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William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a member of the Evangelical wing of the Church of England and a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery, in a large part due to his religious beliefs. He was elected to Parliament in 1784, and remained the Member of Parliament for Yorkshire through 1812, and subsequently for Bramber, eventually retiring from politics due to health problems in 1826. He was part of a group called the "Clapham Set" who were all Evangelical Christian reformers. He was committed to various forms of social reform, including abolition of slavery, education of the poor, shutting down brothels, prison reform, improved working conditions for chimney sweeps, limits on capital punishment, and restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
He was well known in his period as a leading political reformer, and re-elected to Parliament for many years. His reputation as a radical in his youth led him to be granted honorary French citizenship after the French Revolution, and he was buried in Westminister Abbey, a privilege granted only to the most important and honored British citizens. He introduced many important bills in Parliament, and had a reputation for being an outstanding speaker.
Wilberforce continues to be honored for his role in the abolitionist movement, especially in his hometown of Hull, where the Wilberforce Monument was erected in 1834. Wilberforce House, his birthplace, has been registered as a listed national monument and is home to a slavery museum. Nearby is the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation of the University of Hull. Several Anglican Churches include commemoration of Wilberforce in their annual cycles of worship.
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