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Wilberforce, slavery and the Tea Party

Written on Friday, July 15, 2011 by


In a recent column, Is the Tea Party over?, I answered strongly in the negative, and presented  the examples from recent history of Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman.  There are plenty of other lessons from history as well.

Wilberforce and abolition of slavery

William Wilberforce (1759–1833) was one of the greatest heroes of the last few centuries, with his decades-long campaign to get rid of the monstrous evil of slavery.  It’s most instructive to read Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild (2005), because this shows that Wilberforce’s coalition would be denounced as greedy right-wing fundamentalists today, much like the Tea Partiers today.  Thomas Sowell reviewed this book as follows:

… the world’s first anti-slavery movement, … began with a meeting of 12 “deeply religious” men in London in 1787. …

The anti-slavery movement was spearheaded by people who would today be called “the religious right” and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover, what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.

Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today’s intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world.

There are many other similarities to today’s world.  While I don’t suggest that today’s evils are as bad as slavery, there is a sense in which we are slaves to liberals.  Economist Dr Walter Williams, incidentally an African-American, writes in Are Americans pro-slavery?

A good working description is: slavery is a set of circumstances whereby one person is forcibly used to serve the purposes of another person and has no legal claim to the fruits of his labor.

The average American worker toils from January 1st to the end of April, and has no legal claim to the fruits of his labor for that period. Federal, state and local governments, through the tax code, take what he produces. A small portion of the fruits of his labor is used to provide for the constitutional functions of government. Most of what’s taken, up to two-thirds, is given to some other American in the forms of farm and business subsidies, Social Security, Medicare, welfare and hundreds of other government handout programs. As in slavery, one person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another person.

Entrenched attitudes

Also, back then, slavery had been entrenched throughout the world, and neither the masses nor the leaders saw anything wrong with it.  Today, we have entrenched special interests in keeping the big-spending programs and government bureaucracies, and far too many voters are indifferent to the wrongs of forced wealth transfer (so sadly, Jefferson and Madison would have no chance today).   Wilberforce and his allies spent decades showing people the evils of slavery, and turning their hearts and minds against it.   Similarly, we have quite a long way to go to convince Americans that it is wrong to take money from other Americans by force.  As Dr Williams says:

For the Christians among us, socialism and the welfare state must be seen as sinful. When God gave Moses the commandment “Thou shalt not steal,” I’m sure He didn’t mean thou shalt not steal unless there’s a majority vote. And I’m sure that if you asked God if it’s OK just being a recipient of stolen property, He would deem that a sin as well.

See also his clip on Redistribution of Income:

Separation of religion and politics?

Another parallel is that the opponents of both Wilberforce and today’s social conservatives demand a separation of religion and politics.  An example is the illustrious Lord Melbourne (1779–1848), a UK Prime Minister, speaking against the abolitionists:

Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.

Churchian leftists agree with such absurd separation.   So of course, secular leftists merely need to designate more and more issues as “political” to exclude Christian influence.

Also, others were “pro-choice” on slavery: even if they were “personally opposed” to slavery but didn’t want to impose morality on the slave-owners and slaver traders (“Don’t like slavery?  Don’t own slaves!”).

Personal attacks by the Establishment

Wilberforce and his colleagues also faced up to crass accusations of hypocrisy:

National hero, Admiral Lord Nelson wrote from his flagship Victory to condemn “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies!” Admiral Lord Rodney declared that he had never known any slave to be ill treated in the West Indies. Lord Heathfield, the defender of Gibraltar, commented that a slave on the way to the Indies had twice as much cubic air space as a British soldier in a regulation tent! Admiral Lord St. Vincent declared that “the whole of society would go to pieces” if Wilberforce’s Abolition Bill went through! The Duke of Clarence asserted in the House of Lords that “the promoters of the Abolition were either frauds or hypocrites!”

And of course, one of the favorite charges of today’s left against conservative libertarians is “hypocrisy”, but see also Patriot column The Hypocrisy of Hypocrisy Charges.

There were also nasty personal smears.  For example, James Boswell (1740–1795), the famous biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), wrote the following ‘poem’:

I hate your little whittling sneer
Your pert and self-sufficient leer.
Begone, for shame
Thou dwarf with big resounding name.

This of course has a parallel with the nastiness of the Left (see for example Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild by Michelle Malkin).  Unfortunately, the ‘Gutless’ Old Party tends to go to water at the slightest hint that they might be demonized as “racists”.  This  explains their ineptness at winning over black voters, since they are afraid to offer a real alternative rather than a pale imitation (see also Patriot column Conservatives and blacks).  And the current Congressional GOP is so cravenly afraid of being blamed for a government shutdown that they backed down on real spending cuts (see also Patriot column The Consequences of Cowardice).

