William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was a British politician and a leader of abolition movement in Great Britain.
The British initially became involved in the slave trade during the 16th century. By 1783, the triangular route that took British-made goods to Africa to buy slaves, transported the enslaved to the West Indies, and then brought slave-grown products such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton to Britain, represented about 80 percent of Great Britain’s foreign income. British ships dominated the trade, supplying French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and British colonies, and in peak years carried forty thousand enslaved men, women and children across the Atlantic in the horrific conditions of the middle passage. Of the estimated 11 million Africans transported into slavery, about 1.4 million died during the voyage.
Slavery was one of those hidden scandals, comfortably out of sight of the average Englishman, who benefited from it but never had to see firsthand its unspeakable human misery. Through the influence of Newton and others, Wilberforce knew what he had to do.
( source: http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11630303/)
People like Charles Middleton and a group of anti-slave-trade activists persuaded Wilberforce to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807.
Wilberforce and his allies had assumed that slavery would die a natural death, once they made it illegal to buy and sell slaves (in 1807). But the slave trade just went underground, and continued–only slightly inconvenienced. The fight to abolish slavery entirely dragged on into the 1830s. Wilberforce was unstinting in his efforts, but his health was slipping. Younger members of Parliament took up the cause as Wilberforce recovered from various illnesses. He was resting at home on Friday night, July 26, 1833, when he heard the House of Commons had finally passed the Abolition of Slavery. Saturday morning he took a turn for the worse, and early Monday morning he died- having seen his life’s dream accomplished.
Wilberforce was generous with his time and money, believing that those with wealth had a duty to give a significant portion of their income to the needy. Yearly, he gave away thousands of pounds, much of it to clergymen to distribute in their parishes. He paid off the debts of others, supported education and missions, and in a year of food shortages gave to charity more than his own yearly income.
He dedicated much of his life to the fight to abolish the slave trade. He made a huge impact on the fight against injustice, but the fight continues in our century. Let us take up his fight. Let us not give up! Even if it’s hard to measure success in such matters as these, let us not give up in doing good. Let us together change the world!