When William Wilberforce died in 1833, one of those who attended his funeral was Anthony Ashley Cooper, later Lord Shaftesbury. In the words of biographer John Pollock, "Thus the two crusades and the lives of two great social reformers touched briefly and symbolically … an end and a beginning."

A few weeks earlier, William Gladstone, newly elected Member of Parliament and future prime minister, met Wilberforce for the first time. Thus Pollack could have written about three great reformers' lives touching briefly. For if Wilberforce was the greatest Christian politician of his era, Shaftesbury and Gladstone were the greatest of theirs.

Cold home

Unlike Wilberforce, Shaftesbury was a devout Christian when he became a Member of Parliament in 1826. He felt God had called him "to devote whatever advantages He might have bestowed … in the cause of the weak, the helpless, both man and beast, and those who had none to help them."

He didn't receive this faith from his parents, though. Born the son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury, he was raised in a home devoid of parental affection. Virtually all he knew of love he experienced through the kindness of a maid named Maria Millis. It was to her that he later traced the beginning of his evangelical Christianity.

Two years into Parliament, Shaftesbury commenced his efforts to alleviate the injustices caused by the Industrial Revolution, which included acts that

  • prohibited employment of women and children in coal mines,
  • provided care for the insane,
  • established a ten-hour day for factory workers,
  • outlawed employing young boys as chimney sweeps.

Privately he promoted the building of model tenements (on his own estate) and "ragged schools" for waifs. For years he served as president of the British ...

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