Saturday, April 16, 2005

Wilberforce and the Darwinists

Today, I am reminded of a piece by the British columnist Richard Donkin, on William Wilberforce and his enormous achievement in abolishing slavery. The piece was published almost exactly a year ago in the Journal of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts Commerce and Manufactures.

In the article, Donkin asks a profoundly disturbing question: "How can someone who did so much for human rights have suffered such a mixed press both in his lifetime and beyond?",

In the article itself, he answers perfectly adequately the first part of his question (why was Wilberforce so vilified in his lifetime?) - the vast mass of the
middle- and upper-classes in the UK then owned slaves, and it was naturally not in their self-interest to have slavery abolished. It is worth adding that, in attempting to abolish slavery, Wilberforce and his colleagues were trying to change the entire basis of every economy throughout history round the world till then.

However, Donkin does not even attempt to answer the second part of his question (why has Wilberforce had at best a mixed press after his death?). This is a particularly interesting question because, since his death, long after all question of economic self-interest has disappeared, the press on him has been not so much "mixed" as uniformly patronising or antagonistic.

Before I give my own answer to Donkin's question, it is worth pointing out that Wilberforce did not merely abolish slavery. With the fifteen or so friends in his "Clapham Sect" or "Clapham Circle", he was involved in launching over a thousand initiatives for reforming Britain, from creating new companies such as Wedgwood, to trying to create universal literacy, to eradicating political and religious corruption, to setting up the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Between them, the Clapham Circle transformed England from a corrupt, feudal and exploitative society, such as we still find in most parts of the world today, into the relatively physically clean, organised, transparent, upright and cohesive
society that was Victorian England.

So it is the more astonishing that the names of neither Wilberforce nor the Clapham Circle will be recognised not only by any schoolchild but even by any participant in University Challenge or Mastermind.

Why is this? My answer is simple. The immense effort that the Clapham Circle put into the social transformation of England on the basis of their piety was not matched by any great intellectual exertion on their part.

The result was that, when the English elite started to turn to Darwinism as the defining myth of their intellectual landscape from, say, the 1880s, the children and grandchildren of Wilberforce's generation came to consider the Clapham Circle to have been well-intentioned but not quite as intelligent as themselves.
This is still the case today. People interested in spiritual things are, in England, considered nice people but somewhat outside the pale intellectually (how
many committed christians do you find among Oxbridge dons? Or any other
eminent university's professors?).

In other words, Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle have been written out of history by the Darwinists. The obscuring of Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle is part of the Darwinist rewriting of history - and the takeover of our mental life by the Darwinists and their successors has been particularly fierce since the end of the Second World War.

The logical consequences of Darwinist doctrine are now coming home to roost in our politics, economics and society.

So it is time to re-examine the incredible story of how the fifteen or twenty individuals in the Clapham Circle (including Wilberforce) transformed the culture of the whole of England within their lifetime.

We need to learn the lessons from their struggle, so that we are better equipped in our struggle against the forces of destruction and dehumanisation in our own time. Sphere: Related Content