, a corn merchant. He moved to Liverpool in 1787. Gladstone entered the house of grain merchants Corrie & Company as a clerk, eventually becoming a partner in the newly named house, Corrie, Gladstone & Bradshaw. Later, Gladstone went into partnership with his brother, Robert, as John Gladstone & Company. The company grew extremely wealthy trading with Russia, importing sugar from the West Indies, and dealing in corn with the United States and cotton with Brazil. Gladstone owned large sugar plantations in Jamaica and Demerara worked by slaves and served as Chairman of the West India Association.

Wilberforce was born in Hull to a wealthy merchant family. After university he became an MP for the town and an evangelical Christian. He was interested in social reform and became involved with the abolitionists. He initially only believed in ending the slave trade not slavery itself. He introduced bills into Parliament to abolish the trade, but despite starting the process in the 1770s did not achieve his aim until 1807. Becoming aware of the terrible conditions the enslaved continued to live in, he supported the complete abolition of slavery. He died three days after the bill to abolish slavery was passed in 1833.

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/learning/sessions/downloads/International-Slavery-Museum-teachers-pack.pdf

African chiefs urged to apologise for slave trade

Traditional African rulers whose ancestors collaborated with European and Arab slave traders should follow Britain and the United States by publicly saying sorry, according to human rights organisations.

The Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria has written to tribal chiefs saying: “We cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans, particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless.”

Estimates vary that between 10 million and 28 million Africans were sent to the Americas and sold into slavery between 1450 and the early 19th century.

More than a million are believed to have died in transit across the so-called “middle passage” of the Atlantic due to inhumane conditions aboard slave ships and the brutal crushing of any resistance.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/18/africans-apologise-slave-trade

John Newton’s Amazing Grace

 

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