Final lesson: patience

Many Tea-Party detractors mock them because they are not getting a lot of what they want this term.  But they have influenced only one election cycle  until now!  And they have had great successes so far. Dick Morris, in his Patriot column A Budget Deal: Republican Suicide, reminds us to remember:

…the fates of Utah Senator Robert Bennett, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle and Florida Governor Chris Christie [sic: he meant Charlie Crist—ND]. And they need to note as well the legion of senior Democrats from seemingly invulnerable districts who lost their seats in 2010. That may well be their fate.

But Wilberforce had nothing like this initial success.  As Hochschild documents, the world’s first anti-slavery movement began with a meeting of 12 ‘deeply religious’ men in London in 1787, including Wilberforce.  It was 20 years later, March 25, 1807, that ‘An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ was passed.  And even this didn’t abolish slavery per se, just trading in slaves.  It certainly helped curtail slavery, since the British Navy declared slave transport as “piracy”, so captured slave ships and freed the slaves.   Notice that this was “imposing Western morality” on the slavers!

It was still another 26 years before slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire: Wilberforce was already mortally ill when he learned that the ‘Slavery Abolition Act’ was passed on July 26, 1833; he died three days later.

Thus the Tea Party should take heart from this hero: even if there are some setbacks this term, or for many years.  It took many decades to socialize America, and it may not be possible to undo this overnight.

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  • Joyce Swanson

    Wonderful article! Thanks for showing Mr. Wilberforce’s perserverance. Yes, I am disappointed in the new congress, some of whom I voted for. They better get on the ball or they will be out when the come up for reelection.

    • Richard

      I like to think so.

      The stage has been and continues to be set nationally intentionally or unintentionally to divide and keep freedom loving people from standing as one. They will never stop treating all of us like fools and we keep acting like fools. It is easy to unit socialist fools and separate independent thinkers and earners. Thus we lose again. There is only one way out. Vote all of them out!

      I am just blindly tossing seeds. If you are convinced that it cannot be done then I am not the only one here pouring perfume on pigs in here. I may be the only one not singing to a choir.

      Protect your right for self-persuasion. Only those with a strong will to maintain numbers and a defensive army will prosper. The two party system is of one breed, greed. Acquired power by taking and enough people gladly granted for payments or sainthoods since the early 1800’s.

      The more people that engage in distraction the easier it is for the focused. Go to or some blogs allow you to click on my name or keep believing that you can turn a pig pen into a play pen without removing the pigs.

      I am not selling anything or earning anything when I ask you to go to, just trying to get us to work together as one. In some blogs you can click on my name.

      To help with immigration now go to, its free too.

    • Hank

      I rode my bike all the way from home to the office to see if (it is midnigt this very second, actually; 12:01 now) Patriot Update had the Osama story. No news!

      Oh well. The man is dead. And as elated as I am, it doesn’t really mean anything. We will be nation building for another five years. When (if) we ever leave, it will eventually go to hell again.

      Should’ve gone in to take out the top dogs in the first place. Easy as pie for our black ops and special forces. But LORD, no, just had to go in for a decade to foist a democracy upon an undemocratic people. We were there to take out the Taliban, which in turn would weaken al-Qaeda. Now the Taliban is more or less no longer affiliated with al-Qaeda, and they (Taliban, ie., otherwise harmless tribal warrior-clans) want to kill us now more than ever.

      Next time someone starts a war, just nuke the bastardds and be done with it, whether theyt really deserve it or not.

      If that is too drastic, there is any number of alternatives better than the present cease-and-desist, lets-build-a-nation ‘strategy’ with which we could have claimed victory and come home that we could have implemented.

      But oh no, not the warmongers in the defense department, the ‘international community’, the world bank, and the Weekly Standard needse a sensational, spinnable, indefinite, and big spending full-fledged ground operation. Why? For no other reason than to keep YOU, the average American idiot (no one in particular; all of us in fact) occupied with a non-issue.

      Osama’s death is a personal victory for every american affected by 9/11.


      Back to reality…

      It changes not a thing.

      Not a God Damn thing.

      Keep everything in perspective.

      Ask the legitimate questions.

      There is no reason to think that Osama was in a freezer for half a decade, waiting for the right moment to be brought out, but it is still kosher to ask: why now? Why not a month ago? Why not a year ago? Why not 5 or 8 years ago?

      Don’t tell me we couldn’t have taken this slimeball out from day one!

      In todays world, with todays technology, and todays technique, with our Agencies and Ops and Forces, and you are going to sit there and make this out as some sort of amazing feat of near impossible likelihood?

      In any case, I do hope that whichever of our brave SEALS that capped the Il Duce of Islamo-Fascism gets the $500,000,000 reward that we all know he deserves. And tax-free!



