and Public Christianity - Campaign Director

and Public Christianity - Campaign Director


The Abolition

of Slavery

and Public


Reflections on the Dangers of Privatising Faith, Mindful of

Contemporary Challenges Facing Britain Today


Produced to commemorate the work of William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton on the occasion

of the 175th Anniversary of the Liberation of Slaves in the British Empire

Foreword by

Rt. Rev. Michael Scott Joynt,

Bishop of Winchester


Copyright © CARE 2009

All rights reserved

Published by CARE

ISBN 978-0-905195-09-4

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library


53 Romney Street / London SW1P 3RF

t: 0207 233 0455

Charity Number 1066963 Scottish Charity Number SC038911

‘In the very warp and woof of evangelical faith ...[stress on providence, individual

salvation and freedom in Christ] …slavery of all social evils, stood particularly

condemned, and because slavery and freedom represented the externalization of polar

opposites of the evangelicals’ inmost spiritual experience, they were impelled

to act in the cause of abolition with a zeal and a perseverance which other men

could rarely match.’

Roger Ansty, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition 1760-1810,

Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press, 1975, p. 406.



Introducing the

CARE Equalities Series

At CARE we are very committed to seeking to add value to policy debates through the

production of high quality research. During this year, in the context of the publication of

the new Equality Bill, consideration of the Equal Treatment Directive and the proposal

for a new Kitemark for faith-based welfare providers (in receipt of government monies),

there is a real need to develop a better understanding of religion in relation to equalities

policy and the hugely positive contribution it has to make. To this end we are delighted

to be releasing the CARE Equalities Series which consists of two papers:

This, the first paper, looks at the development of the new legislation in light of the huge

benefits to society resulting from ‘public Christianity,’ mindful of the fact that this year

marks a very significant anniversary in its history. On 1 August we will celebrate the

175th anniversary of the abolition of the British colonial slavery, the result of a campaign

led in Parliament by Christian statesmen, William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell

Buxton. Indeed, it is interesting to note that, when introducing the Bill to end slavery in

the British Empire, the Colonial Secretary, Stanley noted that it was the result of a

movement that ‘had its source in religious principle.’ 1 There is much for us to learn from

the leading parliamentary abolitionists today and their transformational value system

which we must consider - mindful of the many contemporary examples of the benefits

of public Christianity - in developing the Equality Bill, the ETD and the Kitemark.

The second paper, meanwhile, looks at the challenge of developing robust equalities

legislation with respect to religion and religious liberties from the perspective of political

philosophy, mindful of the need to: a) give both religious belief and contrary views

space in our liberal democratic society and b) avoid creating hierarchies

of rights.

I very much hope that together these two papers will help facilitate debate and the

development of the best possible legislation that will make Britain a country that

cherishes its religious traditions and which can consequently fully benefit from the

manifestation of religious belief.

Nola Leach

Chief Executive, CARE


Foreword 6

Introduction 8

Chapter One 12

Faith is Private?

Chapter Two 27

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

Chapter Three 40

Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

Chapter Four 50

Beyond Wilberforce and Buxton

Chapter Five 53

The Dangers of Privatising Faith

The Next Step: 59

Paper 2:

Bibliography 60

Appendix 61

Footnotes 62




In response to the increasing diversity of our society, there has been a growing

tendency to deal with the tensions that result by encouraging people to privatise their

beliefs - thus sending them into a hidden domain where the threat of communal

stresses and strains may recede - rather than encouraging those who disagree

passionately to live out their beliefs faithfully and respectfully alongside each other. The

costs of this approach are very significant.

A society that makes room only for a few thin, minimal, rootless, generic values like

‘fairness’ and ‘tolerance’ in the public square, whilst effectively requiring people to hide

the things they value most in some private realm, will be a weak society because its

public and political life will be drained of the values that truly animate people and that

mobilise self-sacrifice. Such a project might like to make much of its ‘liberal’

credentials, but in truth it only really manages to cater for diversity by pushing it into the

private sphere, rather than making room for its proper celebration. In an age where

there is growing concern about our weakened social capital and civic apathy, it is

imperative that we pursue a model of liberal democracy that makes good room for

peoples and their values in the public square.

In considering thick, mobilising values, anyone who studies Christianity will quickly

appreciate that it certainly does not lend itself to privatisation. One of its core doctrines

is ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:17). In other words the notion that a Christian

can water down and privatise her faith to some ‘inner belief’ is theological nonsense.

Moreover, before someone points out that privatisation does not prevent the

manifestation of belief in the private realm, we need to remember that Christian good

works are to some considerable degree public. For instance Jesus ‘went about doing

good’ (Acts 10:38) and instructed his followers to let their good works ‘shine before

men’ (Matt 5:16).

Britain currently finds itself at a somewhat ironic juncture. On the one hand, during the

bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade two years ago, and now, during the 175th

anniversary of the abolition of slavery, society has not been slow to celebrate the ‘public

good works’ of the Christians that led those campaigns. At the same time, however,

government seems equally prepared to preside over the introduction of legislation that

is being used to circumscribe the manifestation of belief in the ‘public square’. The

abundance of cases of Christians being challenged by the law - always it seems in the

name of ‘equalities’ - for manifesting their beliefs gains ongoing profile in the

newspapers; and now we find ourselves confronted with yet more proposals (see

below) that could provide yet more opportunities for curtailing this liberty. The sad fact

is that Britain - which owes so much to its Christian heritage - is increasingly becoming

a ‘cold’ place for Christians which, as any reflection on the fruit of Christian good works

will demonstrate, is not in the general interest of society.

So I am delighted that CARE has produced this well-researched and thoughtprovoking

publication. Documenting the recent pressures for the privatisation of belief

in the context of demonstrating the absolute centrality of Christian faith in the public

square during Abolition and beyond, it asks crucial questions that we must address,

as we consider the definitions of the Equal Treatment Directive, the Equality Bill,

and the proposed Kitemark for faith-based welfare service providers in receipt of

government monies.

Rt. Rev. Michael Scott Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

The Abolition of Slavery

and Public Christianity:


During this year, the 175th anniversary of the release of all British colonial slaves, 2 and

2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, William Wilberforce (leader

of the parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade), Thomas Fowell Buxton

(leader of the parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery) and their Evangelical

compatriots 3 have been/are being celebrated by our national leaders. 4 At the same time

as affirming Wilberforce et al, however, our culture shows no sign of re-appraising the

increasingly popular view that: a) religion is - to a far greater degree than Wilberforce

and Buxton would have accepted - a private matter and b) consequently the right to

manifest religious belief is something to circumscribe far more than was the case in

their view. This puts much of the contemporary celebration of Wilberforce, Buxton et al

in an awkward position because their whole project was based on the idea that

Christianity was and is a practical, public faith. There is no doubt that had the Christian

abolitionists applied their religious fervour narrowly to an inner, private, spiritual realm,

rather than to the whole of life, their efforts would not have been sufficiently ‘thisworldly’

to realise the great and noble ends that they actually accomplished in Britain’s

social and political life. Bereft of a spiritually motivated vision for the material world, it

is unlikely that they would have bothered with politics let alone the abolition of the slave

trade or slavery. 5 The truth is that you cannot have the fruits of the 18th and 19th

century abolitionist project without the abolitionist’s public religion any more than you

can have Martin Luther King and his leadership of the civil rights movement without his

commitment to public religion, although secularists have tried to underplay the role of

faith in both contexts. 6 If one genuinely wants to commemorate and learn from the

example of the Christian abolitionists and be inspired by their example, it is necessary

to confront their transformational value system, their faith, as set out not least by their

parliamentary leaders Wilberforce and Buxton. 7

Abolition and the ‘New Politics’

the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

The need to come to terms with the motive force for abolition in the lives of Wilberforce

and Buxton is not just important as a matter of historical detail but also because there

is much to be learnt from their example today. Indeed, it is the contention of this

publication that the model of the abolitionists has very special relevance in the current

political environment because of concerns about voter apathy, low levels of civic

engagement, faltering social cohesion, growing cynicism etc and the consequential

urgent quest for solutions. 8

First, in the context of the rejection of ‘modern’ aspirations for abstract systems of

universal truth in general terms, there is now a ‘post-modern’ emphasis on: the

‘personal,’ the ‘story,’ and ‘authenticity’ which make accounts of the lives of people

who changed society for the better, and the values that inspired them, culturally relevant

and accessible.

Second, in the context of the rejection of ‘modern’ aspirations for abstract systems of

universal truth as it relates narrowly to the state (which it was previously hoped would

be a means of applying universal truth), there has been a major reappraisal of the

importance of the state vis-à-vis other actors. In this context accounts of the civic

exploits of non-state actors and the values that have inspired them (such as Wilberforce

and Buxton’s values), rather than ideologies that find expression narrowly through the

state, have become the subject of great interest.

The new fascination with the role of values in the mobilisation of civic engagement has

been manifest right from the ‘top.’ It was very evident in the recent US presidential

election in which Barak Obama’s The Audacity of Hope (2008) played such an important

role. Having completed his introductory chapter, which critiques all that is wrong with

the stand-off between Republicans and Democrats, Obama then turns for the answer

in his second chapter, which, rather than introducing a new ‘ism,’ is simply entitled

‘Values.’ It has also been very apparent in the thinking of Gordon Brown. On taking

office Brown released his book Courage, which looks in detail at the inspiring lives of

eight people, including celebrated Christians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King

and Dame Cicely Saunders. ‘They are the exemplars and icons, at once daunting and

cherished. Their stories live on and inspire us. … Quite simply, they seemed to be driven

and sustained by higher ideals … It was an expression of both strength of character and

strength of belief.’ 9 Brown seems to have been especially touched by the story of Todd

Beamer (the leader of the resistance against terrorists on ‘Flight 93’ September 11th

2001) who gets a brief but moving mention in his conclusion: ‘“Let’s roll” are now the

immortalised words of Todd Beamer as he led the charge, but I will never forget reading

his words that preceded the charge - “We’re going to do something. I’m going to have

to go out on faith” - showing that the decision to act reflected the values he had learned



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

during a lifetime.’ 10 Of course the fact that both Obama and Brown have recognised the

socio-political significance of values today does not mean they have fully appreciated

the potential importance (and workings) of faith specific values for our ‘body politics in

trouble.’ (Not even Obama’s chapter 6 on faith in The Audacity of Hope does this.)

Hence the need for further reflection.

The Nature of Christian Civic Values: What will they do?

By way of introduction, Christian civic values can be conceived of as inspiring action in

two inter-dependent realms: welfare service provision, helping the needy (‘social

service,’ see Stott) 11 and political citizenship, influencing the definition of legislation

(‘social action,’ see Stott). 12 The imperative for the former tends to come first and some

Christians have, in the past, required encouragement to then engage with the latter.

These exhortations can be seen in the writings of Stott, 13 and FB Meyer, 14 both of whom

have argued that the provision of practical care alone can become irresponsible in the

long term to the degree that it amounts to pouring oil on the symptoms of a problem

rather than actually seeking to address its roots via engagement in the political process

to change legislation. Testifying to concern for both, the lives of Wilberforce and Buxton

demonstrate a mature civic spirituality. Indeed, their work is best known in the context

of Parliament. 15

Interestingly, as we consider the need for Christian civic engagement today, embracing

both welfare service provision (social service) and the need to influence legislation

(social action), we are confronted by a ‘coming together’ of the two challenges in the

sense that there is now a need (as we will see) for enlightened legislation to help with

the better provision of welfare services. Moreover, as the second paper in this series

demonstrates, the division between welfare service provision (social service) and

politics (social action) is in any event becoming very much more blurred in the current

political environment than was ever the case previously. 16

Purpose and Structure

In commemorating the 175th anniversary by examining the mobilising values of

Wilberforce and Buxton and reflecting on the lessons for us today, Chapter Two will look

at Wilberforce’s book about ‘public Christianity,’ A Practical View of Christianity, in some

detail and consider his own musings, and those of others, on this best seller. It will then

turn to some of his other writings, a letter to the King of ‘Hayti’ and his 1823 book on

slavery, both of which also highlight the centrality of a public faith to his politics. Finally,

it will take a quick look at his parliamentary speeches. Chapter Three will then examine

the writings and speeches of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, looking at: a) how Wilberforce

the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

passed the baton over to Buxton, b) Buxton’s own private reflections on the relationship

between his faith and the abolition project and c) his conduct in Parliament. Chapter

Four will then move beyond Wilberforce and Buxton to consider some of the more

general manifestations of public Christianity in the abolition movement: i) the leading

abolitionist organisation, the Society for Mitigating and Gradually Abolishing the State

of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, and ii) abolitionist petitions. Finally,

Chapter Five will seek to draw together conclusions regarding the centrality of public

faith to the cause of abolition, crucially noting how it was rejected by those seeking to

resist or slow down the realisation of abolitionist objectives. Before engaging with the

value system of leading abolitionists in detail, however, it is important to recognise that

if we are to fully appreciate its significance for us today, we must first set out in some

detail the current pressures for the privatisation of faith in early twenty-first century

Britain in Chapter One.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

chapter one

Faith is Private?

Given that both Britain’s Prime Ministers since May 1997 have subscribed to the

Christian faith, where better to start our examination of contemporary ‘public religion’

than with these high officers of the public square?

Between 1997 and 2007, Britons became accustomed to the idea that, on the one

hand, their Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was a devout Christian, but that, on the other, he

liked to keep his faith separate from politics - at least publicly. In response to a question

about his faith from an American journalist, Alastair Campbell famously responded, ‘We

don’t do God.’ 17

Whilst Gordon Brown does seem more ready to: a) engage with the impact of faith on

politics - he wrote the foreword to Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics and b) adopt a rather

more moralistic approach to some policy areas like super casinos and euthanasia -

he similarly keeps his faith private. As one newspaper article stated:

‘Despite being a committed Christian, Brown rarely speaks of his faith. The Chancellor

appears keen to keep his religion a private matter - one which only spills out at weddings

and funerals.’ 18

Why this apparent nervousness of public faith?


Chapter One will first examine the pressures for the privatisation of faith via legal

interpretation, humanism, some equalities legislation*, multiculturalism and current

developments (Section 1), before exploring contrary evidence that suggests that the

Government is actually working hard to promote the manifestation of belief (Section 2).

Finally, it will assess the overall impact of the evidence set out by both sections prior to

moving on to detailed consideration of Wilberforce and Buxton (Chapters Two to Three).

* There are of course other examples of equalities legislation that impact the privatisation of belief which we

don’t have time to cover, e.g. The Gender Recognition Act and the current government policy (see the

Coroners and Justice Bill) of removing the free speech protection from the new offence of inciting hatred on

the basis of sexual orientation.

Section 1: Pressures for Privatisation

In turning to consider some of the specific pressures for the privatisation of belief, it is

important to note that they are all, to at least some degree (either directly or in their

stated justification), a response to the perceived problems resulting from society

embracing a greater diversity of creeds and identities and concerns about how best to

ensure that this diversity does not lead to tensions and conflicts.

i. Trends in Legal Interpretation

The key provision that one might have thought would guard against the privatisation

of faith and restrictions on the right to manifest religious belief, is Article 9 of the

European Convention on Human Rights (now part of domestic UK law, thanks to the

Human Rights Act).

Article 9 states:

Faith is Private?

‘1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right

includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in

community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in

worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations

as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of

public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the

rights and freedoms of others.’

Thus there is a clear right to believe and manifest belief and, although the latter is not

absolute, the purpose of Article 9 (2) is actually to strictly limit the scope for restricting

the right to manifest. ‘Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only

to such limitations as…’ Indeed, the point should be made that, at the time when the

drafters of the Convention debated Article 9, there were a number of versions in play,

but they deliberately selected the one that provided least room for restricting the right

to manifest belief. 19 Article 9 is actually the least qualified of all the qualified rights. Thus,

whilst we can rest secure that terrorists cannot justify acts of violence on the basis that

they constitute the legitimate manifestation of belief, this should not mean that there is

great scope for restricting the manifestation of belief.

