Amazing Grace (2006)
Go on! Go on, you lazy nag!
Stop a moment!
Wilber, you're not well enough.
For once, let it pass.
If you leave your horse alone
for an hour, he might recover.
And who the hell are you?
I've seen him speak in London.
That's William Wilberforce.
- Now what?
- Leave it.
- Welcome home, sir.
- You're so late!
The mud stole half a day.
But Marianne, look.
I have a surprise for you.
- I hope a pleasant one.
- Wilber. Wilber, is that you?
Oh, it is, half of me. My idiotic
body is playing games with me again.
- I promised we'd make him well.
- Eat something.
Not too early. I'm on holiday.
Isn't that right, cousin Henry?
Don't you talk to each other?
Haven't you told him he's killing himself?
Now he's with us, he'll be fine.
What time is it?
This is your 3 a.m. dose.
So, cousin, you're waking me up
to give me medicine to help me sleep.
Ah. Now you're taking on the medical
profession, as well as everyone else.
Did you sleep?
Sleep is more exhausting than being awake.
The laudanum will sharpen your dreams.
It replays my life to mock me and shows
me things I should have done but didn't.
Wilber, Parliament doesn't deserve you.
Your last bill was defeated because
four of your loyal supporters
took free tickets to a comic opera '
rather than stay to vote.
In my dreams,
I turned over their tables.
But you know the worst thing?
I can't sing any more.
You remember how well I used to sing?
Marianne and I will find a way
to restore your voice.
The Romans believed this water
would restore the dead to life.
Most pump water I've investigated
works in the opposite direction.
- What was so urgent?
- Did I say it was urgent?
Marianne, are you expecting someone else?
Inside this building, you will find
the secret of health and happy life.
In a glass of water?
You may have noticed,
since I married Marianne,
I have been a picture of health.
- I'm very happy for you.
- It is almost a scientific fact.
Marriage and health are twins.
Single men wither away and die
in rooms that smell of feet and armpits.
Henry, what are you babbling on about?
Come. Come, we're late.
The water has been here a million years.
How can we be late?
- So, what shall we discuss next?
- I don't know.
The abolition of the slave trade.
How about that?
Marianne, if I'd known you were so
starved of political conversation,
I'd have wrapped up a Tory and
sent him to your home by mail
for you to shout at.
Ah, now, look at that.
Here we are discussing the
abolition of the slave trade
and in walks my husband with
William Wilberforce himself,
the most committed abolitionist
in England and also, of course,
the most unmarried.
Oh. Look over there. It's Marianne.
And who's the charming-looking
woman with her?
- Marianne's here?
- Never mind about her.
Look at the woman she's with.
Very committed to very many good causes.
And also entirely unmarried.
Marianne, you're outrageous!
I do not need you or anyone else
to find a wife for me!
Carriage! Carriage over here.
- I'll never forgive him.
- I'll never forgive her.
However, Mr Wilberforce,
if we had met in other circumstances,
I would have told you how deeply
I admire your tireless efforts
to force our ridiculous Parliament
to abolish the slave trade.
If you had, I would have changed
the subject and talked about botany.
Botany? Why botany?
Anything but politics.
I'm in Bath to be cured of politics.
Well, I would have been bored by botany.
So, even in other circumstances,
it would have been a disaster.
- Good day to you.
- Good day to you.
Some simple truths about this horrendous war
need to be restated for the
benefit of my honourable friends.
Simple fact. We have the rebels
on the anvil and a hammer in our hands.
There is no question that our military force
is far superior to that of the Americans.
But we must distinguish
between force and justice.
Where did this terrier spring from?
I believe he's a Yorkshire terrier, My Lord.
...rather than able statesmen.
Surely it is time for the fat
fellow and his friends opposite
to make way for others who
consider the good of their country
of greater moment than their own personal interests.
Doesn't he know what dangers await
anyone who talks sense in this place?
Oh, I think he's equal to the dangers.
My honourable friend suggests
we surrender to the revolutionaries.
Revolution is like a pox.
It spreads from person to person.
I bow to my honourable friend's
superior knowledge and experience
in all matters regarding the pox.
Why would we withdraw from America
when half of the Americans are loyal to the Crown?
Less than one in four Americans are loyal.
If he calls that half,
I'd hate to be his wife and share half his bed.
Mr Foreign Secretary.
My honourable and young friend
should explain to the House
the difference between appeasement
The difference between appeasement and
surrender is merely a matter of time
and perhaps 10,000 more young lives
wasted for no reason.
Sweet Prospero, why hast thou forsaken me?
Brave in the House, but at the table a mouse.
Your Grace, you know these merchant
boys are richer than we are.
Aye. I have ten guineas left.
So ten it is.
In or out, Wilberforce?
- A pencil and paper.
- No, no, no.
Brooks's Club house rules. No IOUs.
Amongst gentlemen, perhaps,
but Wilberforce is a tradesman.
You gamble with what you have with you.
Wilberforce, will you take my IOU?
- We split the pot and call it evens.
- To hell with that. Payment in kind.
There's nothing you have I'd want, Your Grace.
Tarleton, fetch my nigger.
My coach driver.
Go and wake him up and bring him in now.
I bought a nigger in Port of Spain.
He eats better than I do, so he's strong as an ox.
