WILBERFORCE, William (1759-1833), of Gore House, Kensington, Mdx. and Markington, nr. Harrogate, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1784 - 1812
1812 - 1 Mar. 1825

Family and Education

b. 24 Aug. 1759, o.s. of Robert Wilberforce, Baltic merchant, of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks. and Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Bird of Barton, Oxon. educ. Hull g.s. 1766; Chalmers’s sch. Putney 1768-71; Pocklington g.s. 1771-6; St. John’s, Camb. 1776. m. 30 May 1797, Barbara Ann, da. of Isaac Spooner, merchant banker, of Elmdon Hall, Warws., 4s. 2da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1768. d. 29 July 1833.

Offices Held

Dir. Sierra Leone Co. 1791; member, bd. of agriculture 1801.


In the opinion of the Quaker Joseph Gurney, Wilberforce, whose ‘curved and diminutive person’ quivered with restless energy, was remarkable for the ‘rapid productiveness’ of his mind, teeming with a ‘cornucopia of thought and information’ even in old age.1 His social vivacity and personal charm (having on his religious conversion at the age of 26 successfully suppressed an unbecoming irritability) were undisputed: he himself regarded it as ‘a fault to be silent; everyone is bound to present his contribution to the common stock of conversation and enjoyment’.2 Charles Shore, who stayed with him at Bath in the autumn of 1820, later wrote:

In person ... Wilberforce was slightly deformed ... [He] usually carried an inkstand in his coat pocket ... He invariably wore black clothes, sometimes till they became quite dingy, for he ignored his outer man, never, as his valet intimated ... making use of a glass ... He was quite unconscious of the notice which his personal appearance attracted ... Though seemingly physically little qualified for work - and in compliance with the advice of his medical advisers he had habitually since early youth taken a small but not increasing dose of opium - it was marvellous to observe his powers of endurance ... His ... discriminating knowledge of mankind was derived from the force of his sympathy and quick perception of peculiarity ... But for the extraordinary activity and elasticity of his intellectual temperament, the irregularity of his habits would have cost him a much more exceeding waste of time ... Excessive candour proved an impediment to decision and dispatch ... Few men have been so little influenced by the distracting passions of ambition, avarice, vanity, and resentment ... The mainspring of his public and private acts ... [was] that steadfast independence which too often gains little credit because as little credence.3

The daughter of his friend William Smith* wrote that ‘his rich talk flowed on incessantly, but not as if he wanted to be the object of the company, rather as if he could not help saying what was in him and as if he wanted everybody else to do the same’.4 Wilberforce’s scrupulous independence, unwavering Christian faith and application to political questions of the principles of the moderate Evangelicalism of the Clapham Sect, for which he received fresh inspiration in 1817 from the sermons of Thomas Chalmers, gave him a unique position in British public life, where his moral authority was strong.5 In his private dialogue with God, however, he was, as William Lamb* remarked after reading his diaries, ‘perpetually vexing himself because he amused himself too much and too well and had not religion enough’.6 To some, of course, particularly those on the political left, he seemed a tiresome humbug. Hazlitt, while recognizing his many estimable qualities, observed:

His patriotism may be accused of being servile, his humanity ostentatious, his loyalty conditional, his religion a mixture of fashion and fanaticism ... He has two strings to his bow; he by no means neglects his worldly interests, while he expects a bright reversion in the skies ... [He] is far from being a hypocrite; but he is ... as fine a specimen of moral equivocation as can be found.

A radical commentator denounced him in 1823 as ‘a strange compound of cant, weakness, selfishness and aristocracy’.7

By 1820 Wilberforce, just turned 60, was in unreliable health, which had been undermined by his addiction to opium. Prone to chest infections and a martyr to colitis, constipation and piles, he was plagued above all by rapidly worsening eyesight, which made him largely dependent on readers for information and entertainment. Yet his mental strength was scarcely impaired, and his awareness of what remained to be done to put an end to negro slavery, the cause to which he had dedicated his life for over 30 years, drove him on. To his fellow Evangelical Lord Calthorpe, on whose proprietary interest he had sat for Bramber since giving up the representation of Yorkshire in 1812, he confessed to misgivings about the suitability of such a seat for a man of his beliefs, but he set them aside to come in again at the general election of 1820:

For reasons nearly the same as yours, if not quite so, I believe that to retire from the representation of such places as you speak of, would not be at present the Christian path of duty, though I entirely concur with you as to the character of the proceedings, which you really with admirable force say, want that noonday simplicity and integrity which ought to characterize the conduct of a Christian either in politics or in any other line ... I hope I need not go down to Bramber ... My health is really a fair plea for non-residence during this severe weather ... I should feel strangely embarrassed in addressing my thanks personally to my constituents, though I have only feelings of gratitude in thanking you.8

Wilberforce, who wrote to Arguelles through Fox’s nephew Lord Holland, a West Indian proprietor, on the subject of the continuing Spanish slave trade, and tried with Calthorpe to persuade Holland to resist Maxwell’s proposed slaves removal bill, secured the production of the reports of the African naval commander on the state of affairs in Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, 18 May 1820.9