However, over time the courts have interpreted Article 9 in such a way that one could

be forgiven for thinking that the drafters had actually selected the version most willing

to qualify the right to manifest belief. 20 In this context Parliament’s Joint Committee on



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

Human Rights, supported by the British Government, the Council of Europe and - not

surprisingly - the British Humanist Association, have effectively sought to suggest that

whenever the right to manifest religious belief conflicts with another fundamental right,

Article 9 (2) provides an a priori justification for curtailing the right to manifest rather

than obliging the courts to think extra carefully before curtailing the right to manifest on

account of the specially limited scope for restricting the right to manifest belief. 21

ii. Political Humanism

Secular humanism has been a constant philosophical component of British life since

the eighteenth century, but in the last ten years it has gained new levels of political

influence. Between introducing the 1998 Human Rights Act and the 2006 Equalities Act

(especially clause 44) a new approach emerged on the part of government in which it

apparently determined that legislation pertaining to faith should be defined as relating

to ‘religion and belief,’ where ‘belief’ encompasses non-religious as well as religious

belief. This development - justified on the basis that the relevant European Convention

on Human Rights provision (recently incorporated into British law courtesy of the 1998

Human Rights Act), Article 9, has always been about ‘religion and belief’, not just

religion - has added significant momentum to contemporary pressure for the

privatisation of belief. In what follows we will first look at some of the logical problems

associated with this arrangement (a) and then examine its practical implications (b).

a. Neutral and a Minority?

If the belief accommodated by ‘belief’ as opposed to ‘religious belief’ was such that

it simply gave grounds for protecting the rights of adherents ‘living out’ their secular

creed, then there would be a case for accommodating humanism within the religion and

belief category. The difficulty is, however, that rather than ensuring that the rights of

those subscribing to this belief are not placed in jeopardy - i.e. that people can practice

their secular belief - humanists have exploited the opportunity resulting from their new

position for quite different political purposes that seek to change the state for everyone.

While they argue they should benefit from equalities and be treated as a minority, they

also argue that, although the public square should be a domain in which different views

can be expressed, the public square itself should be resolutely secular - which they

describe as ‘neutral’. 22 In other words rather than being one view among others they

contend that ‘the secular’ should be the basis for our society. They cannot claim that

their perspective is both so basic as to be neutral, on the one hand, and yet that it

should benefit from equalities provisions designed to protect minorities and the

vulnerable, on the other.

Some readers may feel that this line of argument is unfair:

First, the point might be made that Christians want Christianity to be foundational every

bit as much as humanists and they are happy to enjoy an equality strand identity! In

response to this, however, the reader must understand that no mainstream Christian

tradition wants to be politically foundational in the sense of seeking to make the public

square wholly religious just as humanists wish to make it wholly secular. To be sure,

whilst Christians see all of life in terms of their faith, and will always want to ensure that

there is lots of room for faith in the public square, there is no imperative to make the

public square a Christian institution. The limited political objectives of Christianity mean

that there always has been a secular sphere in the Christian view of politics and never

any rigorously, theologically justified basis for removing the secular from politics. 23

Second, the point might be made that the desire ‘the secular should be foundational’

does not mean that it is. If this objective is a long way from being achieved those

seeking it could claim to be a minority and beneficiary of equalities for so long as their

goal remained very distant. The difficulty is, however, that their objective has been

largely realised since the state is overwhelmingly secular. Even if one looks at the

greatest object of their complaint, the 26 bishops in the House of Lords, the Lords

Spiritual constitute just 1.9% of the Westminster Parliament’s legislators. In other words

98.9% of Britain’s legislators are there because of their secular identities, usually being

a member of a secular political party. 24

b. The Result

Faith is Private?

Interestingly, obtaining their new equalities identity has probably been the most

significant political development for secular humanism in Britain ever, giving it a new

lease of life. First, by locating themselves in a new equality strand, secularists have

ensured that whenever government seeks to develop, or unpack equalities legislation,

or legislation impacting equality strands, it must have particular regard for

secularism/humanism. Second, the fact that their place in UK equalities law is in the

same category as religious organisations means that, as well as having to contend with

clashes between religious liberties and any of the six other equalities strands, religion

(which is of course, in any event, divided between very different forms of religious belief)

also has to contend with an existential internal battle within its own equalities category

against those standing in diametric opposition to it. In this context rather than setting

about championing the rights of the minority of humanist believers to live out their

creed, the National Secular Society and British Humanist Association are pressing their

radical political agenda of trying to make the public square completely secular

for everyone.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

First, they are fighting for an immediate end to the manifestation of religious belief

where it is sustained by any kind of state support, be it by financial or legal provision.

Thus they want bishops removed from the House of Lords, the end of faith schools and

religious assemblies in schools and no more government funding for faith based welfare

(unless the projects are prepared to effectively secularise themselves). The public

square should thus become a resolutely secular space.

Second, they also want to change the nature of religious organisations by campaigning

against provisions in law that have allowed them to protect their ethos. Whilst they have

not objected to the law allowing churches to discriminate against non-Christians when

considering people applying for the role of vicar, they have actively campaigned against

them doing so in relation to any other position, opposing the Genuine Occupational

Requirement (see below).

Third, they want to encourage religious people to see their religious freedom primarily

as a freedom of belief, not a freedom to manifest belief. Sounding extraordinarily

generous, they argue that people of faith have an absolute right to believe. They then

explain, however, (using the arguments of the previous section) that the qualified nature

of the right to manifest belief is such that if ever there is a conflict between the right to

manifest belief and any other kind of fundamental right, it is the right to manifest belief

that must be compromised.

Promoting the privatisation of faith in this manner is a problem given the positive impact

of public faith. The secularist line has been particularly difficult to sustain in the context

of the bicentenary and now the 175th anniversary, not to mention the ongoing examples

of the positive manifestation of belief e.g. the impact of the Street Pastors initiative, the

wider work of faith-based welfare etc, see e.g. the Faith in Wales report. 25 The best

secularist response regarding abolition has been that faith was ‘neither here nor there’

given that there were just as many Christians facilitating slavery as there were Christians

opposing it. 26 This position, however, poses difficulties on two counts. First, the whole

problem with respect to late eighteenth century Britain, as Wilberforce explained (see

Chapter 2), was that this officially Christian nation had the form but not the power of

religion - hence his category of ‘ersatz religion’ - and his writing A Practical View by way

of response. Second, many key people associated with resisting abolitionist objectives

either criticised religion or its public manifestation (see Chapter 5).

iii. Employment

If a culture is to enjoy the benefits of the manifestation of belief then it is imperative that

it allows people of faith to associate and come together for the purpose of forming

organisations to facilitate the manifestation of their belief. Many of these organisations

Faith is Private?

will need to employ people in order to fulfil their manifestation of belief objectives.

Those selected to staff these organisations, whose purpose it is to lead and facilitate

the manifestation of belief (be that in relation to services, small group meetings,

women’s meetings, men’s meetings, mission groups, welfare providing groups, or

political campaigning), will usually need to be from the faith community if they are to

effectively fulfil their mission.

Equalities provisions in the context of employment law, however, have had the effect of

frustrating the manifestation of belief by making it more and more difficult for people of

faith to come together and form organisations for the purpose of facilitating the

manifestation of their belief, confident that they can appoint staff who are from the faith

community whose lives are subject to the imperative of seeking to manifest the religious

belief. Specifically, the EU Equal Treatment Directive 2000 initially only made provision

for religious organisations to discriminate against those from beyond their faith

community in the case of ‘ministers of religion.’ It was a relief that the EU recognised

that it would be inappropriate for an atheist to take a church to court because they

refused to consider his application for the post of vicar! However, many Christian and

indeed other faith organisations were horrified by the complete lack of understanding

on the part of the Government about the workings of religious organisations and the

need for staff beyond church ministers to be from within the faith community. What

about youth workers, who lead youth worship, pastors’ secretaries, who, in the course

of their work, pray with people over the phone? What would happen to team prayer

meetings and retreats to ask God about the future direction of the church or

project etc?

When the law was implemented in the UK, thankfully the Government moved some way

in responding to the expression of concern from faith communities by introducing the

Genuine Occupational Requirement in order to cater for the possibility that religious

bodies might wish to make a case that they should be able to discriminate against e.g.

non-Christians when dealing with positions in church life other than those of the vicar.

This was only a partial solution, however, in the sense that it is not sufficient for a faithbased

organisation to recognise that the position in question needs to be filled by some

one from the faith community/some one from the faith community of appropriate faith

maturity. The case has to be made and it is not clear what the courts will deem to

constitute an effective case. Moreover, we have already seen bodies use the

employment regulations - Stonewall in the case of the Bishop of Hereford 27 and the

British Humanist Association in the case of Prospects 28 - to challenge the right of

religious organisations to appoint Christians/Christians whose lifestyle is in line with

church teaching. Thus there is no doubt that the advent of the employment regulations

makes life very much more complicated for faith groups, generating the unnerving

feeling - more readily associated with illiberal politics - that the freedom of faith groups

to be what they are is in some important senses being interrogated and frustrated.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

iv. Goods and Services

One of the main manifestations of religious belief for both individuals and organisations

is expressed through the provision of welfare services. Ever since Jesus ‘went about

doing good,’ (Acts 10:38) Christians have always been very committed to having regard

for the poor and welfare service and education provision (see e.g. Acts 9:36, 10:4,

Galatians 2:10 etc). For much of Britain’s history, welfare service provision came

primarily from the churches rather than the state. As recently as the late nineteenth

century it is estimated that as much as 75 per cent of voluntary welfare service

provision came from just one Christian tradition. 29 Today, even after the advent of the

welfare state and rapid development of the secular voluntary sector since the 1970s,

the manifestation of belief by faith bodies in relation to the provision of these services

is still very considerable.

In this context the advent of goods and services equality legislation, which prohibits

refusing the provision of goods and services to people for reasons relating to their

having an equality strand identity, is not generally problematic for faith-based

organisations or individuals with a faith commitment. If these provisions are not to

frustrate the huge benefits of the manifestation of belief, however, they must not require

the provision of goods or services from people of faith or faith based organisations

when the provision of the goods or services would have the effect of either facilitating

or endorsing what their religion deems to be sinful. Laws of this kind are profoundly

illiberal in the sense that they involve compelling people to either violate their

consciences or cease being involved in service provision and lose their


The 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations actually failed to accommodate the

manifestation of belief both in relation to faith based welfare organisations and people

of faith in the workplace:-

In relation to faith-based welfare provision, the regulations make it unlawful for a

faith-based body in receipt of government monies to refuse to provide a service to a

lesbian, gay or bisexual person on the basis of their orientation (and therein practice -

no distinction is made) including when the provision of the service has the effect of

facilitating or endorsing same-sex unions, parenting and or sexual activity. This has had

a significant impact on the adoption sector where it has not been possible for many

faith-based service providers to place children with same sex couples whilst acting in

accordance with their faith. The 2007 Goods and Services equality regulations have

resulted in the closure of one Catholic adoption agency and church leaders having to

disconnect themselves from other agencies that continue but no longer in accordance

with faith teaching. 30

Faith is Private?

In relation to the individual in the workplace, the failure of the regulations to

accommodate religious belief is greater in the sense that it is an offence to refuse a

service even if its provision would make the provider complicit in facilitating or

promoting something that violates his faith, regardless of whether government funding

is involved. Consider the case of the Christian web designer who could not design a

web site for a gay rights organisation, promoting gay relationships, without violating his

faith. What of the Islamic printer who could not print a poster celebrating gay

relationships without violating his faith?

It was, as we shall see, a great irony that the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which

in their present form have the effect of curtailing the manifestation of religious belief,

should have come into effect during the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave

trade celebrations.

v. The implications of the U-Turn on multiculturalism on the privatization

of belief

The implications of the above developments must be seen in the broader context

of the Government’s post-2005 approach to multiculturalism. In August 2006 -

apparently as a result on the implications of the 7/7 London bombings - Ruth Kelly was

said to have inaugurated a new approach to multiculturalism when she launched the

new Commission on Cohesion and Integration, explaining that respect for difference

had to engage with the imperative for integration. 31 One might have thought that the

new focus on integrating with British values would have resulted in placing rather

greater emphasis on our Christian heritage but in fact the Prime Minister’s major speech

on this subject (made as the Northern Ireland Sexual Orientations were lying before

Parliament) issued his warning to Christians before anyone else. 32

‘Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their

own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is

what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.

But when it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law,

tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then

that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the

right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes

our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.’ 33

This statement is worthy of careful consideration because it seeks to restrain the right

of the Christian - or person of another faith - to appeal to a more ultimate authority than

the state in certain parts of his life, namely his interactions with the public square. To

this degree it unashamedly seeks to privatise faith at least out of the public square as

far as loyalty is concerned.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

Blair then sought to argue that the centre ground of the public square should

be informed by secular values, boasting a secular Britishness that sustains a

secular integration.

‘But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this

context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the

point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn’t about what defines us as people,

but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of

our society.’ 34

This statement seems to suggest that we can be Christian people but not Christian

citizens and that British values cannot really be Christian values. What would

Wilberforce and Buxton have made of this?

Interestingly, it isn’t just Christians that have identified the privatising implication of this

logic. Consider the following reflections on the retreat from multiculturalism by Muslim

scholar Prof. Tariq Mohood.

‘Why, they [minorities] ask, should our identities be privatised, while the dominant group

has its identity universalised in the public space? So, the argument is very much about

the public/private distinction, and what is normal in a society, and why some groups are

thought to be abnormal or different.’ 35

vi. Disturbing cases

Then we must have regard for the fact that in the last few years there has been a huge

increase in the number of people getting into difficulties (always it seems on account of

equalities) as a result of manifesting their religious beliefs.

- Nadia Eweida was told by her employer, British Airways, that she could not visibly

wear a Christian cross on her necklace whilst working at her check-in counter and

subsequently lost her appeal (2006). 36

- Vincent and Pauline Matherick (2007) had their foster son removed, despite having

fostered with distinction 28 times, because they were not prepared to tell their foster

children - in violation of their religious beliefs - that homosexual relationships are as

acceptable as married heterosexual relationships. 37 Happily on this occasion the

local authority backed down and subsequently allowed the Mathericks to continue

to foster.

- Andrew McClintock stood down from a family courts panel in Sheffield in 2005 after

he was refused permission to opt out of hearing cases that involved placing children

with same-sex couples. He explained that he could not recommend that a child be

adopted by a same sex couple because this would involve him violating his religious

beliefs. He lost his case in 2008 and never returned to the bench. 38

- Lilian Ladele, a registrar, was told by Islington Council that they would not comply

with the requirement of her faith that she could not preside over civil partnership

ceremonies. Initially she won a court case against the council (July 2008) but they

appealed and in December 2008 it was determined that the council had not violated

Ladele’s religious rights in failing to accommodate her request.

- In late 2008, nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended for two months after offering to

pray for a patient. 39 Thankfully Petrie was allowed back to work in February 2009.

- This year Jennie Cain was told that she could face dismissal as a teaching assistant

at the school attended by her daughter because she had asked friends to pray

about a difficulty following a conversation in which her daughter had shared her faith

with another pupil. Mrs Cain first found out that there was a problem when her

daughter burst into tears and said that her teacher had told her she could not talk

to her friends about Jesus. 40

- …and so the list goes on. All these examples of our culture making life more difficult

for people manifesting their beliefs demonstrate just how much things are changing

for the worse in the UK in relation to religious liberties.

vii. New Pressures

In 2009 new proposals are on the offing that that could further restrict the right to

manifest belief in relation to free speech and welfare service provision:

a. The EU Equal Treatment Directive

Faith is Private?

Published in July 2008 the Directive is, at the time of writing, being considered by the

European Parliament, after which it will go to the Council of Ministers. Among other

things it introduces a new harassment offence, giving rise to major concerns that

Christians could find themselves in trouble with the law for saying that Jesus is the only

way (which could be deemed as harassing by people of other faiths) and expressing

Christian views about sexuality (which could be deemed as harassing by Lesbians,

Gays and Bisexuals).