He'd fetch at least 25 guineas at the West India Dock.
The game is over.
What's wrong, Wilberforce?
If I hadn't brought the boy to London,
he'd have been worked to
death in a sugar cane field.
I saved his miserable life. There.
I raise the stakes.
Wilberforce? In the game or out?
You act as if you'd never seen slavery before.
For me it's like arsenic.
Each new tiny dose doubles the effect.
- You're not afraid of Clarence.
- Because he's the son of the king?
So, you want
- "bloody noses and cracked crowns"?
- Shakespeare, Henry IV.
- A play about England changing.
- As it will soon change.- Only if we change it.
You don't believe you and I could change things?
I would change myself first.
Do you remember, Billy, at Cambridge
I had a reputation as something of a singer?
I do remember.
So I think I'm going to go and sing them a song.
You sound like a chorus of bloody tomcats.
Now, let me introduce you to
somebody who does it properly.
I dedicate this song to my honourable friend,
His Grace, the Duke of Clarence.
It was written by my old preacher.
He was captain of a slave ship for 20 years.
He repented his sins and
then he wrote this song.
# Amazing Grace
- # How sweet the sound
- Times are hard for the militant boys!
# That saved a wretch
# Like me
# I once was lost
# But now am found
# Was blind
# But now
# I see #
Dear God, I know this is utterly absurd,
but I feel I have to meet you in secret.
Sorry to interrupt, sir.
There is a beggar at the kitchen door.
I would turn him away, sir,
but you insisted I always check.
Just give him breakfast.
Very good, sir.
I know that lying down on the
wet grass is not a normal thing to do.
None of my business, sir.
Truth is, uh...
...I've been even more strange
than usual lately, haven't I?
I have 10,000 engagements of state today,
but I would prefer to spend
the day getting a wet arse,
studying dandelions and marvelling at bloody spiders' webs.
You've found God, sir?
I think he found me.
Do you have any idea how inconvenient that is,
how idiotic it will sound?
I've a political career glittering ahead of me
and in my heart I want spiders' webs.
"It is a sad fate for a man to
die too well-known to everybody else
and still unknown to himself."
I don'tjust dust your books, sir.
When I was 15, I almost ran away with the circus.
They said I could have been an acrobat.
- Good morning, Mr Pitt.
Excuse me, sir.
You read my letter.
The man who wrote that letter was not you.
It was written by some wild preacher
man that has gotten into your head.
- So did he reply?
God. You were going to ask God whether
you should take up politics or religion.
You're always too direct, Billy.
I urgently need to know where your heart lies, Wilber.
- What's urgent?
I'm planning to become prime minister.
- Some day.
- No, I mean soon. Very soon.
Thanks to your performances in the House,
Fox and North will resign.
Lord Rockingham will become prime minister.
Lord Rockingham's health is not good.
When he dies, I will make my move.
- You've worked it all out.
- I want you beside me, Wilber.
All the way.
You've read my letter but not taken in a word.
I would have you in my government
in whichever capacity you choose.
Billy, no one of our age has ever taken power.
Which is why we're too young to
realise that certain things are impossible.
So we will do them anyway.
I need an answer, Wilber.
Do you intend to use your beautiful
voice to praise the Lord
or change the world?
Here. Cut this, will you?
- I've got too much to do.
- You take care of them.
Any more flour?
- I can't!
- Put your elbow into it.
Marjorie, Mr Wilberforce is on his way down.
Marjorie, I'm expecting some people for dinner.
- She's been run off her feet, sir.
- How so?
Well, take today, for example.
You have 25 guests for lunch.
If you remember, you decided
to reward various volunteers
who worked for some quite
precariously financed charities.
Some brought deserving children.
Others brought less deserving relatives.
- I really should get some sort of...
- Diary, sir. Yes. Or more cooks.
Go on! Go on!
Is that the appetiser?
No, that's His Grace, the Duke of Clarence.
Wilberforce, the Reverend John Ramsay.
And Michael Shaw. Both friends.
- This is Olaudah Equiano.
- Mr Equiano. Please.
- You've travelled far to be here?
- No distance would be too great.
- And this is Hannah Moore.
- Mr Wilberforce.
Who has travelled all the way from Clapham.
Finally, let me introduce Mr Thomas Clarkson.
Beautiful house. Sweet little rabbit.
It's a hare, actually.
So come on. Who are they?
Why don't you ask them?
Well, I hope the goose is tender.
She was rather old.
I find the older I get, the more tender I become.
So, Miss Moore, you live in Clapham.
I hear it's very tranquil there.
When certain issues are raised amongst my friends and I,
it is anything but tranquil.
Ah. And, uh, which issues are those?
Issues regarding the making of a better world.
Better in which way?
If you make the world better in one way,
it becomes better in every way.
Don't you think?
Mr Equiano, what business brings you to London?
My business in London is you,
What? You wish to discuss something with me?
No. We do not want to talk
because we hear that you are
a man who doesn't believe what he hears
until he sees it with his own eyes.
These are for the legs.
These for the arms.
This is for the neck.
Works like so.
When the slaves leave port in Africa,
they're locked into a space four foot by 18 inches.
They have no sanitation,
very little food, stagnant water.
Their waste and blood fills the holes
within three days and is never emptied.
These irons and chains are to
keep them from throwing themselves overboard.
