The early morning of February 24, 1807, was a great moment in history. After a long and difficult struggle to abolish the British slave trade, William Wilberforce’s goal was finally realized! Here is a glimpse back into that day . . .
At 4am, on February 24, 1807, the House of Commons voted by 283 to 16 for the second reading of a bill to abolish the British slave trade. In an almost unprecedented gesture, nearly the entire house rose to cheer one of its members who, for two decades, had been ignored, abused or violently opposed for making the promotion of this measure his life’s work.
William Wilberforce, the Yorkshire MP, was “completely overpowered by my feelings” and sat with tears streaming down his face. His campaign had been extraordinary. He made himself perhaps the most influential back-bencher in British parliamentary history. A remarkable man espoused a great cause to the point of obsession, and thereby achieved greatness for himself.
That quote is from an article that was written in 2007, reviewing William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce entitled, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner. What a moving scene that must have been. It makes me feel like cheering and crying all at the same time just thinking about it!
It took twenty years of hard work before Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists saw the abolition of the British slave trade, but they had to wait another twenty-six years before they would see the abolition of slavery itself in the British empire, three days before William Wilberforce died in 1833. What a commitment he had to spend his life working so hard to abolish slavery. For more great books and resources about William Wilberforce, see my other posts about him.
Sadly, slavery still goes on today. In fact, there are more slaves today than at any other time in history. And yet, there are also many people and organizations working to end modern-day slavery with the same tireless commitment that Wilberforce had!