Thursday, 16 August 2007

"All on fire"

Have you seen Amazing Grace yet? The story of the end of the man who was prominent in putting an end to the British slave trade? You should. The courage of William Wilberforce (left) in standing up to the evil is one of history's bright spots (and it's an outrage that slavery still lingers in the modern world, mostly in some of the more Muslim parts of the world).

His American colleague William Lloyd Garrison was just as heroic, and quite literally 'uncool.' He was on fire. Said Garrison in his magazine The Liberator [quoted here]:

"On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest; I will not equivocate; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard."

He was heard, all right! So ardently did he attack the defenders of slavery that he was jailed once for libel, almost lynched twice and had a bounty on his head of $5000 from the legislature of Georgia who wanted to try him for sedition.

The Liberator was outlawed in many states, with jail for anyone subscribing. Samuel May, a friend and fellow-abolitionist, once entreated him to be more temperate. "O, my friend, do try to moderate your indignations, and keep more cool; why, you are all on fire." Looking him straight in the eye, Garrison replied: "Brother May, I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."
In this age of apathy when ignorance and coolness are the mark of being hip . . . just what exactly gets you on fire?


  1. Saw it the wknd it opened. Had been waiting for it. Learned about WW in primary school.

    Can't imagine Form 1 (Yr 7) kids learning that sort of thing today. Probably too busy learning about Sue Bradford.

  2. Sus, my form class with another one went and saw it a few weeks back. It'd be the first thing done right about Public Schooling.

  3. A formidible story and a well executed movie.
    Currently reading Toni Morrison's 'Beloved', a Nobel prize winning book about the aftermath of slavery and also Zola's 'Germinal', which is about colliery wage slavery.

    Before anyone leaps down george's throat on the matter of a cherished secular sacramental, consider the Peter Singer crowd currently putting up an odd legal case in the UK for the recognition of human rights for higher primates...

  4. Peter Singer is an animal.

    There's the explanation for it.



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