William Wilberforce vs. Richard Allen

A week that saw us transition from the Round of 32 to the Saintly Sixteen, winds up with a matchup between a man who dedicated his life to the abolition of the slave trade and a man who was born into slavery. William Wilberforce and Richard Allen square off for a spot in the Elate Eight. Fair? Just? Of course not! Ridiculous? Absurd? Of course! It's Lent Madness.

Yesterday Martha of Bethany became the first saint to make it the Elate Eight as she left Nicodemus in the dark 74% to 26%.

We were also delighted to note that the three creative geniuses of Lent Madness 2019 did not relegate their talents to the first round. Sr. Diana Doncaster, Michael Wachter, and John Cabot have continued their hymn writing, show tunes, and limericks into the Saintly Sixteen. For however long the penitential creative juices keep flowing, legions of fans remain grateful for your efforts. Bravo!

We do hope your Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) symptoms are not too severe this weekend. If you begin to feel out-of sorts or find yourself staring at your computer screen refreshing your browser over and over again pining for Monday morning, we suggest binge watching old episodes of Monday Madness. Or attending church on Sunday dressed up as your favorite Celebrity Blogger.

But fear not. We'll see you soon enough as things get cranked back up again first thing on Monday as Ignatius of Loyola faces Marina the Monk.

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) dedicated his entire life to ending the trade of enslaved people in the British Empire.

Wilberforce was an evangelical Anglican. He was born again not once, but twice: once when he was a young man living with his aunt and uncle, then again when he was an adult, touring Europe with his friends, upon reading “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul” by Philip Dodderidge.  This second conversion experience made him deeply self-critical. He saw Christianity as a call to morality placed equally on everyone. (The strong social justice bent of the Methodist movement at the time was a heavy influence on him.)

This led him to champion ethical reforms, including allowing the dissection after execution of criminals—both to prevent the thriving blackmarket trade in corpses stolen from graveyards, and to allow greater learning by doctors and scientists about the miracle of the human body. He was in favor of Hannah More’s Sunday schools (originally intended to educate the lower classes, who couldn’t otherwise afford an education), better working conditions for chimney sweeps and textile workers, and prison reform.

Notably, he helped found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to the great joy of millions of cats and dogs everywhere. (He also founded what became the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but that does not have quite the Cuteness Quotient.)

He wrote, in 1787, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade, and the Reformation of Manners [moral values].” And indeed, Wilberforce’s accomplishment in abolishing the trade of enslaved people cannot be overstated. When he wrote the above, profits made from the “Triangle Trade” made up 80% of all British income from trade. (If you cannot recall your history, the “Triangle Trade” is the deceptively innocuous phrase that refers to the pattern of shipping enslaved people from the African continent to the Caribbean in exchange for sugar and rum, then sugar and rum across to England, then the sugar and rum would be sold in England in exchange for British-manufactured goods, which would be sold down to African slave traders.)

This campaign was both lengthy, and all-consuming. Wilberforce actually was so overworked that he made himself ill, and couldn’t even be in Parliament to propose the first law himself. It was also the first grassroots, worldwide human rights campaign. The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, founded in 1787 by Thomas Clarkson and Wilberforce, among others, brought together not only Anglicans and Quakers for the first time, but also abolitionists in France, Spain, Portugal, and the US. Chapters sprang up across the world, and members wrote pamphlets and letters to each other. The Society urged everyone to write their MP and sign petitions. Josiah Wedgewood even made a special logo for his china so everyone could show their support. It set the model for the modern political organizing we know. “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large,” he said.

Wilberforce died three days after being told that total abolition of slavery in the British Empire was accomplished. He literally gave his life to right a great injustice.

-Megan Castellan

Richard Allen

It has been well publicized that Richard Allen is the founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, work he began after he and Absalom Jones walked out of Saint George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in protest of its racist policies. However, his work extends beyond the founding of the first independent Black denomination in America. In a 2016 Religion News Service article, Adelle M. Banks suggests that Allen was deeply involved in the conversion of his slave master to whom he gave a gift after his manumission for his “uncommon kind treatment.” Even so, Allen described American Chattel Slavery as “a bitter pill, notwithstanding we had a good master.”

Richard Allen’s pioneering tendencies have led many historians to write about him, touting his feminism (before it was even a word that was coined) demonstrated in licensing women to preach and his leadership in the advancement of black institutions. Dr. Robert Franklin, President-Emeritus of Morehouse College suggests that “The birth of strong black institutions is a part of his legacy.”

