Amazing Grace

by Eric Metaxas
281 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Jeanne

An insightful biography and history with sexual and violent content in accordance with the times.


Metaxas chronicles the life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and his campaign to end slavery, not only in the British Empire, but also in all the powers of Europe.


Wilberforce's adult life was spent in attempting to make his "two great objects" - the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of 'manners' [society] - realized. To the best of his human ability, he served God and was considered by many the conscience of the nation, standing for what was morally right in a time and setting where politicians stood for themselves and their own profit.

As is necessary in a good history, Metaxas accurately paints the times - and thus there are many instances of immorality shown. Not only is there the whole issue of slavery, but there were also a hundred other immoralities in England that prompted Wilberforce to write his "second great object."

Spiritual Content

The book is written from a Christian perspective, and Metaxas writes about Wilberforce's conversion, his consistent morning devotions, and his love for God. The author also discusses the spiritual state of England at the time, and also the rise of Methodism. Such great lights in the history of the Church as John and Charles Wesley, John Newton, and George Whitefield were guiding forces in Wilberforce's campaign; Quakers played a major role in the abolition of the slave trade, too, as did many preachers and clergymen.

Wilberforce also presented bills to Parliament proposing that missionaries be allowed to evangelize in India, where they had hitherto been denied access.


The horrors involving the slave trade are discussed periodically throughout, and the American Revolution and the French Revolution both played a major role in Wilberforce's career. Lord Tarleton, a staunch anti-abolitionist in the House of Lords, was an extremely sick man and Metaxas mentions one of his cruelties during his part of the American Revolution - I won't mention it here. Also discussed is the practice of hanging criminals for a wide variety of crimes, petty and not-so-petty, and also of public burnings and dissections.

Drug and Alcohol Content

In his teenage years, Wilberforce struggled with both eating and drinking to excess. His friend William Pitt also drank rather heavily, and many of those both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords were alcoholics; Metaxas mentions that one of these men, Charles Fox, frequently showed up drunk in the House of Commons. The problem of the poor drinking too much gin is also discussed.

Wilberforce, being very sickly, took opium for his illness, and though he continued to take it for most of his life, it appears that he was never addicted to it.

Sexual Content

George III's eldest son (and the king's others, as well) was extremely licentious and reported to have had affairs numbering into the four-digit range. Metaxas briefly chronicles his separation from his wife, whom he married only for her money, and the fact that both had numerous affairs during this time comes up. Prostitution on the streets was something that Wilberforce fought to annihilate; the practice of child prostitution in India is also mentioned.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Mentions of diarrhea. Slave traders disguised dysentery in their slaves by various crude methods.


"Amazing Grace" is a moving and fascinating biography, and not only that, but Metaxas mixes in some humor to lighten the mood every now and again. Also, the author does not merely focus on Wilberforce's fight to end slavery, for which he is most famous, but he also writes about the other campaigns of Wilberforce's life. He includes the great work of Wilberforce's friends and that of the "Clapham Circle." It is a quick read and easily finished, but it is also educating and insightful.

Highly recommended for mature readers, especially lovers of history.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: adult

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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