William Wilberforce Essay

883 words - 4 pages

Men, women and children, crowded in cramped quarters and denied basic rights such as water, breathable air, and food. The smell is horrendous and the surroundings intolerable. These were the conditions onboard a slave ship and the life of a slave during the passage from their home to a slave port. In 1787, William Wilberforce took on the seemingly hopeless pursuit of abolishing this trade. A great man is said to arise a leader when need occurs. William Wilberforce was a great man who did just that and who achieved the near impossible through his undying resolution to campaign and pass anti slave bills, passing the Slave Trade Bill in 1806, and fighting for the total emancipation the slaves in the British Empire.
The issue of the slave trade had very few public supporters, many supporters stayed quiet in order to avoid public hassle. The original abolitionists had campaigned across Britain; however, they had little support and no political power. In 1784 a Member of Parliament, by the name of William Wilberforce, became an evangelical Christian. His decision to do so led him to become extremely interested in the abolition of slavery. After being approached by the abolitionists, Wilberforce decided to accept the position of parliamentary leader of the abolition movement. William Wilberforce’s decision, in 1787, to pursue the abolishment of the slave trade would prove to be a long, hard 46 years that would eventually claim his life. In 1788, a bill was put forward by Wilberforce to regulate the conditions aboard the slave ships. This bill was initially rejected but was eventually passed in the House of Lords with a vote of 56 to 5. This early success was crucial and because of it, Wilberforce believed the abolition of slavery would come quickly and easily. Unfortunately this would not prove to be true. In the same year evidence was presented to a Privy Council. The abolitionists had covered over 7000 miles gathering evidence including slave statements, plans for slave ships and witnesses involved in the trade. The Privy Council session failed due to the witnesses being bribed. This failure and rejection would be the first time Wilberforce would face the type of treatment he would face for the next 20 years. William Wilberforce raised the issue of abolition in the House for the first time with his abolition speech in 1789. He stated
So enormous, so enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did [the slave trade’s] wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the...

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