The chains are not unlocked
until you reach the plantation in Jamaica.
Around half of the slaves are dead already.
In the markets, they stuff knotted rope
into the anuses of those who are sick
to disguise the dysentery.
When you reach the plantation,
they put irons to the fire...
...and do this.
To let you know that you no
longer belong to God, but to a man.
we understand you're having problems
choosing whether to do the work of God
or the work of a political activist.
We humbly suggest that you can do both.
You planned this.
I've seen the literature you've been reading.
You've stooped to searching through my desk?
Sir William Dolben told me you'd
asked to be shown round the East India Docks.
So, you would use my private
concerns for your own political ends.
Yes, exactly that.
The principles of Christianity
lead to action as well as meditation.
Allow me to meditate on it
before I decide on any action.
Just think about this, Wilber.
The slave trade has 300 MPs in its pocket.
It would be just you against them.
But you could do it.
You would do it.
Oh, stop moaning.
Excuse me, sir.
Do you have a penny for a boy
that went to fight the Yanks
and came back half a man?
Hello, Mr Newton. It's me, William.
Hello, John. How are you?
Hello, John. It's me, Wilber.
I'm here to seek your...
The beggar at the door assures
me that I'm now old enough
to call you John.
You're dressing very simply these days.
I'm a simple man. I try to pretend
I am a monk, but I don't have the willpower.
I'm a monk Mondays, Wednesdays...
When I read your name in the papers,
doing these great things,
I still see a tiny boy with his hair a mess
and ink on his fingers.
So, what do you want with an old creature?
I'm here to seek your advice.
When you were a child,
you used to ask God for advice.
Then I grew up. And grew foolish.
Now... slowly, my faith is returning.
No bolts of lightning.
God sometimes does his work
with gentle drizzle, not storms.
Drip... drip... drip.
My friend William Pitt has declared an interest in me.
He's offering me a place in the world.
Just make sure you're in the world, not of the world.
There'd be no escape from power once I have it.
- I would have to see things through.
- Why wouldn't you?
Are you contemplating a life of solitude?
Wilber, you have work to do.
Besides, people like you too much
to let you live a life of solitude.
Haven't you chosen solitude?
You, of all people, should know I can never be alone.
- There now what?
- You're the reason I came.
You told me that you live in the company of 20,000 ghosts.
The ghosts of slaves.
I was explaining to a child
why a grown man cowers in a dark corner.
I need you to tell me about them.
I'm not strong enough to hear my own confession.
- I thought time might have changed you.
- It has. I'm older.
Pitt has asked me to take them on, the slavers.
I'm the last person you should come to for advice.
I can't even say the name of any of my ships
without being back onboard them in my head.
All I know is 20,000 slaves
live with me in this little church.
- There's still blood on my hands.
- Will you help me, John?
I can't help you.
But do it, Wilber. Do it.
Take them on. Blow their dirty,
filthy ships out of the water.
The planters, sugar barons,
Alderman "Sugar Cane",
the Lord Mayor of London.
Liverpool, Boston, Bristol, New York.
All their streets running
with blood, dysentery, puke!
You won't come away from those streets clean, Wilber.
You'll get filthy with it, you'll dream it,
see it in broad daylight.
But do it. For God's sake.
Sir, I have Mr Thomas Clarkson.
Mr Wilberforce was here a moment ago.
I'd better go and find him.
- Good afternoon.
- Sorry if I alarmed you.
I had this box made up in the
exact dimensions of a slave berth.
I thought you could use it
in your practical demonstrations.
Why did you wait until your butler
had left before you got out of the box?
They all think I'm mad already.
As will most people in the House of Commons
when I present my bill.
Wilberforce, conditions in Jamaica
are far more brutal than I could have imagined.
Many children are scalded to
death by the molten lava.
Others die of exhaustion or roll
into the fires in their sleep.
The result in the morning is a
few pounds of pure, refined sugar.
Wilberforce, are you all right?
Sit up for me.
Here, drink this.
- What happened?
- I read James's letter from Jamaica.
When I fell asleep, it was as if I were living inside it.
Perhaps the laudanum the doctor gave you is badly mixed.
I know the effects of opium, Henry.
- This isn't the medication.
- What, then?
I was chosen for this task and I failed.
Some part of me does not accept the idea that I've given up.
- I'll dilute this.
- Can you dilute what I feel?
You've given your youth and your health for this cause.
It's time to let someone else try.
So, Mr Wilberforce...
...I understand you have an interest in botany.
Botany, Miss Spooner? Whatever gives
you the idea that I might be interested
in something as tedious as botany?
Sorry. It's a private joke.
Now, Wilber, I know you're not interested in botany,
but there's a fascinating creeping
ivy up the far end of the garden.
Barbara, you really must go and see it too.
To irritate them, let's pretend to argue.
- What about?
- Something we disagree on.
Think of something.
The war in France.
I think we should settle with Napoleon right now.
So do I. Schools.
I'm a member of your movement for free education.
I agreed with every word you
said on the Dales factory debate.
You read every word?
- Neither did I.
- Replace it in the cities with beer.
I'm definitely alone in my opinions about animals.
No. I joined your society for the prevention of cruelty.
Well, I'm extreme. I have a pet fox,
a pet rat and a crow that can't fly.