He admired the ‘spirit’ of Queen Caroline, whom he considered to have been badly treated by her husband, though he had no doubt of her profligacy while abroad. Above all, he feared the damaging effects of an investigation, foreseeing dire consequences ‘if the soldiery should take up her cause’. On 7 June 1820 he was persuaded by his friend and fellow ‘Saint’ Thomas Fowell Buxton*, who was apparently responding to pressure from the Whig Sir Robert Wilson*, to move, after concerting with the Grenvillite Charles Williams Wynn*, a two-day adjournment of the debate on the issue ‘in order’, as he privately recorded, ‘to give the parties time to effect an amicable accommodation’, and with the ultimate aim of preventing an inquiry into the contents of the green bag, which, he told Sir James Mackintosh*, was like Pandora’s box ‘without hope at the bottom’. Buxton reported that Wilberforce had ‘wavered a good deal, but when he spoke, he spoke most beautifully’. The sense of the House, especially the country gentlemen, was overwhelmingly with him. Edward Littleton* noted that ‘all parties hailed with joy his motion’, and that ‘this is exactly the kind of case in which Wilberforce will guide the House of Commons, if he can but make up his own mind’.10 His subsequent letter to the king entreating him to concede the restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy went unanswered.11 Mackintosh thought he spoke ‘beautifully’ in paying tribute on 14 June to Henry Grattan I*, who, he said, had shown that ‘the love of liberty was never so substantially gratified as when it was gratified with a due observance of that proper rule and subordination without which the principles of civil society must immediately dissolve’.12 Three days later Wilberforce was shown by Henry Brougham*, the queen’s adviser, details of the negotiations with ministers. On the strength of this, and an apparent assurance by Brougham that Caroline would bow to an appeal from the Commons to give up the liturgy in return for a recommendation to any continental court and a recognition that her doing so would not be regarded as an admission of guilt, he gave notice on 20 June of a motion for an address to her, but refused to divulge its contents beyond saying that its object was to ‘remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to an amicable arrangement’.13 That night, however, he received an angry note from the queen (composed, he thought, by Brougham’s rival Alderman Matthew Wood*) refusing to surrender the liturgy and asking him to drop his motion. This, as Mackintosh saw it, ‘produced its full effect on the timidity and irresolution of Wilberforce’, who, after consulting James Stuart Wortley, Member for Yorkshire, decided, ‘against the advice of all my friends’, to alter his motion and put it off for a day, to give the queen time to reconsider. When the Speaker called his name, ‘in the fullest House ever seen’, 21 June, there was no sign of him, and ‘a general laugh’ broke out. He eventually appeared almost an hour later when, to cries of protest, he secured a postponement to the following day. He noted privately that ‘several of my friends pressed me strongly to make my motion a defence of ministry; but I saw all depended on my keeping to my point - no inquiry’.14 That evening Brougham took Wilberforce another letter from the queen, which seemed to leave the question more open, and evidently promised to press her to give a firm pledge that when the address was presented she would give up her insistence on the liturgy. Wilberforce, unaware that Caroline was furious with Brougham, whom she suspected of betraying her, duly proposed his address, from the opposition benches, in a packed and ‘very noisy and impatient’ House, 22 June. He thought his reply, in which he denied the collusion with ministers with which many in opposition charged him, was better than his speech. Mackintosh considered it be ‘the worst ... I ever heard him make’, as did Littleton, who commented that ‘his conscience is [in] its dotage and will not allow him to make up his mind on points’. John Hobhouse*, too, deemed it ‘bad’, and Henry Bankes* noted that he ‘spoke less well than upon most other occasions’. A Whig amendment insisting on restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy was negatived without a division and the address carried by 391-124.15 When Wilberforce, Stuart Wortley, Bankes and Sir Thomas Dyke Acland* presented it to the queen at 22 Portman Square, 24 June, she summarily rejected it. They were hissed and barracked by an orchestrated mob, who denounced Wilberforce as ‘Doctor Cantwell’; and when Stuart Wortley, with Wilberforce as his ‘prompter’, announced the outcome to the House that evening, they ‘boggled and looked foolish’, in the view of Hobhouse.16 Wilberforce was initially ‘very low and dispirited’ over the failure of his mediation and remained fearful of the consequences of inquiry. Convinced by the wily Brougham that the queen had acted on her own initiative, he never publicly revealed the assurances he had been given of her compliance and bore stoically the popular abuse which he received, from William Cobbett† among others, for supposedly trifling with the Commons and conniving with ministers. In the House, 26 June, he denounced and voted against the opposition attempt to postpone the inquiry for six months, ‘not meaning to vote for a secret committee at all ... but not being able at once to take a by-way of defeating a thing which might at any moment be revived’.17 On 28 June he welcomed Brougham’s scheme for the education of the poor. He defended the grant for the support of captured negro slaves against Hume, 6 July, commending the practice of enlisting them into black regiments.18 He divided against the aliens bill, 7 July 1820.

He was appalled by the government’s apparent indifference to ‘the unrestrained licence with which bad men are permitted to diffuse their poison in frequent periodical doses throughout the great body of our people’, and tried to prompt the authorities to bring on Mrs. Carlile’s trial before the vacation. To Hannah More he wrote, 21 July, of

a turbid, fermenting mixture, which really at this day teems with as many nauseous ingredients as Macbeth’s witches’ cauldron ... while green bag, like the roll in the soup, floats in the midst of the mess, imparting its pungency and flavour to the whole composition ... We are in a sad state. I own it does greatly shock me to see our rulers, even such of them as we have reason to believe have some sense of religion, exhibiting no feeling of the necessity of our ‘humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God’ ... My race is nearly run, though ... I am quite distressed when I contemplate the idea of retiring from public life, without even bringing forward more than one very important business, which I have long had in view ... I have wanted a little of your decision and alacrity.19

