Humanitarianism is kindness, benevolence/helpfulness, and sympathy toward others. Humanitarians can inspire others for many reasons. Perhaps they shed light on something that needs or deserves more attention. Perhaps they inspire you to do something in your life that is beneficial to others or even that is helpful or productive in your own life. Whatever the outcome, humanitarians can be inspiring. There are humanitarians that are ranked highly historically.
William Wilberforce was a politician, humanitarian, author, and abolitionist. He became a Christian and much of his writing and work was related to his values. He was a Member of Parliament in Great Britain and worked to enact legislation against slavery and other issues he felt were against Christian values.
William Wilberforce was born in 1759 in Kingston upon Hull, Great Britain. He had a sister and the family was wealthy, however his father died in 1768. He was sent to live with an aunt and uncle and attended a boarding school. He became interested in Christianity. His mother and grandfather were not happy with his new interest and brought him back to Hull. When he was 17 years old, he started St. John’s College in Cambridge. He became very interested in the social aspects of college life, but did receive his BA in 1781 and his MA in 1788.
While still in college, he had entered politics. He became a Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull in 1780. In 1784, he became a Member of Parliament for Yorkshire. On a vacation, he became interested in Christian faith once again and began reading the Bible daily. He questioned staying in politics and explored his evangelical Christian faith. He did stay in politics and his future political action was influenced by his faith.
Britain was part of the slave trade and the institution of slavery. Wilberforce became interested in humanitarian reform. Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, who also graduated from St. John’s College, began meeting about their opposition to slavery. Clarkson and others encouraged Wilberforce to bring the issue of abolishing the slave trade to Parliament. He did and much work and speeches followed. Wilberforce met with and later joined the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The movement to abolish the slave trade became the first grassroots human rights campaign. It took much work and changes in tactics until the Foreign Slave Trade Bill, which banned slave trade with French involvement, passed in 1806. Wilberforce wrote A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which was a 400 page book. The Slave Trade Act got royal assent in 1807. More work, defeats, and successes occurred. He knew the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery was set to pass before he died in 1833. The Slavery Abolition Act abolishing slavery passed in 1834.
Wilberforce supported education and advocated education to help with poverty. He founded the first animal welfare organization, which became the Royal Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals. He was generous with his time and money helping and supporting others.
William Wilberforce married Barbara Ann Spooner after a whirlwind romance in 1797. They went on to have six children. Two of their sons wrote about him after his death. He died in 1833 and their work was published in 1840. His life and work have been memorialized in many places around the world. These include statues, schools, and a film, Amazing Grace. Be inspired! Have a bright day!