William Wilberforce’s legacy

William Wilberforce

Early reluctance, later tenacity

William Wilberforce was born on 24th August 1759 in Kingston upon Hull. He became an independent MP for Yorkshire in 1784 and kept his seat in Parliament for 28 years. His name is synonymous with the 18th century campaign for the abolition of the slave trade.

William Wilberforce though was not the initiator of the campaign. The fight to end one of the great injustices in human history was first picked up by Quakers. As their campaign became more widely known, more people from a broad spectrum of society followed. These men and women were mainly non-conformist and evangelical Anglicans, motivated by their strong Christian beliefs. Wilberforce, although deeply moved by the matter, was reluctant getting involved in the campaign and become its voice in Parliament. It took nearly 5 years until he would set matters in motion.

From 1791 and onwards, Wilberforce tirelessly presented his bills in parliament. Year after year they were defeated or ran out of time, until 16 years after his first attempt the Slave Trade Act of 1807 was finally passed.

A timeless role model

His initial reluctance was outshone by his determination and endurance during those 16 years and until today, the name William Wilberforce is associated with bravery and tenacity.
With speaking up for those who had no voice.
With going against the mainstream.
With challenging complacency and indifference.
With being willing to be unpopular for the sake of doing what is right.

William Wilberforce reminded society that right and wrong are not subject to trends or opinions, but unmoveable standards deeply rooted in God’s truth.

Today in 2018, an estimated 20 to 70 million people are enslaved worldwide, 10,000 to 100,000 of them in Britain.

*The feature image is of the Buxton memorial fountain in Victoria Tower Gardens, one of the very few memorials to the abolitionists found in London. A memorial of Wilberforce can be seen inside Westminster Abbey and his portrait is still on display in the National Portrait Gallery, until it will be sent to his hometown Hull in 2019.