The current fascination with “virtue” is attested by the public’s consumption of books such as William Bennett’s Book of Virtues and Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Demoralization of Society. But the issue of virtues and public life has been around much longer. In fact, in the late 1700s William Wilberforce, a renowned British statesman and counsel to Prime Minister William Pitt, penned what would become one of the most eloquent statements concerning Christian civil responsibility ever written. Its influence extended across the Atlantic and into the following centuries. Among his many contributions to society, Wilberforce is best known for his efforts on behalf of slaves throughout the world, and in a very real sense he laid the ground work for the abolition of slavery in the United States. This annotated critical reissue of the first edition of Wilberforce’s most influential work pays tribute to his legacy and seeks to restore Wilberforce to his rightful place in the cultural memory of the community worldwide. Kevin Belmonte not only preserves for us the text of this literary and cultural gem but he also provides the sources behind Wilberforce’s numerous quotations from Latin, literature, and Scripture. An introduction by Charles Colson mirrors the ongoing relevance of Wilberforce’s notion of Christian social responsibility.
About the Author
William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a member of the British Parliament. He was also affiliated with the Clapham Sect, a group of Evangelicals who were active in public life. He was very instrumental in many social justice issues, including the abolition of slavery in England.