William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce 1759-1833

Biographical Points 

·         Born in Hull, became an MP for there, and then Yorkshire.

·         Brought up a Christian (‘Methodist’) relatives but was removed; became rather worldly but later was properly converted on a European holiday.

·         Entered Parliament; supported his best friend the Prime Minister, Wm Pitt.

·         Suffered ill-health throughout life, had poor eyes

·         Spent much of his life exhausted

·         Died rather poor; gave much money away each year and paid for his son’s business failures


·         Christianity should affect one’s actions

·         African slavery was a cruel, chattel slavery, not justifiable from the Biblical texts.

·         A revival of Christianity would revive the nation and its morals.

·         Much which passed as Christianity in his day was worthless.

Achievements (with others):

·         Society for the Reformation of Manners > Society for the Suppression of Vice

·         Slave Trade Act of 1807

·         Church Mission Society

·         Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

·         Royal national Lifeboat Institution

·         Slavery Abolition Act 1833


If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.

God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.

When we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God? Sir, the nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance, we can not evade it; it is now an object placed before us, we can not pass it; we may spurn it, we may kick it out of our way, but we can not turn aside so as to avoid seeing it; for it is bro directly before our eyes that this House must decide, and must justify to all the world, and to their own consciences, the rectitude of the grounds and principles of their decision, House of Commons, 1789.

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 labour, 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 dishonour to this country.

Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

The gospel freely admitted makes a man happy. It gives him peace with God, and makes him happy in God. It gives to industry a noble, contented look which selfish drudgery never wore; and from the moment that a man begins to do his work for his Saviour's sake, he feels that the most ordinary employments are full of sweetness and dignity, and that the most difficult are not impossible. And if any of you, my friends, is weary with his work, if dissatisfaction with yourself or sorrow of any kind disheartens you, if at any time you feel the dull paralysis of conscious sin, or the depressing influence of vexing thoughts, look to Jesus, and be happy. Be happy, and your joyful work will prosper well.

I hoped that it would please God to enable the friends of Christianity to be the instruments of wiping away what I have long thought, next to the slave trade, the foulest blot on the moral character of our countrymen, the suffering of our fellow-subjects — nay, they even stand towards us in the closer relation of our tenants — in the East Indies to remain, without any effort on our part to enlighten and reform them, under the grossest, the darkest, and most depraving system of idolatrous superstition that almost ever existed on earth.

All men of enlightened understandings, who acknowledge the moral government of God, must also acknowledge, that vice must offend and virtue delight him. In short they must, more or less, assent to the Scripture declaration, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”



·         Social conservatism;

·         too cautious at times;

·         less concerned about domestic poverty and oppression.