William Wilberforce

An evangelical Christian and social reformer, Wilberforce dedicated himself to the 'suppression of 

William Wilberforce, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1828 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Wilberforce
by Sir Thomas Lawrence
1828
NPG 3

the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners'. He entered Parliament in 1780 as a Tory MP and was the Parliamentary leader of the Abolition movement from 1787. After years of campaigning, Wilberforce's bill to end Britain's part in slave trading was passed to a standing ovation in 1807. A further act of 1833 provided for the emancipation of slaves in British colonies.

Wilberforce is remembered as the leader of the abolition campaign in British history. This is probably due to his success in calling for a debate in the House of Commons, at the expense of other activists such as Sharp, Clarkson and Equiano. It seems that this partly came about because of the biography written by his two sons. Their five-volume narrative eradicated the true nature of Clarkson's work. Clarkson wrote an extensive rebuke, for which he received much support at the time, but it was Wilberforce's sons' weighty volume that came to influence the writing of British history.

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