Prior to his founding of the AME Church or any other prominent ministry, Allen was a Methodist minister on the circuit, preaching to white and black congregations throughout much of the East Coast, including South Carolina and Maryland. He writes that he was so dedicated to the ministry of a circuit-riding Methodist that at times his "feet became so sore and painful that I could scarcely be able to put them to the floor."

Prior to the walkout, Jones and Allen had begun developing plans to build a church for black Philadelphians to worship in. The idea was brought up to a white elder who attempted to discourage the work. Allen writes that he “used very degrading and insulting language to us, to try and prevent us from going on. We all belonged to St. George's church.... We felt ourselves much cramped; but my dear Lord was with us, and we believed, if it was his will, the work would go on, and that we would be able to succeed in building the house of the Lord.”

Nevertheless, Jones and Allen persisted.

-Marcus Halley

William Wilberforce vs. Richard Allen

  • William Wilberforce (68%, 5,096 Votes)
  • Richard Allen (32%, 2,389 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,485

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147 comments on “William Wilberforce vs. Richard Allen”

  1. His unceasing, inspired oration
    Helped Wilberforce win over a nation,
    And his actions unmade
    A cruel, barbarous trade:
    For these deeds he deserves acclamation.

      1. John Cabot really writes a great rhyme.
        And he hits the mark every time.
        His fan group is legion,
        Comes from every region.
        Proud to be saying this I'm.

    1. Another impossible choice!!!! Both men were simply amazing, by far outclassing most of the other candidates. We humans are so fortunate that people with such courage have come before us to help pave the way for a more just world. We just have so much more work to do!

    2. Both exceptional candidates! For me, I voted for the man fighting and working from the bottom, rather than from privilege. I think sometimes we regard those who gave up privilege more highly than those born without it. Either way, two amazing, godly men. And a great matchup, pitting two men opposed to slavery!

  2. We pay tribute to these saintly men with a song sung to the tune of "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street":

    Attend the tale of Wilberforce.
    Last round, he bested Lin Zhao, of course.
    The British people all know his name.
    He earned that by ending the slavery game.
    Became the knight on a white horse
    Did Wilberforce,
    For fighting for abolition.

    Rich Allen’s win to most did please.
    Defeated Hannah Grier Coome with ease.
    And what of white folks kept blacks from prayers?
    He started a church so they got their fair shares.
    Rich Allen.
    Rich Allen did.
    The founder of the AME.

    Cast your votes for Lent Madness!
    Choose your saint with pride!
    Think on the good works they did before they died.

    In Parliament, Will’s plans were made.
    Both Pitt and Clarkson came to his aid.
    His grassroots blitz was the first we’d seen.
    Who knew Ioan Gruffudd played him on the screen?
    For justice, he held the course:
    Will Wilberforce
    For fighting for abolition.

    Ordained Methodist, Allen was.
    Not a Pisky like Abs’lom was.
    Born as a slave. Bought himself free.
    Allen knew harshness that others can’t see.

    Allen prayed that his plan be blessed:
    Blacks should worship, not be oppressed.
    He started small. Then, the church grew.
    Allen’s was patient and saw it through.

    Lenten! Madness! Lenten! Madness!
    Madness!

    Attend the vote of Will and Rich.
    You must choose one with a fevered pitch.
    Which one will win? Well, some do say
    That neither would want us to give it away.
    Not Allen
    Nor Wilberforce
    Which one will move to Elate Eight?

    1. Tuning in this morning was worth just for "Not a Pisky!" Lol!
      No idea who to vote for, since both are so deserving, but I'll have Michael's tune going through my head all day!

        1. Okay, I'm just gonna say it: I know what a pisky is, but not in this context. Here's hoping I'm not the only one in the Lent Madness commenting public who does!

          1. Susan, when I first saw the word, all I could think of was the small Cornish equivalent of a leprechaun.
            Then the light dawned. Clever! I had never heard it used the way Michael did.

    2. Brilliant again! I appreciate the attention you give to all manner of details in your songs!

    3. I am of an older generation and do not know the tunes. Could we get some from musicals like Oklahoma or Gilbert and Sullivan or Jesus Christ Superstar?

      1. YouTube! I look it up if I don’t know it, and sing the lyrics with the version on YouTube. It’s wonderful to learn new musicals!

        1. Great idea, Susan. Lifelong learning is an important thing.

          As an FYI, there have been two from "The Sound of Music" and songs from "Porgy and Bess," "Mame", "Sweet Charity", as well as "Oklahoma!" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and blockbuster movie musicals, like "Grease," "Chicago," and "Annie."

