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Amazing Grace

The story behind the song Amazing Grace is humbling and inspirational and has been made into a film. See the trailer here. This film was made with more than box office receipts in mind. It was created with the purpose of working to fulfill William Wilberforce's Two Great Objectives.

Pejman Yousefzadeh at Red State explains why this movie is so important:

We admire William Wilberforce and those like him not just for the ideas they fought for, but for the desperation with which they fought for them, for the passion they brought to the struggle. Wilberforce and his allies did not blithely assume that someday, their wisdom would be the accepted gospel of the land. Quite the contrary; they knew the steep odds they faced in abolishing the slave trade. They were soberly mindful that they were taking on an institution that was perceived to be just as immortal as it was immoral. They won thanks to their sobriety of thought, and perhaps, just perhaps, thanks to the overconfidence of their opponents, the belief that the fight would inevitably be won anew by the slave trade and those it had in its pockets. The champions of the slave trade had grown fat, happy and ultimately, complacent. Wilberforce and the abolitionists were hungry, determined and bursting to overcome the Old Order. Their ideas triumphed not just because of the superiority inherent in those ideas, but also because of the fevered devotion of the abolitionists to the beliefs that drove them. Put quite simply, the abolitionists wanted to win more than their opponents did. And in politics, Hustle makes Muscle.


The slave trade was supplanted by the thought of freedom and the people willing to work tirelessly for that freedom. Be it ever thus with abominable ideas. May they be overcome by beliefs that spring from the best that is within us. And may those beliefs be aided by champions who are like what William Wilberforce was.

Champions who are the best amongst us.

Lorie adds: Betsy Newmark saw the movie and highly recommends it. She has some interesting comments about the historical references in the movie.


Comments (13)

Splitting a hair with you, ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Splitting a hair with you, the story (read legend) of how John Newton wrote it is quite incredible. But like so many things in life, the facts aren't as sensational.

Yes, he converted while at sea during a horrible storm, but he still worked in the slave trade for several years. He didn't denounce slavery on the spot as many claim.

He also didn't write the song during the storm as is a popular myth.

He marked his convergence that day but it took several years for him to become Anglican priest. And several more years to write the song.

What most people don't know is that we have no idea what melody the lyrics where originally sung to. The melody we know today was 100 years old by the time they grafted Newton's words on to it. -- Most people believe it came from Scotland.

We also lost some of the lyrics along the way and added some more. Like most folk (historic) songs it sorta grew like a weed rather than being created.

BTW I forget the number but Newton wrote somewhere north of 1000 hymns (if memory serves, I know it was an incredible about) Many of which are in use in many churches both in Europe and America today.

The guy's life and accomplishments where truly amazing. No, they don't have the "made for T.V." drama -I doubt the movie will be historically accurate- but when read it in context, his story is more than dramatic enough for real life.

P.S. The populist legend is... (Below threshold)
Paul:

P.S. The populist legend is that he turned the ship around and freed all the slaved.

GREAT story. But just a story.

I was reading somewhere jus... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

I was reading somewhere just this week that the slave trade in Africa is bigger now than in the days when ship loads of slaves were arriving regularly in United States. Slavery was rampant in the ancient world and even in the Americas before Europeans found their way here. Slavery was just a part of life before the industrial revolution and in nations without a modern infrastructure and economy, slavery is still a part of life. Was it really moral enlightenment that ended slavery or was it power equipment, tools, appliances and the infrastructure built by and for those devices?

I had to clear a foot of snow from my driveway today, but I used my snow blower rather than a slave. I need to do laundry today, but it's an easy task with my automatic washer and dryer, and no ironing is needed because my cloths are wash and wear. I made breakfast this morning using my microwave, toaster, and gas range, so no one needed to chop wood for fire or spend lots of time preparing the foods as they were preserved by refrigeration.

Least we think ourselves morally superiority to generations past, know this. We didn't abolish slavery in the United States, we simply enslaved machines to do the work necessary to create a prosperous lifestyle for ourselves. If not for the technology and energy that drives our machines, the market for slaves would still exist. In the one area where technology has not replaced humans there's still an ongoing trade is sex slaves here in the United States.

Its a wonder they allowed t... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Its a wonder they allowed the making of a movie like this its indeed a wonder

The movie is indeed a great... (Below threshold)

The movie is indeed a great and inspiring story. Unfortunately slavery is now more popular in the world than ever, with an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide including much of the world's cocoa production by slave or child labor. Women and children, many from the former Soviet Union are enslaved in Turkey and other places as protitutes in brothels, and also humans sold for as little as $10 into slavery in Darfur, among other crimes against humanity .

William Wilberforce was a great religious man who felt that slavery was sin, much as our Abraham Lincoln did. However, the actor portraying Wilberforce looks a little too good. Wilberforce was a small 5 foot 1 inch man, who was actually quite sickly. But he was such a great orrator that his fervent preaching against slavery made him seem like a giant. Abraham Lincoln also had many religious values and other characteristics that made him seem sort of like the American Moses.

Mac, methinks you're overse... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Mac, methinks you're overselling it a bit...

Slavery was a big issue back in 1776 and unless I have my history wrong, 1863 was a little bit before the modern washing machine, dryer and snow blower.

To say that moralism didn't abolish slavery and that it was obsoleted by technology is an interesting argument just not one supported by a time line.

Paul,Mac,... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Paul,

Mac, methinks you're overselling it a bit...