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

b. The proposed Single Equality Bill (Equality Bill) presents a major challenge

to the ability of faith bodies to protect their ethos, to be what they are, to exist as

faith bodies…

Rather than enhancing the Genuine Occupational Requirement, the Equality Bill actually

significantly downgrades it! The Bill’s explanatory note 747 states that it will no longer

be possible to insist that a church youth worker is heterosexual, which, because of

government failure to make any distinction between orientation and practice, means

that churches could not discriminate against people in active gay relationships when

appointing people to youth worker ministry posts. This is a massive change and is

completely unacceptable. Any sense of the previous arrangement generating an illiberal

politics, interrogating the freedom of religious bodies to be what they are, has now been

radicalised. On this point the Government seems to have deliberately put itself on a

collision course with faith communities. The Bill must be amended to make it plain that

not only will the GOR have the effect of allowing faith based bodies to select from

candidates within their faith community - who are living according to its teaching - when

dealing with youth leaders as well as vicars. It should be made absolutely clear that any

position that relates to the ethos and direction of the organisation such that those

employed are involved in regular prayer meetings, prayer retreats to seek God about the

future of the organisation, praying with people on the phone etc should benefit from the

Genuine Occupational Requirement. There should be no scope for any uncertainty

pending costly court cases and judicial decisions. 41

c. The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Charter for

faith organisations:

Then one must examine the new DCLG proposal for a faith sector Charter of Excellence

which faith-based welfare projects will be encouraged to consider signing.

The concern is that if signing the Charter involved making commitments regarding

employment and service provision that required a faith based body to violate its identity,

this would simply have the effect of making local authorities and other public bodies -

already reluctant to fund faith based welfare - even more hesitant about doing so. It

would have the effect of compounding discrimination against orthodox faith groups like

Evangelicals and Catholics. 42 Of course, if the Charter: a) was defined with sensitivity to

the need to maintain ethos in employment, b) did not require faith-based bodies to

provide goods and services on those very few occasions where to do so would make

them complicit in violating their faith and c) whilst prohibiting evangelism in the context

of state funded service provision, did not require faith-based service providers to hide

their faith, then it could be very positive. 43

Section 2: Faith Friendly Government

By this stage some might be saying, ‘Hang on. With the exception of the closing

sentence of the above paragraph, isn’t the above assessment of recent developments

a bit too gloomy?’

In the first instance, picking up specifically on the privatising dynamic associated with

the U-turn on multiculturalism and the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, one

of the main recommendations of the Commission actually resulted in faith gaining new

profile via the ground breaking document Face to Face, Side by Side. 44 Any assessment

of this development, however, needs to be handled with real care. The rationale for Face

to Face, Side by Side was actually a function of the same concerns about clashing

beliefs that have animated the privatisation agenda. The document proposes the first

ever government ‘inter-faith strategy’ - a device for managing diversity - intended to

help deal with inter-creed tension for those who take religion seriously (and aren’t

prepared to privatise) alongside the more popular cultural strategy of simply keeping

belief private. The inter-faith strategy comes with government funding not for the

purpose of helping faith groups provide welfare services per se, but in order to facilitate

inter-faith projects that will help different faith groups that aren’t prepared to privatise,

work together and hopefully develop better relationships. 45

Having highlighted reasons to be less than relaxed about what Face to Face Side by

Side really says about the Government’s view of the role of faith in society, however,

nothing can change the fact that the last ten years have seen a significant expansion in

the numbers of faith schools. 46 They have also seen the Department of Work and

Pensions deliberately reaching out to work more closely with faith based welfare 47 and

the establishment of the Faith Communities Consultative Council. 48 Moreover, some

politicians, very much associated with the era of the negative changes detailed by

Section 1, have nonetheless made assertions that suggest they too are concerned

about restrictions of the manifestation of belief.

In 2001 the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair said with great sensitivity:

Faith is Private?

‘Faith groups are among the main sponsors and innovators of voluntary activity

in all these areas. Community by community, you are engaged directly. You know the

terrain. You have committed volunteers, and often an infrastructure invaluable for

delivering projects speedily and effectively. And you do this because of your faith,

not in isolation from it, a point that government - central and local - must

always appreciate.’ 49



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

On 19th February 2007, Jim Murphy, the then Minister for Employment and Welfare

Reform, held a seminar on the role of faith groups in today’s welfare state. He said:

‘The involvement of faith groups in welfare and public service provision is nothing new.

Most of what we now call public services was once the preserve of charities, many of

which were faith based. From Vestry committees providing night-watch services to

internationally renowned centres of excellence, such St Thomas’ Hospital, faith-based

groups have been at the heart of delivering services to those in need for centuries.

…That is why I believe faith groups are in a somewhat unique position. The access

they have to people, the relationships they can establish, and the trust they inspire, has

the potential to go far beyond what the State can do. …I am pleased to announce

today that I have asked my Department’s Commercial Director to develop a centre of

expertise within the procurement team working with the Third Sector, to specifically

cover the needs of faith-based groups. From the end of this week, there will be a link

on our website, dedicated to this with specific information as well as the contact

details of who to speak to. In doing this, I want to make sure that access to contracts

for faith groups can be on an even footing with all other private and voluntary sector

organisations who wish to compete to deliver our services. And I hope that a

commitment from the Government to build up knowledge around the specific needs

of faith groups illustrates our desire to achieve this.’ 50

Speaking in January 2009 at an Institute for Public Policy Research event Stephen

Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, reflected on the ‘challenge to progressive

politicians to show they recognise faith-based perspectives and contributions as valid

and mainstream, rather than irrelevant and marginal.’ This, Timms reflected,

necessitated ‘recognising that faith cannot be relegated to the private sphere -

and as the IPPR has already argued - addressing faith literacy in central and local

government, so that officials can deal intelligently with input from faith communities.

And it means thinking hard about identity, recognising the part faith plays, and getting

beyond “We don’t do God.”’ 51

Timms then went on to talk about how he had been a patron of Hope 08 and celebrated

specific examples of the manifestation of religious belief in the public square via welfare

service provision. It is hard to imagine a more succinct instance of the manifestation of

religious belief in the public square than one he cited:

‘A young girl, asked why she gave up a day to pick up litter, answering that its because

she loves God.’ 52

In relation to Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History he said: ‘the change of public

mood and new consensus are the results of campaigning from churches - accounting

for an estimated 80% of those who formed human chains and turned up on huge

peaceful demonstrations to press their cause.’ 53


Faith is Private?

This all sounds so very positive and it is positive. We applaud the Government for

their positive initiatives and statements. They must be congratulated and we want

to work with them constructively as they build on this agenda. None of these

developments, however, change the substantive pressures for the privatisation of belief

resulting from government policy outlined in Section 1 and the need for enlightened

changes in this regard.

In response to this it is important to anticipate and respond to two interconnected

counter arguments. First, the point could be made that government is investing far more

today in faith based welfare than previously. Second, it could be said that the National

Secular Society and British Humanist Association etc are only becoming more vocal

today because of this. These contentions, however, need to be contextulised.

We have to remember that since the 1970s-80s government has been investing far

more in the voluntary sector per se and this has facilitated its growth such that it is now

the ‘third sector’ after the public and private sectors. In this context what is really

striking is that, despite the fact the churches have traditionally always been very much

involved in welfare service provision - contributing very significantly to laying the

foundation for the welfare state - the new government investment in the voluntary

sector has largely had the effect of developing and empowering the secular voluntary

sector. 54 The remarkable thing is that, with the exception of education (although actually

state funded faith schools aren’t part of the voluntary sector), the faith sector, the

constant element in the mix, has benefited relatively little from the new era of

government funding and in some cases, as we have seen, has had its funding stopped

because of the requirements of faith ethos. 55 Moreover, whilst secularist bodies have

certainly been provoked by faith based (and increasingly inter-faith) projects receiving

government funding in the context of the new policy of outsourcing welfare service

delivery and the renaissance of the voluntary sector, the principle reason why they have

new political influence is because they have been provided a ‘place’ politically in the

context of the new equalities agenda, post 2000 (especially by Clause 44 of the Equality

Act 2006) which previously they did not enjoy.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:


Thus the approach of government to religion has in recent years embraced some

contradictory tendencies. On the one hand they have sought to work with and

encourage faith-based bodies and yet ironically, on the other, they have taken steps

that have made this an exceptionally difficult time for people of faith (see the court and

other cases pp. 20-21) to live in Britain. Despite all the positive steps that have been

taken, and which must be warmly applauded, the pressures for the privatisation of faith

are very real. If you cannot associate together and establish an organisation to facilitate:

a) that association and b) the realisation of its objectives, by freely employing likeminded

staff, your freedom of association and action will be compromised. If you

cannot manifest belief through the provision of services without having to be willing to

be made complicit in promoting or facilitating what your faith deems to be wrong, then

your ability to manifest belief will again be compromised. If you cannot manifest your

belief in the context of your citizenship then the quality of your citizenship will be

compromised and your country will lose out on the public benefits of manifest belief. As

we celebrate the contribution of the abolitionists and their example, it is incumbent on

us to ask whether the project of privatising faith and restricting the manifestation of

belief is really in our best national interest. Specifically, how should the need to

celebrate the manifestation of religious belief, subject to the intended qualifications in

relation to the right to manifest (see Article 9 (2)), impact the development of the

Equality Bill, the Equal Treatment Directive, and the proposed DCLG kitemark for

faith-based welfare providers in receipt of government monies?

chapter two


Public Christianity

and Abolition

Having considered the contemporary privatisation challenges in detail, we now turn to

examine the positive civic (social and political) benefits of manifesting religious belief,

as demonstrated by the lives of Wilberforce and then Buxton, specifically in relation to

their parliamentary leadership of the two anti-slavery campaigns. This is both for the

purpose of honouring their contribution and to see what we can learn from their

transformational value system today, mindful of contemporary challenges. In what

follows we will first examine some key portions of Wilberforce’s central work A Practical

View of Christianity (Section 1) and then look at some of Wilberforce’s own reflections

and those of others on it (Section 2) before considering some of Wilberforce’s other

writings (Section 3) and finally his speeches (Section 4). This chapter will provide

detailed and at times lengthy quotations from the writings of Wilberforce and others in

order to make it plain that, far from being an optional extra, Wilberforce’s faith

underpinned his whole political philosophy, his whole manifesto, and was the secret of

the transformational energy that mobilised his work. 56

Section 1: A Practical View

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

In 1797, more than ten years after setting out on his task, Wilberforce became very

frustrated and realised that he would not achieve abolition without addressing the

broader malaise in British culture. Specifically, the state religion - which remained very

much in place - did not testify to anything that could be described as ‘real Christianity.’

A form of the religion was in place but not very much of its heart (2 Tim 3.5). First, faith

was not applied to all aspects of life but was rather allocated to a ‘church’ pigeon hole

and, on certain occasions, to the pomp and circumstance of state. Second, the vitality

of faith was also curtailed by the overwhelming conviction that, whilst church

attendance was in a sense a public act, the outworking of faith was a narrowly

personal/private matter. Generally speaking religion should not seep out of church or



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

the private realm ‘ostensibly at least’ - into life at large. Such seeping was entirely out

of keeping with the ‘British’ predisposition for understatement and dislike of enthusiasm

(which somehow has never applied to football and other sporting activities). 57

Wilberforce detested this truncated ‘ersatz Christianityand responded with the

publication of A Practical View of Christianity, the book he called his ‘manifesto,’- 58

which William Hague has described as the ‘comprehensive statement of his philosophy,

his purpose as a politician.’ 59 Firstly he contended that the Christian faith should be

applied to all aspects of life; secondly that it should be pursued with passion; and finally

that ‘thus construed’ (whilst there would assuredly be aspects of the outworking of faith

that would be processed in private) Christianity, properly appraised and truly applied,

should not be understood as something that is fundamentally private. There was no

doubt in Wilberforce’s mind that Christianity, unpacked appropriately, would make a

powerful, practical, beneficial difference to Britain and beyond. A Practical View

immediately became a best seller and is credited with having huge influence both in the

UK and America. 60

‘It was the great genius of Wilberforce that he realized that attempts at political reform,

without at the same time changing the hearts and minds of the people, were futile. The

abolitionists realized that they could never succeed in eliminating slavery without

addressing the greatest problems of cultural malaise and decay.’ 61

The message of Wilberforce is actually even more relevant to Britain today than in 1797.

At publication, A Practical View challenged a more moderate privatisation of faith than

that of today. As Chapter One demonstrated, the contemporary imperative to privatise

belief is not only informed by the traditional British embarrassment of faith. Now

there are new cultural considerations. In the current post-modern, politically correct

environment we have a horror of ultimate truth claims that may contradict others,

causing tension and conflict, offence and yet even more embarrassment or worse.

A] The Problem: Faith Values in Trouble

Wilberforce set out the problems with British Christianity at the time in the following terms:

British Religion and the Sacred Secular Divide

‘But Religion, it may be replied, is not noisy and ostentatious; it is modest and private

in its nature; it resides in a man’s own bosom, and shuns the observation of the

multitude. Be it so.’ 62

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

The actual restriction of the sphere of Christianity can be seen in the

following observations:

‘The greatest part of human actions is considered as indifferent. If men are not

chargeable with actual vices, and are decent in the charge of their religious duties; if

they do not stray into the forbidden ground, if they respect the rights of the conceded

allotment, what more can be expected from them?’ 63

‘She [the free and active spirit of religion] must keep to her prescribed confines, and

every attempt to extend them will be resisted as an encroachment.’ 64

‘The space she [the spirit of religion] occupies diminishes till it be scarcely

discernible; whilst her spirit extinguished, and her force destroyed, she is little more than

the nominal possessor even of the contracted limits to which she has been

avowedly reduced.’ 65

Dead Propositions - Dead Values

Wilberforce argued that if British Christianity embraced the restriction of faith to church

services and the private sphere - the privatisation of faith - it would condemn the faith

to becoming a set of dead propositions.

‘Still, then, its [Christianity’s] Doctrines are no more than a barren and inapplicable or at

least an unnecessary theory, the place of which, it may perhaps be added, would be well

supplied by a more simple and less costly scheme.’ 66

Such approaches to doctrine were dangerous in that they failed to understand how:

‘the practical precepts of Christianity grow out of her peculiar doctrines, and are

inseparably connected with them. By this fatal error, the very genius and essential nature

of Christianity imperceptibly underwent a change. She no longer retained her peculiar

characters, or produced that appropriate frame of Spirit by which her followers had

been characterized. Facilis defensus [“the defence is easy”]. The example thus set was

followed during the present century, and its effect was aided by various causes already

pointed out. In addition to these, it may be proper to mention as a cause of powerful

operation, that for the last fifty years the press has teemed with moral essays, many of

them published periodically, and most extensively circulated, which, being considered

either as works of mere entertainment, or, in which at least entertainment was to be

blended with instruction, rather than as religious pieces, were kept clear from whatever

might give them the air of sermons, or cause them to wear an appearance of



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

seriousness, inconsistent with the idea of relaxation. But in this way the fatal habit of

considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained

strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight,

and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither

and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.

At length, in our own days, these peculiar doctrines have almost altogether vanished

from our view. Even in many sermons, as we have formerly noticed, scarcely any traces

of them are to be found.’ 67

B] The Solution: Active Faith Values

By contrast, Wilberforce argued that real faith must have a practical outworking

manifested in good works and a changed life. In what follows we will first consider

Wilberforce’s reflection on the nature of the religious principle and then his observations

about its political implications:

i.The Nature of the Religious Principle

‘Religion… may be considered as the implantation of a vigorous and active principle; it

is seated in the heart, where its authority is recognized as supreme.’ 68

‘“that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good

work” [Colossians 1:10].’ 69

‘They who really feel its [Christianity’s] power, are resolved (in the language of Scripture)

“to live no longer to themselves, but to him that died for them” [2 Corinthians 5:15].’ 70

‘In short, Christians in general are every where denominated the servants and the

children of God, and are required to serve him with that submissive obedience, and that

affectionate promptitude of duty, which belong to those endearing relations.’ 71

ii. The Nature of the Impact of the Religious Principle - Christianity

and Politics

As we contemplate the challenges facing contemporary society, asking how we can

secure an appropriate values revolution that will facilitate the social transformation that

is our goal, it is the following statements by Wilberforce that are of prime interest.