He contemplated appealing direct to the king to give up the proceedings, naively believing that he ‘could write him a speech which without an abatement of dignity would get him out of the scrape, and all the rest of us also, and would make him universally popular with all but the absolute radicals - avowed enemies of God and man’. He talked privately of promoting county meetings to petition for an end to the business, but, as Lamb pointed out to him, apart from the fact that it was too late, there was no guarantee that the nobility and gentry would be able to control and restrain such gatherings.20 At the end of July he joined his family at Weymouth. The appearance in The Times of 5 Aug. of a public letter from the Whig Lord John Russell* asking him, as the representative of majority independent backbench opinion, to intervene to avert the queen’s trial, annoyed him, for it dished his plan of approaching the king as a neutral. Cobbett denounced the ‘ridiculous exhibition’ of ‘the proud Whig crawling to the obsolete Saint’.21 Wilberforce went to London on 13 Aug., ‘partly out of a nervous fear of leaving any possible endeavour unattempted to extricate both Houses out of the sad scrape’. With his brother-in-law James Stephen, a master in chancery, he concocted a proposal, which seemed ‘absurd’ to those who got wind of it, for the evidence to be considered by a ‘grand jury’ of county Members and for the queen to be tried, if there was a case to answer, by a specially constituted lord steward’s court under the master of the rolls. Some ministers, including Lord Castlereagh*, were by now resentful of Wilberforce’s meddling, suspecting him of intriguing to remove them from office. (They had reason to be alarmed, for Wilberforce was urging the quartermaster general, Sir James Willoughby Gordon*, to impress on the king’s brother, the duke of York, the desirability of a change of government.)22 He was, however, granted an interview with Lord Liverpool and Castlereagh on 16 Aug., when the conversation proved ‘very satisfactory’ and they ‘hoped he would be prevailed on not to embarrass their proceedings by any motion in the House of Commons’. Wilberforce, who was reported to have admitted privately that ‘the act of his life which he most reproached himself with was not having moved [in June] to restore the queen to the liturgy’, said nothing on the adjournment motion, 21 Aug. 1820, beyond repeating his denial that in seeking a settlement he had been trying to ‘fortify ministers’, predicting that if the bill of pains and penalties reached the Commons it would ‘become an absolutely interminable proceeding’ and opposing the opposition motion for a prorogation.23

A month later, as the queen’s trial in the Lords progressed, he wrote to Bankes:

What is government about, to suffer such a multitude of poisoned fountains to be playing in the great city ... Surely we never were in such a scrape. The bulk of the people are I grant run mad; but then it was a species of insanity on which we might have reckoned, because we know their prejudices against foreigners; their being easily led away by appeals to their generous feelings ... I begin more and more to think that a change of ministers might afford the most probable way out of our present difficulties. Yet one must not be unfair to them; but, judging candidly, their conduct has been very ill-advised.24

The marquess of Buckingham, observing that the queen’s guilt had been proved by ‘the evidence of her being seen with her hand in Bergami’s breeches’, wondered how Wilberforce could, ‘even indirectly, serve a woman who has been known to put her hand into a man’s breeches. Mrs. W[ilberforce] never touched his sacred parts except with a pair of tongs’.25 At this time he wrote to Liverpool complaining of the deliberate exclusion of Evangelical clergymen, most of whom, he argued, did not espouse the Calvinistic doctrines attributed to them, from church preferment:

Believing as I do most firmly that this country is in a state of extreme danger, of which the queen’s affair, though constituting one of its chief elements now in action, is by no means the whole cause [and] ... that this danger is the consequence of a moral disease ... [and] believing this moral disease to be the result of an erroneous doctrinal system, producing a low and depraved practical system of religion, it is my decided opinion that this country ... can in no way be so essentially benefited as by endeavouring to promote among the people the prevalence not of formal but of true, honest practical Christianity. The men of property ... are naturally disposed to support the constitution and laws of their country when party spirit does not hurry them in a wrong direction ... But on what can we depend for preserving the loyalty ... in the lower orders, breathing as they do an atmosphere of falsehood, profaneness and insubordination, in consequence of the swarms of worse than Egyptian plagues which are poisoning and destroying the land from the seditious and irreligious press? ... Ultimately, I am persuaded, your only security will consist in educating your people up to their circumstances ... But this is a slow process ... Before the effects of this system can be obtained ... the true dependence must be on improving, by God’s blessing, the moral character of your people, through the augmenting influence of true Christianity.26

At the end of October he told Stephen that he thought he had left five or six more years of useful public life, in which he would ‘greatly like to lay a foundation for some future measures for the emancipation of the poor slaves, and also to diminish the evil of oaths’: ‘These things being done, how gladly should I retire! I am quite sick of the wear and tear of the House of Commons; of the envy, malice and all uncharitableness’.27 He was favourably impressed by the personal conduct of Liverpool and lord chancellor Eldon during the trial, but, while he welcomed the abandonment of the bill after the narrow majority for its third reading, he reflected:

What a mess have ministers and the queen’s advisers and the House of Lords ... made of this sad business ... How party does govern people in our days ... I can conceive people strongly impressed with a persuasion of the falsehood of Italian witnesses and therefore disposed to think the charges not clearly proved against her. But to hear some highly respectable individuals (I mean men who would not say what they would not believe) declare themselves clear that her innocence is established !!!

