William Wilberforce
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Hull, East Yorkshire
Born on 24th of August 1759
Died on 29th of July 1833

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William Wilberforce, born on 24th August 1759 and died 29th July 1833, was a British politician, philanthropist and a pioneer in the move to abolish slavery. He was born in Hull, the only son of Robert Wilberforce, a wealthy merchant, and his wife Elizabeth. He moved to London aged 9, after the death of his father, and lived with his uncle and aunt. They were evangelical Christians and offered Wilberforce his first taste of the spiritual journey he would later embark upon. Aged 17, he went to St. John's College, Cambridge where he met and became lifelong friends with the future Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger. It was at Cambridge under Pitt's influence that Wilberforce began to consider a career in politics, and aged just 21 he became MP for Kingston upon Hull. Independently wealthy and free from any financial pressures, Wilberforce sat in parliament as an independent, supporting both Tory and Whig governments in power at various times. He attended parliament regularly but also enjoyed a
lively social life, and was regarded as an eloquent speaker and a great wit. When Pitt became PM in 1783, he failed to make Wilberforce a minister in his government and Wilberforce instead became the MP for Yorkshire, aged 24. It was on a Grand Tour of Europe with his mother and sister that Wilberforce reignited his religious spark by reading 'The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul' by Philip Doddridge. Thereafter, his political views were informed by his faith and desire to promote Christianity in private and public life. Wilberforce gradually became acquainted with people like Rev. James Ramsay and groups such as the Quakers, the Testonites and Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp and their Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. His interest grew in the parliamentary campaign for the abolition of the slave trade and he moved in with his cousin, Henry Thornton, in Clapham where The Clapham Sect, dubbed "the Saints", was located. They were an influential group of prominent and wealthy evangelical Anglicans who shared political views, foremost being the abolition of the slave trade and the liberation of slaves. It was in May 1787 that Wilberforce was persuaded by Pitt and the future Prime Minister, William Grenville, to lead the campaign for abolition. With Thomas Clarkson continuing to gather evidence of the horrendous conditions in which slaves were transported from Africa and the subsequent conditions for them in the West Indies, it was exactly 2 years later that Wilberforce made his first major speech on the subject in the House of Commons. Thus began an 18 year parliamentary campaign by Wilberforce during which time his commitment never wavered, despite much hostility. In May 1797 Wilberforce married Barbara Ann Spooner with whom he went on to have 6 children with. They lived in Clapham until 1808 when they moved to a large house in London's Kensington Gore, later moving to a more modest home in Mill Hill, north London. Over subsequent years, Wilberforce aided by the work of Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp, attempted to pass various Bills through parliament to abolish the slave-trade, but not yet attempting to free those who were enslaved already. Over the years he faced much opposition and vilification that was costly to his health, yet never desisted from spearheading abolition through 'issue campaigning' using petitions, public meetings, pamphlets and even coming up with a campaign logo. The slave trade was finally abolished on 25th March 1807, but it was not until 1833 that The Slavery Abolition Act was passed, giving freedom to all slaves in the British Empire. Wilberforce's other concerns included founding The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Church Missionary Society which was particularly effective in ending British prejudice and cruel aspects of Hinduism in India. With his health failing quite severely, by 1825 Wilberforce had resigned his seat in parliament, leaving the abolition campaign in the hands of others. He made a final anti-slavery speech in April 1833 at a public meeting in Maidstone, Kent. The following month the Whig government introduced the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery. Wilberforce died on the morning of 29 July 1833, one month before the House of Lords passed the Slavery Abolition Act.

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