‘The tendency of Religion to promote the temporal well-being of political communities,

is a fact which depends on such obvious and undeniable principles, and which is so

forcibly inculcated by the history of all ages, that there can be no necessity for entering

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

into a formal proof of its truth. It has indeed been maintained, not merely by Schoolmen

and Divines, but by the most celebrated philosophers, and moralists, and politicians of

every age.’ 72

‘There are not a few, perhaps, who may have witnessed with apprehension, and may be

ready to confess with pain, the gradual declension of Religion, but who at the same time

may conceive that the writer of this tract is disposed to carry things too far. They may

even allege, that the degree of Religion for which he contends is inconsistent with the

ordinary business of life, and with the well-being of society; that if it were generally to

prevail, people would be wholly engrossed by Religion, and all their time occupied by

prayer and preaching. Men not being sufficiently interested in the pursuit of temporal

objects, agriculture and commerce would decline, the arts would languish, the very

duties of common life would be neglected, and, in short the whole machine of civil

society would be obstructed, and speedily stopped.’

‘If Christianity, such as we have represented it, were generally to prevail, the world, from

being such as it is, would become a scene of general peace and prosperity, and abating

the chances and calamities “which flesh is inseparably heir to” [cf. Philippians 3:3],

would wear one unwearied face of complacency and joy.’

‘Let it be remembered, that the grand characteristic mark of the true Christian, which

has been insisted on, is his desiring to please God in all his thoughts, and words, and

actions; to take the revealed word to be the rule of his belief and practice; to “Let his

light shine before men” [Matthew 5:16]; and in all things to adorn the doctrine which he

professes [cf. Titus 2:20]. No calling is proscribed, no pursuit is forbidden, no science

or art is prohibited’, no pleasure is disallowed provided it be such as can be reconciled

with this principle. It must indeed be confessed, that Christianity would not favour that

vehement and inordinate ardour in the pursuit of temporal objects, which tends to the

acquisition of immense wealth, or of widely spread renown: nor is it calculated to gratify

the extravagant views of those mistaken politicians, the chief object of whose

admiration, and the main scope of whose endeavours for their country, are extended

dominion, and commanding power, and unrivaled affluence, rather than the more solid

advantage of peace, of comfort, and security.’ 73

‘But in truth, so far is it from being true that the prevalence of real Religion would

produce a stagnation in life; a man, whatever might be his employment or pursuit, would

be furnished with a new motive to prosecute it with alacrity, a motive far more constant

and vigorous than any human prospects can supply: at the same time, his solicitude

being not so much to succeed in whatever he might be engaged in, as to act from a

pure principle and leave the event to God, he would not be liable to the same

disappointments as men who are active and laborious from a desire of worldly gain or

human estimation.’ 74



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

‘Such would be the state of a truly Christian nation within itself. Nor would its condition

with regard to foreign countries form a contrast to this its internal comfort. Such a

community, on the contrary, peaceable at home, would be respected and beloved

abroad. General integrity in all its dealings would inspire universal confidence:

differences between nations commonly arise from mutual injuries, and still more from

mutual jealousy and distrust.’ 75

‘It is rather our business to remark, how much Christianity in every way sets herself

in direct hostility to selfishness, the mortal distemper of political communities, and

consequently how their welfare must be inseparable from her prevalence.’ 76

‘But the Christianity which can produce effects like these must be real, not nominal,

deep, not superficial. Such then is the Religion we should cultivate, if we would realize

these pleasing speculations and arrest the progress of political decay.’ 77

‘The distemper of which, as a community, we are sick, should be considered rather as

a moral than a political malady.’ 78

‘But fruitless will be all our attempts to sustain, much more to revive, the fainting cause

of morals, unless you can in some degree restore the prevalence of evangelical

Christianity. It is in morals as in physics; unless the source of practical principles be

elevated, it will be in vain to attempt to make them flow on a high level in their future

course. You may force them for a while into some constrained position, but they will

soon drop to their natural point of depression.’ 79

‘They have not been urged without misgivings, lest it should appear, as though the

concern of Eternity were melted down into a mere matter of temporal advantage, or

political expediency. But since it has graciously pleased the Supreme Being to arrange

the constitution of things, as to render the prevalence of true Religion and of pure

morality conducive to the well-being of states, and the preservation of civil order; and

since these subordinate inducements are not infrequently held forth, even by the sacred

writers, it seemed not improper, and scarcely liable to misconstruction, to suggest

inferior motives to readers, who might be less disposed to listen to considerations of a

highest order.

Would to God that the course of conduct here suggested might fairly be pursued: would

to God that the happy consequences, which would result from the principles we have

recommended could be realized; and above all, that the influence of true Religion could

be extensively diffused: it is the best wish which can be formed for his country, by one

who is deeply anxious for its welfare.’ 80

Section 2: Wilberforce and others on A Practical View

- Wilberforce on A Practical View

A Practical View was published on 12 April 1797 and on the 16th Wilberforce

wrote to his friend the Prime Minister, William Pitt, sending him a copy and

highlighting how real (public and private, holistic) Christianity should be ‘the

basis for all politics.’

‘Let me recommend you to open on the last section of the fourth chapter, you

will see wherein the religion which I espouse differs practically from the common

system. Also the sixth chapter has almost a right to a perusal, being the basis of

all politics, and particularly addressed to such as you.’

In a letter to John Newton, Wilberforce gives us an appreciation of the foundational

nature of A Practical View to his approach to politics:

‘“I desired my bookseller,” he tells Mr. Newton, “to leave at your house a copy of my

publication; and though I scarcely suppose that your leisure will be sufficient to enable

you to fight through the whole of it, you may perhaps look into it occasionally. If so,

let me advise you to dip into the third or fourth chapters, and perhaps the concluding

one. I cannot help saying it is a great relief to my mind to have published what I may

call my manifesto; to have plainly told my worldly acquaintance what I think of their

system and conduct, and where it must end. I own I shall act in my parliamentary

situation with more comfort and satisfaction than hitherto. You will perceive that I have

laboured to make my book as acceptable to men of the world as it could be made

without a dereliction of principle; and I hope I have reason to believe not

without effect.”’

We gain a similar view from his readers, as his sons relate:

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

‘“I sincerely hope,” wrote the Lord Chancellor, (Loughborough,) “that your book will

be read by many, with that just and proper temper which the awful circumstances in

which we stand ought to produce.” Its tone was well calculated to create these hopes.

There was an air of entire reality pervading its addresses, which brought them closely

home to the heart and conscience of the reader. It was not the fine-spun theory of

some speculative declaimer, but the plain address of one who had lived amongst and

watched those to whom he spoke.’ 81

Moreover there was a clear market for his holistic view of religion, contrary to the

expectation of his publisher, Cadwell’s of the Strand:



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

‘His publisher was not devoid of apprehensions as to the safety of his own speculation.

There was then little demand for religious publications, and “he evidently regarded me

an amiable enthusiast.” “You mean to put your name to the work? Then I think we may

venture upon 500 copies,” was Mr. Cadell’s conclusion. Within a few days it was out of

print, and within half a year five editions (7500 copies) had been called for.’ 82

‘The effect of this work can scarcely be overrated. Its circulation was at that time

altogether without precedent. In 1826 fifteen editions (and some very large impressions)

had issued from the press in England. “In India,” says Henry Martyn in

1807,“Wilberforce is eagerly read.” In America the work was immediately reprinted, and

within the same period twenty-five editions had been sold. It has been translated into

the French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and German languages. Its influence was

proportionate to its diffusion. It may be affirmed beyond all question, that it gave the first

general impulse to that warmer and more earnest spring of piety which, amongst all its

many evils, has happily distinguished the last half century.’ 83

- Contemporary Reflections on A Practical View

Eric Mataxas in Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign

to End Slavery, describes the book in the following terms:

‘Wilberforce wanted to point out the logical disconnect, to show the vast gulf separating

“real Christianity” as he called it, from the ersatz “religious system” that prevailed in

its place.’ 84

‘Wilberforce knew that if Britain took its faith seriously, if it actually believed the

doctrines it claimed to believe, it could never have countenanced the slave trade or the

institution of slavery itself. He knew that if Britain wanted to see real Christianity, it would

begin to take an interest in the sufferings of the poor and feel an obligation toward them,

as well as toward prisoners and others who suffered. That sort of concern was the mark

of real Christianity, but it was utterly absent from Britain in the last years of the

eighteenth century. Wilberforce knew that the upper classes were complacent and had

easily substituted for real Christianity a philosophy more akin to the view of many

Eastern religions, in which the sufferings of the poor were an important outworking of

karmic injustice and mustn’t be meddled with.

In his book Wilberforce was essentially calling Britain to repent, to turn back to its

true faith, the faith it had abandoned on the far side of the seventeenth century. Real

Christianity, which they purported to believe, was wonderful and bracing and beautiful,

but they had been getting the lukewarm version. It was a winsome and unprecedented

appeal to a nation, specifically to its middle and upper classes, and ultimately it had

a very great effect. Wilberforce knew that many people didn’t know what real

Christianity was; though they attended church, they’d never seen it and though they’d

heard hundreds of sermons they had never heard it preached. Now, using the bully

pulpit of his national celebrity, he would tell them that he believed it and had given his

life to it.’ 85

William Hague, meanwhile, in his William Wilberforce, writing about A Practical View,

makes the following observations:

‘Yet [Hague had just criticised the unbalanced chapter structure] its strengths: the

sincerity, eloquence, and enthusiasm of its language; the relevance of its analysis

for the parlous state of Britain at that time; and the hope it extended to individuals

and to the entire country if they already professed to support, far overcome

these weaknesses.’ 86

‘Furthermore, he embraced within this comprehensive statement of his philosophy

his purpose as a politician …A Practical View revealed that he had totally united in his

mind his role as a politician with the advancement of evangelical thinking. His book

reaffirmed that his walk would always remain a public one. In it he reaffirmed that he

would never desist from the causes, such as the abolition of the slave trade, which

he had adopted in previous years …Wilberforce had underscored his purpose as

a politician.’ 87

Section 3: Wilberforce Beyond A Practical View

In order to appreciate the centrality of Wilberforce’s commitment to public religion it is

important to recognise its impact on some of his other writings. Given the constraints

of space, we will look at just two documents: a letter he wrote to the King of ‘Hayti’ in

1818 and his 1823 book on slavery. In both we see that Wilberforce was very clear that

the Christian faith is the engine for enlightened social transformation; that it is in the

manifestation of religious belief that the best interests of the world are most

effectively upheld.

a. The King of ‘Hayti’

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

Wilberforce’s letter to the King was filled with references to the socio-political

benefits of true, practical, Christianity.

‘But, whatever may in some few instances be the effects of natural benevolence

or of moral probity, or of professional honour, long and large experience in life has

convinced me, that religion alone can be depended upon for enabling men with spirit

and perseverance to discharge a course of laborious duties, or to resist the temptation



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

to which they will be necessarily exposed. And on this most important subject of religion

and morals, … I can have no doubt that the friend of Toussaint will concur with me in

the opinion that it is on the basis of religion alone that the prosperity of political

communities, no less than the well-being of individuals, must be founded. All the

wise legislators of antiquity have held this doctrine, as well as the greatest writers of

modern times, as Machiavelli, Montesquieu, &c., however little religion is in their

personal characters.’ 88

Indeed, when examining the impact of faith on social transformation with respect to his

greatest cause, slavery, Wilberforce recognises that central to the strategy of those

championing the slave trade was criticism of the “enthusiasm,” i.e. Evangelicalism, of

the abolitionists:

‘[They] who endeavour to make the word of God their rule of conduct are supposed by

many, even here, to push matters too far; and from the first the opponents of the African

cause have endeavoured to obstruct our efforts by raising a cry of enthusiasm,

fanaticism, &c. This cry, however, has been so long raised that it has nearly lost all its

effect. For our private characters, we must refer your Majesty to the testimony of others.

For the effects of our principles on our public conduct, I may appeal to my own

parliamentary life of thirty-seven years duration. But this much I will venture to say

without the risk of contradiction, that great as the body is of religious men in this

kingdom, - and, taking them in all their varieties, it is immensely great,- however they

may differ in other respects, there is not, I believe, one single individual of the whole

number who is not, and who has not ever been, a zealous friend of the Abolition of the

Slave trade, - who is not deeply sensible of the multiplied wrongs of the African race,

and earnestly desirous of raising them from their unmerited depression. But I must

earnestly entreat your Majesty to bear in mind what I have just now stated, whenever

any, whether of your subjects or Europeans, with views more superficial than yours, may

object to the practices or restraints which may arise from the religious principles of any

of the persons recommended to you.’ 89

b. An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of

the British Empire on Behalf of The Negro Slaves in the West Indies

After the abolition of the slave trade (1807), but before the abolition of slavery (1833),

Wilberforce wrote a book which directly applied Christian principle to the question of

slavery. 90 Coinciding with the launch of the new Society for Mitigating and Gradually

Abolishing the State of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, the publication of his

‘Appeal’ was part of the opening round in the campaign for the abolition of slavery in

the British colonies. Such was the centrality of religion to abolition that this book was

written - as its title makes plain - as an appeal to religion. Lest anyone should doubt its

moral frame of reference, the book begins with two citations from the Bible:

‘“Woe unto him that buildith his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong;

that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his

work.” Jeremiah’

‘“Do justice, and love mercy.” Micah’

Let’s just consider two passages from the text:

Wilberforce, Public Christianity and Abolition

- The passage below demonstrates how foundational the Christian doctrine of man was

to the whole abolition project:

‘Is it nothing to be taught that all human distinctions will soon be at an end; that all the

labours and sorrows of poverty and hardship will soon exist no more; and to know, on

the express authority of Scripture, that the lower classes, instead of being an inferior

order in the creation, are even the preferable objects of the love of the Almighty? But

such wretched sophisms as insult the understandings of mankind, are sometimes best

answered by an appeal to their feelings. Let me therefore ask, is there, in the whole of

the three kingdoms, a parent or a husband so sordid and insensible that any sum, which

the richest West Indian proprietor could offer him, would be deemed a compensation

for his suffering his wife or his daughter to be subjected to the brutal outrage of the cartwhip

- to the savage lust of the driver - to the indecent, and degrading, and merciless

punishment of a West Indian whipping? If there were one so dead, I say not to every

liberal, but to every natural feeling, as that money could purchase of him such

concessions, such a wretch, and he alone, would be capable of the farther sacrifices

necessary for degrading an English peasant to the condition of a West Indian slave. He

might consent to sell the liberty of his own children, and to barter away even the

blessings conferred on himself by that religion which declares to him that his master, no

less than himself, has a Master in heaven - a common Creator, who is no respecter of

persons, and in whose presence he may weekly stand on the same spiritual level with

his superiors in rank, to be reminded of their common origin, common responsibility,

and common day of final and irreversible account.’ 91

- The centrality of the Christian frame of reference is made particularly apparent in the

final paragraph of the book.

