Thursday is the feast day of William Wilberforce, a Christian, politician and crusader for social justice.
Wilberforce was born in England in 1759. He earned a reputation for a hedonistic life style at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Nonetheless, he earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.
Then he became a Christian and Member of Parliament. For him, Parliament was a platform for putting Christian principles into action and serving God.
His efforts resulted in the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which diminished, but did not stop, the slave trade, a lucrative one for British merchants. He allied with Quakers and others to pursue his efforts. He is credited with the first grass-roots campaign in history, encouraging writing of letters, publishing of pamphlets and fiery speeches denouncing the practice.
Not satisfied with that, he kept working until the Slave Abolition Act was passed in 1833.
Neither completely eradicated the practice of slave trading and slavery. But they began a movement that ultimately resulted in the end of the trade in the British Empire. He also founded the Society for Suppression of Vice, the Church Missionary Society and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (later re-named the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Wilberforce died three days after passage of the 1833 Act. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The Rev. Frederick Erickson, a retired university professor,