The Man Who Stopped England’s Slave Trade
“God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners” – William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was one of the greatest abolitionists in all of history. He fought for what he believed in. He believed in freedom for all people, no matter what they looked like. He thought that all people are to be valued and that they are important, even if they were different. He spent all of his life trying to get freedom for slaves. He completely stopped the slave trade into England by The Slave Trade Act of 1807(sparticus.com). After stopping the slave trade act, he continued to pursue the freedom of slaves until his death (BBC.com). William Wilberforce was born August 24th 1759 in Hull, England. When he was nine his father died and Wilberforce was sent to live with his aunt and uncle. His aunt and uncle were active in the Methodist movement and supported their teachings. During this time, he met John Newton, who would eventually play a big part in his life. His mother disliked evangelicalism and when she discovered this influence, she brought him back to Hull. In 1776, Wilberforce enrolled in St. John’s College, Cambridge (Hague, 5-25). Not long after graduation, Wilberforce ran for election for Smith, 2
Member of Parliament, representing Hull. He was 21 years old. Although running against a strong political opponent, he won the election. This was beginning of his political career. He was the youngest man ever to be elected into parliament. (Tomkins, 33) Even with all this success, William Wilberforce was having a spiritual controversy. He enjoyed the usual pastimes of dinners, cards, and gambling that he had with his friends. (Hague, 97) Wilberforce was shocked by the behavior of his fellow students at the St. Johns College and later wrote: "I was introduced on the very first night of my arrival to as licentious a set of men as can well be conceived. They drank hard, and their conversation was even worse than their lives." (sparticus.com) He wanted clarity. He decided to visit a former tutor named Isaac Milner. Through the witness and influence of Milner, as well as by reading the Bible and another book, called “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul”, Wilberforce had a deep spiritual conversion to Christ. This resulted in profound changes in his life (BBC.com) After his conversion, he again sought out the man he met as a child in the Methodist movement, John Newton. Newton was a great influence on Wilberforce. It was during these times that Newton told Wilberforce about his convictions concerning the evils of the slave trade and how it needed to be stopped. This made Wilberforce interested in social reform and a desire to stop the slave trade. Wilberforce was seriously considering leaving politics and joining the church, but Newton told him that
God had placed him there for a purpose. Wilberforce stayed in politics and worked on fighting to stop the slave trade in parliament. (Pollock, 50-56) Wilberforce’s effort to stop the slave trade shows us the link between his goal for the abolition of the slave trade and his Christian faith. He did not try to separate faith from politics. For example, he wrote that “a principle of true religion [ie, true Christianity] should in any considerable degree gain ground; there is no estimating the effects on public morals and the consequent influence on our political welfare.” (Wilberforce, 422) Wilberforce thought he was given a responsibility to do what he could to see that true Christianity would take ground. With that, Wilberforce looked to the Bible for direction in all areas of life, including politics (Pollock, 145). He believed that social reform must have a biblical foundation, and that those who would attempt reform without this foundation would flaw in their efforts and in the end, do harm (Pollock, 87). William Wilberforce entered bills into...
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