‘Let us act with an energy suited to the importance of the interests for which we

contend. Justice, humanity, and sound policy prescribe our course, and will animate our

efforts. Stimulated by a consciousness of what we owe to the laws of God and

the rights and happiness of man, our exertions will be ardent, and our perseverance

invincible. Our ultimate success is sure, and ere long we shall rejoice in the

consciousness of having delivered our country from the greatest of her crimes,

and rescued her character from the deepest stain of dishonour.’ 92



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

Section 4: Wilberforce in Parliament

One of the striking things about Wilberforce and indeed - as we shall see - Buxton’s

speeches (although not the motion he moved on May 15th 1823) is that, whilst their

motivation was profoundly religious, their speeches were for the most part profoundly

secular in content. In this regard it is very clear that the way they brought faith to bear

on politics was not for the purpose of trying to assert the control of church over state

but rather the primacy of Christian values over everything. They were not about the

politicisation of the Christian religion but rather about projecting Christian values into

the political process as MPs inspired by their faith. This is not to say that they did not

mention God but these references were quite limited. The vast majority of their

speeches constituted tight arguments about the nuts and bolts of the issues at

hand. Let’s look at just two examples where God gets a mention:

On 11 May 1789, having considered arguments against slavery in great detail without

making any faith reference, Wilberforce did introduce a more narrowly

‘religious’ perspective:

‘When we think of eternity, and of future consequences of all human conduct, what is

there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, and

principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God. Sir, the nature and all the

circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance,

we cannot evade it, it is now an object placed before us, we cannot pass it; we may

spurn it, we may kick it out of our way, but we cannot turn aside so as to avoid seeing

it; for it is brought now so directly before our eyes, that this House must decide, and

must justify to all the world, and to their own consciences, the rectitude of the grounds

and principles of their decision. A society has been established for the abolition of this

trade, in which the dissenters, quakers, churchmen - in which the most conscientious

of all persuasions have all united and made common cause in this great question. Let

not parliament be the only body that is insensible to the principles of national justice.’ 93

The official account of Wilberforce’s three-hour speech on 18 April 1791

contained the following:

‘By arguing the subject point by point, it would, he said, appear to a demonstration, that

all those propositions, and all the pledges, which he had given the House, would be

made good, and that the slave trade would be found to be contrary to every principle

of religion, morality, and sound policy.’ 94

‘The divine law against murder was absolute and unqualified, and precluded every

consideration of expediency. Whilst we were ignorant of all these things, our suffering

them to continue, might be pardoned; but now, when our eyes are opened, can we

Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

tolerate them for a moment, unless we are ready at once to determine that gain shall be

our god, and, like the heathens of old, are prepared to offer up human victims at the

shrine of our idolatry?’ 95

‘As we had been great in our crime, let us be early in our repentance. If the bounty of

Providence had showered its blessings on us in unparalleled abundance, let us show

ourselves grateful for the blessings we enjoyed, by rendering them subservient to those

purposes for which they were intended.

There would be a day of retribution wherein we should have to give an account of all

those talents and faculties and opportunities with which we had been entrusted. Let it

not then appear that our superior power had been employed to oppress our fellowcreatures,

and our superior light to darken the creation of God.’ 96



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

chapter three

Buxton, Public


and Abolition

In order to appreciate the extraordinary continuity between the mobilising values of the

leader of the parliamentary campaign against the slave trade and the leader of the

campaign against slavery, it is important to understand that Wilberforce handpicked

Buxton to take over from him - presumably precisely because Wilberforce recognised

that they operated on the same wavelength. In what follows we will seek to gain insight

regarding the centrality of Buxton’s Christianity to his approach to abolition by

examining, first, his relationship with Wilberforce, second, his letters and reflections

from his memoirs and then finally his conduct in relation to parliament. As in Chapter

Two, this will deliberately involve our looking at extensive quotations that provide a

window on Buxton’s thought. 97

a. Buxton and Wilberforce

Wilberforce first wrote to Buxton in 1821 asking him to take over the leadership of the

anti-slavery campaign, four years before his retirement from Parliament in 1825. The

letter is well worth a read:

‘Now for many, many years I have been longing to bring forward that great subject, the

condition of the negro slaves in our Trans-atlantic colonies, and the best means of

providing for their moral and social improvement, and ultimately for their advancement

to the rank of a free peasantry; a cause recommended to me, or rather enforced on me,

by every consideration of religion, justice, and humanity.

Under this impression I have been waiting with no little solicitude for a proper time and

suitable circumstances of the country, for introducing this great business; and latterly,

for some Member of Parliament, who, if I were to retire or to be laid by, would be an

eligible leader in this holy enterprise. I have for some time been viewing you in this

connection; and after what passed last night I can no longer forbear resorting to you, as

I formerly did to Pitt; and earnestly conjuring you to take most seriously into

consideration the expediency of your devoting yourself to this blessed service, so far as

will be consistent with the due discharge of the obligations you have already contracted,

and in part so admirably fulfilled, to war against the abuses of our Criminal Law, both in

its structure and its administration. Let me then entreat you to form an alliance with me,

that may truly be termed holy, and if I should be unable to commence the war (certainly

not to be declared this session); and still more, if, when commenced, I should, (as

certainly would, I fear, be the case) be unable to finish it, I do entreat that you would

continue to prosecute it. Your assurance to this effect would give me the greatest

pleasure: pleasure is a bad term - let me rather say, peace and consolation; for alas! my

friend, I feel but too deeply how little I have been duly assiduous and faithful in

employing the talents committed to my stewardship; and in forming a partnership of this

sort with you I cannot doubt that I should be doing an act highly pleasing to God, and

beneficial to my fellow creatures. Both my head and heart are quite full to overflowing,

but I must conclude. My dear friend, may it please God to bless you, both in your public

and private course. If it be His will, may He render you an instrument of extensive

usefulness; but above all, may He give you the disposition to say at all times, “Lord, what

wouldest thou have me to do or to suffer?” looking to Him, through Christ, for wisdom

and strength. And while active in business and fervent in spirit upon earth, may you have

your conversation in heaven, and your affections set on things above. There may we at

last meet together, with all we most love, and spend an eternity of holiness and

happiness complete and unassailable.

Ever affectionately yours,


Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

It actually took Buxton over a year before he finally determined to embrace the

challenge. Thereafter he spent a considerable amount of time with Wilberforce planning

the way ahead. 99 Their close working relationship and the centrality of faith

to their approach to slavery is testified to very eloquently in the following response

of Wilberforce (27 December 1823) to Buxton’s descriptions of his winter

research programme:

“My dear Friend, - Excellent! Excellent! I highly approve of your practice. Of course I

approve with one understood condition, that you endeavour to bear the apostle’s

precept in mind, - ‘Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord

Jesus.’ This will be rendering your slavery studies ‘Exercises unto Godliness.’ But

otherwise I assure you I have found books steal away my heart from the Sursum Corda

habit (spirituality of mind I mean, living among invisibles) more than worldly business.

Excuse this hint; it is prompted by true friendship. You greatly disparage your faculties.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

If you require more time to imprint things in your mind, it is because you cut the letters

deeply. Alas! I know from experience, that superficial engraving is too often and too

easily effaced.” 100

As a mark of their close working relationship Wilberforce actually asked Buxton to move

the writ for his retirement. 101

b. Buxton’s Private Reflections

In order to see Buxton’s direct reflections on what motivated him to fight tirelessly

against slavery, however, we must obviously look at his own writings and speeches.

Although he wrote books - on prison reform and slavery - Buxton did not produce

anything quite like Wilberforce’s A Practical View. We must thus turn to his letters and

notes for detailed reflections on his political values/motivation of which the following are

of course just a very small selection. These demonstrate the centrality of his faith both

to his objective, the abolition of slavery, and the means for its accomplishment, as he

constantly reached out to God asking for His help.

We gain a good general introduction to Buxton’s approach to life from the following

which describes his time convalescing after an illness in May 1827 which forced him to

put aside his parliamentary responsibilities for a while.

‘Mr. Buxton returned to Cromer Hall, and for a long time was obliged to relinquish all but

sedentary occupation. This interval of unaccustomed leisure was not thrown away; his

mind, cut off from its usual employments, turned to reviewing its own state; and while

removed from active life, he was in fact strengthening, by reflection and prayer, those

principles from which his actions sprang. Much larger portions of time were given to

religious meditation, and to a diligent study of the Holy Scriptures. The marks in his Bible

attest his ready application of the Word of God to his own necessities. Dates are placed

against many passages and memoranda of circumstances to which they had been

particularly appropriate. There also exists a large portfolio full of texts copied by him and

arranged under different heads. He greatly delighted in the Psalms; and on one

occasion, when, to use his own words, “some circumstances had arisen which involved

him in distress of mind,’ he thus writes :—

‘Finding comfort nowhere else, I resorted to the Bible, and particularly to the Psalms;

and truly can I say with David, ‘In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he delivered

me.’ The Psalms are beautiful and instructive to every man who really studies them; but

anguish of mind is necessary to enable us fully to comprehend and taste the pathos and

emphasis of their expressions. In David’s descriptions of his own anxieties, I found a

Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

most lively picture of my own mind. In his eloquent language I uttered my prayers,

and, thanks be to God! I was also able to use for myself his songs of rejoicing

and gratitude. …’ 102

Turning now to politics specifically, Buxton’s reflections the day before the

commencement of the 1831 session (30 January 1831) are most revealing:

‘Give me, O Lord, thy help, thy present, and evident, and all-sufficient help, in pleading

the cause of the slave. Let the light of thy countenance shine upon me.

Give me wisdom to select the proper course, and courage to pursue it, and ability to

perform my part; and turn the hearts of the powerful, so that they may be prone to feel

for, and prompt to help, those whose bodies and whose souls are in slavery. ‘If ye ask

anything in my name said our Saviour, ‘I will do it.’ In His prevailing name, and for His

merits, do this, O Lord God! ... But whatever may be thy will in my secular concerns,

give me patience, faith, thankfulness, confidence; a sense of thy Divine Majesty, of the

benignity of Christ, a love for thy Scriptures, a love of prayer, and a heart firmly fixed on

immortality. May I remember that, ere the year closes, I may be snatched away and

hurried before thy judgment-seat! Be with me, then, in health and in sickness, in life and

in death, in events prosperous and adverse, in my intercourse with my family, in my

public duties, in my study. Be thou my strong habitation to which I may continually

resort. Be with me and mine every day and every hour during this year.’ 103

At the end of his late ‘summer’ holiday that year (actually it was autumn) Buxton wrote:

‘But now my holiday is nearly ended: shooting may be my recreation, but it is not my

business. It has pleased God to place some duties upon me with regard to the poor

slaves, and those duties I must not abandon. Oppression and cruelty, and persecution,

and, what is worse, absence of religion, must not continue to grind that unfortunate race

through my neglect. Grant, O God, that I may be enabled by thy Holy Spirit to discharge

my solemn duties to them. Thou hast promised thy Spirit, thy aid, and thy wisdom to

those who ask them, and under a sense of my utter incompetency to do anything of my

own strength, I humbly and earnestly crave and entreat thy guiding wisdom, and that

power and strength which cometh from thee. Make me an instrument in thy hands for

the relief and for the elevation of that afflicted people. For the oppression of the poor,

for the sighing of the needy, now arise, O Lord, and grant me the privilege of labouring

and combating in their behalf. I am inclined to think that it will not be wrong to give two

mornings in the week, while the fine weather lasts, to exercise, and the evenings of

those days to letters and my various businesses - I shall then have four days for slavery.

Once more I pray that it may please thee, O God, for Christ’s sake, to lift up the light of

thy countenance on me, my labours, my meditations, and my prayers; grant me to grow

in grace, and call forth the powers thou hast given me for thy own service; strengthen

me with might in the inner man; deal bountifully with thy servant. Amen.’ 104



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

On New Years Day 1832 year Buxton wrote:

‘Grant, O Lord, that I may begin the next year under the guidance and influence of that

blessed Spirit, which, if I grieve it not, if I follow it implicitly, if I listen to its still small

voice, if I love it as my friend and consult it as my counsellor, will surely lead me, in this

life, in the pleasant paths of peace and holiness, and as surely conduct me hereafter to

the habitations of unutterable joy.

Again and again I crave and entreat the presence and the power of that heavenly guide.

O Lord, how much have I had in the past year to thank thee for. What mercy, what love,

what compassion for my weakness, what readiness to pardon and obliterate the

memory of my misdeeds! . . . .

Now, am I sufficiently assiduous in the discharge of my duties? My great duty is the

deliverance of my brethren in the West Indies from slavery both of body and soul. In the

early part of the year I did in some measure faithfully discharge this. I gave my whole

mind to it. I remember that I prayed for firmness and resolution to persevere, and that

in spite of some formidable obstructions I was enabled to go on; but, latterly, where has

my heart been? Has the bondage of my brethren engrossed my whole mind? The plain

and the painful truth is, that it has not. Pardon, O Lord, this neglect of the honourable

service to which thou hast called me. Give me wisdom to devise, and ability to execute,

and zeal and perseverance and dedication of heart, for the task with which thou hast

been pleased to honour me. 2 Chron. xx. 12-17.

And now, Lord, hear and answer my prayer for myself. My first desire is, that this next

year may not be thrown away upon any thing less than those hopes and interests which

are greater and better than any that this world can contain. May no subordinate cares

or earthly interests interrupt my progress. May I act as one whose aim is heaven; may

my loins be girded, and my lights burning, and myself like unto men who wait for their

Lord. Conscious of my own weakness, of my absolute inability to do anything by my

own strength, anything tending to my own salvation, I earnestly pray for the light and the

impulse of thy Holy Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in my heart by faith.

Bless, O Lord God, my efforts for the extinction of that cruel slavery; or, rather, take the

work into thine own hands.’ 105

On Sunday 3 February 1833, just before the beginning of the key 1833 session, which

witnessed the passage of the Act for which he had fought so long, Buxton wrote:

‘I go to London to-morrow. Parliament meets on Tuesday, and I have reason to hope that

the King’s Speech will declare that Government has resolved to effect the total and

immediate emancipation of the slaves.

Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

‘This then is a season, if ever there was one, for fervent prayer to thee, Almighty God,

that the light of thy countenance may rest on that good cause, and on me, one of its

advocates; on my dear wife and children, who will be with me in London: on those who

will remain here; on those to whom they will be entrusted; on my friends and relations;

in short, on all things and all persons who are dear to me.

But first, let me commemorate thy mercies during the six months we have been here.

There, too, my cause, or rather let me say thy cause, the liberation of the oppressed

slave, has prospered. I have had sufficient health of body and vigour of mind in working

at that cause to convince myself that I have not been altogether a faithless and

indolent steward.

Now that I am about to quit this peaceful haven, and embark on a tumultuous sea, what

provision and safeguard of prayer do I desire to carry with me?

Grant that I and all of us may be strengthened with might by thy Spirit in the inner man,

and that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. This is my prayer as to the spirit which

may reign within. And my general prayer as to our external actions is the collect of the

day, fourth Sunday after Epiphany.

…For the slavery cause my prayer is, that thou wouldst not leave it to the weakness and

folly of man, but that thou wouldst rise up as its advocate, and wouldst dispose all

hearts and mould all events by Thine Almighty power, to the accomplishment of that

which is good and right. Oh give these thy unhappy creatures their liberty—and that

liberty in peace, and protect their masters from ruin and desolation. In my labours give

me always the spirit of prayer and the spirit of confidence in Thee; “The battle is not

mine, but God’s:” and the spirit of discretion and resolution; “Thine ear shall hear a word

behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand or to

the left.”’ 106

Reflecting on musings such as those above where - Buxton moves seamlessly from his

religious motivation through to political action - Oliver Barclay commented:

‘The subjective concern with his spiritual state and progress was quite naturally

linked to very practical outworking in a variety of philanthropic activities. There is no

trace of a tension between the two such as sometimes seems to have arisen in the

twentieth century.’ 107



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

C. Buxton in Parliament

On the 15 May1823, Buxton moved an abolitionist resolution making the motive force

of Christianity more explicit than Wilberforce had done in any of his resolutions.

‘That the state of slavery is repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution

and of the Christian Religion; and that it ought to be gradually abolished throughout the

British Colonies with as much expedition as may be found consistent with a due regard

to the well-being of the parties concerned.’ 108

In his opening speech, which is a good introduction to his style, he stated:

‘…Now, one word as to the right of the master. There are persons whose notions of

justice are so confused and confounded by slavery, as to suppose that the planter has

something like an honest title to the person of the slave. We have been so long

accustomed to talk of “my slave,” and “your slave,” and what he will fetch, if sold - that

we are apt to imagine that he is really yours or mine, and that we have a substantial right

to keep or sell him. Then let us just for a moment fathom this right. Here is a certain

valuable commodity, and here are two claimants for it - a white man and a black man.

Now, what is the commodity in dispute? The body of the black man. The white man

says, “it is mine,” and the black man, “it is mine.” Now the question is, if every man had

his own, to whom would the black body belong? The claim of the black man is just this

- nature gave it him - he holds it by the grant of God. That compound of bone and

muscles is his, by the most irreproachable of all titles - a title which admits not, what

every other species of title admits, a suspicion of violence, or fraud, or irregularity. Will

any man say he came by his body in an illegal manner? Does any man suspect he played

the knave and purloined his limbs? I do not mean to say that the negro is not a thief -

but he must be a very subtle thief indeed if he stole even so much as his own

little finger.’ 109

Although the final vote for abolition did not come until August 1833, the key, decisive

moment actually came in May 1832 when Buxton found himself very much exposed.