I used to have a pet hare, but it died of kindness.
We must reassess the power of
the collective political process.
Oh, and, of course, we are agreed on slavery.
I'm against flowers in church.
What do you say to that?
I am for them.
As am I.
I shouldn't talk about the slave trade?
I've spent so many years talking about it.
So, what are a few more minutes?
When Mr Pitt first became prime minister,
the two of you were like meteorites
shooting through our imagination.
- Whose imaginations?
- Girls my age.
You stopped taking sugar in your tea?
I wore an abolition badge made by Josiah Wedgwood.
He was a good friend to us.
And I travelled 30 miles in the rain
to hear Thomas Clarkson speak.
- Did he deafen you?
- He opened my eyes.
- I met the African.
He came to town with a hundred
copies of his book. They sold in an hour.
- You signed our petitions.
- A hundred times.
A hundred times. Three million names,
a million candles to read them by.
- Must have been so exciting.
It seemed that every spring the daffodils came out,
every summer the cherries ripened
and every autumn William Wilberforce
would present his bill to the House.
- And still...
- And still...?
And still, after all the badges, the petitions,
all the speeches and the bills,
ships full of human souls in
chains sail around the world as cargo!
- This is why I shouldn't talk about it.
- I think you should.
There. We've found something we disagree on.
"Am I not a man whose soul is drawn to heaven
like water from the dark well of Africa?"
From Equiano's book.
He was a man like no other.
Please, tell me about him.
It seems to me
that if there is a bad taste in your mouth,
you spit it out.
You don't constantly swallow it back.
Not long after I first met him,
he asked me to come to the East India Dock.
He said there was a ship I should see.
A ship he knew well.
Thank you, sir.
They make you lie in this space.
The shackles dislocate your hip or your shoulder.
You are in pain all the way around the world.
How long is the journey?
Three weeks, if the weather is good.
For amusement, they sometimes hang the women from these,
by the ankles, to rape them.
In stormy weather, they take the very sickest
and throw them into the sea to lighten the ship's load.
How did you survive?
Your life is a thread.
It breaks or it doesn't break.
Before I travelled in a ship like this,
I was a prince, in many ways not unlike you.
It was a beautiful day like no other,
the last day I saw my home in Africa.
It is with a heavy heart
that I bring to the attention of this House
a trade which degrades men to the level of brutes
and insults the highest qualities
of our common nature.
I am speaking of... the slave trade.
I know that many of my honourable friends in this House
have interests in the Indies.
Others have investments in plantations.
Others are ship owners.
And I believe them to be men of humanity.
I believe you all to be men of humanity.
If the wretchedness of any one
of the many hundreds of slaves stowed in their ships
could be brought to view...
I can hardly believe my ears.
We can hardly believe your mouth.
It seems my young friend opposite
has a long-term strategy
to destroy the very nation that spawned him.
While I was in Virginia losing my
fingers in battle with the Americans,
he was busy appeasing them.
Now he would hand over the riches o
f the Indies to the bloody French!
If... If we didn't have slaves,
there would be no plantations.
And with no plantations, how
would we fill the coffers of the king?
Does my honourable friend
really believe that if we left off the trade,
the French wouldn't immediately
step into our place and reap the rewards?
All this food. There's only a
handful of people in there.
He's an optimist. Completely incurable.
Our defeat in the House
today was not unexpected.
But our intention was to
flush out the opposition
and discover how many people
would support us.
Yes, well, we certainly found
out who our friends are.
All 16 of them.
I... I sent a note of thanks
to everyone who voted for us.
How sweet of you.
Some of us know how to take defeat graciously.
- Something to with with breeding?
- On this occasion, it probably is.
Everything that is said at this
meeting is being taken down for our records.
My friend James Stephen has
agreed to be our secretary.
You were saying?
As you can see, not many MPs
have responded to our invitation.
Indeed, outside my own family,
there is only one: Sir William Dolben.
Sir William, what brings
you to this gathering?
I recently took passage from
Sierra Leone aboard a slave ship.
What I saw during those 15 days...
But I believe there are plenty of
others in the House who share your feelings.
- They're just afraid to show it.
- Shame on them!
No shame. No shame. Were I
the representative of a port city,
how could I tell those whom I represent
that I'm voting to end their livelihood?
How can human beings be commerce?
- It's exactly this pursuit of lofty...
- Nothing lofty about simple humanity.
Perhaps we should begin this
journey with the first step.
We are talking about the truth.
So we should hand it out to people.
Drop it from church roofs.
Paint pictures of it. Write songs about it.
Make bloody pies out of it.
There is a slave ship at dock in Tilbury
with twice the slave berths it is insured for.
I know that for a fact.
But how do we prove it?
- Dear God.
- Well, almost.
I've spent 18 months being torn apart
by you in the House, Mr Wilberforce.
I thought I'd find out what it feels
like to be on your side.
I see you've got plenty of food.
Any of you saints drink?
Well, this one bloody does.
Thank you very much.
Not fair! Not fair.
I'm not well. My belly.
What's wrong with your belly?
Besides, you're prime minister.
It is my ministerial duty to let you win.
So, what will we do with Fox?
- Put him in a box?
- Let him throw the heavy rocks.
- Provide the shocks.
- Put Lord Tarleton in the stocks.
