Friday, April 25, 2008

William Wilberforce - A 'fanatic' who changed the world for the better

I’m sure the word ‘fanatic’ sparks different emotions for all of us.

‘Fanatic’ can be a description of an extremist, even a dangerous person … or not

William Wilberforce, the famous Member of Parliament (MP) was described recently by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the greatest Englishman of the last millennium.

As a Christian and an MP, William Wilberforce led the battle, for 20 years, to abolish the British Slave Trade. He was hated by many because slavery was big business and people ‘in the business’ were strongly against abolition because their livelihood would be threatened.

Nevertheless Wilberforce remained single minded and determined mainly because of his faith in God. Despite numerous defeats of his Bills to abolish the Slave Trade in the House of Commons he persevered.

Eventually the British Slave Trade was abolished in 1807. Wilberforce carried on for another 27 years leading the battle for slavery itself to be abolished. Three days after the abolition of slavery Wilberforce died.

He had battled for almost 50 years to rid the world of this appalling testimony in the history of mankind.

At the height of his battles Wilberforce was described as a ‘fanatic’ by his many opponents. In a speech to the House of Commons, William Wilberforce said;

“If to be feeling alive to all sufferings of my fellow creatures and to be warmed with the desire of relieving their distress, is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”

What fabulous words from an incredible man.


spinhead said...

This kind of fanatic reminds me of gentleman who said you should never open your mouth in public unless you're trying to change the world. Wouldn't it be fine if we had more of this kind of fanatic, and less apathy?

Trevor Gay said...

How many politicians today can we recognise as the like of William Wilberforce?

Over here in the UK - I'm sad to say - all male politicians look the same, dress the same and sound the same. They worry more about their image than what they stand for. In fact I am not sure most of them know what they stand for.

Good men are few - Wilberforce was an outstanding man.

John O'Leary said...

Keeping to my usual theme, I can't help but observe that the great bands I grew up with were all rock & roll fanatics - i.e. die-hard "fans" of the genre who spent 90% of their waking hours playing or listening to music. Some of these musician/songwriters even wanted to change the world (e.g. Lennon, Townshend) - though they might not admit it.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John – I often wonder what would have become of John Lennon – do you think he would have gone into politics – even if not party politics?

I imagine if he were still around he would be forcing politicians to DO more about world poverty instead of spending a lot of time TALKING about it.

I also believe he would be a huge anti-war campaigner pushing for world wide peace

Sadly of course we will never know …..

The Dan Ward said...

It's wonderful to hear about people who are so driven and passionate - thanks for cluing this Yank in to the story of an abolitionist from your side of the pond. He sounds like quite a guy - I'll have to do some more reading about him.

judith ellis said...

Trevor...thank your for such a wonderful story about an exceptional man. It is through relentless passion and selflessness, often viewed as fanatical (why else would one take such daring personal isolatory risk?), that the world is changed.

This passion can also be seen in the likes of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hammer. May we all have the strength to stand when necessary and the fervor to fight the good fight in spite of personal comfort. May God bless us all.

Trevor Gay said...

Dan and Judith – thanks again for your comments.

To be considered the greatest Englishman in the last millennium is some testimony.

The movie ‘Amazing Grace’ (2006) is well worth watching if you get the opportunity. The movie charts Wilberforce’s battle and if you want to hear Nicky Gumbel talk about Wilberforce go to this link and download the audio – it is 36 minutes of sheer brilliance from Nicky who is the most gifted speaker I have heard.

See more about the film Amazing Grace at this link

Trevor Gay said...

Hi again Dan and Judith - these are the llnks you need
Amazing Grace The Movie
Nicky Gumbel on Wilberforce




rocky said...

I love stories of people that show uncommon courage to accomplish a worthwhile goal. i do think that persistence coupled with action is the greatest of all leadership qualities. Thanks for sharing this. It is very inspirational.

Trevor Gay said...

My pleasure Rocky - I know how highly you rate persistence!