      They (some on the ‘right’, even) are already starting to give our own Muslim credit for this. I don’t buy it for a half a second. There is not a single part of thisa operation that was not expedient on Obama’s part. Mark my words. Obama will from this point on be portrayed as a patriot, a hawk, and a good leader, by many on ‘either’ side of the aisle.

      Pay especial attention to how the news of goings on in Syria and Libya go unreported in the coming days. And when any war-related subject comes to the surface it will be cast in the light of the ‘decisiveness’ and ‘foresight’ of ‘Our Dear Leader’.

      It will become anathema to criticize Obama in any way pertaining to Mid-east policy. Neocons and Communists alike will rush to his aid and defense, denouncing everyone in even the slightest opposition as unpatriotic and anti-American.

      The Joke is on you!

      It is now 12:28.

      Good Morning!

    • Jon

      When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the
      political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the
      powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of
      nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
      should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
      endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty
      and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted
      among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever
      any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to
      alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such
      principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to
      effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long
      established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all
      experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
      sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
      accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the
      same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it
      is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future

  • joseph

    we must not forget our christian heritage which is what made our country great and is still the anchor which prevents us from total anarchy in this hour. my eight year old has decided to be president when she grows up and i have currently set a study course of roughly 50% early american history and 50% christian literature…beginning, of course, with the bible. we must first look out for the kingdom of God interests and righteousness–the righteous contend with the wicked–. regarding the president we have fallen into a horrible trap in electing a muslim president; indeed a fox gaurding the henhouse. And although trump looks like a financial saviour for this country with his tough foriegn and domestic policies and out of the political box thinking (thanks for the fresh air) a self proclaimed christian who owns casinos is kind of like a jewish pig rancher. there’s something obviously askew here. there is a difference between a person who is christian as opposed to muslim or buddist and one who is seeking to advance the kingdom of God and righteousness in the earth. My wallet reflex is for trump but my heart has some reservations.

    • http://x Patty

      Good comments, Joe. I particularly agree with your Christian views because they reflect my own. As far as Donald Trums is concerned……..He’s stood up to the press in asking questions that every day Americans have a right to ask and have truthfully answered. {There are still doubts that Obama has produced legal documents.} But Donald T is an interesting figure and he can help this nation, just not as president. He has too many descrepencies in his immediate past to explain…such as voting for Obama in the first place and contributing to Harry Reid’s re-election. Those two things alone, disqualify his to run for pres in my eyes. Someone who is supposed to be so brilliant made some lousy selections and doesn’t give me any faith in him. I have a wonderful task for him…..He should buy one of the major networks {ABC or CBS or ABC}, Then the evening news could actually tell the nation just how things are. He could produce a forum for honest, clear, different news for the general public. This is where his strenghts are, not the Whitehouse. If he TRULY wants to help this nation, this is what he should do. Otherwise he isn’t really in it to win it.

  • True Patriot

    All good comments and a great article.

    I would like to say the bible teaches the truth shall set us free.

    Obama is an illegal communist muslim usurping fraud. The most dangerous scam in the history of the world.

    His speech at the WP Dinner shows not only how thin skinned he is to any criticism like all good narcissist, but how he hates this country. All the while the left claps for him.

    He is in trouble because Trump is not scarred of him, and like all rogue thugs, this illegal thug Obama, will not be able to continue to massive coverup.

    The news media will also fail in aiding and abetting high crimes & treason against the American People.

  • Robert Falls

    For the longest time now it seems that things were looking up when we voted tn the new members of Congress with all the hot air they expelled on the great things they were doing to do & of course all the things were/will be doing. So I’ve sat back and watched confident I had voted the right people under God’s direction. Then the true agenda of many started showing through. I’ve realized again the people had gotten nothing but politicians that are showing their true colors, to rape us for their own gain in status and to fill their own pockets. I believe to be a God treated man who loves this. Country. Study & practice, practice, practice, pray & be ready for it appears 1776 is coming our way again. Sure wish our forefathers could be here instead of rolling around in their graves. May we turn back to God least he forgets about us completely. He will return as the mighty warrior & and I sure don,’t want to be on the wrong side.

  • trvlkids

    Remember that we pay into social security and medicare so we are entitled to that money!

    • Old Bill

      We pay into it but look at the name SOCIAL
      as in socialist.

    • Am2sweet

      While we may be entitled to it that doesn’t mean we’ll get much of it. One of Obama’s ideas for cutting down the budget is what they will pay out for Mecicare and Social Security. IF he gets a second term he will go after things like the 401K’s and other retirements to help pay for his vacations.

