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85 and will be found enlightening by both the professional historian and casual reader alike. She rightly judges that his greatest achievement was to raise the profile of the Roman Catholic Church in England and concludes:“Many people admired Baines,and others loathed him,but it was impossible to ignore him.”While no one will find cause to loath this book, I hope no one will ignore it and find much in it to enjoy. Joseph C. Linck St. John Fisher Seminary, Stamford, CT William Wilberforce: A Biography. By Stephen Tomkins. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. Pages: 238. Paper, $18.00, ISBN 978–0–8028–2593–3. William Wilberforce (1759–1833), an evangelical Anglican and parliamentarian leader in the abolitionist movement, is introduced here swiftly in broad strokes peppered with the numerous names of allies and foes,monarchs and prime ministers. There are several popular biographies of William Wilberforce on the market now.This one from a British author has those advantages that come from being inside the culture where the many complicated threads in religion,politics,and cultural history are, in the main, already familiar elements.Two of William Wilberforce’s sons, Robert and especially Henry were close John Henry Newman, both becoming Roman Catholics. Henry lived the longest, working as a journalist.Another son, Samuel, was an Anglican Bishop,not afraid of controversies,and was a public figure in the debates surrounding Charles Darwin’s work. William, after several conversions, became a working, devout evangelical Anglican. Evangelical Anglicans maintained their Church of England membership, moderate social habits, and were divided over Calvinism and questions of grace and election.Wilberforce was a moderate on all these questions.He was,however,against freedom of religion being extended to deists and free-thinkers and had not much interest in other social questions such as displaced farmers and the conditions of the miners.The industrial revolution and its costs did not attract much of his attention. His religious practices were regular, serious, Biblical, and personal. Newman noted this because the social circles of parliamentarians were none of this. William himself was a longtime member of parliament using that position to work for the abolition of slavery and, after decades more, the freeing of slaves in the British Empire.It took decades to achieve this,and it was done imperfectly.The British Empire had sold its soul for a bowl of sugar, especially for tea, and it was hard work to get the British public weaned from the bargain. The dependence of sugar plantations on slave labor kept Britain tied to an insane and immoral system designed by one kind of business sense. After the abolition of the trade and then the freeing of slaves,the slave trade continued illegally almost everywhere and the so-called freed slaves had to endure mostly unpaid “apprenticeships” for years afterwards. Emancipation of slaves in the United States and the policing on the open seas by British warships eventually choked off the worst of the tragic and sinful business. The interest to Newman readers is, of course, the context this study provides in British politics and the traumatic changes that Wilberforce and his allies wrought in a Parliament without clear party lines or, even, clarity in religious affiliation and BOOK REVIEWS NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL 86 doctrines.The element that wanted the slave trade abolished was also the party that eventually admitted non-Anglicans to parliament. Parliament, the controller of a state Church, became a body of mixed Christian adherence and so, according to the lights of the Oxford movement, could not be the governor of a reformed Anglican Church which was essentially Catholic. Names of politicians and churchmen favorable to the Tractarians did not always have an equally good track record on social questions. There is one pithy quotation of Newman in the Idea of a University that sums up the larger picture that engaged him in social questions. Here he labors against the fragmented and shallow adherence to vague principles that cannot even at that late date find a way to comprehend social evils: In consequence, when we hear opinions put forth on any new subject, we have no principle to guide us in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2153-6945
Print ISSN
1547-9080
Pages
pp. 85-86
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-22
Open Access
No
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