Oh, if the House of Lords could hear
the idiotic way we carry on,
they'd ban anyone under the age of 30
from holding high office ever again.
Well, at least with Fox on board,
the world will know we mean business.
The world doesn't know yet.
Nor will it, not until we're ready.
You were born for this, Wilber.
Sometimes I get giddy.
Why is it you only feel the thorns
in your feet when you stop running?
Is that some sort of heavy-handed
metaphorical advice for me, Mr Pitt?
Yes, I suppose it is.
We must keep going, keep going fast.
Thank you very much.
Gentlemen, would you stop the music,
please? Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have
enjoyed our little tour of the estuary.
But now our sojourn is almost over,
I have a confession to make.
This trip wasn't purely arranged
to reward those MPs
who have supported me in the past year,
nor am I the only sponsor.
- What's he doing?
- Ladies and gentleman,
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.
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.
Remember that smell.
Remember the Madagascar.
Remember that God made men equal.
All that winter,
we spread out across the country
gathering evidence for Parliament.
Thomas rode to Bristol, Liverpool, Plymouth,
talking to men who'd worked the slave ships,
ships' doctors who'd treated them,
slaves themselves who'd been whipped and branded.
Equiano published his account of his years as a slave.
He sold 50,000 copies in two months.
Spare a coin, sir?
Our supporters began to only buy sugar
produced without slaves in India.
Or they stopped using sugar altogether.
It seemed our message was everywhere.
At least now there was hope. Real hope.
We had a year to collect enough evidence
to convince Parliament of our case.
The planters and the ship owners
began to spread rumours about us.
They called us seditious,
secretly working to bring down the government.
Clarkson sat in a coach to Birmingham
and overheard someone claim that
I'd secretly married a slave woman.
But the weight of our hope made
it all seem like glorious infamy.
How long have you been taking laudanum?
I recognise its presence.
My illness and my crusade were
born around the same time.
What is your illness?
The doctors tell me it's called colitis.
They don't really understand it, but I do.
You see, sometimes my stomach
gets bored of being a stomach
and decides it's a sailing ship.
Then my heart gets jealous and
decides it wants to be a see-saw.
And before you know it,
my lungs are arguing with one another
whether to be lungs or sponges full of seawater.
Well, at least that's what
I tell my nieces and nephews.
Marianne tells me you like children.
My poor father almost went mad
when I told him I'd stopped
taking sugar in my tea.
I was 14,
reading your name in the papers,
willing you to win.
I told my friends there was actual
slave blood in every lump of sugar.
Has this been so painful to talk about?
It's only painful to talk about
because we haven't changed anything.
But, unlike the slaves,
I have opium for my pain.
Begging your pardon, sir.
I thought everyone was in bed.
She brings the breakfasts.
What time is it?
Does it matter?
That year we should have won.
With the evidence we had collected,
by natural justice we should have won.
Winds blow ships from Africa
to the Indies naturally,
as if the route were blessed by God.
Another argument in defence of the trade
is that the Newfoundland fishing
industry is kept afloat
by the fact that slaves in the West Indies
consume that part of the fish
which is fit for no other consumption.
I do feel that if my honourable friend
continues to scrape the bottom
of the barrel for objections,
he is in danger of getting
splinters under his fingernails.
Now, if I may continue with my argument...
As representative of the great and flourishing
commercial town of Liverpool,
I must once again remind the House
that we have no evidence
that the Africans themselves
have any objection to the trade.
I have here an account written by a...
...which states that most slaves in the Indies
have a snug little garden with
plenty of pigs and poultry.
There are many poor families
in Liverpool who do not have as much.
Which... Which is why,
apart from a few mendicant
physicians and itinerant clergymen,
the ordinary people of
Britain are not at all exercised
by the whole issue of slavery.
My honourable friend, the member for Liverpool,
seeks evidence of people's concern.
In the past year, I and my
itinerant clergymen friends
have been gathering just such evidence.
We have taken a petition calling
for the abolition of the slave trade
to all the great cities of this country.
It has been signed by over 390,000 people.
However, this petition is not yet complete.
There is one more person who wishes
to add his name.
Mr Speaker, I humbly request a suspension
while we take time to examine the
signatures on this document.
There is something very provoking
in the calm way my honourable
friend seeks delay.
- Mr Speaker, will he not give way?
- Is the desolation of Africa suspended?
- Please, gentlemen.
- Is the work of death suspended?
- You bring petitions into the House...
- Mr Speaker...
...as if this country should be
governed by the rule of the mob,
- rather than its natural rulers!
That roll of paper reeks of rebellion!
No matter how loud you shout,
you will not drown out the voice of the people!
This session will be suspended
while the petition is examined.
My spies tell me that Tarleton and Coconut Clarence
have gone to see the Home Secretary.
- What would they want with Lord Dundas?
- He's one of ours, isn't he?
- Where does Lord Dundas stand?
- Probable, I think.
We have him down as a probable.
Last year he stopped the deportation
of a Jamaican slave from Scotland,
- so his heart's in the right place.
- Be wary of Dundas.
If he's capable of compassion once, why not twice?
What damage could he do if he's turned?
He controls the Scottish vote, 34 MPs.
We'll have to have faith in his integrity.
Where are you going?
To look up the word "integrity"
in Dr Johnson's Dictionary.