He confided to Stephen that if ministers did meet Parliament on 23 Nov., as had been originally arranged, he ‘should not be sorry’ to remain at Bath, where his wife’s illness provided a sufficient excuse

because some violent motions for their censure, etc., may probably be moved, and I see no reasons why I should volunteer a service which may place me in situations awkward in themselves and perhaps in their consequences injurious to the cause we hold most dear ... The conduct of ministers in several parts of the late business ... was so very censurable that nothing would prevent me taking a strong part against it, but the fair consideration of the difficulties of their situation and of the way in which they were drawn into it.28

Ministers, in canvassing backbench opinion, were anxious to ascertain Wilberforce’s views, and on 29 Nov. Liverpool wrote personally to him to explain that while fair financial provision, with no condition of residence abroad, would be made for the queen, he and his colleagues would resign if the Commons voted for restoration of her name to the liturgy.29 Wilberforce merely acknowledged receipt of the letter, but Henry Beeke, a Bristol informant of the chancellor of the exchequer, who claimed to have inside knowledge of his conversations at Bath, initially reported that he considered the queen to have been in effect acquitted and that ministers must make concessions: ‘he does not disguise how much he thinks himself courted by both parties ... and you must not mistake civil words for friendly intention, for depend upon it that the Whigs will be the successful suitors’. Beeke hoped to be able to persuade him through Acland to detail in the Commons the events leading up to his compromise resolution, and in particular to expose Brougham’s conduct. Nothing came of this, and Beeke construed Wilberforce’s evasion of an explanation to Liverpool and his reported new ‘crotchet’ of arguing that there was no reason for ministers to resign, even if beaten on the liturgy question, as an indication that he had ‘committed himself by declarations if not by promises’. In the same vein, Sir Henry Hardinge* informed Lady Londonderry, 28 Dec. 1820, that he had heard that Wilberforce now ‘says the first thing at any sacrifice, even that of the present administration, is to get rid of the whole question, as he conceives ministers have [so] irreparably lost the confidence of the nation that they ought to go out’.30

On the eve of the 1821 session Wilberforce told his wife that the question was ‘a choice of evils’ and that ‘I have a most painful route to travel whatever course I pursue’. According to his diary, he intended to vote for Hamilton’s motion condemning the exclusion of the queen’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan., though ‘had the division come on a few days before, I should have voted against it, on the ground of the queen’s outrageously contumacious conduct’. In the event, he was ‘forced to go home by illness’ before the division; but William Huskisson*, a member of the government, interpreted his departure as an indication that he ‘could not manage his little party in the House’.31 He divided silently with ministers against the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb., after supporting Smith’s call for papers on the continuation of the West African slave trade by France, Portugal and Spain. He told a correspondent that he

was very sorry to be unable to find a convenient opportunity of speaking ... my mind a little plainly on some topics, more especially on that system of party which now reigns with such avowed predominance. It is that, in my mind, which has done more harm than any other cause to the character of Parliament. It so tinctures and distorts the view of the best men, and so biases their judgements, as to make them act in ways which you would previously have thought impossible ... What else can render our old nobility blind to the efforts that are using with such mischievous industry to pull down the throne, and with it the church, and all that preserves the order and peace of society?32

On 13 Feb. he spoke and voted for restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy as an expedient means of tranquillizing the country, though he defended ministers, whose errors had been ones of ‘judgement’ and ‘ought not to be imputed to incapacity, and still less to want of integrity’. He told his wife that ‘it grieved me more than it ought to differ from so many dear friends, but I really could not in conscience forbear to support the motion’. He was ‘extremely distressed, but was told I spoke well’. A disgusted Mrs. Arbuthnot noted that ’his principles of right and wrong yield to popular clamour’; and Williams Wynn considered it ‘a remarkably feeble, vacillating speech’.33

Wilberforce supported as ‘absolutely necessary’ the ministerial bill to vest African forts in the crown, 20 Feb. 1821.34 Next day, ‘after considerable hesitation’, he spoke and voted for Mackintosh’s motion condemning the Allies’ suppression of the liberal regime in Naples, calling at the same time for economy and retrenchment to help relieve distress, though he privately felt that ‘it was very foolish in opposition to divide’ and that he had failed to prepare properly, having ‘as too common with me, expended nearly all my time over old accounts’.35 He advocated and voted for army reductions, 15 Mar., and, after supporting compensation for American loyalists, divided for repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar. He did not vote in the division on Catholic relief, 28 Feb., but on 16 Mar., having presented and dissented from Catholic petitions against concessions, he delivered what the Grenvillite William Fremantle* thought a ‘very animated and eloquent’ speech in favour of the second reading of the relief bill. Bankes described the effort as ‘agreeable but desultory’, while Lady Holland, a spectator, wrote that it was ‘full of feeling, harmonious sentences, melodious voice’. Wilberforce himself noted that ‘I was complimented on my speaking, though from turning away from the gallery said to be inaudible there’.36 A fortnight later, shortly before he suffered a series of illnesses which kept him away from the House for several weeks, he reflected that ‘day passes away after day so rapidly, that life is sliding away from me, yet little seems to be done. There is I hope no intentional misapplication of time ... but I must retire from business for which not especially fitted’. His brother-in-law William Spooner told Calthorpe, 17 May:

I do not hear without pain the report from various quarters of the very ill looks of Mr. Wilberforce. He is very generally thought to be greatly aged of late, and much less adequate to parliamentary fatigues. My sister has kept him at Bath as long as she could, and nursed him, with early dinner and a time of repose after it; but she returns to London with many uneasy apprehensions, and her fears are certainly in accordance with the remarks of various friends who have seen him lately. I cannot but earnestly wish that the remnant of a life so valuable to his family ... might be preserved to him by some greater measure of retirement from public duties. Perhaps he ought to leave Parliament; and I almost question if, by employing his then greater leisure, in writing, he might not do more essential service to society, than by now retaining his seat, while he would also reserve for domestic use the portion of his taper, which otherwise may somewhat prematurely be consumed ... I am sure you will not be backward to throw in a word of advice of this kind, if on observation of his state you see that there is good reason ... and your sentiments will have much weight with him.37

