William Wilberforce (1759-1833)

William Wilberforce was an English MP at the age of only twenty five. He lived for a period of time with his uncle who had been one of Whitefield’s converts and he was enthusiastic about Jesus at that time. But his mother then removed him from his uncle and worked to remove Jesus from his life. However she failed although it wasn’t until the end of 1785 before Wilberforce once again started to serve Christ. Then Sir Charles Middleton urged Wilberforce to stop the Atlantic slave trade.

The slave trade was believed to be an economic necessity. It was a time that emphasized man’s inhumanity to man. Because there was money involved the Africans were not even considered to be human beings Very few voices, even in the church, spoke up against this evil. Fortunately there were a few exceptions including John Wesley and John Newton.

Wilberforce was under tremendous pressure whilst he prepared for the battle to come and it took eighteen years before compassion for human beings surfaced in the souls of the members of the House of Commons and, in February 1807, voted for the abolition of slavery.

Wilberforce became the moral leader of the western world. He encouraged Elizabeth Fry in her work in prison relief and Jeremy Bantam in prison reform. Wilberforce helped to found Bible societies throughout the country and he changed for the good the moral tone of British society.

However the Abolition of Slavery did not stop people throughout the Commonwealth from keeping and abusing slaves. It wasn’t until 1833 that Parliament voted to set slaves free throughout the British Empire. It was just in time to tell Wilberforce, gravely ill on his deathbed, that the cause had now been soundly won.

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