Prime Minister, Lord Charles Fox to see you.
You look more at home when doing
Prime Minister, your friend
Wilberforce doesn't play cards any more.
No. He resigned from all five card
clubs when he saw the light.
Pity. He was good.
Well, I think there's a hand you
should play for him.
- Against whom?
- Someone who stands in his way.
So name him.
Billy, did I not win enough money
from you on Saturday evening?
Really, I have no time for cards.
I have urgent business in the House.
As prime minister, idle gossip collects
around you like scum in slack water.
What have you heard?
Lord Tarleton's throwing East India Company money
at people who are speaking against abolition tonight.
Of course, no true friend of mine
would accept such an offer.
I appear to have three jacks.
I've always ensured that you have
been dealt a favourable hand.
- Are you threatening me?
- You are threatening our friendship.
It isn't money that has made me
decide to oppose Wilberforce.
His enemy is my enemy.
You are sleepwalking hand-in-hand with a bloody rebel.
Wilberforce follows no leader but
the preacher in his head.
How much were you offered?
The planters still have the king,
and I, at least, am still loyal to him.
Don't force me to put a pistol to your head.
Well, if you do, there will be two pistols,
one from each side.
And perhaps if I duck, you'll shoot each other.
First, let me be clear.
After long consideration and much consultation,
I am in favour of the abolition
of the slave trade.
There's no doubt in my mind that
this trade in human beings
is an almighty calumny and is a
disgrace to this nation.
However... I also take the point
of my honourable friend,
the member for Liverpool.
If we were to outlaw the trade tomorrow,
it would bring financial disaster
to many cities and industries in this country.
I therefore suggest a period of reflection.
After a year and a half of privy council investigations,
what good would it do to delay the inevitable?
Inevitable? Is my honourable friend
counting the votes before they are cast?
I didn't mean that.
If the trade were to be abolished,
I suggest that we do so gradually.
Violent storms sink ships.
This great ship of state must not be sunk
by a wave of good intentions.
They are cleverer than us, Thomas.
...outside the House of Commons, the mood is with us.
And what good is that?
I have friends in France.
Men of principle, like you and I.
- They bring me only good news.
- News of what?
They're certain it's coming.
In Paris they speak openly
in the streets of emancipation.
Freedom for all men, and women too.
The Americans pulled the cork
out of the bottle, Wilberforce.
Now the French share the wine.
You talk about revolution as if it were a safe thing.
It's just a word.
Every day we change things, by degrees.
You sound like Dundas! Gradually.
An imperfect order's better than no order.
We must fight for a perfect order!
I've pledged an allegiance to the king.
You know as well as I do...
the king is insane.
He shakes hands with oak trees
and claims he can see Germany through his telescope.
I know you have your loyalties, Wilberforce,
but underneath it you're more radical than any of us.
You see, you never doubt you're right.
What we say of the slave is true of the worker in the field,
the weaver, the miner.
Shouldn't they be free to prosper too,
instead of the fruits of their
labours going to men like Tarleton?
Men who spend their money on whores and comic operas.
Young girls debauched.
Soldiers forced to beg.
It's a natural wave that's flowing, Wilber.
First Boston, then Paris.
...you must never speak of revolution
in my presence ever again.
I'm going to Paris to see for myself.
Why don't you come with me?
Drink some of that wine?
Africa, your sufferings have been a theme
that has engaged and arrested my heart.
...no tongue can express, no language impart.
God has set before me two great objects:
The suppression of the slave trade
and the reformation of society.
The trouble is, Doctor, he doesn't believe he has a body.
Utterly careless of it. He, um...
He thinks he's a disembodied spirit.
Perhaps you should spend some time away from London.
- What's this?
- Laudanum, for the pain.
An opiate? No, no, no.
I need my mind sharp.
You need to rest.
My bill is before the House in three weeks.
- Would you leave us a moment, Doctor?
- Yes, Prime Minister.
It's now five years since you first
brought this bill to the House.
And each time we get a little closer.
Wilberforce, there are other MPs
who could carry the debate.
Who? Name one.
The only man I would trust is you.
I can't be seen to openly oppose the king
when the streets of Paris run with blood.
You've read too many lurid newspaper articles.
The French Republic plans to declare war within the year.
- On who?
- On who?
You're locked inside your own head!
Us, Great Britain, everything we stand for!
Considering the situation,
you mix with the wrong people.
- Who do I mix with?
- Clarkson, for one.
- Who introduced me to Clarkson?
- In different times.
They say in the cafs that Clarkson's a French spy.
And Equiano, they say he was born in Carolina,
and as an American,
therefore must be a revolutionary.
Others say they've seen with their own eyes
letters addressed to you from Thomas Jefferson.
- On matters to do with abolition.
- War changes everything.
- Even friendships?
- Especially those!
So you will keep your precious conscience intact
and let the rest of us do the war's dirty work.
Conscience is indeed precious.
I am warning you as your prime minister
that when war comes,
opposition will soon be called sedition!
This evening I would like to
return to the theme of abolition.
In these dangerous times,
it is easy to put aside our concerns for those in need
simply to confirm our loyalty to the nation.
But the issues of war and the
issues of slavery must not be confused.
Our fear of an unknown enemy must not be allowed
to erode our long-cherished liberties.