Wilberforce decided to soldier on, and was in the House to vote for Mackintosh’s forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May, when he also gave notice of a motion on the continuance of the foreign slave trade.38 The following day he wrote to Buxton, whose speech on the forgery bill he admired, asking him to consider their forming an ‘alliance’ so that Buxton could take over the slavery question if, as seemed likely, Wilberforce was unable to see it to a conclusion:

From my time of life, and much more from the state of my constitution, and my inability to bear inclemencies of weather, and irregularities, which close attendance on the House of Commons often requires, I am reminded ... of my being in such a state that I ought not to look confidently to my being able to carry through any business of importance.

It was eighteen months before Buxton finally agreed.39 Wilberforce presented and endorsed a Newfoundland petition for judicial reform, 28 May. He recommended acceptance of the Lords’ amendments to the Grampound disfranchisement bill rather than have it wrecked by splitting hairs, 30 May.40 Next day he spoke in favour of Stephen being heard at the bar of the House as the representative of slaves affected by Maxwell’s removal bill, which he opposed on its second reading, 1 June.41 He supported inquiry into the administration of justice in Tobago and again backed the just claims of American loyalists, 6 June, and endorsed Buxton’s motion for information on suttee, a ‘dreadful practice’ which he wished to see eradicated by education rather than compulsion, 20 June. On 26 June he suggested that a small group of Members could investigate Owen’s New Lanark project more effectively than a commission. He was dissatisfied with his speech later that day in support of his motion, in which government acquiesced, for an address urging them to renew their pressure on other European powers to put an end to the slave trade. On 28 June he carried an address for the better regulation, protection and education of apprenticed slaves, a subject on which he subsequently had discussions with ministers.42 He defended the Constitutional Association, 3 July, and the Society for the Suppression of Vice, 10 July 1821.43

That month Wilberforce, whose financial position, with four sons to support, was becoming constrained, partly because he kept rents on his Yorkshire estates uneconomically low, sold his property in Kensington and leased a house at Marden Park, near Godstone, in Surrey.44 His continued private efforts, through correspondence, to expose the horrors of the European slave trade impeded his fanciful scheme to write ‘both a religious and a political work, which would not be without value’.45 In November 1821 Maria Edgeworth met him at Wycombe Abbey and was struck by

his delightful conversation and ... the extent and variety of his abilities. He is not at all anxious to show himself off: he converses - he does not merely talk. His thoughts are wakened and set going by conversation and you see the thoughts living as they rise. They flow in such abundance and from so many sources that they often cross one another. He leaves many things half said and sometimes a reporter would be quite at a loss ... As he literally seems to speak all his thoughts as they occur, he produces what strikes him on both sides of any question. This often puzzles his hearers but to me this is a proof of candour and sincerity ... He is very lively - full of odd contortions ...[His] indulgent and benevolent temper has struck me particularly ... He made no pretension to superior sanctity or strictness.46

The death from consumption of his elder daughter Barbara at the end of 1821 was a severe blow to Wilberforce, who was advised by his doctors to attend the House ‘very little’ in the approaching session.47

In the first weeks of 1822, when he was ‘on the sick list’, he completed a public appeal to the tsar on the slave trade. As a witness of the disorder at the queen’s funeral, he thought Wilson had been treated ‘very harshly’, though he would not have supported inquiry into his dismissal from the army, and he was ‘glad’ at the opposition majority in favour of admiralty reductions, 1 Mar.48 He resumed attendance later that month, after interviews with Liverpool and Londonderry on the subject of slavery.49 On the government’s colonial trade bills, 1 Apr., he thanked the president of the board of trade for his support for abolition of the slave trade and acknowledged the extent of the West India planters’ distress, but expressed his fear that the measures would, ‘by increasing the intercourse of our colonies with other nations, facilitate the illicit importation of slaves’. He thought he spoke ‘not well’, and was ‘out of spirits’. He had more talks with ministers, and on 17 May argued that it was desirable to connect with the bills a provision for the registration of slaves. All this formed part of what he described to Stephen as the essential task of ‘enlightening ... the public mind on this subject’.50 He ‘half intended to speak’ on Russell’s parliamentary reform motion, 25 Apr., but in the event voted silently for it, subsequently regretting that he had not explained that he did so ‘to put an end to the moral corruption of elections in the smaller towns, where drunkenness and bribery gain the day’.51 Illness forced him to leave the House before the division on Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers, of which he warmly approved, 30 Apr.52 On 2 May Mackintosh found him ‘provokingly desultory’ in ‘vexatious and unprofitable’ talks with ministers about the objects of the African Institution.53 Later that day he spoke and voted for abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, asserting that the argument that its preservation was ‘necessary for the influence of the crown ... seemed calculated to produce a bad impression on the public’ at a critical time. Some derogatory remarks on men’s motives for joining administrations were interpreted in the press as a slur on Williams Wynn, who had recently come in with the Grenvillites; but they amicably cleared the air, 10 May. Wilberforce, as Williams Wynn reported, ‘made a point’ of staying to vote in defence of his brother’s embassy to Switzerland, 16 May. On 14 May Wilberforce, who sometimes ‘felt unfit for public business’, slept through the bulk of Hume’s attack on the government of the Ionian Islands: ‘I was not fit for undertaking to judge, so I retired and gave no vote’.54 He presented a petition from Christian Separatists to be relieved of the obligation to take oaths, 5 June.55 He saw no need to divide Yorkshire for electoral purposes as Williams Wynn proposed, 7 June. He agreed with Stephen to postpone the planned motion for the abolition of slavery until next year, as current distress had put the planters in a strong position. He again talked of handing over the lead to Buxton or William Woolryche Whitmore*, while he gave ‘occasional assistance as my indifferent health and infirmities will allow’: ‘My spirits are low, and I feel quite unequal to the bustle and turmoil, which was nothing to me formerly’. He was however, set on bringing forward two addresses to pave the way for an abolition motion; and on 27 June, after hasty last minute preparations, he carried the first, which called for more efforts to stop the foreign slave trade: ‘the temper of the House was clearly favourable to the proposal’, he wrote, ‘and we all came back in high spirits’. That day he voted for Bennet’s public house licensing bill. He successfully moved his second address, which called on ministers to prevent the introduction of slavery into the British colonies in South Africa, 25 July, when he supported the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the Cape, Mauritius, Ceylon and the Leeward Islands.56 Asked by Mackintosh to support the cause of the Greeks against Turkish persecution, 15 July 1822, Wilberforce, sitting on the ministerial side of the House, did so heartily, to the extent even of saying that war would be justified to rescue them from ‘bondage and destruction’. Later that day he supported the Irish insurrection bill ‘because ... the situation of Ireland demanded it. The want of social order which prevailed in that country was truly lamentable, and he should be most happy if some comprehensive measure could be introduced to remove the evil’.