          I choose the songs based on where the stories of the saints, creative inspiration, and the Spirit moves me. Right now, I hope something "comes floating on the jasmine wind" - but I cannot be too sure...

          1. Porgy and Bess is a great American opera. I was fortunate enough to see it performed by Dallas Opera while I was in college. I volunteered for them for about two or three seasons, and as a lfront of house volunteer, at that time, there was the perk of a free ticket for each volunteer shift worked. The best seat I ever got was for Porgy and Bess - third row center. (Which is a great seat for an Opera performed in one's own language, since reading the supers from that far forward would give one a kink in the neck from all the nodding.)

  3. A difficult choice, but I live in Delaware and have long had great veneration for Richard Allen. He needs a movie like Amazing Grace to boost his profile.

  4. Had to vote for William Wilberforce. The effect of his campaign to end the slave trade was worldwide.

  5. I could wear my William and Mary colors to dress as Megan. Andrea's mini-me child looks like her.

  6. I wanted to vote for both, but know the penalty of voting twice. Wilberforce got my vote because of his pivotal role in ending the slave trade, his wisdom in wanting to allow the dissection of executed criminals (a proposal that would be politically incorrect for entirely different reasons in today's society), and his role in founding the SPCA. His influence was widespread.

  7. Really tough today. Both men are very deserving of the Golden Halo. But I live near Philly, so I have to go with the Home Team choice, Richard Allen.

    1. Same here. I'm a displaced Philadelphian so Richard Allen gets my vote. And the decrepit public housing project named after him in Philly was razed and redeveloped years ago, thank goodness, as it was far from a fitting tribute to him.

  8. Love both of these saints, but my English roots are directing me to William Wilberforce!
    I love the song By Michael Wachter,are amazing! Have you written musicals that Imsouldmhave seen and heard and enjoyed! From Windsor, Ontario, Canada

  9. couldnt decide today. Both men are worthy of a win. I closed my eyes and hit a button. Wilberforce it is.

  10. Richard Allen gets my vote , as a black men championing blacks and females and all people his work was most difficult and his faith amazing and undaunted.

  11. My vote is for Wilberforce. . . surely a 'force' in his time for the benefit of all God's creatures, human and animal alike!

  12. I'm with Allen this round, but both are so deserving of the halo I won't be sorry to see either one go forward (but truth be told, it will break my bracket something fierce if Wilberforce wins the day, ah, well).

  13. Both are remarkable human beings.. in a way, the work of Wilberforce opened the door for Fr. Allen - so today Wilberforce gets my vote.

  14. William Wilberforce attacked so many injustices and cruelties in our world—I hadn’t known about his role in the founding of the (R)SPCA—at the cost of his own life, as our C. B. says of him—that he ranks with the reforming monks and friars of the medieval and early modern eras. If he makes it into the Elate Eight, I’ll say more about this.

  15. This was a difficult choice. However, it came down to my personal philosophy that to effectively address a “wrong” we must address the institution and change it-not flee from it.

  16. This is a hard decision. I finally went with the greatest good for the mostest. So Wilberforce gets my vote. I greatly admire Allen and his determination.

  17. William Wilberforce was a true force of nature. As much as Richard Allen did good work for many, William's persistence won freedom from slavery for the Empire. William for the win!

  18. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (www.rnli.org) is an amazing organization. Slavery, saving dogs and cats and keeping the shores of the British Isle safe - what a guy!!!

  19. It's Methodist against Methodist today. Despite the appropriation of the "nevertheless, she persisted" trope for the men, a crafty rhetorical ploy, I am voting for Wilberforce. His role in organizing against the slave trade was mighty and powerful. Not sure I understand the logic of the dissections of executed felons; it seems as though that would encourage more thefts of corpses for teaching hospitals. Those earnest Victorians could have spent more on sanitation than on dissection. However, schools for the poor and protections for animals win my vote. I read "Black Beauty" as a child and wept at the death of Ginger. "Only Ignorance" was a chapter basically filled with a sermon. Wilberforce for me today.

  20. I live in a house that has as many cats as humans . . . it is tempting to let them sway me to vote for the founder of the SPCA.

    But I have known of Richard Allen a little longer than I have William Wilberforce. And I have seen (the outside) of Mother Bethel in Philadelphia.

    If only both could advance.

    Both men had long reaching impacts, though it could be argued that William”s impact had a wider geographical scope.

    My minor at Southern Methodist was in Human Rights and William did help found the “first grassroots, worldwide human rights campaign,” and pretty much give his life for it.

    On the other hand we have Richard who made his soles sore bringing healing to souls via preaching the good news of the liberating Gospel of Christ.

    It is a tough choice.