The Great Change

Anne Stott

in Wilberforce

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199699391
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739132 | DOI:
The Great Change

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This chapter describes how William Wilberforce became a Member of Parliament first for Hull and then, in the election of 1784 the Pittite Member for Yorkshire. It deals with his religious conversion under the influence of John Newton. The conversion is set in three contexts: the eighteenth-century Evangelical revival, the structure of conversion narratives, and the late Enlightenment culture of sensibility. It is argued that Wilberforce’s commitment to the abolition of the slave trade arose directly out of his conversion. His decision to take up the cause is dated more precisely than preceding accounts. The rhetorical strategies behind his 1789 abolition speech are analysed in the light of recent work on the language of abolition, and it is shown that his arguments were deeply influenced by Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. The end of the chapter returns to Wilberforce’s personal concerns.

Keywords: William Wilberforce; Yorkshire; Hull; Evangelical revival; John Newton; conversion narratives; slave trade; sensibility; Theory of Moral Sentiments

Chapter.  9099 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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