The succession of his friend Canning to the foreign secretaryship in September 1822 raised Wilberforce’s hopes of effective government action on slavery and the slave trade. Canning made him privy to confidential papers, but remained careful not to commit himself.57 During a round of country house visits in the autumn Wilberforce left behind at Calthorpe’s an essential item of equipment:

Let me ask about a machine (wrapped up for decency’s sake in a towel), a steel girdle cased in leather and an additional part to support the anus ... It fits me so much better than any other of the kind I ever used, that I should be very sorry to lose it. It must be handled carefully, the steel being so elastic as to be easily broken ... I constantly wear another of the same sort and had worn that individual machine too long because it answered its purpose better than any other. How gracious is God in giving us such mitigations and helps for our infirmities. But for a machine of this [sort] I must have given up public speaking and indeed public life near 30 years ago.

During his wanderings he was pleased to find confirmation of the ‘manifest improvement in the moral (I mean religious) state of the country within the last few years’.58 He was initially pleased with reports of the duke of Wellington’s firmness at Verona on the subject of the slave trade. In December 1822 he wrote to Stephen:

You little know how I reproach myself for not having expended wisely and economically the many more years of health than from my bodily frame I could reasonably have expected to be employed on earth on my Master’s business. I do not mean that I essentially waste much time ... but I am sadly chargeable with the fault of not expending my time with judgement ... For many years it has been the fixed desire of my heart, to employ my faculties as well as I could, to the glory of God and the benefit of my fellow-creatures. But alas, I have been, and I still am, continually led into frittering away on comparatively speaking trifles, that time which ought to be doggedly reserved en masse for real work - solid, substantial, permanent work, vested labour ... and yet, in practice, the boundary lines between the trifles and the serious business are not always very clear.59

He lectured his son Samuel on the need to be

diffident in our judgements of others, and to hold our own opinions with moderation ... The best preparation for being a good politician, as well as a superior man in every other line, is to be a truly religious man. For this includes in it all those qualities which fit men to pass through life with benefit to others and with reputation to ourselves. Whatever is to be the effect produced by the subordinate machinery, the main-spring must be the desire to please God, which, in a Christian, implies faith in Christ and a grateful sense of the mercies of God through a Redeemer, and an aspiration after increasing holiness of heart and life.60

In January 1823 Wilberforce, who took a house at 32 St. James’s Place for the new session, concerted plans with Buxton, now the leader, Zachary Macaulay and Smith for their campaign for the abolition of slavery. At the end of the month they formed the Anti-Slavery Society to promote its mitigation and eventual extinction. Wilberforce worked laboriously and fretfully on a ‘manifesto’ which aimed to ‘impress on all religious and good men throughout the empire, that the West Indian slave system ... ought as soon as possible to be abolished; but at least that the subject ought to be duly investigated for the purpose of ascertaining, beyond dispute, the real state of facts, that we may adopt the right line of conduct’. It was published, as An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire, in behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies, in March 1823.61 Wilberforce, who voted in the minority of 25 to lower the import price of corn to 60s., 26 Feb., wrote in secrecy to Holland and Brougham to enlist their aid for the amelioration campaign, observing to the latter that the basic aim should be to give the slaves ‘hope ... one of the grand sweeteners of the cup of life’.62 On 19 Mar. he presented and briefly endorsed the Quaker petition for the abolition of slavery throughout British territory; George Agar Ellis* thought he ‘did not speak so well as usual’. Partly through his own admitted ‘mismanagement’ and partly through Canning’s parliamentary cunning, he was outmanoeuvred and prevented from speaking at length on the motion to print the petition; he was severely ‘vexed’ and made sleepless by self-reproach.63 Having been warned that Hume intended to attack the Society for the Suppression of Vice, 26 Mar., he replied to the strictures of Ricardo, whom he accused of seeking to introduce a free trade in morals.64 In April a chest infection prevented him from attending for debates on the Franco-Spanish conflict and the attack on the Irish attorney-general Plunket’s prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, which he would have opposed. He was present to vote silently for Russell’s parliamentary reform motion, 24 Apr. He defended government against opposition criticism of their handling of the negotiations over Spain, 28 Apr., though he could have wished that their remonstrances to France had taken ‘a higher moral tone’. Not wishing to vote, he left the House early, but was prevailed on by Canning to attend the adjourned debate, 30 Apr., only to leave the chamber in the small hours before the division because he was ‘not satisfied’ with the minister’s explanation.65 In the debate on Buxton’s motion for the gradual and total abolition of slavery, 15 May, he found himself, as he told his son, ‘in very embarrassing circumstances, from having at once, and without consultation, to decide on’ Canning’s alternative of resolutions committing Parliament and the government to amelioration. He acquiesced in them, while warning Canning to place no reliance on the co-operation of the colonial legislatures:

