Book Minute

Sign Up For Book Minute
February 22, 2021

William Wilberforce

The slave trade was so much a part of the global economy in the late 1700s that most people couldn’t imagine a world without slaves. Twelve men who could imagine such a world met in London in 1787 to form the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. They were soon joined by a young William Wilberforce. Charming, wealthy, and eloquent, Wilberforce had been elected to Parliament at 21 and experienced a powerful religious conversion a few years later. That experience led Wilberforce to wonder whether he should leave his political post. John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” referenced the biblical story of Esther when he told Wilberforce: “You are… instrumental in promoting the cause of God and the public good… It is [not] possible at present to calculate all the advantages that may result from your having a seat in the [Parliament] at such a time as this.”  Wilberforce made his first speech in Parliament against the slave trade in 1789. His struggle when on for nearly two decades, repeatedly introducing new legislation only to watch it wither and fail. Finally, in 1807, Wilberforce published A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade. It cites Acts 17:26, “God hath made of one blood all nations.” Wilberforce also appeals to basic moral teachings from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, such as loving the neighbor as oneself, or doing unto others as we would have them do to us. Later that same year, legislation finally passed abolishing the slave trade. Nearly 30 more years passed before slavery itself was outlawed throughout most of the British Empire. Wilberforce received the joyous news upon his deathbed, and passed away two days later.

Explore Other Book Minutes

Click Here