Do-gooders in 1790s London – A bid to end slavery

By Stephen Tomkins

An Article from the The Economist – Aug 2010 – The Clapham Sect: How Wilberforce’s Circle Transformed Britain.

THE group called the “Clapham Sect” is best known for its contribution, under William Wilberforce’s leadership, to the campaigns for the abolition of the British slave trade and, ultimately, of slavery itself. It was a collection of evangelical, philanthropic families, spread across three generations, many of whom settled during the 1790s in Clapham, then a prosperous village just outside London. The name itself, given later, was a mild dig at their religious clannishness. A contemporary, the Rev Sydney Smith, had been sharper, calling them the “Clapham Church”.

As this suggests, it was their religious brand as much as their cause that marked them out at the time. They were a holy lot, with the emphasis on hellfire and damnation. They frowned on pleasure: the theatre, novels, secular music. One of them enjoyed his first cigar so much he never smoked again. Like all evangelicals, they saw themselves as the nation’s conscience, firebrands breaking the doze of the established church. READ MORE…

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