  • Sam37

    Great article! The Tea Party has the right ideas. Too many Americans remain apathetic and think that their vote won’t effect any change. We must all get out and vote to put people in Washington who will carry out the “will of the people” and “uphold the Constitution”. And, we must all call and call and call those Representatives in Washington until they respond to us. Keep the pressure on!

  • Vern Nay

    BEWARE of donald trump, it could be a repeat of the ross perot fiasco that got the traitor bill clinton elected.Obama is an illegal alien and a muslim terrorist and should be dragged bodily from our whitehouse into the streets and hanged by his scrawny muslim neck till DEAD. We should get rid of all the democrates and republicans in office and vote in independents and libertarians. Then our new congress should bring all our military home where they are needed to fullfill their oath to protect America and our constitution from all enemeys , foreign and domestic, and illegal aliens. Only after we restore our republic should we try to help anyone else. The rest of the world can get by without us as policeman.

    • Roberta

      Bring home the troops????? Create more unemployment!!!!!! War is evil, but to let
      the world sneaky bully, Osama and radical
      muslims, continue their evil ways is suicedal. Clinton did not say “no” and they
      trained more killers.


      Osama, is dead.

  • Robert

    Wilberforce and his Clapham Sect were NOT the first to try and stamp out the slave trade. In the 1770’s, Virginia passed resolutions demanding the British Crown stop the importation of slaves to N America. The Crown rejected these pleas but 15 years later, at the Constitutional Convention, Virginia delegates were able to enlist support to outlaw the slave trade into America and write it into the Constitution (Art I, Sect 9).

    Under protest from New Englanders, who ran the African slave trade into America, the best they could manage was a 20 year stay of the ban, which ended in 1808. That year, Congress implemented legislation outlawing the importation of slaves into US, although New England slave traders continued the profitable business of hauling slaves from Africa and selling them into S American and the Caribbean. It is irrational to focus on Wilberforce exclusively when the American effort to outlaw the slave trade preceded his by 20 years.

    • James H

      Robert, you make some great points but I believe you miss the mark and the point is that Wilburforce endured the remainder of his life with very little success compared to his ambitions goals. It is that type of extraordinary committment to purpose then and now that will influence the lives of future generations toward the light inherent in truths and the betterment of mankind. It will never be without uncommon sacrafice. We have so far been, in our generation, inconvenienced and have had little to do with sacrafice for society and other mens lives other than our own. We don’t need to go there if we would only stand up for time tested and honored principles, yet…..we are doomed for bloodshed and misery if we don’t get off of the couch more than Acorn activists. Anything short of that will fail due to lack of will power. We would be out worked.

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  • wayne

    Assuming there ever is a written history by free people that documents this time – it will remember that eventually the people of this country came so terribly slowly to the painful realization that the core of the Progressive Democrat Party NEVER escaped their memories of their halcyon Plantation days when slaves cowered to their every whim and that they have plotted and schemed for over a hundred years to return to this vision of their feudal nobility in order to save the world (for the entitled ones) from the masses of humanity.

    Malthusian Plantationism.

    • Robert

      The “progressive core” of the democrat party didn’t origniate from pre-war Southerners, who were invariably conservative Constitutionalist. The original progressive socialists in American were the civil war era Radical Republicans. Karl Marx was a great admirer of Lincoln and supported him and the union cause. Southerners remained conservative democrats until recruited into republican ranks by Nixon and Reagan, where they now form the conservative core of the republican party.

  • Bea

    Osama bin Lauden is killed.
    We got him.
    Finally…he is paying in hell for his sins.

  • Karl

    “The 2010 Tea Partiers can learn from and be inspired by the 1974 Tea Party. In 1974, it was about a county. Now it is about our country.” (From page 84 of Protester Voices—The 1974 Textbook Tea Party

  • James H

    One Nemesis has met his true fate base on the path he chose. He received no more or no less than he deserved and that includes all those that chose to be with and support him. He is no different than a wasp that has stung for being irritated and he was simply swatted to the ground and stepped on. There will be no martyrdom since his body was given back to the earth’s sea to atone for the illicit use against the children of the earth. God will now deal with him according to his works and beliefs. I don’t assume to know what that will be as I did not nor do I wish to be or project myself into his sandals. I know though that it won’t be pleasant.
    I would like to see every piece of munitions sprinkled with pig’s blood. Every individual that drops to our soldier’s efforts should be buried with pig’s blood or its parts. They have defiled humanity and should be treated with reciprocity just as Black Jack Pershing did with the Muslim Uprising in the Philippines. His actions using the blood of pigs and executing those that were terrorists with treated bullets and a treated grave insured 65 years of peace. Only one prisoner was excluded from execution and he was witness to all that was done and then sent as a messenger to the rest of his ilk to relay the message of General Pershing’s intent to give them a proper send off.