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Saving millions


The lives of millions of people, that is, through his long and ultimately successful effort to end the slave trade and then slavery. But William Wilberforce, whose feast day is celebrated today, couldn't have done it without the help of a fellowship of men and women inspired by the teachings of Christ. The fellowship included -

The abolitionist admiral who reformed the Royal Navy, which went into action because the slave trade couldn't be abolished with a simple edict

A truly audacious slave whose autobiography swept Britain

The slave trader turned abolitionist who wrote Amazing Grace and encouraged Wilberforce to stay in Parliament and defeat the slave traders

The woman (married to the admiral) who encouraged a vicar who knew slavery firsthand to write about it and get the facts before Parliament

The hundreds of thousands of women who refused to buy sugar while the trade continued

The young Cambridge scholar who rode thousands of miles across Britain, urging the people to end the trade

The Society of Friends who supported him

The slaves who rose in rebellion

The British people.

No, it wasn't one man. It was all of them working together, struggling for more than twenty years to advance their cause, and refusing to quit. This is their feast day.

Comments (2)

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Matt Nelson:

Two additional notes:

1. The sugar beet probably had more to do with the willingness of the British to give up chattel slavery than any other single factor.

2. Unfortunately, slavery remains a global enormity, which neither Britain nor any of its progeny seem to care much about.

A film, called "Amazing Grace," about Wilberforce appeared several years ago. It was very well done, although I don't know enough to vouch for its historical accuracy.

I can't remember the names of the principal characters, but Albert Finney appeared in it as the sea captain turned clergyman who wrote the song Amazing Grace.

The song was a favorite of Dr Martin Luther King's, and was sung at his funeral, by, if memory serves me, Aretha Franklin.

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