Thursday, July 29, 2010

William Wilberforce (1759- 1833)

William Wilberforce

Let us not despair; it is a blessed cause, and success, ere long, will crown our exertions. Already we have gained one victory; we have obtained, for these poor creatures, the recognition of their human nature, which, for a while was most shamefully denied. This is the first fruits of our efforts; let us persevere and our triumph will be complete. Never, never will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, under which we at present labor, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonor to this country.
William Wilberforce,
speech before the House of Commons, 18 April 1791

A British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of  Kingston upon hull, Yorkshire,  Wiberforce was a small sickly delicate child with poor eye sight. In 1776 the deaths of his grandfather and uncle left him independently wealthy.In stead of applying himself to his studies he pursued a hedonistic lifestyle. He was extremely popular.
He began his political career in 1780 and became the independent member of parliament for Yorkshire (1784–1812). In 1785, he underwent a conversion experience and became an Christian, resulting in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform

He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807.

 Wilberforce advocated legislation to improve the working conditions for chimney-sweeps and textile workers, engaged in prision reform, and supported campaigns to restrict capital punishment and the severe punishments meted out under the Game Laws. He recognized the importance of education in alleviating poverty, and when Hannah More and her sister established Sunday school for the poor in Somerset and the Mendips, he provided financial and moral support as they faced opposition from landowners and Anglican clergy.

Wilberforce was generous with his time and money, believing that those with wealth had a duty to give a significant portion of their income to the needy. Yearly, he gave away thousands of pounds, much of it to clergymen to distribute in their parishes. He paid off the debts of others, supported education and missions, and in a year of food shortages gave to charity more than his own yearly income. He was exceptionally hospitable, and could not bear to sack any of his servants. As a result, his home was full of old and incompetent servants kept on in charity. Although he was often months behind in his correspondence, Wilberforce responded to numerous requests for advice or for help in obtaining professorships, military promotions, and livings for clergymen, or for the reprieve of death sentences.

 On 26 July 1833, Wilberforce heard of government concessions that guaranteed the passing of the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery. The following day he grew much weaker, and he died early on the morning of 29 July at his cousin's house in Cadogan Place, London. One month later, the House of Lords passed the Slavery Abolishion Act, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire from August 1834.

Various churches within the Anglican Church commemorate Wilberforce in their liturgical calendars.. Wilberforce is honored together with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on July 30.

Living Water link to Patrick's Letter to Coroticus

This Letter is an especially important document because it shows St. Patrick as the first to speak out against slavery and in defense of women.

Living Water links to Justice Issues articles

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