Resist - William Wilberforce
*On 12 May 1789 [William Wilberforce] introduced a bill for the abolition of slave trade with a stirring three-and-a-half hour speech moving twelve resolutions against the trade. Reports describe it as the most gripping and moving speech ever delivered in parliament. Wilberforce’s friend, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, declared that Wilberforce had “the greatest natural eloquence of all the men I ever knew.”
Most of the members of parliament were convinced of the righteousness of Wilberforce’s arguments, but they were fearful that abolition would result in an economic disaster…and Wilberforce’s bill was defeated. [Soon after] Wilberforce became the target of scurrilous smear campaigns in the media. He was physically assaulted and even the target of attempted murder. Yet, he persevered, and after a lifetime crusade his steadfastness was rewarded with the liberation of all slaves in the British Empire.
The extraordinary tenacity which William displayed throughout forty-six years of legislative warfare is an epic of parliamentary perseverance. For the first twenty years of this campaign he was rejected by most of his friends, vilified by his enemies, and forsaken even by most churchmen. Every year he would reintroduce bills against slavery and each year faced defeat. His marathon resilience was all the more remarkable when one understands that William was short, frail, frequently sick and afflicted with poor eyesight. He suffered from lung problems and developed a curvature of the spine which forced him, for the last eighteen years of his life, to wear a steal and leather girdle as a brace beneath his clothes. Yet, he more than made up for his weak body with his vigorous mind and boundless energy. He was not only an eloquent speaker, but a generous friend and was compassionate to strangers.
His adversaries complained that Wilberforce jumped up whenever they knocked him down. He was a man who simply would not give up. Physical handicaps, public opinion, character assassination campaigns, political pressure, nor physical threats could deter or deflect him from persevering on his mission to set the captives free.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, 23 February 1807, the Abolition Bill passed the second reading in the House of Commons. The motion to abolish the slave trade was carried by an overwhelming 283 votes to 16 against!
- What are some of the things Wilberforce was up against?....Who and what was he fighting for?
- What are some of the things that will come against this team?.....Who and what are we fighting for?