The Government did not want a slavery motion of any kind and when Buxton said that

he was determined to go ahead they asked him to tone it down. In this context he

became very isolated with both his key co-agitators, Dr Lushington and Mr Brougham,

advising him to compromise. Moreover, he was by then a Whig, a supporter of the

Government, and did not wish to make life difficult for the Prime Minister and his

cabinet. Everything came to a head on the night of 24 May, when Buxton had to decide

whether or not to push his motion to a vote. As more and more parliamentarians

entreated him not to divide the House, Buxton found it more and more difficult. He

described the experience in a letter to his daughter in the following terms which again

make plain the centrality of his faith motivation.

Buxton, Public Christianity and Abolition

‘Then as to the resolution, I found it very difficult to stand firm. I felt far more distressed

than I ought to have done at acting in hostility to my friends. I was unusually weak on

that point. What then led to the division? If ever there was a subject which occupied our

prayers, it was this. Do you remember how we desired that God would give me His Spirit

in that emergency, that He would rise up as the champion of the oppressed? How we

quoted the promise, ‘He that lacketh wisdom, let him ask it of the Lord, and it shall be

given him’? And how I kept open that passage in the Old Testament, in which it is said

(2 Chron. chap. xx. 12), ‘We have no might against this great company that cometh

against us; neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee: ‘the Spirit of the

Lord replying,’ Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude, for the

battle is not yours, but God’s?’ If you want to see the passage, open my Bible; it will turn

of itself to the place. I sincerely believe that prayer was the cause of that division; and I

am confirmed in this, by knowing that we by no means calculated on the effect which

that division seems likely to produce. The course we took appeared to be right, and we

followed it blindly.’ 110

Interestingly Buxton got far more votes than he ever imagined given the Government’s

opposition - 90. This was, however, as the following makes plain, of huge importance.

‘I saw T. B. Macaulay yesterday; he told me one thing which has much occupied my

mind ever since, and which furnished the subject-matter of my meditations as I rode by

the light of the stars to Upton last night. He said, ‘You know how entirely everybody

disapproved of your course in your motion, and thought you very wrong, very hardhearted,

and very headstrong; but two or three days after the debate, Lord Althorp said

to me, “That division of Buxton’s has settled the slavery question. If he can get ninety to

vote with him when he is wrong, and when most of those really interested in the subject

vote against him, he can command a majority when he is right. The question is settled:

the Government see it, and they will take it up.” So reported Macaulay; and he added,

‘Sir James Graham told me yesterday, that the Government meet in a week; they will

then divide themselves into committees on the three or four leading questions, for the

purpose of settling them. Slavery is one.’ Now it is not so much the fact that the

Government are going to take into their own hands the question, for the purpose of

settling it, which occupied my mind, as the consideration of the mode by which we were

led to that division, to which such important consequences attach. It certainly was not

the wisdom of my coadjutors; for, with the exception of my own family, Hoare, Evans,

Johnston, and one or two others, they were all directly at variance with me. Brougham,

when he heard of my obstinacy, said, ‘Is the man mad? Does he intend to act without

means? He must give way.’ It really was not the wisdom of my counsellors; and as

certainly it was not either my own wisdom or resolution. I felt, it is true, clear that I was

right; but I did not find it easy to explain the reason why I was so clear.’ 111



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

It is particularly interesting to read from Buxton’s memoirs how he approached the key

day in May 1833 when the Government’s Bill for abolition commenced its passage

through the House.

‘At last the 14th of May arrived. Mr. Buxton afterwards told his daughter, that just as they

were going off to the House on that memorable evening - perhaps the most memorable

of his life - he had reached his study door, when he went back to have one look at his

Bible. It opened on the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and he read these two verses, “If

thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light

rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day; and the Lord shall guide thee

continually,” &c. “The remembrance of them preserved me,” he said, “from being in the

least anxious the whole evening; I felt so sure the promise would be fulfilled to me, ‘The

Lord shall guide thee continually.”’ 112

At family prayers the second day after the Government had introduced their Bill for

abolition Buxton prayed:

‘We beseech thee, O Lord, to be thyself the champion of the captives; their champion,

yet not the avenger of their sufferings. We pray thee so to assist this great work, that it

may be the means of spreading temporal peace, ease, and industry among the negroes,

and of leading them spiritually to the knowledge of God, that by it millions may be

brought into thy happy fold. And for those who have laboured in this good and great

work, may their reward be in the outpouring of thy Spirit: may they live in thy light, and

may their darkness be removed for ever; may the Lord guide them continually; may their

soul be like a watered garden, and may they be satisfied in drought. Bless the country

that shall make this amazing sacrifice.

And now I desire to return thanks unto thee, O Lord, for the great mercies thou hast

shown us; that thou hast turned the hearts of those who have influence and power, and

made them to be labourers in the cause of the oppressed. We thank thee, that thou, at

length, hast shown thine own power and come forth.’ 113

The following letter sent to Buxton by Lord Suffield, the leading abolitionist in the Lords,

is important because it demonstrates other people’s appreciation of the centrality of

Christianity to Buxton’s work, whilst demonstrating its centrality in their lives also.

‘My dear Buxton,

Gunton Park, March 20,1834.

I read Stanley’s reply to your questions with infinite pleasure and thankfulness for

God’s blessing upon our efforts, the prosperous issue of which appears to be so far

beyond all that human foresight could anticipate. The fact is we were not half so

confident as we should have been in the success of a work tending in so great a

degree to promote the honour and glory of God, and the temporal and eternal

interests of his coloured creatures.

But here you are more chargeable than myself; to my shame be it said, ‘the honour

and glory of God’ made a very small part of my consideration, whereas, in yours, it

was chiefly uppermost. Believe me I am duly sensible now of my unworthiness to

have been made in any degree an humble instrument in the hands of God to

accomplish so great an achievement - You felt what you were doing throughout; you

acted from the right motive, and therefore had better ground than myself for being

confident of unbounded success.

Ever truly yours,


Beyond Wilberforce and Buxton

The centrality of faith to Buxton’s approach to abolition is also seen in his references to

it after the victory in 1834.

‘Neither in public nor in private did he forget to give God the glory of the success that

was obtained. At a meeting of the London Missionary Society, May 15th, after alluding

to Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Macaulay, he said:-

“But let it not be supposed that we give the praise of the abolition of slavery to Mr.

Wilberforce, or to Mr. Macaulay, or to any man. I know the obligations we owe them; but

the voice of the Christian people of England was the instrument of victory. Its Author,

however, was not of human race; but, infinite in power, what His mercy decreed, His

fiat effected.”’ 115



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

chapter four



and Buxton

Chapter Four will now briefly look at two other very clear manifestations of the centrality

of public Christianity to the abolition campaign:

a. The Society for Mitigating and Gradually Abolishing the State of Slavery

throughout the British Dominions

One of the best places to go to gain an insight into the Society for Mitigating and

Gradually Abolishing the State of Slavery throughout the British Dominions is its

prospectus of March 1823:

‘They [those forming the Society] place themselves then on the immoveable ground of

Christian principle, while they invoke the interference of Parliament, and of the country

at large, to effect the immediate mitigation, with a view to the gradual and final

extinction, in all parts of the British Dominions, of a system which is at war with every

principle of religion and morality, and outrages every benevolent feeling. And they

entertain the fullest conviction that the same spirit of justice and humanity which has

already achieved so signal a victory will again display itself in all its energy, nor relax its

efforts until it shall have consummated its triumphs. The objects of this Society cannot

be more clearly and comprehensively defined than in the following Resolutions, which

were unanimously adopted at its first meeting. “That the individuals composing the

present meeting are deeply impressed with the magnitude and number of the evils

attached to the system of Slavery which prevails in many of the Colonies of Great

Britain; a system which appears to them to be opposed to the spirit and precepts of

Christianity, as well as repugnant to every dictate of natural humanity and justice. “That

they long indulged a hope, that the great measure of the Abolition of the Slave Trade,

for which an Act of the Legislature was passed in 1807, after a struggle of twenty years,

would have tended rapidly to the mitigation and gradual extinction of Negro bondage in

the British Colonies; but that in this hope they have been painfully disappointed; and,

after a lapse of sixteen years, they have still to deplore the almost undiminished

prevalence of the very evils which it was one great object of the abolition to remedy.”

That under these circumstances they feel themselves called upon, by the most binding

considerations of their duty as Christians, by their best sympathies as men, and by their

solicitude to maintain unimpaired the high reputation and the solid prosperity of their

country, to exert themselves, in their separate and collective capacities, in furthering this

most important object, and in endeavouring by all prudent and lawful means to mitigate,

and eventually to abolish, the Slavery existing in our Colonial possessions.’

‘When the facts of the case are known, it is impossible not to feel it to be utterly

repugnant to the principles of justice and humanity, and to the whole spirit of

Christianity. In any event, it is hoped that this momentous subject will be taken into the

earliest consideration of Parliament, with the view of providing an effectual remedy for

the evils of colonial bondage, and raising the unhappy subjects of it, from their present

state of wretchedness and degradation, to the enjoyment of the blessings of civil

freedom and religious light; and it appears the unquestionable duty of the friends of

humanity, in all parts of the kingdom, to address their early and earnest petitions to the

Legislature for that purpose.’ 116

b. Public Petitions

Beyond Wilberforce and Buxton

Petitions were one of the most important vehicles for expressing public opinion and

eloquently demonstrate the absolute centrality of religious concerns to abolition. As

many as 400,000 are thought to have signed anti-slavery petitions in 1792 - a huge

number when one remembers that the population of Britain was just 8 million! 117 JR

Oldfield examines the role played by religion in these petitions in detail, demonstrating

the true breadth of the distinctly Christian basis to criticism of slavery.

‘To begin with, most petitions addressed the slave trade as a religious issue.

Petitions frequently referred to the trade as “unchristian”, meaning that it was

either “repugnant, “reproachful”, or inconsistent with the Profession of the

Christian religion.”’ 118

‘The inhabitants of Leeds could not “but lament the invincible prejudice of these

unenlightened Heathen, against our common Christianity, which must arise in their

Minds, from the cruelty and injustice of those Christian States who are the authors of

their present misery.” Britain in other words, was setting herself against God’s divine

purpose, inviting yet more displeasure.’ 119



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

‘The slave trade, according to the inhabitants of Plymouth, was an “invasion of

the natural rights of mankind”. “To traffic with the personal liberty of our Fellow-

Creatures is equally abhorrent to the Laws of God and Man”, echoed the 1788

Nottingham meeting.’ 120

‘The slave trade, then violated the principles of religion, humanity, and liberty.’ 121

The Society for Mitigating and Gradually Abolishing the State of Slavery throughout the

British Dominions was involved in championing the submission of over 220 petitions to

Parliament in 1823 (probably for the 15 May debate). We don’t have the exact wording

of the petitions but if the way the Society introduced them is anything to go by, it would

seem clear that religion played a very important role - as it did in the key slavery motion

debated by the Commons that year on 15 May, see Chapter 3.

‘We have the cheering hope of being instrumental in rescuing upwards of Eight Hundred

Thousand of our fellow-subjects from a state of Slavery which outrages every feeling of

humanity, which violates every principle of the British Constitution, and is repugnant to

the whole spirit of the Christian Religion. And, still more, we may indulge the hope of

contributing to deliver them from that more fatal bondage, that yoke of ignorance, vice,

and irreligion, beneath which our institutions have continued so long to retain them.

May these considerations operate on every mind with an energy which no delay or

disappointment can enfeeble, and which no difficulties or opposition shall be able to

resist; and, with the blessing of GOD upon our zealous, united, and unintermitted

efforts, we may look forward to the not very distant time when we shall be called to

rejoice together in the final accomplishment of our work of mercy.

Petitions presented to the House of Commons for the

Abolition of Negro Slavery.

Alfreton. Associate Congregations of Allenby [etc]...’ 122

chapter five

The Dangers of

Privatising Faith

- It’s The Christians What Did It!

The Dangers of Privatising Faith

It is interesting to note that the case for the centrality of public Christianity was not only

appreciated by the Christian activists but also crucially by the Government. The

Colonial Secretary in 1833, Mr Stanley - who responded to the arguments of Buxton et

al and actually introduced the legislation that abolished slavery - began the speech in

which he presented the Abolition Bill to Parliament by ‘noticing the depth and extent of

public feeling [against slavery] had its source in religious principle.’ 123 This is the truth

that secularists would rather ignore. More inconvenient for those promoting the

privatisation of faith, however, is the fact that those celebrating the slave trade and

slavery were often critical of the public manifestation of belief.

- It’s Those That Celebrated ‘Private Faith’ What Didn’t Do It!

In response to one of Wilberforce’s greatest speeches in the Commons on 18 April

1791, the prominent champion of the slave trade, Colonel Tarleton, in sneering terms,

reflected that:

‘A religious inspiration seemed to have got possession of the other side of the House,

and a revelation of it was partly communicated to some of those amongst whom he had

the honour to sit.’ 124

In a debate in the Lords on 11 April 1793, the Earl of Abingdon spoke at length,

recognising and critiquing the religious motivation (which he mischievously sought to

confuse with the French Revolution) behind the quest for abolishing the trade. His

comments are interesting because he does not sneer at religion per se (see Tarleton)

but rather questions the appropriateness of its manifestation in the context of debates

about slavery.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

‘Is there, or can there be any just reason why the Quakers, or any other of the sects of

dissenters, should be more forward in showing themselves friends of the rights of

humanity, than members of the established church are? And to this I shall wait for an

answer in argument: but, in the mean time, having heard the assertion that they are so,

and understanding that all the petitions for the abolition of this trade have been either

from, or through the influence of this body of men; and apprehending that the same

proceeding may be adopted in this House, I shall trouble your lordships with a few

reflections on this subject.’ 125

The noble Earl then went on to question the legal basis for the petitions submitted to

Parliament at the instigation of these Christian humanitarians, these Quakers and

Dissenters, for the abolition of the trade. He concluded:

‘But these petitions must have some ground to stand upon; and what is it? It is, say the

petitioners, the ground of humanity; but humanity, as I have shown, is no ground for

petitioning: humanity is a private feeling, and not a public principle to act upon: it is

a case of conscience, and not a constitutional right…’ 126

Moving forward to the 15 May 1823 debate, when Buxton proposed his motion stating

that slavery was incompatible with Christianity, George Canning, for the Government,

responded in the following terms:

‘In the same way, God forbid that I should contend that the Christian religion is

favourable to slavery. But I confess I feel a strong objection to the introduction of the

name of Christianity, as it were bodily, into any parliamentary question. Religion ought

to control the acts and to regulate the consciences of governments, as well as of

individuals; but when it is put forward to serve a political purpose, however laudable,

it is done, I think, after the example of ill times, and I cannot but remember the ill objects

to which in those times such a practice was applied.’ 127

In 1828 William Horton moved a motion that was critical of Buxton, in the

course of which he made it plain that his wish was to keep religion out of politics.

Buxton responded:

‘... The hon. member has indignantly censured my hon. friend (Mr. W. Smith) for

introducing the phrases ‘rights of men and laws of God;’ and I do not wonder that he is

somewhat provoked at these obnoxious expressions; for one cannot think of slavery

without perceiving that it is an usurpation of the one and a violation of the other. The

right hon. gentleman, the mover of this motion, tells us that no one can reconcile the

promise we have given for the extinction of slavery with the promise which we have also

given for a due consideration of the rights of the parties interested. We are reduced to

the alternative, he tells us, of sacrificing the planter to the interests of the slave, or the

slave to the interests of the planter. If we are in that predicament, and must decide for

the one or the other, my judgment is unequivocally in favour of the slave. And it is a

consideration of the ‘rights of man, and the laws of God’ which leads me to that

unequivocal decision.’ 128


The Dangers of Privatising Faith

We must be exceptionally glad that Evangelical Christianity did indeed intervene in

politics and not only because it resulted in the abolition of the slave trade in 1807

and of slavery in 1833, but also because it laid the foundation for many other social

reforms in the context of the full breadth of the ‘social service - social action spectrum’

(see Stott). 129

In his celebrated and detailed three volume A History of the English People in 1815, Elie

Hal vy wrote:

‘Why was it that of all the countries of Europe England has been the most free from

revolutions, violent crises and sudden changes? We have sought in vain to find the

explanation by analysis of her political institutions and economic organisations. Her

political institutions were such that society might easily have lapsed into anarchy had

there existed in England a bourgeoisie animated by the spirit of revolution. And a system

of economic production that was in fact totally without organisation of any kind would

have plunged the kingdom into violent revolution had the working classes found in the

middle class leaders to provide it with a definite ideal, a creed, a practical programme.