I thank God, I judged rightly that it would not be wise to press for more on that night. On the whole, we have done I trust good service, by getting Mr. Canning pledged to certain important reforms. I should speak of our gains in still stronger terms, but for Canning’s chief friend [Charles Ellis*] being a West Indian.66

The following day he reluctantly stayed away from a public meeting in support of the Greeks on account of ‘the danger of hindering our slavery cause, consciousness that I might offend others whose meetings I had declined, and ... feeling very weakly’. On 22 May he spoke and voted for inquiry into the equalization of the duties on East and West Indian sugars, pointing out that the falling slave population of the West Indies proved that there was a ‘radical defect’ in the system. He avoided the anniversary dinner of the Pitt Club, which had ‘become a mere party affair’. On 4 June he pestered Lord Melville, the first lord of the admiralty, on the ‘horrid indecencies in our ships of war’, and Lord Bathurst, the colonial secretary, on Catholic restrictions on the circulation of bibles in Malta. He had a satisfactory interview with Canning on the slavery issue, 13 June, and that evening spoke ‘well, but with little effect’ in favour of the postponement of proceedings against chief baron O’Grady. He was alarmed at this time by the ‘very violent’ speeches of the Irish Catholic leaders, which he feared threatened to incite their followers to ‘actual rebellion’.67 He encouraged Buxton to persevere in his campaign against suttee, 18 June. On 20 June he presented a number of anti-slavery petitions, secured copies of the correspondence with foreign powers on the slave trade and voted for the Scottish juries bill.68 He spoke and voted in the minority of 19 for Mackintosh’s amendment to end capital punishment for privately stealing from shops attached to dwelling houses, 25 June.69 On Hume’s motion for free discussion of religious matters, 1 July, he defended the Constitutional Association and Society for the Suppression of Vice; but his speech seemed to his own ears ‘dry and barren’. He presented a Pershore anti-slavery petition, 2 July, and on the 4th tried unsuccessfully to prevent the exportation of slaves to Trinidad under the slave trade consolidation bill; Canning subsequently agreed to limit its operation to three years.70 He voted against prison flogging and supported the introduction of jury trial to New South Wales. Wilberforce, who moved to a house in Brompton Grove at the beginning of July, presented the petition of the Rev. John Lempriere complaining of his dismissal from the mastership of Exeter grammar school, 7 July.71 He gave notice of a motion, which he did not bring on, for inquiry into the condition of slaves in Honduras, 10 July, and presented a Selkirk church petition for the abolition of slavery, 11 July 1823.

Wilberforce was attacked in August by Cobbett for his solicitude for the blacks and indifference to the plight of British factory workers.72 He sought Brougham’s co-operation in stamping out the practice on the northern and other circuits of ‘forcing every barrister, on the grand night as I believe it is called, to drink with an audible voice a certain obscene toast’.73 He renewed his unsuccessful pressure on Melville over the ‘shocking licentious practices’ prevailing in the naval ports.74 He largely blamed ministers for the Demerara slave uprising, which he thought had been provoked by their raising of false hopes by the ill-considered and unexplained abolition of the practice of whipping to work; and he told Macaulay in November that ‘we should become the assailants’. Ministers were unimpressed with his suggestion at the turn of the year, when he was reported to be ‘in good health’ and not despondent about the cause, for the allocation of a specific sum in compensation to the planters for eventual abolition.75 He emerged from an interview with Canning, 14 Feb. 1824, ‘sadly disappointed’ with the ministerial plan to restrict implementation of the amelioration resolutions to an order in council for Trinidad. He continued discussions with Canning thereafter. On 16 Feb. he told Agar Ellis that he considered the state of the West Indies ‘very alarming, from the irritated temper of the negroes, who having been last year encouraged by the government to hope for an amelioration in their condition, are now told they have nothing of the kind to expect’. He attended the House, 1 Mar., expecting a debate on Martin’s cruelty to animals bill, but was confronted with a Whig charge of breach of privilege against Eldon, for which he stayed to vote, despite suffering considerable pain.76 On 16 Mar., when Canning detailed the ministerial plan, Wilberforce, feeling ‘better voiced and better heard than usual’, said that it was ‘idle’ to expect action from the colonial governments, attacked the planters for spurning all offers of conciliation and predicted that the ‘dilatory and circuitous’ scheme would ‘incur the imminent risk of involving the colonies in confusion and misery’. He presented anti-slavery petitions from Helston and Montrose the following day.77 Assessing the state of the abolitionist cause, he wrote to Buxton of

the solid satisfaction with which I take a sober estimate of the progress which, through the goodness of Providence, we have already made, and the good hopes which we may justly indulge as to the future. To find two Houses of Parliament, each full of Members to the brim, consulting about the interests and comforts of those, who, not long ago, were scarcely rated above the level of ourang-outangs, is almost as sure an indication of our complete success ere long, as the streaks of morning light are of the fullness of meridian day.78

