William Wilberforce and the Bettering Society

William Willberforce and the Bettering Society

Two hundred years ago, William Wilberforce, politician, looked at the society around him and didn’t much care for what he saw.

Between 1790 and 1820, Britain was in the force, quite literally of a man who probably embodied the term ‘Victorian Values’ years before Queen Victoria came anywhere near the throne.

    • He was a man born into a mercantile family. In stature and health he was quite weak  but his personality of optimism, joy and absolute belief in God and good, radiated out of him and infected all of those around him.
    • He is well known as the politician who stood up and fought for the abolition of slavery.
    • He met with the abolitionist, James Ramsay, whose books converted Wilberforce to the cause of the abolition of the slave trade.

Wilberforce had other missions though and on 28th October 1787 he wrote:

‘God almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners’

    • He considered the decline in moral values amongst the upper classes to be untenable.
    • Wilberforce moved in circles of people who were dedicated to the reform of society and in 1796 founded the ‘Bettering Society’
    • This society polarised thinking about the problems caused by poverty.
    • He was encouraged by the support of the father of the future prime minister Sir Robert Peel and improvements to working conditions in modern factories, particularly for children were implemented.

He saw that through embracing modern science and invention, the lives of the poor could be made better.

Both Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday were asked to demonstrate to the Bettering Society, so it was they witnessed the Davy Miners Lamp that would go on to save hundreds of miners lives and make conditions in the mines a little better and saw the marvel of electromagnitism and how it’s application could be used to great effect for society.

William Wilberforce was a man who connected society, an intriguing individual and the father of the Reform Movement..


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