But the elite working class, the hard working and capable bourgeois, had been imbued

by the evangelical movement with a spirit from which the established order had

nothing to fear.’ 130

Hal vy later lists the social achievements of Evangelicals in relation to welfare provision

and legal changes: duelling, the protection of animals, children’s right etc but he

states, 131 ‘Among all the reforms of which the evangelical party were justly proud, the

most glorious was the abolition of the slave trade.’ 132

J Wesley Bready in his classic England Before and After Wesley also notes the impact

of Evangelicalism with respect to abolition and other socio-political challenges:

‘Wesley being the central leader of the evangelical Revival, and that revival in turn being

- as later will appear - the central inspiration both of the abolition of the Empire slave

trade (1807) and of the emancipation of Empire slaves (1833-4), it follows that his

teaching on this subject is of peculiar and commanding interest.’ 133



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

He then proceeds to itemise the impact of the Evangelical revival on all aspects of

social and political life, not just slavery, in a chapter entitled ‘The Reassertion of the

Christian Ethic.’ 134

Writing in his biography of the great Evangelical social reformer, Lord Shaftesbury,

who, becoming an MP the year after Wilberforce’s retirement (remaining in Parliament

until 1884!), promoted the rights of factory workers, miners, the mentally ill, chimney

sweeps and women and children etc, Bready returns to the same foundation, the

Evangelical revival:

‘Yet in spite of all opposition, including the “patriotic” cries of vested wrongs, these

evangelicals, who hated revolution as much as any Tory squire, were successful in

abolishing the slave trade, humanizing both the prison system and the penal code,

popularizing education, stimulating an interest in world missions, and at least partially

awakening the national conscience to the necessity for a Christian solution to the whole

social problem.’ 135

The writings of Archbishop William Temple in his classic Christianity and Social Order

are particularly revealing on the breadth of the Evangelical socio-political concern. After

noting how, prior to the Restoration of Charles II, the Anglican Church was very much

involved in politics, he states:

‘It was not till after the Restoration that the Church of England ceased to claim moral

control in the field of business. Then there was a rapid retreat upon the central citadel

of religion, and during most of the eighteenth century theology and the direct relation of

the soul to God were alone regarded as the Church’s concern. This could not last. John

Wesley had no intention of bringing the Church back into politics; but his revival had that

effect. The abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself were political projects; but

they were carried through by evangelicals in the fervour of their evangelical faith.’ 136

‘…It (the evangelical revival) was shortly afterwards followed by the movement for the

reform of prisons associated at successive stages with the names of John Howard and

Elizabeth Fry. …Then came the Factory Acts; but now, not only was the action taken

political, but it was such as affected the relations between employer and employed, and,

to that extent, the structure of society.’ 137

At this stage two points must be made:

First, we must confront the fact that those like Hal vy who have taken a very strong line

on the centrality of Evangelicalism to the success of abolition have been the subject of

some criticism and that other scholars have expressed more interest in narrowly

material and structural considerations. The most that anyone has been able to say by

way of qualification, however, is that there are other relevant considerations, which is

hardly surprising.

Prof David Hempton summarised these in the following:

The Dangers of Privatising Faith

‘[Abolitionism] attracted the support not only of the evangelical middle classes who had

an economic as well as a religious interest in abolition, but also appealed to the urban

artisans as part of a wider political protest against paternalism and dependency in the

early industrial revolution. Both abolitionism and popular evangelicalism thrived in the

kinds of urban communities that emerged in the early stages of industrial growth and

they shared some similar characteristics. Both were attacked for undermining traditional

authority in church and state in the period of the French Revolution; both were based

on voluntary associations and made extensive use of touring lecturers (itinerant

preachers) and popular spirit (religious tracts); both led to enlarged spheres of action for

women and sometimes children; and both were capable of appealing to different social

strata and of creating communities in which moral/religious values were

treated seriously.’ 138

The fact that the socio-political context may have favoured both religious and secular

dynamics in no way means that if one had relied on the secular, abolition would have

succeeded. In fact, one must recognise that whilst those engaging with abolition were

by no means all religious, those who began the campaign (the Quakers) and saw it

through to fulfilment in Parliament (Wilberforce and Buxton) most definitely were.

Without this leadership, it is extremely doubtful that those approaching abolition

without a religious motivation would have been provoked into action as they were.

In this regard it is interesting to note what Roger Ansty, probably the most distinguished

British scholar of British abolition, wrote:

‘In the very warp and woof of evangelical faith slavery …[stress on providence, individual

salvation and freedom in Christ] …of all social evils, stood particularly condemned, and

because slavery and freedom represented the externalization of polar opposites of the

Evangelicals’ inmost spiritual experience, they were impelled to act in the cause of

abolition with a zeal and a perseverance which other men could rarely match.’ 139

Barclay, meanwhile, highlights the importance of public faith in the following terms:

‘The “evangelical dynamic” of the anti-slavery movement, while not the sole impetus,

was the essential element in its success. Its support in Britain was broadened by other

factors, but it was neither initiated by those factors nor provided with the on-going

impetus and perseverance to carry it through to success.’ 140



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

Second, and picking up on the ‘social service’ 141 implications of manifesting belief

(service provision rather than lobbying) with respect to the social challenges highlighted

by Hal vy, Bready and Temple, Kathleen Heasman’s doctoral study of the impact of

Evangelicals on welfare provision is particularly important. Interestingly Heaseman

identified a greater willingness on the part of Evangelicals (hinted at earlier) to engage

in welfare provision (social service) than politics (social action) 142 which fits entirely with

the challenges posed by Stott and FB Meyer (see the introduction). In the lives of

Wilberforce and Buxton we see a particularly mature form of the manifestation of

religious belief with respect to civic responsibility which not only embraced welfare

provision but also grew to find fulfilment in the political action which we have

highlighted in this publication, commemorating the 175th anniversary of the

success of their second campaign.

Lessons for Today

This examination of the impact of ‘public faith’ on civic responsibility, provides a very

stark warning for us today, mindful of those peddling the privatisation of faith. If

Wilberforce and Buxton - helped by Wesley before them - had not championed public

faith - ‘real Christianity’ - Britain would almost certainly have not abolished slavery when

it did and its legacy would be all the poorer. It would have also missed out on many

other social benefits resulting from the manifestation of belief across the ‘social servicesocial

action spectrum.’ Moreover, on this point, it is important to reiterate (as noted by

the introduction) that contemporary political dynamics mean that the ‘social servicesocial

action’ distinction is now becoming very blurred on two levels. First, equalities

legislation is actually making it increasingly difficult for Evangelicals, and indeed many

other people of faith, to be involved in social service on a level playing field with the

secular voluntary sector, hence the need for ‘social action’ to sustain ‘social service.’

Second, and more importantly, in the context of the ‘new politics’ and the shift from

‘government to governance,’ there is a key sense in which ‘social service’ increasingly

is ‘social action’ and vice versa, but a full exposition of this will have to await the second

paper in the series. 143 As we look at the social problems facing Britain today it is very

clear that rather than moving to promote the privatisation of faith and the curtailment of

the right to manifest, far more than used to be the case, it would actually be in the

national interest to do more to promote ‘public faith’ and the ‘manifestation of belief,’

subject, of course, to sensible Article 9 (2) safeguards with respect to violence and

terrorism. The 175th anniversary of the release of the slaves, coinciding as it does with

such pressure for the privatisation of faith, provides us with a very timely opportunity to

reflect on this concern.

The Next Step…

Reminding people of the importance of championing and protecting the manifestation

of religious belief in the context of both the contemporary: a) celebration of the fruits of

the manifestation of religious belief and b) greater pressures for the privatisation of

religious belief, is of very great importance. There is, however, a need for something

more than highlighting the logical inconsistencies and dangers of this position.

Moreover, whilst this document has been quite critical about the drift of much of

government policy vis-à-vis the manifestation of belief, we do want to both: a) affirm the

positive statements that have been made by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Stephen Timms

and Jim Murphy about the contribution of faith to society and b) recognise that

governing a diverse twenty-first century society brings with it huge challenges. In light

of these considerations and mindful of both the challenges and opportunities, the next

paper in this series, Promoting Equalities in Twenty-First Century Britain: A Faith

Refection on the Opportunities and Challenges Presented by the Equalities Bill 2009,

will seek to contribute to the debate about how best to cater for the manifestation of

belief in the context of diversity obligations and conflicting rights. We hope that this

timely paper will constitute a profoundly constructive contribution to the Equality Bill,

Equal Treatment Directive and DCLG Charter debates that are going to be of great

importance in the coming months.

Dr Daniel Boucher

Director of Parliamentary Affairs, CARE



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:


William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity, ed. Kevin Belmonte,

Peabody: Hendrickson, 1797 (1996).

William Wilberforce, Real Christianity: Discerning True Faith From False Belief,

Ed James M. Houston, Victor Colarado Springs, 2005.

William Wilberforce, An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the

Inhabitants of the British Empire on Behalf of The Negro Slaves in the West Indies, 1823.

Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce

Volume 2, Published , 1839.

The Correspondence of William Wilberforce by William Wilberforce,

Robert Isaac Wilberforce - Great Britain - 1846.

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and Charles Fowell Buxton,

The Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bt, 1849.

Oliver Barclay, Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Liberation of Slaves,

York, William Sessions, 2001.

Wesley Bready, Lord Shaftesbury, New York, Frank Maurice, 1927.

J Wesley Bready, England Before and After Wesley, 1938.

William Temple, Christianity and Social Order, London, SCM Press, 1955.

Roger Ansty, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition 1760-1810,

Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press, 1975.

Evangelical Faith and Public Zeal, Evangelicals and Society in Britain 1780-1980,

London, SPCK, 1995.

Reflecting on the past and looking to the future: The 2007 Bicentenary of the Abolition of the

Slave Trade in the British Empire, London, Department of Culture Media and Sport and the

Home Office, 2007.

Daniel Boucher, ‘The Distortion of Article 9: Religious Liberty Threatened,’ CARE, 2008


Bibliography and Appendix

Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square: Religion

and Democracy in America, Grand Rapids Michigan, Eerdmans,

1991, pp. 97-98.

‘Those of us who received the grace of working with Martin Luther King jr., know how profoundly

his life and work were empowered by religious faith.’

Neuhaus then turns to King’s memorial service to make his point about the failure to recognise the

centrality of his religious motivation and his commitment to public religion:

‘There was an ecumenical memorial service here in Harlem, with numerous religious, political and

cultural dignitaries in attendance. The service was reported on television news that evening. The

announcer, standing before St Charles Borromeo church where the service was held, spoke in

solemn tones: “And so there was a memorial service for the slain civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther

King, Jr. It was a religious service and it is fitting that it should be, for after all, Dr King was the son

of a minister.”

How explain this astonishing blindness to the religious motive and meaning of Dr King’s ministry?

The announcer was speaking out of a habit of mind that was no doubt quite unconscious. The habit

of mind that religion must be kept at one remove from the public square, that matters of public

significance must be sanitized of religious particularity. It regularly occurred that the klieg lights for

the television cameras would be turned off during Dr King’s speeches when he dwelt on the

religious and moral philosophical basis of the movement for racial justice. They would turn on again

when the subject touched upon confrontational politics. In a luncheon conversation Dr King once

remarked, “They aren’t interested in the why of what we’re doing, only in the what of what

we’re doing, and because they don’t understand the why they cannot really understand

the what.”



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:



Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart, Edited by his son Charles Buxton Esq BA,

London, John Murray, 1860, p. 274.


The 175th anniversary of the passing of the Act that resulted in the liberation of the slaves

took place in August 2008. The 175th anniversary of the actual liberation - which this

document commemorates - will be on 1 August 2009.


This is not to suggest that every abolitionist was an Evangelical Christian, committed to

Wilberforce’s “Real Christianity” but this approach to Christianity was undoubtedly the single

biggest ideas influence on abolitionist thinking, see Wilberforce, Henry Thornton, Sir Charles

Middleton, Thomas Babington, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton.


e.g. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office produced a document

entitled Reflecting on the past and looking to the future: The 2007 Bicentenary of the Abolition

of the Slave Trade in the British Empire; and, in relation to both the bicentenary and the 175th

anniversary see


We mustn’t forget that, having become a Christian, Wilberforce initially thought he should

leave politics and join the Church. It was only after Newton and Wesley showed him how true

spirituality engages with politics that Wilberforce decided to stay.


Please see the appendix.


Looking at the parliamentary leaders does have the disadvantage that we won’t get to profile

the important role played by women in the anti-slavery movement, so it is important to stress

from the outset that women played a crucial role, Hannah Moore being the most famous. The

anti-slavery cause was embraced enthusiastically by both sexes.


Geoff Mulgan, ‘Democracy as Self-Government’, in What Needs to Change: New Visions for

Britain, ed Giles Radice, London, Harper Collins, 1996; Andrew Adonis and Geoff Mulgan,

‘Back to Greece’ in Life After Politics, ed Geoff Mulgan, London, Harper Collins, 1997;

Anthony Giddens, The Third Way: Social Renewal of Democracy, 1997 and Robert Putnam


Gordon Brown, Courage: Eight Portraits, London, Bloomsbury, 2007, p. 1.


Ibid., p. 239.

At this point it is important to note that the new interest in values is not necessarily altogether

healthy. As Getrude Himmelfarb has argued (Gertrude Himmelfarb, The De-Moralisation of

Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values, IEA, London, 1995), it is very much located

in the context of the new relativism, post Nietzsche. In years gone by rather than talking

about favoured values, people used to talk about virtues; that is, the fruit of good values

rooted in positive conduct. Today, though, people talk about the need ‘for a return to values,’

suggesting that our problem is a lack of values, when in reality nothing is value free. Hitler had

very strong values. They were just the wrong ones. What we need is a return to good values;

and good values are those whose goodness relates to a positive impact: the virtues. Whilst

this is absolutely true, at this stage it seems more productive to go with the cultural flow and

exploit the opportunities in relation to ‘values’, to discuss and champion those that will cause

the great virtues to reassert themselves in our culture.


The distinction between ‘social service’ and ‘social action’ is used by John Stott, Issues

Facing Christian Today: New Perspectives on Social ands Moral Dilemmas, London, Marshal

Pickering, 1990, pp. 11-12. Stott takes this from the landmark publication, the drafting of

which he chaired, ‘Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment,’

Lausanne Occasional Paper 21, see

The imperative for involvement in both: a) service provision and b) an active citizenship is

clearly set out in scripture and is presented very helpfully through the notion of Christians as

benefactors and Christians as citizens, see by Bruce W Winter, Seek The Welfare of the City:

Christians as Benefactors and Citizens, Carlile, Paternoster Press, 1994.

12 Ibid.



John Stott puts the case for Christian political engagement very well. ‘Some cases of need

cannot be relieved at all without political action (the harsh treatment of slaves could be

ameliorated, but not slavery itself; it had to be abolished.) To go on relieving other needs,

though necessary, may condone the situation which causes them. If travellers on the

Jerusalem-Jericho road were habitually cared for by Good Samaritans, the need for better

laws to eliminate armed robbery might well be overlooked. If road accidents keep occurring

at a particular crossroads, it is not more ambulances that are needed but the installation of

traffic lights to prevent accidents. It is always good to feed the hungry; it is better to eradicate

the causes of hunger. So if we truly love our neighbours, and want to serve them, our service

may oblige us to take political action on their behalf.’ Stott, John, Issues Facing Contemporary

Christianity: New Perspective on Social and Moral Dilemmas, p. 12.


