How important was
William Wilberforce to the campaign to abolish British participation in the slave trade?
To quite an extent, William Wilberforce played an integral part in the campaign to abolish British participation in the slave trade as it was him that was spearheading the campaign in the House of Commons but he couldn’t have been the figure head he was without the participation of the movement, The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and the other prominent members of the society and those associated with the movement such as John Newton, who was involved in the very influential Quakers sect.
Wilberforce has constantly been the name referred to when people think of the eventual successful campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. He was the most prominent and public member within The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, being at the forefront of the movement in front of the House of Commons and giving a major speech in May 1789 about how the slave trade was detrimental to Britain in terms of the negative moral, physical and mental effects it was having on innocent people. Him being able to do this after recovering from a almost fatal intestinal disorder is testament to his ability to give confident speeches in public about such a subject whilst others in the society weren’t able to, such as William Pitt and John Newton, showed how his communication skills were able to propel him to being the figure head of the movement and shows how much of importance he was to the campaign to abolish British participation in the slave trade.
Furthermore, his consistent, unrelenting approach to the House of Commons to try and get the bill for the abolition of the slave trade showed just how much he cared for the movement. Even when the vote was first defeated and his position in the Clapham Sect was affected by the French revolution, he still was in Parliament, on his own without the full support of his friend William Pitt, throughout the 1790’s trying to push the bill and getting it passed whilst there was strong opposition from powerful people in Parliament, such as Henry Dundas, and this shows how much he had tried to do for the movement. His adamant position in furthering the campaign for abolishing the British participation in the slave trade, especially without the support of other important members such as William Pitt and Fox, showed just how important of a role Wilberforce played in the campaign to abolish British participation in the slave trade.
In addition, the way Wilberforce was able to make use of the statistics concerning the French Revolution and how the French were involved in the slave trade and coerced them in a way that also made planters in the West Indies believe that the slave trade showed how influential and clever he was in relation to the abolition campaign. Whilst Britain had already developed criticism for the French, the abolition movement were able to use that to their advantage and show the government how Britain weren’t in control of their own slave ships and how this wasn’t economically good for the country. Wilberforce, being at the forefront of this message, was able to use this information to his advantage and put it in such a convincing way that his argument helped to make West Indian planters believe that the slave trade was going to end and even make MPs in Parliament such as James Stephen believe that the slave trade was against Britain’s economic interests when the issue was raised in Parliament. Shortly after his tireless work ethic in trying to get the bill passed, his efforts mainly helped to get the bill passed for the abolition of British participation in the slave trade in March 1807. His shrewd use of statistics in relation to the questionable British participation in the slave trade and endless work ethic in the House of Commons whilst being at the public forefront of the movement, without the help of Pitt as he turned against...
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