As he lay dying…

July 26th, 1833…

On this date in history, as he lay dying, the wonderful news that William Wilberforce had worked on for so many years was delivered to him – a bill outlawing slavery throughout the British Empire had finally passed the Parliament!

Wilberforce had been elected to Parliament, representing the people of Hull, in 1780, and later represented Yorkshire. He is known for many good works which arose from his deep Christian faith, but perhaps best known as the leading British abolitionist – working for more than 40 years to abolish slavery, regularly introducing legislation before Parliament – only to see it languish or fail. In 1807, the slave trade was officially abolished but this did not impact those who were already slaves – taking until 1833 for this to happen. William Wilberforce died 3 days later, on July 29, 1833.

Wilberforce is one of the best known reformers of his time period, and worked with a group of Christian friends who became known as the Clapham Sect (for the area outside of London where they lived). These friends promoted many diverse causes in addition to abolition: reform of the penal system, development of the British and Foreign Missionary Bible Societies, for moral causes including the care of chimney sweeps, and for their generosity. These Christians have had a longstanding and deep impact on my life – thinking about what believers can do individually and in community – and the important reminder that some things of great importance may take a very long time…but are still worth doing. How many of us would give up after a year or two – and yet this important fight covered a lifetime of work. It is both an inspiration and a challenge.

Some of you may have seen the film, Amazing Grace, in which the actor Ioan Gruffuld, played the role of William Wilberforce (and Benedict Cumberbatch, currently of “Sherlock” fame, plays his good friend William Pitt). If you missed it – the libraries have a copy and it is well worth watching!

A few other resources include:

Hague, William. William Wilberforce: the life of the great anti-slave trade campaigner.
Harcourt, 2007.
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Tomkins, Stephen. William Wilberforce: A Biography. Eerdmans, 2007.
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Metaxas, Eric. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. HarperSanFrancisco, 2007.
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I was reminded of this date by the excellent website This Week in Christian History.

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This entry was posted in Church History, Films, This Week in Church History. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to As he lay dying…

  1. Nancy Brashear says:

    Thanks for reminding us of this inspiring leader!

  2. Pingback: Friday Recommendation: World Changers Exhibit at APU | James L. Stamps Theological Library

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