Wilberforce, Evangelical Reformer
page is excerpted from the "The Surprising History of
Evangelicalism" by Robert Linthicum. For
complete paper on morality and American evangelicals Jonathon
Blanchard and Charles Finney plus the reasons
evangelicals lost their social justice orientation, see the end of
this page for ordering information.
has a surprising history. When
we think of the three related religious traditions that make up this
movement – Pentecostalism, the holiness tradition and
evangelicalism – we think of these churches as being concerned
about right relationship with God, right theology and right conduct.
But we don’t often think of the evangelical movement as
originating in social reform. Yet
that was essentially what it was about for its first one hundred
a serious Christian created a real crisis for William Wilberforce (a
member of parliament). How
should he live out his Christian faith, he wondered.
Should he become a clergyman?
The idea appalled him. ...
Wilberforce chose as his targets for the use of his public office
the evils of slavery and the rapidly declining morality of Great
Britain. The two issues were, in reality, linked. ...
each season of Parliament, from 1788 to 1806, Wilberforce made the
motion to outlaw the slave trade.
At each season of Parliament, the bill was defeated, even in
spite of the organizing that Wilberforce and those working with him
– both inside Parliament and throughout Great Britain.
Each year, Wilberforce built his base of power.
Each year, the margin of defeat lessened.
Finally, on February 23, 1807, the motion was carried and
Great Britain became the first nation in the world to outlaw the
trading in slaves ...
between 1808 and 1833, Wilberforce led the organizing effort to
outlaw slavery itselfthroughout the entire British Empire.
Two days before his death, the bill was approved by
Parliament, and slavery was outlawed throughout the British Empire.
Wilberforce had spent his entire public life in fighting that
evil system – and he had won!
A word needs to be said about the cost to Great Britain of
outlawing slavery throughout the British Empire.
It cost Great Britain 20,000,000 pounds or $800,000,000.
That money was spent in two ways. First, some of it was spent to purchase each slave
from each slaveholder, so that the slaveholder would not face
economic ruin when his means of production was taken away from him.
Second, most of it was spent to pay the 700,000 slaves for
their period of slavery and to equip them to compete successfully in
the Empire’s economy. No
Civil War to rid the empire of slavery, no loss of life of millions
of people, no destitute former slave holders, no vulnerable former
slaves unable to cope with their changed condition, no nation with
scars of hatred and defeat for a hundred years thereafter! ...
second objective of Wilberforce’s was the reforming of the
morality of the nation (what was quaintly called at the time, the
“reforming of manners”). ...
Thus did the evangelicals transform Great Britain and
the British Empire into a society where morality and justice could
order by phone, fax, mail or email, contact:
, PUT Business and Sales Office
, Mailbox #44, 25101 Bear Valley Road
, Tehachapi, CA 93561-8311
Phone: (661) 821-0656 Fax: (661) 821-0676
Return to Homepage