Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The End of Slavery Models How Abortion Could End

Pragmatic Cunning of the Abolitionists

The official end to British slaving came as a result of the Napoleonic wars.  Napoleon had been thwarted in his long-held ambition to cross the Channel and invade England.  So, he returned to Europe to continue the war against the British army on that continent.  As part of the struggle he instituted a trade war against Britain in 1806.

It is one of the curios of history that this move set in train a series of events which led to the end of Britain's involvement in the slave trade, and to outlawing slavery in Britain per se.  The irony is that this was an unintended outcome.  Yet it was one of the greatest "fruits" of the Napoleonic Wars.  The British abolished the slave trade in 1806-7.  This sequence of events provides a very useful case study in the greatest moral and humanitarian struggle of our day--the abolition of abortion.

The moral campaign against slavery had been boiling away for years but it was resisted by powerful commercial interests in England which earned money from involuntary human cargo.  Cracks in the British resolution to continue slaving began to appear as a result of the great Saint-Domingue slave revolt in 1791.  Appalling fighting in the Caribbean had thrown the atrocities and costs of slavery into sharp relief.  Consciences in Britain were pricked even further. Public opinion became more resolute against the slave trade, particularly now that its evils were more exposed and because of French interests in, and support of, the trade.  The French were using slaves to sustain their war effort.

This provided another argument to Wilberforce and the abolitionists.

Wilberforce and the abolitionists arranged that the government would introduce a bill to forbid British ships from carrying slaves to all foreign territories from where they could be re-exported to the enemy: "We should not give advantages to our enemies [and so] we should not supply their colonies with slaves."  This 1806 Act--passed with huge majorities in both Houses--abolished two-thirds, perhaps even three quarters of Britain's lucrative and booming slave trade on the grounds of wartime necessity.  [Robert Tombs, The English and their History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p.410.]
It has always intrigued us that Wilberforce and the abolitionists were both clever and cunning in this move, using a military pretext to pass legislation which would have the far more important effect of further restricting and lessening the slave trade.
The religious and humanitarian motives of the abolitionists could then come into the open, and Wilberforce and his allies extended the ban in 1807 to the remainder of the trade.  [Ibid.] 
There is much to learn here from the religious and humanitarian struggle to expunge totally the evil of state sanctioned and funded abortion.  The battle against slavery was long and hard.  It required resilience and persistence.  It had to be fought on religious and humanitarian grounds.

Our struggle against abortion must mirror these features.  It also means that we must take every bit of ground we can in this battle.  It means that we must exploit every cause, every opportunity that presents itself to remove this scourge from our lands.  It is the great battle of our day against one of the most evil faces of Unbelief.

The example, cunning, persistence, and wisdom of Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists should both instruct and inspire us.

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