William Wilberforce

 

 

 

“So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the slave trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”


Hello, Anglos! Welcome to the final week of blogging! Come to my desk if you need tissues. I’m going to wrap up my blog by perhaps introducing you to and definitely increasing your urge to research William Wilberforce. You’ll notice that he’s about 50 years too late to be a part of the Stuart Dynasty, but I’ve known I wanted to do a post about him forever.

You all know who Abraham Lincoln is. Every single one of you.  But how many know Wilberforce? You really should. He’s the British version of Lincoln, and W.W. was actually a great inspiration to Honest Abe.  Let me tell you his story:

Wilberforce was born in Hull. If you don’t know where that is, too bad. No, I’m just kidding. It’s in Yorkshire. If you don’t know where Yorkshire is…picture me looking at you in a way that makes you squirm.  Okay, go to London, shoot up north until you’re practically in Scotland, and you’re there. He was a handful in school and was notoriously charming, if lazy. He was initially in Parliament just to be in Parliament, but on Easter of 1756, he had a conversion moment and became a dedicated Christian. He gave up swearing and wine and took the cross of ending slavery.

Wilberforce was initially optimistic, even stupidly so. He expressed “no doubt” about his chances of a rapid success. As early as 1789, he  managed to have 12 resolutions against the slave trade introduced—only to be outmaneuvered each time. Other bills introduced by Wilberforce were defeated in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805.

When it became clear that Wilberforce was not going to let the issue die, pro-slavery forces targeted him. He was vilified. Friends feared for his life. It was difficult to vilify Wilberforce to anyone who knew of him. In fact, Wilberforce.was at one time active in supporting 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. A regular Cruella de Vil, no? AND All this in spite of the fact that poor health plagued him his entire life, sometimes keeping him bedridden for weeks.

His antislavery efforts finally bloomed in 1807. Parliament abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. He then worked to ensure the slave trade laws were enforced and, once and for all, that slavery in the British Empire was abolished. Wilberforce’s health prevented him from totally completing his work, though he heard three days before he died that the final passage of the emancipation bill was ensured in committee. (Also sounds a bit like Lincoln, eh?)

So, please please please do not forget this wonderful man. He is just as deserving of memory as Abraham Lincoln. Ok, Anglos. I guess that’s that. I need some Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s and a sleeping pill/

To end this glorious blogging experience that we all undertook together, I give you this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpICjB2X0DI

One response to “William Wilberforce

  1. This is so interesting! I never really learned about the politics surrounding the abolition of slavery in England, only in the United States. Did Wilberforce take a very radical stance on slavery like Thaddeus Stevens? Or did he work on a more compromising stance to help ensure the measures would pass?

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