William Wilberforce

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 William Wilberforce

Here is a selection of quotations by and about William Wilberforce, starting with…

Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next?
Wilberforce to Henry Thornton the night the abolition bill was passed

Oh, me good friend, Mr Wilberforce, make we free!
God Almighty thank ye! God Almighty thank ye!
God Almighty, make we free!
A Barbados slave song from 1816

Hail, happy saint! on thine immortal throne,
Possest of glory, life, and bliss unknown.
Ex-slave Philis Wheatley, on hearing of Wilberforce’s death

How much more pure and perfect felicity must he enjoy in the consciousness of having preserved so many millions of his fellow creatures, than the man with whom I have compared him, on the throne to which he has waded through slaughter and oppression.
The solicitor-general tells parliament that Wilberforce is a greater man than Napoleon

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you?
John Wesley, writing to Wilberforce

Never, never will we desist, until 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.

Wherever the sun shines, let us go around the world with him, diffusing our beneficence; but let us not traffic, only that we may set kings against their subjects, subjects against their kings… setting millions of our fellow-creatures a hunting each other for slaves, creating fairs and markets for human flesh… concealing from ourselves all the baseness and iniquity of such a traffic.

I cannot believe that the same being who forbids rapine and bloodshed, has made rapine and bloodshed necessary to the well-being of any part of his universe.

On one chair sat a Yorkshire constituent, manufacturing or agricultural; on another a petitioner for charity, or a House of Commons client; on another a Wesleyan preacher: while side by side with an African, a foreign missionary, or a Haitian professor, sat perhaps some man of rank who sought a private interview, and whose name had accidentally escaped pronouncement.
Wilberforce’s son describes the ever-full waiting room of his house

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About this module

Read about the life and work of William Wilberforce, who played a key role in the struggle to abolish the slave trade, 200 years ago. 2007 saw the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade, which was achieved through the work of Wilberforce and other abolitionists of the time.

These pages were written by Stephen Tomkins.

Categories: Lives, Biographical,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Telling the story

arrow The slave trade

arrow Who's who

arrow Slavery today

arrow Quotes

arrow Links

arrow Further reading

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