Well maybe a bit, but while there was a growing moral augment against slavery in 1776, it had little political support. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 is blamed for reinvigorating the slave economy in the United States because is solved a production bottleneck that couldn't be circumvented by slave labor alone. Had the cotton harvester been invented at the same time rather than in the 1920s, slave labor wouldn't have had such an economic advantage. Technology definitely has had an impact on slavery, both to increase it and to make it obsolete.

By the time Lincoln was elected President steam engines, blast furnaces, and railroads were powering industrial scale production and creating our modern economy. For the first time in our history there was an economic system in place that made slavery obsolete. Only then, did the political will to abolish slavery materialize.

All through history every culture of any significance has had two practices in common, these are war and slavery. While technology has done nothing to abolish war, it has abolished slavery (other than for sex) in all technologically modern nations. If abolishment of slavery were the result of moral enlightenment, it seems slavery in the world today wouldn't be distributed in the same pattern as that of modern technology.

Just came back from seeing ... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Just came back from seeing this incredible movie. I urge everyone to go see it. Hollywood will kill it if they can. They are already trying. Evidence? Below is the "roundout" of the Top 10 movies news release that gets picked up in every paper in America. Notice "Amazing Grace" mentioned? Here's the news release:

The other new movies included the 20th Century Fox police spoof "Reno 911!: Miami," which opened at No. 4 with $10.4 million and "The Astronaut Farmer," which debuted at No. 9 with $4.5 million. The Warner Bros. film stars Billy Bob Thornton as an ex-NASA astronaut who struggles to build his own rocket.

The REALITY is that Amazing Grace came in 10th.

10th although it played in only 791 theaters, even though the film that came in 9th ("Astronaut Farmer") made only a few dollars more and played in nearly 3,000 theaters!!! The PER SCREEN on Amazing Grace is, well, amazing. Hollywood will ignore this...completely.

Mac, you know I always resp... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Mac, you know I always respect you but you're way out on a limb here...

Well maybe a bit, but while there was a growing moral augment against slavery in 1776, it had little political support. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 is blamed for reinvigorating the slave economy in the United States because is solved a production bottleneck that couldn't be circumvented by slave labor alone. Had the cotton harvester been invented at the same time rather than in the 1920s, slave labor wouldn't have had such an economic advantage.

The problems with this argument are many... In Britain the Slave Transportation Act of 1807 (the basis of this movie) movement was passed. But it took over 20 years to become reality. There was a growing abolitionist movement going back to to the 1780s or earlier. So this is the exact time frame you reference.

It was ~1840 that England banned slavery all together.

In our own country, the Northern states outlawed slavery by 1805, the exact time that it should have been booming in your example.

We passed our own Slave transportation act around 1800. (+/- 5 I forget)

The Abolitionist Movement heated up in the 1830s and in 1854 the Republican party was formed to abolish slavery.

It was, in short, a growing movement for ~80 years. The big gains where made circa ~1840.

=====================

By the time Lincoln was elected President steam engines, blast furnaces, and railroads were powering industrial scale production and creating our modern economy.

Not really. The first part of the industrial revolution started in 1840ish and didn't really come on line until slavery in this country was already abolished.

For the first time in our history there was an economic system in place that made slavery obsolete. Only then, did the political will to abolish slavery materialize.

The "problem" with this theory is that the moral objections to slavery started before there was an industrialized economic system in place. -- You could argue that they happened concurrently but you'd be hard pressed to make the case that the industrial economy predated the Abolitionist movement.

By the time the industrial revolution really took hold, the movement was over and the slaves in Britain had been free for 20 years and in the U.S. for 10.

Paul,I understand ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Paul,

I understand the dilemma, that the moral objections long preceded the technology that I'm claiming is the real force behind abolishment of slavery. However, that's not an unusual situation as can be seen from the environmental movement of today. There's lots of moral objections to oil production, but until there's a viable alternative, oil production continues.

It wasn't any single invention that obsoleted slavery it was the rapid progress of the industrial revolution that obsoleted slavery. Wikipedia has a timeline of inventions, and while it may not be accurate in detail, it demonstrates the rapid technological progress of the early 19th century.

Your argument against the idea that technology was the driving force that abolished slavery seems to be based on a discrepancy in the timeline. That is, the real explosion of technology occurred after the Civil war. But as you can see from the Wikipedia site many key inventions occurred prior to 1860. That rapid progress prior to Lincoln's election to the presidency demonstrated powerfully that prosperity could be achieved without slavery. Only then did the political will to abolish slavery materialize.

The timeline argument also works against the idea that moral enlightenment was the force behind abolishment of slavery. If it were so, then why did the political will lag so far behind the moral arguments? The obvious answere is that only after a viable alternative to slave labor was demonstrated did the political will to abolish slavery materialize.

Excellent P&M, now I'm curi... (Below threshold)
kim:

Excellent P&M, now I'm curious.

By the way, what is the moral argument against freeing some of the otherwise permanently sequestered carbon? It is only free carbon that can participate in the carbon cycle, which is key to climate regulation.
===========================

By the way, what i... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
By the way, what is the moral argument against freeing some of the otherwise permanently sequestered carbon?

Not being a radical environmentalist I can't speak for them, but what I have heard suggests it's not just the freeing of sequestered carbon, but the environmental damage that results from that process and the air pollution that results from burning oil.

Thanks for the tip about th... (Below threshold)
Brad:

Thanks for the tip about the movie...that's what we're talking about after all. I saw a great new family movie over the weekend called THE ASTRONAUT FARMER. Billy Bob Thornton stars as you've never seen him before, a farmer and father with a dream...and his family eats dinner together, dreams together and stays together. It's great to see a wholesome family portrayed this way on film for a change:

http://theastronautfarmermovie.warnerbros.com/




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