The History of William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce is considered one of the biggest heroes in the anti-trafficking movement. Seriously, if you Google "Human trafficking quotes," one of the top results you will find comes from Wilberforce. But why is he such a revered individual? What significance does he have when it comes to human trafficking? William Wilberforce was one of the main individuals responsible for ending the slave trade, then slavery, in England. His life is certainly an incredible one, as well as an interesting and inspiring one.

William Wilberforce was born into a wealthy family. Wilberforce was considered a troublemaker. He never took his studies seriously, as his "neighbor" (or roommate) in college would share: "When he [Wilberforce] returned late in the evening to his rooms, he would summon me to join him…. He was so winning and amusing that I often sat up half the night with him, much to the detriment of my attendance at lectures the next day." However, William had an interest in politics. In the 1780s, Wilberforce would run for Parliament at the age of 21, and won. Sadly, Wilberforce began to realize his life was seemingly pointless. Why was he involved in politics? What was the point of life? These were some of the questions he pondered. Wilberforce began to do some self-reflection, where he would learn the truth of the Gospel, and accepted Christ into his life in the late 1780s. 

Still unsure what he was to do in life, Wilberforce sought out John Newton, the hymn writer famous for Amazing Grace. Wilberforce was prepared to leave politics and seek out Christ. Newton, before converting to Christianity, was a well-known salve trader. John Newton convinced William to not leave politics, and to use his position to make an impact against slavery. Already having knowledge of the slave trade, Wilberforce agreed. He also wrote his mission statement"God Almighty has placed before me two great Objects: - the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners."

What Wilberforce wasn't prepared for was the long fight ahead of him. It's no different from today. Modern day slavery provides economic benefit. When politicians' economic benefit is endangered, they won't easily let go. This is what Wilberforce was fighting. For roughly 20 years, Wilberforce would write bills, with the help of his longtime friend, William Pitt, only to have these bills defeated. Wilberforce eventually retired in 1807, due to his consistent health problems.

While serving in politics, Wilberforce also worked on his other calling, in addition to ending the slave trade: the "reformation of manners." Wilberforce was involved in several philanthropic causes, earning him the nickname "prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropists." Some say he was involved with nearly 70 causes! Wilberforce's work in ending the slave trade would come to a head soon.

In 1807, Parliament voted to abolish the slave trade in England. Wilberforce also helped to end slavery for good. He learned that an Emancipation bill was being written called the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. Sadly, William Wilberforce passed away on July 29th, 1833. 

William's work in fighting the slave trade is incredible. He never gave up. He fought for what he believed in. This is something we can all relate to. I hope you found his story as intriguing and inspiring as I did. 

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