(24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was a British politician, philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780 and became the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire (1784–1812). In 1785 he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, resulting in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform. In 1787 he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave trade activists, including Granville Sharp, Hannah More and Lord Middleton. They 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 until the eventual passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.
Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality, and education. He championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for Suppression of Vice, the introduction of Christianity to India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.
In later years, Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery, and continued his involvement after 1826, when he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. That campaign led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire; Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to his friend William Pitt.
Propers for William Wilberforce - 30 July - Layman, Renewer, Reformer and Abolitionist
The Collect -
Let thy continual mercy, O Lord, enkindle in thy Church the never-failing gift of charity, that, following the example of thy servant William Wilberforce, we may have grace to defend the children, the poor, the lost and the oppressed and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Galatians 3:23-29.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.
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