Anniversary of speech calling for abolition of slave trade

May 11, 2022

William Wilberforce

May 12, 1789:
William Wilberforce (“The Liberator”) rises in the House of Commons to deliver his first speech  to demand the abolition of the slave trade through the British Empire. He began his speech with his famous opening words:

“When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House — a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved: and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause — when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such a task.

“I take courage — I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is, the total abolition of the slave trade.”