It is the 30th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1758.
People around the world were in the early years of what Winston Churchill called “the first world war.” Known as the Seven Years War, in the North American theatre, it is known as the French and Indian War. By 1758, the British in North America had the French and their native allies on the run. While the War ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, fighting in America all but stopped by 1760.
While much of Europe was ensconced in the conflict, the Great Awakening was underway in America. Led by figures like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, it was, in some ways, the last gasp of Puritanism in America.
In 1758, there was also a smallpox epidemic in the colonies. While many distrusted the idea of vaccinations, Johnathan Edwards decided to make a public stand and receive a kind of smallpox vaccination. Unfortunately, the small amount of smallpox in the inoculation spread, and Edwards died.
While the 1800s can rightly take the name, the Emancipatory Century, many events in the 1700s laid the groundwork for the later movements. There were multiple slave revolts in New York. And the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina put slave owners on edge.
In 1758 Francois Mackandal was publicly burned to death in Haiti as punishment for his guerrilla tactics against his white oppressors. Coming from a predominantly Islamic West Africa, the one-armed folk hero may have been a Muslim. This and his use of medicinal and poisonous plants led to rumors that he was a kind of Muslim/Voodoo hybrid. While Mackandal was executed in 1758, the Haitian revolution 30 years later would carry on with him as a hero.
1758 was the year that saw the burning of the Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba. It was a Spanish mission in Texas for the conversion of the Apache Indians in particular. Not many Apaches made their way to the mission, but the purpose of the mission aroused suspicion in local tribes that thought perhaps the Apache were allying with the Spanish. Several tribes, hostile to the Spanish and old enemies of the Apaches, mainly the Comanche, destroyed the mission and killed all the priests but one.
There were a couple of comings and goings of notable folks this year. The aforementioned Jonathan Edwards and Francois Mackendal died. Noted Jacobite James Francis Edward Keith, a man with four first names, died this year as did James Hervey, the cleric and good friend of the Wesleys and William Blake. In 1758 Future statesmen James Monroe and Maximillian Robespierre were born as was the famous lexicographer Noah Webster.
And it was on this, the 30th of June, in 1758 that James Stephen was born. He would go on to become a leading British evangelical in the struggle for abolition. He can also be said to have had a hand in inadvertently starting the War of 1812.
James Stephen was born to a rabble-rousing father and a mother who died early. Stephen went to school, but his father’s troubles precluded him from finishing.
He was engaged to his childhood sweetheart but was also found to be having an affair. His fiancé, however, stayed with him, and they moved to St. Christopher’s in the West Indies, where Stephen became a lawyer. In the West Indies, he was shocked by the treatment of slaves. He contacted William Wilberforce, who not only helped him develop his abolitionist views and practices but also helped develop Stephen into a leader in the British Evangelical movement.
While Stephen had seven children with his wife, Anna, she would die shortly after returning to London. William Wilberforce introduced his eldest sister to James, and they soon married. Stephen became a part of the so-called Clapham Sect. Named after the town where the group met, this was a group of evangelical abolitionists nicknamed “the saints.”
In his work “War in Disguise, or, the Frauds of the Neutral Flags,” he successfully argued for the suppression of Atlantic trade by neutral parties. It slowed the transatlantic slave trade and stepped on the toes of the American industry and slave traders. This would lead to the all-important idea of impressment; that is, the British navy could commandeer American ships for their own military needs. This was one of the major causes of the War of 1812.
In 1808 Stephen was elected to the Parliament. He served until 1815 and spent the remainder of his life writing and pleading both the abolitionist and evangelical causes. James Stephen died in 1832. Born on this day in 1758, he was 74 years old.
The reading for today comes from a contemporary of Stephan, Jupiter Hammon, the first African slave to have poetry published in America. This is a selection from his “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries.”
Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry,
Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
We seek thy true Salvation.
Salvation comes from God we know,
The true and only One;
It’s well agreed and certain true,
He gave his only Son.
Lord hear our penitential Cry:
Salvation from above;
It is the Lord that doth supply,
With his Redeeming Love.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 30th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who needs no introduction. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.