The Better Hour: A Documentary Film: THE BETTER HOUR: The Legacy of William Wilberforce
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Wilberforce’s concerns consolidated into 10 categories.

Wilberforce was associated with more than 60 societies, what we would call non-profit public service organizations—Wilberforce was Vice President of 29, on the Committee of 5, Governor of 5, Treasure of 1 and Patron of 1.

These societies included:

African Institution

Anti-Slavery Society

Auxiliary Bible Society of Clapham

Baptist Missionary Society

Bentham Panopticon Prison Project
The Bettering Society (a.k.a. The Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor)

Board of Agriculture

British and Foreign Bible Society
British and Foreign School Society (with Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, and Francis Place)

British (later Royal) Institution

Cambridge Bible Society Auxiliary

Christian Observer

Church Missionary Society

Climbing Boy Society

Deaf Education
Education of indigent of friendless' boys

Elland Society for supporting candidates to ministry in the Church of England

Friendly Society Act of 1793 (legal foundation of mutual benefit societies so prevalent in 19th cent. England

Friends of Foreigners in Distress (included John Quincy Adams)

German Relief Fund [1814]

Humanization of the English Criminal Code (with Samuel Romilly)

Intercessions on the Behalf of Convicts

Mendip Schools (founded by Hannah More)

Mohawk Indian Bibles (printing Bibles for the tribe)

National Gallery of Art
Penal reform

Potato growing to relieve hunger among poor

Religious Tract Society

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Rumford Eating Houses
St. Bartholomew's Hospital (Wilberforce a governor)

Sierra Leone Company

Small-pox inoculation, compulsory urged by Wilberforce

Society for Agricultural Improvement

Society for the better Observance of Sunday

Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small Debts

Society for the Relief of the Manufacturing Poor

Society for the Suppression of Vice

Strangers' Friend Society

Sunday School Society

Trustee Savings Banks

Source: F.K. Brown, Fathers of the Victorians: The Age of Wilberforce

  1. Human rights
  2. Literacy programs
  3. Universal education
  4. Arts
  5. Encouraging the talents and gifts of others
  6. Science
  7. Health care
  8. Prisoner Rehabilitation and Re-entry
  9. Broadening Philanthropy
  10. Faith Leadership

  1. Human rights - Wilberforce is best known for his 20-year fight for the abolition of the Slave Trade and 26-year fight thereafter to emancipate all slaves in the British Empire, which occurred just as Wilberforce died. This was the birth of modern day human rights. Wilberforce applied human rights to issues in India, such as getting rid of infanticide and suttee, by his support of missionary William Carey. It took 300 years to traffic 11 million Africans to North America in the slave trade. In the 1990s, according to the United Nations, 27 million people were trafficked, about 80 percent of whom were women. You may research anti-slavery organizations today. Which are the most effective in what they do? Can you raise money and awareness about the issue of slavery and human trafficking today? Are there people in your community who are being treated unjustly?
  2. Literacy programs - Wilberforce founded schools for the deaf and blind, established lending libraries, and schools for the poor British and Foreign Bible Society (provided literacy and linguistic advances). Illiteracy is an increasing issue in the United States today. Functional illiteracy exceeds 20 percent, with some estimates as high as 40 percent. What can be done about this today?
  3. Universal education - Closely allied to Wilberforce's work for literacy was providing education for the poor. Wilberforce encouraged noted playwright and author of the day Hannah More to start schools for the girls in Cheddar, England and schools for the disadvantaged elsewhere. Wilberforce encouraged efforts to reach young people with educational opportunities which had been previously denied. Hannah More particularly focused on developing schools for young girls, and she wrote books to educate young people on character. This was the start of the national schools movement. How can we today encourage the broadest possible educational opportunities in our communities?
  4. Arts - Wilberforce was a founder of the National Gallery. He also gave money to the artist William Blake and sponsored Patrick Bronte through school.
  5. Encouraging the talents and gifts of others - Wilberforce gave money to others to help them along in life and to encourage them, particularly young people with talent and not a lot of money. Are there young people in your community that you and your friends could encourage with mentoring during after-school hours?
  6. Science - Wilberforce sponsored scientific research to provide technology to better the condition of the poor. He also supported Michael Flaharity's research into electro-magnetism and Sir Humphrey Davy's research into the safety lamp-a device to prevent house fires. Wilberforce founded the Bettering Society. What kind of scientific research needs to be supported today?
  7. Health care - Wilberforce supported advancements in health care. Not only was he a donor and governor of St. Bartholomew's hospital, he also sponsored Edward Jenner's research into small pox inoculations. What are some of the issues of health care in your community?
  8. Prisoner Rehabilitation and Re-entry - The number of prisoners in America during the last 30 years has increased from about 200,000 to more than 2.3 million, a ten fold increase. Much of this increase has occurred because of recidivism-more than 60 percent of prisoners who serve time and are released go on to commit another crime and return to prison. Prisons have become so crowded in Connecticut that prisoners are often transported to Virginia by an agreement between the State of Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prisons used to be a place of reform - that is the genesis of the word "penitentiary" - because prison was a place of repentance where prisoners would turn around. Voluntary faith programs run by Prison Fellowship Ministries have been documented to reduce recidivism by a factor of 4, but have not been broadly implemented to have big impact. There is a new movement called restorative justice, helping out the victim, which is a new concept in prison reform. The Angel Tree Program-- giving gifts to prisoners' children during Christmas-- has been one way for prisoners to tell their families that they love them while they are in prison. What could you do to help the rehabilitation of prisoners to help make sure they don't go back to prison again?
  9. Broadening Philanthropy - According to FK Brown, Wilberforce either gave or founded 69 societies, what we would call non-profits. He was a founder of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British and Foreign Bible Society. He also actively participated in these societies. He was a Patron of one, a Vice President of 29, a Treasurer of 1, on the committee for 5 and a Governor of 5. How could philanthropy be improved in your community with broader active engagement?
  10. Faith Leadership - Wilberforce helped establish the Church Missionary Society, London Missionary Society which sent Eric Liddle of the Chariots of Fire film fame to China and David Livingston to Africa and William Carey who founded a college in India. Wilberforce also wrote what became one of the most popular books of the day - A Practical View of the Religious Practices of the Higher and Upper Middle Classes as Compared With Real Christianity. It sold 13 editions in England and 26 editions in America. Wilberforce was able to keep on track by studying the Bible, by prayer and by focusing on Biblical principles of character. Wilberforce's character could be summed up in the character traits in Colossians 3:12-17 - Compassion, kindness, generosity, humility forbearance, forgiveness and love. How might you organize your friends and others to study the Bible, particularly character traits that improve the lives of others? What missionary groups should you support?
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