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"Let it droop, but not too long!
On the eager wind

Bid it wave, to shame the wrong;
To inspire mankind

With a larger human love,

With a truth as true

As the heaven that broods above

Its deep field of blue."


Story: Life of William Wilberforce.

In telling you how it is that states or governments are changed for the better in one way or another, I am reminded of the life of a man whose name has become celebrated all over the world because of the effort he made along one special line to achieve a reform for his own home and country, over in England. It takes us back to the days of the Revolutionary War, upwards of a hundred and twenty-five years ago. Old England has advanced a great deal since that time. It has taken the lead in many ways in the onward march of civilization. The world has reason to be proud of what has been done there by brave citizens who have labored in the interests of their country in order that such an advance might come about. The people there have always been brave and determined in fighting for their own liberties. But it was another step for them when at last they awoke to the importance of battling for the liberties of others.

The story I have to tell you about is the struggle that was made in order to do away with slavery in the British Empire. For hundreds of years, as we know, Great Britain has had colonies in various parts of the world. And there was not the same freedom in those colonies, that prevailed at home in the mother country. In the year 1772, not long before the Declaration of Independence in this country, it had been decided over in Great Britain that there could be no such thing as a slave on the soil of that country. When a man once set foot there from any part of the world, he was a free man. But on the other hand, a vast traffic in slaves was going on in various parts of the world. Thousands of men and women and children were being seized or kidnapped, carried off from their homes, thrown on board ships, carried across the seas and sold in the markets like cattle. It makes one shudder even to think of it. And alas! it was known that a good deal of this traffic was being carried on with English vessels, by citizens of Great Britain. They were amassing wealth in the traffic in human flesh. The slavery which could not exist in England did prevail in her colonies. Thousands of human creatures were stolen, carried off from the shores of Africa, and brought over here to the West

Indies. Many of these poor creatures died on the voyage.
Their bodies were thrown overboard as of no account.

What could the English people say in defence of this, even if no slavery was possible at home? And the story I have to tell you concerns the life of one great man who became aware of these tragedies and made up his mind that he would fight this evil, until the Parliament of his country had put an end to the traffic in slaves so far as Great Britain or the British Empire was concerned. The man I am speaking of was William Wilberforce. What led him to do this we cannot explain. He just felt that he had to do it. He had nothing to make out of it himself. He might have gone on all his days in a life of ease and leisure, for he had wealth in abundance. He was born on August 24th, 1759. He had everything in the way of education that England could offer. He might have squandered his life to no purpose. It was not required of him that he should work for his living. But in the year 1780, when he was only about twenty-one years of age, he was elected as a member of Parliament. And after a few years, while serving there, his attention was called to the slave trade which was being carried on by the citizens of his own country. And then in the quiet of his own thought he made up his mind that he would devote his best energies until this should be abolished.

But it was one thing for him to have resolved upon this in his own mind; it was another thing for him to have the courage and persistence required to carry it through. We must remember that there was wealth in this slave trade, and that the men who shared in it had vast influence. What could this one man achieve all by himself? Yet he felt that it was a blot on the good name of his country. It was for him, though he stood alone, to work night and day to accomplish this reform in the British Empire. It had to be done by him as a citizen through the great Parliament of which he was a member. Two or three able men joined with him and they began the agitation. On May 12th, 1789, he opened the attack against the slave traffic by a speech in Parliament and then he introduced a bill there which should abolish this traffic in slaves in the whole Empire. One might have supposed that then the work was done. On the contrary, this was only the beginning. The measure was turned down at first by an overwhelming majority. How dared a citizen of that country make such an attack upon the free rights of a British citizen to amass wealth in any way one pleased? was asked. Yet the first step had been taken. He succeeded at length in having a commission appointed which should gather information on this traffic. In this way facts were piled up in great numbers until they could be presented to all the people of that country. Once more, then, he brings up the measure in Parliament. Three times, indeed, over a series of years, he got the measure actually passed through the

