"Remember that God made men equal."
These are the words spoken by the main character, William Wilberforce, in the film "Amazing Grace", released in 2006.
The title of the film is taken from the classic song 'Amazing Grace', which everyone has probably heard at least once.
"Amazing Grace" was written by John Newton, an English clergyman and poet, in 1772.
John Newton, who also appears as a supporting character in the film, was originally the captain of a cargo ship carrying slaves.
After leaving the slave trade, Newton repented of his previous sins as a slave trader, became an abolitionist and clergyman, and created this well-known 'Amazing Grace'.
The slave trade, initiated by Europeans in the 15th century, is said to have resulted in an estimated 11 million or more African men, women and children being taken as slaves to the West Indies and American colonies by the end of the 18th century.
People were transported as slaves from African ports to colonial plantations, bound with iron chains all over their bodies to prevent them from throwing themselves overboard, confined in cramped spaces on board ships with no sanitation facilities, given little food and murky water, and forced to live with life-threatening violence.
The chains were not released until they reached the plantation, and about half the people were already dead when they arrived.
When they arrived at the plantations, they were all branded on the chest and many lost their lives as a result of the gruelling labour.
And many children who were forced to work on the plantations lost their lives through burns or died from overwork in the course of the hard labour required to produce purified sugar.
In the late 18th century, this inhumane practice was not widely known to the public and the slave trade was taken for granted in society at the time.
It was also a time when few people dared to speak out against slavery.
Based on true events, this is an inspiring portrayal of the hardships and efforts of those who challenged head-on the inhumane slavery that deprived people of their dignity in those times and fought courageously and tirelessly for the passage of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill.
One of these courageous people was William Wilberforce, the British politician and philanthropist who is the protagonist of this film and who played a central role in the campaign to abolish the slave trade.
At the time, the British Parliament was dominated by politicians who had made their fortunes in the slave trade, so initially few people agreed with him.
Wilberforce sings 'Amazing Grace' in front of a group of royalist MPs who treat slaves as if they were their own property rather than human beings, while paying tribute to author John Newton.
And his beautiful voice overwhelms everyone present.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch
I once was lost
But now am found
- John Newton
Wilberforce has a powerful ally in his life.
It was his best friend William Pitt, who would later become Prime Minister at a young age.
Pitt urges Wilberforce, who was about to quit politics and devote his life to the clergy, to resolve to lead the abolition of slavery as a politician, saying,
“Do you intend to use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord or change the world?”
The film contains many lines and witty scenes that touch the heartstrings of people.
One day, Wilberforce and his colleagues invite members of Parliament and their wives on an exploratory tour by boat around an inlet where many ships are anchored, and after thoroughly entertaining them with live music, etc., the boat they are on is moved to the front of a slave ship.
Emerging on the deck of the slave ship, Wilberforce addresses them, saying.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a slave ship. The Madagascar.
It has just returned from the Indies where it delivered 200 men, women and children to Jamaica.
When it left Africa, there were 600 on board.
(Members of Parliament and their wives cannot stand the smell and start covering their noses with handkerchiefs.)
The rest died of disease or despair.
That smell is the smell of death.
Slow, painful death.
Breathe it in.
Breathe it deeply.
Take those handkerchiefs away from your noses.
(All remove handkerchiefs from noses.)
Remember that smell.
Remember the Madagascar.
Remember that God made men equal."
- William Wilberforce
in the film 'Amazing Grace'
And finally, after a long struggle, the time has come for the Slave Trade Abolition Bill to be passed.
One of the highlights was the speech made by Charles James Fox, who fought alongside Wilberforce, after the Chairman had announced the passage of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill in Parliament.
"When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon.
Men of violence.
Rarely do they think of peaceful men.
But contrast the reception they’ll receive when they return home from their battles.
Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power.
A man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition.
Yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war.
William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember “the slave trade is no more”."
- Charles James Fox
in the film 'Amazing Grace'
What we humans often forget is the unshakable fact that God made human beings equal.
There is no superiority or inferiority in human skin colour, physical appearance, nationality, age, gender, ability, status or occupation; nor is there anything above or below.
Many people are subconsciously aware of this, yet remain unable to let go of their habits of superiority and hierarchy, such as comparing themselves to someone else, feeling that they are better than someone else or that someone else is better than them, and being bossy towards people of lower status or inexperience, but flattering to those of higher status or more experience.
And slave societies, with those who dominate and those who are dominated, still exist today in different forms.
Why can't we humans stop these habits?
Metaphysics is a theoretical and practical solution to such mysteries, and furthermore, it enables us to 'remember for ourselves what is really right', rather than just understanding the fact that 'God made men equal' in our minds as knowledge.
That slavery, which many people now recognise as clearly wrong, was supported by most people 250 years ago.
That the fact that "God made men equal" has never changed and never will.
What is Metaphysics?
Celtic Woman - Amazing Grace