If this is to happen, how bitter will our history be?
We must not prohibit all political
discussion of political subjects.
The issue of slavery is not made any less important
by the unrelated issues of war!
In war or in peace, the buying and selling of human beings
is equally abhorrent!
This is not a seditious statement!
Where is your laudanum?
I'll prepare it for you.
No. No, I want to tell you how it ends.
I already know.
Your bills were easily defeated.
Equiano... died in his bed.
Thomas Clarkson found a cottage
in the hills to hide away in.
Charles Fox watched and waited.
The Quakers still sent their letters.
No one replied.
Is that the end of your story?
- You think not?
- Why not?
- Because after night comes day.
The people aren't so afraid now the
war with France is being won.
And when they stop being afraid,
they rediscover their compassion.
So the people have their compassion back.
And you still have passion.
That matters more.
- Good morning, Wilber.
- Get much sleep?
- Not much.
- What time did Barbara leave?
I mean, early.
I'm afraid I'm going back to London.
- So soon?
I think the waters worked their magic on me.
But I need to send a letter to James Stephen.
- To ask him to come back to England.
- For what reason?
To put his evidence before a select committee.
Also, Barbara and I have discovered
that we're both impatient
and prone to rash decisions.
But she wants to tell you about it herself.
Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin,
we will sing the hymn requested by the bride.
# Amazing Grace
# How sweet the sound
# That saved a wretch like me
# I once was lost
# But now am found
# Was blind but now I see...
- Delightful service.
- Thank you so much for coming.
How are you coping with the new kitchen?
"Great changes are easier than small ones."
- Francis Bacon.
- Well done.
- Have you forgiven us yet?
It'll be wonderful to have you both living so near.
I do hope you didn't come to Clapham for the tranquillity.
- We're very noisy neighbours.
- I'm counting on it.
- You have my deepest condolences.
- Thank you so much.
But please, I beg of you, do this for me.
Make him eat some of his pets.
- Oh, I rather like them.
- I like them too. In brandy sauce.
- If you'll excuse me...
- There's no need, Barbara.
You're discussing politics with your eyes.
You may as well do it with your mouths.
I, uh... didn't think you'd invite me.
Didn't think you'd come.
- You well?
- My mind's well.
The rest of me is fraying at the edges.
Billy, I'm going to try again.
It's your wedding day.
I agree with everything you say.
I never changed.
- I don't change.
- Well, hurrah for you.
The mood may even be swinging back in your favour.
How can we live in houses like
this when others are living in boxes?
Is that still sedition?
As your prime minister, I urge caution.
- And as my friend?
- Oh, to hell with caution.
When the slaves are flogged on the wharfs,
their arms are tied to a hook on a crane
and weights of 56 pounds
applied to their feet.
The crane is raised
so that their feet barely touch the ground.
The slaves are then whipped
with ebony bushes, comma...
...to let out the congealing blood.
I don't hear the nib scratching the page.
We have company, sir.
John, it's me, Wilber.
They only told me your sight was fading.
Well, now it's faded altogether.
I never did things by halves.
God decided I'd seen enough.
- So it's true.
- What's true?
- You're writing your account.
I wish I could see your face.
- How are you looking?
- The same.
- Still too thin.
- A little fatter lately.
She feeds you well then, this wife of yours?
- She's given me an appetite.
- An appetite to change things?
This is my confession.
You must use it.
Names, ships' records,
Everything I remember is in here.
Although my memory is fading,
I remember two things very clearly:
I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour.
You must publish it.
Blow a hole in their boat with it.
Damn them with it!
I wish I could remember all their names.
My 20,000 ghosts,
they all had names.
Beautiful African names.
We called them with just grunts.
We were apes. They were human.
I couldn't weep till I wrote this.
"I once was blind, but now I see."
Didn't I write that too?
Yes, you did.
Well, now at last it's true.
Now go, Wilber. Go.
We have lots of work to do, you and I.
"Strange treasures in this fair world appear,
strange all and new to me."
That is a poem by Thomas Traherne,
and I have absolutely no idea what it's about.
But when I was small,
I was made to learn it by heart,
so I don't see why you shouldn't suffer too.
Good God, he's got his voice back.
We need you back in London straightaway!
Hurry up, come on.
- You look fine. Fine.
- I look wet and feeble.
You, however, look disgustingly
like a lusty adventurer from a storybook.
Come on. I've got a coach.
The others are waiting for us at Palace Yard.
- Don't I get to wash or sleep?
You haven't changed at all, William.
I called this meeting to welcome
back James Stephen from the Indies.
But he should speak for himself.
I have here diagrams,
first-hand accounts and transcripts of trials
where innocent Africans have been
convicted of crimes they did not commit
and were then burnt alive.
There are pages and pages and pages
of first-hand accounts and figures and statistics.
On every island now, there are rebellions.
Haiti is in the hands of slaves.
And the slaves are anxious.
They're impatient for their freedom.
They hear about your work here.
I saw a woman and her child being beaten...
...in a coffee field.
Afterwards, I heard the woman tell her daughter
that someone was coming across the sea to save them.
She said it was King Wilberforce.
So this time, gentlemen, we must not fail them.
What is it, James?
- This is not a game for them.
- We know that.
What I mean is, it's not enough.
