Tribute to William Wilberforce, #3
One more tribute to Wilberforce: The day the victory came, and how Wilberforce responded.
The night—or I should say early morning—of victory came in 1807. The moral vision and the political momentum for abolition had finally become irresistible. At one point “the House rose almost to a man and turned towards Wilberforce in a burst of Parliamentary cheers. Suddenly, above the roar of ‘Hear, hear,’ and quite out of order, three hurrahs echoed and echoed while he sat, head bowed, tears streaming down his face” (Pollock,Wilberforce, p. 211). At 4:00 A.M., February 24, 1807, the House divided—Ayes, 283, Noes, 16, Majority for the Abolition 267. And on March 25, 1807, the royal assent was declared. One of Wilberforce’s friends wrote, “[Wilberforce] attributes it to the immediate interposition of Providence” (ibid., 212). In that early morning hour Wilberforce turned to his best friend and colleague, Henry Thornton, and said, “Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next?” (ibid.)