Last night Gorgeous and I had a date night and we went to see the movie Amazing Grace.
All I can say is Wow. Talk about a powerful movie.
It tells the story of William Wilberforce who was the main driver in Parliament behind ending slavery in Great Britain at the turn of the 19th century.
The fight to end British trading in slaves was a bitter one that lasted more than 20 years with Wilberforce bringing the issue before Parliament only to have it rejected year after year.
William was a reluctant warrior in the battle. But once he took on the role he kept at it with a passion that nearly consumed him completely.
The movie takes its title from the hymn Amazing Grace which was written by John Newton. Newton was a former slave ship captain whose change of conscience after his conversion to Christianity forced him from the business of trading in slaves and eventually into the clergy.
Apparently Newton heavily influenced Wilberforce in his own decision on whether or not to stay in politics.
There are a few lessons I brought home from that movie last night.
The Impossible is Worth Attempting
When Wilberforce started his campaign to end the slave trade he was the lone voice in Parliament speaking against it. As his friend William Pitt, who was to become the youngest man ever in the history of Great Britain to become Prime Minister, was working at persuading him to stay in politics Pitt used that as a challenge.
He flat out told Wilberforce that the odds would be 300 to 1 against him.
To us today it is incredible that there was ever so little sentiment against the whole idea of slavery. But unfortunately at the time it was seen as primarily an unfortunate business arrangement that had been in existence since the beginning of time.
There were a whole bunch of folks in Great Britain a the time who were making a great deal of money either directly or indirectly from the slave trade.
That the trade would ever end was far from a forgone conclusion when Wilberforce started out. In fact it seemed down right impossible that it would ever be changed.
Yet he waded into the fight anyway because he felt it was the right thing to do.
There are times in our lives when the impossible is exactly the right thing for us to attempt.
Passion is Powerful
At one point in the film, Wilberforce feels completely defeated. He’s been fighting for his cause for 15 years and nothing has changed.
His friend Pitt, the Prime Minister at the time, flat out told him to back off on his pressure because war with France changed the political landscape and his ideas would be seen by some as treasonous.
Some of his friends in the cause have retreated into seclusion. Others have died.
The weight of his passion is destroying his health. He is so angry at his complete inability to affect any change that he is literally wasting away. He even hesitates to talk about the subject because he doesn’t want his passion to spill out onto others.
And when a lady friend finally gets him to talk about it, we see the power of his passion. For a brief moment he isn’t a frail man, aged before his time. We see a glimpse of a strong warrior who will fight to the death for his cause.
It is his incredible passion, his unwavering belief in the rightness of his cause that ultimately carries him through that desperately dark season and on to victory.
Passion is a powerful force that can fuel us beyond the point where we’d normally give up when things get difficult for us.
Some Victories Will Be Costly
Eventually, after more than 15 years of struggle, Wilberforce and his friends come up with an idea that actually makes their first dent in the slave trade. Rather than proposing a bill that directly addresses the slave trade they come at it sideways.
Or as one of their staunchest opponents says, they use a cross wind. And they are sneaky about it too.
They basically come up with something that is anti-French at time when they are at war with the French. But they do it in a way that the anti-French measure will have a significant distinctly adverse and effect on the slave trade.
It is a tremendous victory for their cause.
One of the things they don’t address in the movie is that the measure they come up with ends up being one of the contributing factors in starting the War of 1812 with the USA. Because even though the law they pass is perceived at home as being anti-French, it is in actual effect very harmful to the United States shipping interests. And not just to slavers, either.
I think it could be argued that another war, especially one on the scale as the War of 1812, was an acceptable price to pay to begin to put an end to British involvement in the slave trade.
But we should keep in mind that most victories come with costs attached. And there may even be some that we don’t even realize at the time.
On the whole it was a wonderful film. I highly recommend y’all go see it.