William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833)
William was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire (1784–1812). In 1785, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform. In 1787, he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists, including Granville Sharp, Hannah More and Charles Middleton. They persuaded Wilberforce to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education.
He championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In later years, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to his friend William Pitt.
Here are ten powerful quotes from Wilberforce
1. “No one expects to attain to the height of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory, without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance. Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry.”
2. “My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”
3. “Great indeed are our opportunities; great also is our responsibility.”
4. “What plea can we have to urge in our defense, if we remain willingly and obstinately ignorant of the way which leads to life with such transcendent means of knowing it?”
5. “Ingratitude sickens the heart, and chills and thickens the very life’s blood of benevolence.”
6. “It is the distinguishing glory of Christianity not to rest satisfied with superficial appearances, but to rectify the motives, and purify the heart.”
7. “Our enmities soften and melt away; we are ashamed of thinking much of the petty injuries which we may have suffered, when we consider what the Son of God, ‘who did no wrong, neither was guile found in his mouth,’ patiently endured.”
8. “Christ should be a Christian’s delight and glory. I will endeavor by God’s help to excite in myself an anxiety and longing for the joys of heaven . . .”
9. “Christianity recognizes no innocence or goodness of heart, but in the remission of sin, and in the effects of the operation of divine grace.”
10. “Wherever we direct our view, we discover the melancholy proofs of our depravity; whether we look to ancient or modern times, to barbarous or civilized nations, to the conduct of the world around us, or to the monitor within the breast; whether we read, or hear, or act, or think, or feel, the same humiliating lesson is forced upon us.”