William Wilberforce

“Everyone should know Wilberforce,” Abraham Lincoln once said.

Wilberforce who? William Wilberforce.

I just put down an excellent biography by William Hague called William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner.

First off, I had no idea who William Wilberforce was before I read this book, nor did I realize how great a man he was or how big of a figure he was in British politics from 1780 to 1830 (a time of great turmoil not only in the world but especially in Britain). I read a review of the book in the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times (I forget which) and for some reason I was moved to buy the book.

One of the reasons I bought the book is that I was curious after reading a little bit about William Wilberforce, how a person goes up against powerful interests for a moral cause and in the end, converts almost everyone to his side.

This book and William Wilberforce’s life resonate with me deeply. One reason is that he went through a religious awakening in his late 20s like me. His awakening was evangelical Chrisitianity, mine was Judaism. His conversion compelled him to not waste any of his time and to try as much as possible to better the world. He was the standard bearer and unshakable advocate for abolition of the slave trade and also of prison reform and of education for children. He was constantly trying to help others and busy educating himself about the world. He stayed in Parliament despite many offers to be bought out and be made a Lord and be set for life. He fought the good fight and stayed independent his entire life and was widely admired for doing so.

A cheerful man, who loved to sing, who never gave up despite hopeless odds, with strong faith in God and the good of men, William Wilberforce is a “powerful beacon of light,” Mr. Hague tells us especially in our times, and I agree.

What I also love about William Wilberforce is that today, religion is put down and blamed for so many problems such as wars. Some of the blame is justified, some is not. But rarely do secularists or atheists mention the positive results from religion. And there is no greater example than that of abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself. Without William Wilberforce’s unflappable faith in God and the faith of others like him, and his accountability to making the world a better place and of his own actions, slavery and the slave trade may still be going on to this day.

Besides the topic, the author has to be commended, because this book could easily be boring and yet it is stirring, powerful and an extremely engaging read. I highly recommend this book and think Mr. Wilberforce’s name and example should be taught to everyone.