If we go to Parliament with this evidence,
there'll be sympathy, there'll be concern,
but it'll be just the same as every other time.
Have you come back to preach hopelessness?
No. No, I've had an idea.
In my law books I might have stumbled across something
and I want to propose it as a strategy.
Loosely translated, it means...
I don't care how important this is.
I'll finish my shot.
Oh, for God's sakes, what is it?
- We've decided...
- We think...
We've decided not to bring forward an abolition bill.
- Indeed not.
We're going to address the issue of
the use of neutral flags on cargo ships.
- How unutterably dull.
We're going to suggest that French cargo ships
sailing under the American flag of convenience
be liable to seizure by privateers.
Part of the war effort.
Patriotism, all that.
Since when have you been interested in the war effort,
patriotism and all that?
So... I'll continue with my game?
You don't see anything sinister in that measure?
- Then neither will they.
- What the hell are you talking about?
are flying the neutral American flag
to prevent them from being boarded by privateers.
If we pass a law removing that protection,
no ship owner will allow his vessel
to make the journey.
This will only apply to French ships,
That's the beauty of it.
Once any ship raises the American flag,
by law it is neither French nor British.
So our slave ships will be just
as liable to seizure as French ones.
The privateers won't care whose
booty they're taking,
as long as they're operating within the law.
Without the protection of neutral flags,
trade will be finished overnight.
But Prime Minister, we need to...
...tuck this bill away somewhere.
Disguise it. Oh.
I won't even get on my feet in the House.
This would still fall short of abolition.
With their profits cut,
half the slavers will be bankrupt in two years.
Then we'll pick off their MPs in the House one by one.
Whose idea was this?
Anti-French bill which is also anti-slavery.
Don't know why I didn't think of this any sooner.
But we can't let anyone know
that we're behind this.
Instruct someone to put this
bill forward who's seen as a patriot.
We don't want any fuss.
We just need someone really,
Typically, a French ship will change its registration
to raise the American flag and
pick up a cargo of sugar in Havana.
It will then sail to Carolina
or Virginia or Florida
or New York City or even Boston.
The cargo will then be unloaded onto a second ship
carrying the American flag and set sail for France.
As things stand,
neither the Royal Navy nor licensed privateers
have power to seize such a ship.
My proposition is
that all the ships flying the American flag
be liable to search and seizure
to put an end to this lamentable deceit
on the part of the French
and their Dutch and Spanish allies.
Mr Speaker! I believe the abolitionists
are coming at us at a side wind.
A side wind? What kind of side wind?
I'm not sure what kind of side wind.
I just know there's something going on.
- The Jacobites are in.
- The Jacobites?
Really, I do think you might update
your invective to reflect changing times.
Am I too late to call for an adjournment?
Of course you are.
Now, will you let the honourable gentleman proceed?
As I was saying...
...my proposition is that all ships
flying the American flag
be liable to search and seizure to
put an end to this lamentable deceit
on the part of the French, Dutch and Spanish.
- Jackson, get into the chamber.
- Right, sir.
Camber, chamber! Move your arse!
- What's going on?
- Just do it!
Where the hell is everyone?
Everybody's at the races in Epsom.
They were given free tickets.
I saved one for you.
A free gift from William Wilberforce.
What on earth is happening?
The poor maids are terrified.
- I'll bring your laudanum.
- No! No!
I've poured it all away this morning.
- Then I'll fetch more.
- No. I'm finished with it.
I can't even feel the joy of this victory.
This new baby will find me as myself.
- What will be his name?
- Who says it's a boy?
Just tell me some names.
Please, just keep talking.
William, if it's a boy.
Emma, if it's a girl.
It's... it's a boy. I'm sure of it.
- How will he look?
He will be strong with curly hair,
but dark, like yours.
- He's inside you now.
- Yes, yes, he's inside.
I can almost hear him.
He's singing to us.
Yes, he will have a fine voice like you.
Yes, yes, a strong voice.
And you will play with him in the garden every morning.
- And soon we'll have a girl and a boy.
And a girl and a boy and...
Please leave us now.
They tell me you're improving, Billy.
We cracked crowns, didn't we?
- We left the heads intact.
- Because we're so pathetically English.
- We have agreed on a succession.
- You're not gone yet.
I will be replaced by Lord Granville as prime minister,
and the foreign secretary will be Charles Fox.
Fox has already secured a guarantee from the palace.
They will remain neutral in the issue of the slave trade.
Next time you will be pushing at an open door.
I'm scared, Wilber.
At this moment, I wish I had your faith.
No more excuses now, Wilber.
Finish them off.
As you know, Equiano, I rarely drink.
But today's an exception.
Today we're drinking to victory.
Wish you were...
...here to see all this... unfolding.
Just one more push.
I say to this House that there is now no reason
why my bill should not be commended to the king.
And I urge my honourable friends
to vote once and for all
for the abolition of the slave trade
throughout His Majesty's empire.
They're taking the vote!
Here's the tally.
On the Home and Foreign Slave Trade Act,
the unamended bill calling for
the abolition of the slave trade
throughout the entire British Empire.
No's to the left: 16.
Ayes to the right: 283.
I declare the bill of abolition
of the slave trade to be passed.
What the bloody hell does that mean?
It means my nobility obliges me
to recognise the virtue of an exceptional commoner.
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
the slave trade is no more.