In this Stott was perhaps seeking to make the 1909 reflection of Baptist Minister and Keswick

Convention speaker FB Meyer somewhat more contemporary. Meyer stated that ‘whereas he

used to pick up mauled travellers (victims of drink) between Jerusalem and Jericho, he now

believed he should call on Pilate (representing the State) to “blow up with dynamite the caves

in which the bandits hide.” Ian Randall, Evangelicals and Social Reform, Light and Salt,

December 1997, Volume 9, Issue 2, p. 2.


In the case of Wilberforce he had his conversion experience once elected and thus he did not

begin with welfare provision but rather with politics. Once converted, however, he became

very much involved in welfare service provision and is thought at one stage to have given a

quarter of his income away. For an account of his philanthropy, please see John Pollock,

Wilberforce: God’s Statesman, Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1977, pp. 139-143. Buxton’s journey

was a little more conventional in that after his conversion (when he was not elected) he began

working with charitable initiatives and the desire to address the root causes of the problems,

resulted in his seeking election. For a good account of Buxton’s philanthropy please see Oliver

Barclay, Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Liberation of Slaves, York, William Sessions, 2001, pp.



See the implications of the shift from government to governance in the second paper in this

series, Promoting Equalities in 21st Century Britain: A Faith Refection on the Opportunities and

Challenges Presented by the Equalities Bill 2009.



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:


‘We don’t do God. I’m sorry. We don’t do God.’ Alastair Campbell when an American reporter,

David Margolick, asked about Tony Blair’s religious views.,6903,949023,00.html

Now that Tony Blair is no longer prime minister he has been giving greater attention to faith

with the establishment of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and has even expressed his

frustration at not being allowed to ‘do God’ as prime minister, most strikingly at the American

Prayer Breakfast in February 2009. Blair has since warned Christians to speak out against

secularists: see Martin Beckford, ‘Tony Blair warns that Christians must speak out in an

‘aggressively secularist’ age: Christianity is at risk of being sidelined in Britain’s "aggressively

secularist" society, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned.’ The Telegraph, 5 March 2009.




Carolyn Evans, Freedom of Religion Under the European Convention on Human Rights,

Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 137.


This re-interpretation of what Article 9 actually says has been greatly assisted over many years

by the courts. See Lord Bingham in R (SB) v Governors of Denbigh High School [2007] 1 AC 100.


Legislative Scrutiny: Sexual Orientation Regulations, HL 58/HC 350, Sixth Report, 2006-7,

paras 33-44; The Meaning of Public Authority under the Human Rights Act, HL 77/HC 410,

The Ninth Report, 2006-7, para 101; Getting Equal: Proposals to outlaw sexual orientation

discrimination in the provision of goods and services - Government response to consultation,

p. 10; Quality and Equality:

Human Rights Public Services and Religious Organisations, The British Humanist Association,

November 2007, 3.7 p. 16.

Quality%20and%20Equality%20-%20BHA.pdf; Council of Europe, Recommendation 1804

(2007) ‘State, religion, secularity and human rights,’ para 16

Daniel Boucher, ‘The Distortion of Article 9: UK Religious Liberty Threatened,’ CARE,

London, 2008.


British Humanist Association, The Case for Secularism: a neutral state in an open society, 2007.


Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, London,

Continuum, 2002, chapter 1.


Unlike some European countries, there are no confessional parties in British politics with MPs

or Peers.


Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities, Cardiff, 2008


‘Those who worked for the abolition of the slave trade argued their case in terms of Christian

values - and so did the slave-traders. Many of those who sought to improve the atrocious

working conditions in factories and mines invoked Christian values - and so did the factory

owners and mine owners. Some at least of those who campaigned for greater equality of

opportunity, for the extension of the franchise, or for the emancipation of women, and or an

end to racial discrimination, invoked Christian values, and so did those who defended what

they saw as divinely ordained and unchangeable hierarchy of status and inequality.’ The Case

for Secularism: A Neutral State in an Open Society, BHA, 2007, p. 5.







On the basis of her examination of the Charities Register and Digest of the Charity

Organisation Society, Heasman concludes ‘that as many as three-quarters of the total number

of voluntary charitable organisations in the second half of the nineteenth century can be

regarded as Evangelical in character and control. The greater proportion of these were formed

in the decades immediately after the mid-century, many as a result of the revival of that time.

… In many instances the voluntary services set the pattern for those taken over by the State

… In the process the Evangelicals played an important part, both beginning and developing

many of these voluntary services, and suggesting lines of action which were later followed by

the State.’ Kathleen Heasman, Evangelicals in Action: an appraisal of their social work in the

Victorian era, Geoffrey Bles, 1962.pp. 13-14.

‘Evangelicals were largely instrumental in the evolution of many of the principles and concrete

forms of social work which are followed today. Much of the present-day youth work closely

follows evangelical lines; they suggested many of the modern improvements in the practice of

nursing… it was certain groups of Evangelicals who first recognised social work as a

distinctive professional occupation, rather than a voluntary part-time one, offering training and

payment to workers and making provisions for their recuperation from sickness and for their

old age. The mission visitor and the mission nurse performed many of the tasks which now fall

to the school care committee representative and the health visitor. The probation officer can

trace his direct descent from the police court missionary, and the modern moral welfare

worker owes much of her techniques and methods to evangelical predecessors.’ Ibid., pp.

292-293. This book was the result of doctoral research ‘The Influence of the Evangelicals

upon the Origins and Development of Voluntary Charitable Institutions in the second half of

the Nineteenth Century, The University of London, 1960.


Simon Caldwell, ‘Bishop gives ultimatum to agency over gay adoption,’ Catholic Herald,

October 2008. ‘The first to go was the St Francis Children’s Society in Northampton in May,

followed a fortnight later by the Catholic Children’s Society of the Nottingham diocese. A

month later the country’s largest Catholic adoption agency, the dioceses of Southwark,

Portsmouth and Arundel and Brighton’s Catholic Children’s Society, decided to cut links with

the bishops. Last month the St David’s Children Society, covering three dioceses in Wales,

also followed suit. Only one agency, the Catholic Children’s Rescue Society of the Salford

diocese, has so far pulled out of adoption altogether. The Catholic Children’s Society in

Westminster Archdiocese is hoping to remain within the control of the Church and to

challenge the laws in court if necessary, the preferred route of Bishop O’Donoghue. The

Father Hudson’s Society of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Catholic Care Agency of

the Leeds Diocese are considering the same course. Adoption agencies in Liverpool and



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

Bristol are still considering how best to respond to the law.’


Speech by Ruth Kelly MP at the launch of the new Commission on Integration and Cohesion on

24 August 2006.


Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, ‘Our Nation’s Future - multiculturalism and integration’ 8 December 2006,

"Our Nation’s Future" lecture series.





35 Tariq Modood, ‘Multiculturalism or Britishness: a false debate,’ Connections, Winter 2004/5










The implications of this are explored in more detail by the second paper in the series Promoting

Equalities in 21st Century Britain: A Faith Refection on the Opportunities and Challenges

Presented by the Equalities Bill 2009.

42 Ibid.


There are, of course, other developments that are causing concern, like the Government’s

attempt, through the Coroners and Justice Bill, to delete the free speech safeguard introduced by

Lord Waddington in relation to the new offence of inciting hatred on the basis of sexual

orientation. The safeguard was introduced primarily because there was a concern that Christians

might be caught by the law for expressing faith-based convictions about sexual ethics.



Face to Face and Side by Side and the associated Faith in Action fund has effectively replaced

the Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund which ran for two years closing in 2008. To the

degree that this prioritised interfaith projects for the purpose of promoting good relationships it

was vulnerable to the same criticism as Face to Face - Side by Side.


There are currently 4,700 Church of England Schools, 2,400 Catholic Schools, 37 Jewish Schools,

28 Methodist Schools, 7 Muslim Schools, 1 Seventh Day Adventist School and 1 Hindu. Source:

Dr Adam Dinham, Reader and Director of Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths University

London presentation to Local Government Association March 5th 2009.

In terms of strong affirmation of faith ethos consider DCSF, Faith in the System, September 2007.


19th February 2007, Jim Murphy, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform Seminar in

partnership with Employment Focus - What role for faith groups in today’s welfare state? City of

Manchester Stadium.




From the Prime Minister’s address to the Christian Socialist Movement conference ‘Faith in

Politics,’ 29 March 2001.




Rt Hon Stephen Timms, ‘Faith: helping build a politics based on hope’, IPPR, 29 January 2009, p. 3.


Ibid., p. 8.


Ibid., p.16.


Faith schools have developed significantly in recent years and this is very positive, but they

are not part of the voluntary sector.


See e.g. Catholic adoption agencies.


Wiliam Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was MP for Kingston upon Hull from

1780-84 and from 1784 until 1812, for the county of Yorkshire and from 1812 until 1825,

for Bramber.


On this point it is interesting to note that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,

Evangelicals were described as the ‘enthusiasts,’ a sarcastic put-down which had the effect

of questioning to what degree they could be regarded as proper Britons.


‘I cannot help saying it is a great relief to my mind to have published what I may call my

manifesto; to have plainly told my worldly acquaintance what I think of their system and

conduct, and where it must end. I own I shall act in my parliamentary situation with more

comfort and satisfaction than hitherto. You will perceive that I have laboured to make my book

as acceptable to men of the world as it could be made without a dereliction of principle; and I

hope I have reason to believe not without effect.’ Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel

Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce Volume 2, Published 1838, p.202. "I am today," he

tells Mr. Hey, "at York for the assizes. My objections to it are much done away by my having

published my book, which I consider a sort of explanatory manifesto.’ Ibid., p. 226.


William Hague, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner,

London, Harper Collins, 2007, p. 275.


In this regard it is crucial to honour the legacy of Wesley whose role was hugely important.

‘Wesley being the central leader of the evangelical Revival, and that revival in turn being - as

later will appear - the central inspiration both of the abolition of the Empire slave trade (1807)

and of the emancipation of empire slaves (1833-4), it follows that his teaching on this subject

is of peculiar commanding interest.’ J Wesley Bready, England Before and After Wesley,

Harper and Brothers 1938, p. 255. Wesley’s teaching gained its clearest expression in his tract

Thoughts on Slavery published in 1774 which contained the line: “Can human law turn

darkness into light or evil into good? Notwithstanding ten thousand laws, right is right and

wrong is wrong still …I absolutely deny all slave-holding to be consistent with any degree of

natural justice.’ Wesley famously wrote to Wilberforce ‘Dear Sir: Unless the divine power has

raised you us to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your

glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of

England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be

worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be fore you, who can be against

you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the

name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw

the sun) shall vanish away before it. Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I

was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a "law" in our colonies that the oath

of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this? That he who has guided you

from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant, John Wesley.’


Charles Colson, Preface to the Hendrickson Christian Classics Edition, A Practical View of

Christianity, Hendrickson Christian Classics, 1996.

62 A Practical View of Christianity, Hendrickson Christian Classics, 1996, p. 3.

63 Ibid., p. 96.

64 Ibid.


Ibid., p.97.


Ibid., p. 85.


Ibid., p. 216.


Ibid., p. 97.


Ibid., p. 87.


Ibid., p. 88.


Ibid., p. 91.


Ibid., p. 207.


Ibid., p. 219-20.


Ibid., p. 221.


Ibid., p. 221.


Ibid., p. 226


Ibid., p. 227


Ibid., p. 232


Ibid., p. 234


Ibid., p. 235.


Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce Volume 2,

Published 1839, p. 202.


Ibid., p. 199.


Ibid., p. 205


Eric Mataxas, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery,

Monarch Books, Oxford, Uk, 2006, pp. 169-70.

85 Ibid.


William Hague, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner,

London, Harper Collins, 2007, pp. 272.


Ibid., pp. 275-6.


The Correspondence of William Wilberforce by William Wilberforce, Robert Isaac Wilberforce -

1846, p. 272.


Ibid., pp. 273-4


William Wilberforce, An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the

British empire on Behalf of The Negro Slaves in the West Indies, London, Hatchard and Son, 1823.

91 Ibid., p. 48.

92 Ibid., p. 77.


29 George III, May 12th 1789, Column p. 63.


31 George III, April 18th 1791, Column p. 250.


Ibid., Col 267.


Ibid., Col 277.


Thomas Fowell Buxton (7 April 1786-19 February 1845) was MP for Weymouth 1818-37. He is

commemorated by a monument in Westminster Abbey and the Buxton Memorial in Victoria

Tower Gardens adjacent to Parliament. He can also be seen on the current £5 note to the left

of Elizabeth Fry, wearing spectacles.


Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart, Edited by his son Charles Buxton Esq BA, p. 126.


Ibid., 129-133.


Ibid., p. 145.


Barclay, Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Liberation of Slaves, p. 73.


Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart, Edited by his son Charles Buxton Esq BA, pp.



Ibid., p. 266.


Ibid., pp. 281-282.


Ibid., pp. 236-7.


Ibid., pp. 258-9.


Barclay, Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Liberation of Slaves, p. 55.

108 HC Deb 15 May 1823 vol 9 cl 275-6.

109 HC Deb 15 May 1823 vol 9 cc271-2.

110 Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart, Edited by his son Charles Buxton Esq BA, p. 307.

111 Ibid., pp. 306-7.

112 Ibid., p. 330.

113 Ibid., p. 334.

114 Ibid., p. 352.

115 Ibid., p. 356.


Substance of The Debate in the House of Commons on the 15th May 1823. On a motion for

the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions - With a

Preface and Appendices, Containing Facts and Reasonings Illustrative of Colonial Bondage,

London, Ellerton and Henderson, For The Society for mitigating and gradually abolishing the

State of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, 1823, pp. xi-xii.


JR Oldfield, Popular Politics and British Anti-Slavery: The Mobilisation of Public Opinion

against the Slave Trade, 1787-1807, p. 114.

118 Ibid., p. 145.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid.

121 Ibid., p. 116.



Substance of The Debate in the House of Commons on the 15th May 1823. On a motion for

the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions - With a

Preface and Appendices, Containing Facts and Reasonings Illustrative of Colonial Bondage,



the abolition of slavery and public christianity:

pp. xxxvi - xxxvii.

123 Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and Charles Fowell Buxton, The Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell

Buxton Bt, p. 274.


Pollock, Wilberforce: God’s Statesman, p. 107 and Col. Tarleton on 18 April 1793, cc 279-282,

Vol. 29 of The Parliamentary History of England.

125 Earl of Abingdon on 11 April 1793, cc 656, Vol. 30 of The Parliamentary History of England.

126 Ibid.


HC Deb 15 May 1823 vol 9, c 278.


HC Deb 06 March 1828 vol 18 c 1042.


Please see footnote 11.


lie Hal vy, A History of the English People in 1815, Book III, Religion and Culture,

Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1938, p. 47.


Ibid., pp. 73-79


Ibid., p. 79.


J Wesley Bready, England Before and After Wesley, p. 225.


Ibid., chapter 8.


J Wesley Bready, Lord Shaftesbury, New York, Frank Maurice, 1927, p. 80.


William Temple, Christianity and Social Order, London, SCM Press, 1955, p. 11.


Ibid., p. 12.


David Hempton, Evangelicalism and Reform, c 1780 -1832, in Evangelical Faith and Public

Zeal, Evangelicals and Society in Britain 1780-1980, London, SPCK, 1995, pp. 19-20.


Roger Ansty, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition 1760-1810, Atlantic Highlands,

Humanities Press, 1975, p. 406.


Barclay, Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Liberation of the Slaves, p. 65.

141 See footnote 11.

142 Ibid.


Promoting Equalities in 21st Century Britain: A Faith Refection on the Opportunities and

Challenges Presented by the Equalities Bill 2009.



The Abolition

of Slavery

and Public


Reflections on the Dangers of Privatising Faith, Mindful of

Contemporary Challenges Facing Britain Today

ISBN 978-0-905195-09-4

“ I am delighted that CARE has produced this

well-researched and thought-provoking publication.

Documenting the recent pressures for the privatisation of belief

in the context of demonstrating the absolute centrality of

Christian faith in the public square during Abolition and beyond,

it asks crucial questions that we must address, as we consider

the definitions of the Equal Treatment Directive, the Equality Bill,

and the proposed Kitemark for faith-based welfare service

providers in receipt of government monies.

Rt. Revd. Michael Scott Joynt, Bishop of Winchester

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