Monday, 20 May 2013

William Wilberforce

Recently we have studied William Wilberforce. He has earned his place in the history for playing a very  important part in the abolition of the slave trade. The slave trade was an abominable trade of african men and women, who were cruelly taken from their homeland, packed extremely tightly in the hulls of ships and left there for the whole voyage. They were never allowed to leave the ship's hull to go the toilet or breathe in fresh air, and by the time the ship reached its destination, half the slaves were dead.

The slaves were then sold to wealthy sugar plantation owners, branded with a red hot iron and sent to work on the sugar plantations toiling in the hot sun to make sugar, cutting their hands badly all the time and being whipped by their merciless owners.

William Wilberforce was born in Hull, the son of a wealthy merchant. When he was a child his father died and he had to live with his aunt and uncle in London. While he was there he started to attend church services and talked to John Newton, a former slave ship owner who had realised how bad the slave trade was and campaigned against it. Wilberforce was considering becoming a Christian. When his mum heard he was going to church he was instantly taken back to Hull.  Soon, he had gave up being a Christian.

Wilberforce studied at Cambridge University and while he was there he started a friendship with another student that would last until this student's death in 1806. The student's name was William Pitt.

When William Wilberforce graduated from Cambridge University, he became member of parliament for Hull. William Pitt became a member of parliament too and soon afterwards became Prime Minister. He also became a campaigner against the slave trade alongside Wilberforce.

William Wilberforce was helped by his good friend  and former school master Isaac Milner to become a Christian in 1784. 

In 1787, he was encouraged by Thomas Clarkson, a campainer against slavery, to embark on the greatest challenge of his life, the abolition of Slavery. To pass a law in parliament, it has to be agreed by a majority of  MPs. However, almost all the people in Parliament where involved in the slave trade and they weren't going to give up their money (or their sugar) so easily. Wilberforce and other campaigners had a difficult job ahead of them. 

After 18 years of putting bills into parliament, collecting facts about the slave trade and signing petitions, in 1807 slavery was finally abolished in all British dominions. By then Wilberforce was married to Barbara Ann Spooner, with whom he had six children. 

Wilberforce was an incredible man who used his talents, being very persuasive and having a strong voice for an excellent cause. I hope he will always be remembered.

The statue of William Wilberforce at St John's College, Cambridge

1 comment:

  1. This is a great report on William Wilberforce Jacob. You obviously learned a lot about him. Love Grandad