House of Commons. Three times it was turned down in
the House of Lords. Years went by and it seemed as if
nothing had been accomplished. Wilberforce had set this task
before himself and he was going to keep at it until he had
triumphed. The people had to be educated on the subject;
societies had to be organized; the citizens had to be canvassed.
Do you suppose that people were proud of him and what
he was doing? Do you think that they applauded him for
his efforts? Not by any manner of means! It meant being
laughed at by one class of persons, hated by another class
and despised by still others. He was told that he could not
succeed. He was assured that he was working against the
interests of his own country. But the more he was laughed
at or hated or despised, the harder he worked. And all this
while there was nothing to be gained for himself in such
efforts, while he might have been passing his time in pleasure,
spending the money which he had received from his family.
He had made up his mind that this stain should be removed
from the good name of his country. He would render this
service as a citizen. The British seamen should not traffic
in the lives of human beings. Ten years went by, and
apparently he was no nearer success than at the start. Fifteen
years passed, and still he had not achieved his purpose. The
British flag still floated over the vessels carrying the poor
creatures who had been torn from their homes to be sold
in the markets of the colonies. It is not to be assumed, of
course, that all this while the work was being done by him
alone. Other brave citizens had joined him. Other men
were bearing the brunt of the attack of ridicule. Others were
sacrificing their resources, toiling night and day for this great
purpose. The number grew larger and larger.

Gradually the feeling changed, until thousands and thousands at last felt the same sense of shame which only a few had experienced when the measure had first been launched by Wilberforce. They were asking themselves how it was that while no man could be a slave in England, yet their fellow-citizens might traffic in slaves in the colonies of that country. The Revolutionary War in America was over. The great wars of Napoleon Bonaparte had begun, and the attention of England was distracted. What could Parliament do in the way of reforms of this nature? But Wilberforce kept on just the same, watching his chances, ever renewing the agitation. It was to be the great work of his life. At last, after nearly twenty years, the triumph came. In the year 1807 once more he forced the bill through the House of Commons, and now the measure received the sanction of the House of Lords. The traffic in slaves was forbidden throughout the British Empire. And this work had been done mainly because of the courage and tenacity of purpose on the part of this one man, who had dared to face the contempt of his fellow-citizens and who would not relinquish his purpose in

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spite of every discouragement until he had achieved success. Unfortunately, even this triumph was only a stepping stone. The traffic in slaves was stopped, but slavery still existed in those colonies. Twenty-five years longer the battle had to go on. Anti-slavery societies were organized and Wilberforce was still the head of the movement.

It had been a blot on the fair name of England that slave traffic prevailed or was being carried on by British seamen. Now, it was felt that the stain existed just the same while slavery was tolerated anywhere in the British Empire. The strength of Wilberforce finally gave way. He had served nearly forty-six years as a member of Parliament when he retired from that body in 1825, and yet the final step had not come. Conditions were growing worse in various parts of the Empire. The slave was enduring greater hardships. For a time it seemed as if the check put upon the traffic had made it only worse for those who were already slaves. But the work once begun far back in 1787 by Wilberforce could have only one outcome. It meant years of waiting and years of persistent effort. The blow had been struck when the first measure was introduced by this great reformer in that speech on May 12th, in the year 1789. Forty-five years had gone by. Wilberforce was now approaching his three score and ten. He was a broken-down old man, and yet three days before his death he learned that a bill for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire had passed to its second reading in the House of Commons. Before the year came to an end the last step in the long story had been taken. It had been decided by an act of Parliament to put down slavery in the whole Empire. It had not been done with violence or bloodshed or war. The English government paid one hundred million dollars to the planters who owned the slaves in order that injustice might not be done to them in setting these men free. Before the year 1840 came around there was not a slave owned anywhere in the British Empire. The story of the efforts by which this was brought about will always be one of the most inspiring narratives in the world's history. Thousands of men labored for the cause and took share in the work. But the man whose name is most deeply connected with it and who really deserves the greatest credit was this heroic reformer, William Wilberforce.

Classic for Reading or Recitation.

"Would they have us wait merely that we may show to all the world how little we have profited by our own recent experience? Would they have us wait, that we may once again hit the exact point where we can neither refuse with authority nor con


cede with grace? Let them wait, if this strange and fearful infatuation be indeed upon them. that they should not see with their eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their heart. But let us know our interest and our duty better. Turn where we may, within, around, the voice of great events is proclaiming to us Reform, that you may preserve. Now, therefore, while everything at home and abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist in hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age;


now, while we see on every side ancient institutions subverted, and great societies dissolved; now, while the heart of England is still sound; now, while old feelings and old associations retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away; now, in this accepted time; now, in this your day of salvation, take counsel, not of prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of a fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of the ages which are past, of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a manner worthy of the expectation with which this great debate has been anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it will leave behind. Renew the youth of the state. Save property, divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered by its own ungovernable passions. Save the aristocracy, endangered by its own unpopular power. Save the greatest, and fairest, and most highly civilized community that ever existed, from calamities which may in a few days sweep away all the rich heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible. The time is short." -Lord Macaulay.

Further Suggestions to the Teacher.

The opportunities for expansion in this lesson are very great. It is one of the most important subjects

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