Ah, yes. William Wilberforce. The man whose failing health kept him from doing many physical activities. But that didn't stop him from changing the world. No, not at all.
As a member of the British Parliament, he had a role in the making of, and passing of the laws of England. But he was also an Evangelical Christian.
While dining with his old Cambridge friend Gerard Edwards, William met Rev. James Ramsay, a ship's surgeon who had become a clergyman on the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) in the Leeward Islands, and a medical supervisor of the plantations there. What Ramsay had witnessed of the conditions endured by the slaves, both at sea and on the plantations, horrified him. But after that day, William didn't do much follow-up on the slave trade.
Three years later, and inspired by his new faith, William was growing more interested in humanitarian reform.
In November 1786, "Wilber" received a letter from Sir Charles Middleton that re-opened his interest in the slave trade. At the urging of Lady Middleton, Sir Charles suggested that Wilberforce bring forward the abolition of the slave trade in Parliament. Wilberforce responded that "he felt the great importance of the subject, and thought himself unequal to the task allotted to him, but yet would not positively decline it". He began to read widely on the subject, and met with Sir Charles Middleton, Lady Middleton, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More and others, at Middleton’s home in the early winter of 1786–87.
After their meeting, William started collecting evidence.
In the spring of 1787, William Pitt asked his friend: "Wilberforce, why don’t you give notice of a motion on the subject of the Slave Trade? You have already taken great pains to collect evidence, and are therefore fully entitled to the credit which doing so will ensure you. Do not lose time, or the ground will be occupied by another."
Here is an excerpt from his Abolition Speech, delivered to the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 12th, 1789:
“When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House - a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved: and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause - when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such a task. But when I reflect, however, on the encouragement which I have had, through the whole course of a long and laborious examination of this question, and how much candour I have experienced, and how conviction has increased within my own mind, in proportion as I have advanced in my labours; - when I reflect, especially, that however averse any gentleman may now be, yet we shall all be of one opinion in the end; - when I turn myself to these thoughts, I take courage - I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is, the total abolition of the slave trade.
“I wish exceedingly, in the outset, to guard both myself and the House from entering into the subject with any sort of passion. It is not their passions I shall appeal to - I ask only for their cool and impartial reason; and I wish not to take them by surprise, but to deliberate, point by point, upon every part of this question. I mean not to accuse any one, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority.“We are all guilty - we ought all to plead guilty, and not to exculpate ourselves by throwing the blame on others; and I therefore deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business…A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might,—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”
*Cheers for Mr. Wilberforce*
You can read the rest here if you'd like.
Now for some pictures and quotes from the film Amazing Grace.
(I LOVE this film!)
"Do you intend to use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord... or change the world?" -Pitt
"It seems to me, that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you spit it out. You don't constantly swallow it back."
"God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms. Drip. Drip. Drip."
"Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."
"It's only painful to talk about because we haven't changed anything."
"I want you to remember that smell... remember the Madagascar... remember, God made men equal."
And more, on the humorous side:
"I bow to my friend in all superior matters regarding the pox." -Wilber
"You always look more at home when you're doing something devious." -Pitt
"It's your wedding day - I agree with everything you say." -Pitt
After Pitt beats him running "It's my ministerial duty to let you win." -Wilber
"You wake me up to give me medicine to help me sleep?" -Wilber
William Wilberforce: "Where are you going?"
Lord Charles Fox: "To look up the word integrity."
"We don't want any fuss. We just need somebody who is... really, really boring." -Clarkson
Thomas Clarkson: "Beautiful house. Sweet, little... rabbit."
William Wilberforce: "It's a hare actually."
William Wilberforce: "I'm against flowers in church. What have you to say?
Barbara Wilberforce: I am *for* them."
William Wilberforce: [resignedly] "As am I."
Thomas Clarkson: "It promotes the war effort, patriotism, and... all that."
Pitt the Younger: "Since when have you been interested in the war effort, patriotism, and... all that?"
For His Glory,