Saturday, November 8, 2008

Voices Against Slavery - William Wilberforce

Voices Against Slavery - Part 4
William Wilberforce

When William Wilberforce, a member of the British parliament, began to speak out against the slave trade, slavery was already illegal in Great Britain itself. It continued in the British West Indies and in the newly formed nation of the United States - as well as in Brasil, even until 1888 - and illegally in England, since the laws were unclear.

Strong parliamentary action needed to be taken to clearly define the freedom status of former slaves within Great Briatain, to stop the slave trade, and also to make laws abolishing slavery in all the British colonies.

Wilberforce was the one who became the spokesman for the abolitionists. He believed that God had called him to this task. A strong, persuasive, respected voice in government was what Wilberforce became, by the grace of God.

He and his committe gathered information, and then presented it to Parliament. It was a matter of time before public sentiment swung in favor of abolition, and the laws had to change.

Every year for many years Wilberforce introduced a bill to Parliament for the abolition of slavery. Every year the bill was voted down. He gained some supporters along the way, and also many cruel enemies who said all kinds of unkind things about him.

John Newton, the famous ex-slave ship captain now minister of the Gospel, encouraged Wilberforce with these words.:

"The God you serve will preserve and deliver you. Remember the story of Daniel in the lion's den. He trusted God and God delivered him. You, too, are facing many enemies. Follow Daniel's example and stay faithful to the task that God has given you."

Wilberforce did, until his death. One great victory came in February of 1807, when the slave trade was finally made illegal. However, slavery itself had not been abolished, and those who were currently slaves still did not have their freedom.

Wilberforce had to retire from public life in 1825. In 1833, as Wilberforce lay on his deathbed, the greatest news of all came to him. His friend Tom Macaulay came to give him the news of what had happened on the floor of Parliament that day.

The Bill to abolish slavery had been passed and Parliament had agreed to pay slave owners compensation for freeing their slaves.

Wilberforce replied,"Thank God for this wonderful news. I never thought I would live to see the day when England would be willing to pay millions of pounds to end slavery."

Three days later, Wilberforce died.

Wow! What a powerful story! Someone should make a movie out of it. ;-)

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