He thought that Canning easily got the better of Russell on the Spanish issue, 19 Mar. Soon afterwards he contracted pneumonia, which kept him at home for about eight weeks.79 He attended on 1 June for the debate on the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, which, as Members rushed from the chamber to watch Graham’s balloon, was adjourned to the 11th. According to Creevey

Wilberforce had given all his serious acquaintances notice that he meant to take leave of public life in his speech on this occasion, so that every hole and corner was crammed with saints and missionaries in expectation of this great event; when, lo and behold, this wicked aeronaut proved more attractive to the giddy Council of the Nation.

He remained determined to ‘bear my testimony against the scandalous injustice exercised upon poor Smith’, but when it came to it in the resumed debate he ‘quite forgot my topics for a speech, and made sad work of it’, reflecting that ‘I greatly doubt if I had not better give up taking part in the House of Commons’. Yet Agar Ellis thought he ‘spoke ... very eloquently’. In what proved to be his last speech there, 15 June 1824, he made the presentation of an anti-slavery petition from Carlow the pretext for condemning the government’s ‘fundamentally hopeless’ policy on amelioration: ‘if mischief happens’, he noted privately, ‘it will not be chargeable to me’.80

The 26th of June 1824 was a red letter day for the costive Wilberforce, who ‘to my surprise felt bowels alive and had quite a loose motion’. Almost immediately afterwards he was taken badly ill, and on medical advice he spent some time at Bath, before returning to his latest family home, a cottage at Uxbridge, by the end of the year.81 He dismissed the suggestion of Sir John Sinclair† that he should solicit a peerage, which ‘would have been carving for myself ... much more than a Christian ought to do’; but, having been warned by his doctor that anything more than very occasional attendance would endanger his life, he resolved to retire at the next dissolution. After further careful consideration, and under pressure from his wife, he decided at the beginning of February 1825 to go out immediately, though the formalities were not completed for about three weeks. He reasoned:

I am not now much wanted in Parliament; our cause has powerful advocates, who have now taken their stations. The example of a man’s retiring when he feels his bodily and mental powers beginning to fail him, might probably be useful. The public have been so long used to see persons turning a long-continued seat in Parliament to account for obtaining rank, etc., that the contrary example [is] the more needed, and it ought to be exhibited by one who professes to act on Christian principles.82

No corroboration has been found for the story recorded six years later at third hand by Greville that on his retirement Wilberforce offered Canning ‘the lead and direction of his party (the Saints)’, which Canning declined after three days’ consideration.83 Later in the year Wilberforce told Gurney that

though I should not speak truly if I were to charge my parliamentary life with sins of commission (for I can call God to witness, so far as I can recollect, that I always spoke and voted according to the dictates of my conscience, for the public and not for the private interest) yet I am but too conscious of numerous and great sins of omission, many opportunities of doing good either not at all or very inadequately improved.84

In April 1825 he bought a cottage at Highwood Hill, Hendon, into which he moved a year later. He maintained his interest in the abolitionist cause, and occasionally chaired Anti-Slavery Society meetings.85 He toured Yorkshire in 1827, when Sydney Smith told Holland that he ‘looks like a little spirit running about without a body, or in a kind of undress without a body’.86 Some time later Mackintosh wrote of him:

If I were called upon to describe Wilberforce in one word, I should say he was the most ‘amusable’ man I ever met with ... Instead of having to think what subjects will interest him, it is perfectly impossible to hit on one that does not ... When he was in the House of Commons, he seemed to have the freshest mind of any man there. There was all the charm of youth about him. And he is quite as remarkable in this bright evening of his days as when I saw him in his glory many years ago.87

He suffered a devastating financial blow in March 1830 when the dairy business in which he had set up his eldest son William, a black sheep who had failed at Cambridge, ran into serious difficulties. The resultant expenditure, which he took on himself, forced him to leave and lease Highwood and to sell his birthplace in Hull and nearby land. On becoming aware of Wilberforce’s plight, Brougham, lord chancellor in the Grey ministry (whose reform bill was a little too sweeping for Wilberforce’s peace of mind), secured church preferment for two of his sons. Wilberforce, by now almost blind, became their lodger.88 In 1832 he lost his recently married daughter Elizabeth and Stephen. He was well enough to speak at an anti-slavery meeting at Maidstone in April 1833, but soon afterwards went into terminal decline, rendered virtually immobile by swollen legs and a ‘protrusion a posteriori’, though he ‘preserved his faculties to the very last, and his cheerfulness almost to the very last’. He died, hoping for eternal salvation and aware that the government’s bill for the abolition of slavery was certain to become law, in the London house of his cousin Lucy Smith at 44 Cadogan Place in July 1833.89 Tom Macaulay*, to whom he had shown great kindness in his early political career, told his sister that on his death bed Wilberforce

owned that he enjoyed life much, and that he had a great desire to live longer. Strange in a man who had, I should have said, so little to attach him to this world, and so firm a belief in another - in a man with a ruined fortune, a weak spine, a worn out stomach, a vixen wife, and a reprobate son ... Yesterday evening [30 July] I called at the house in Cadogan Place where the body is lying. It was deserted. Mrs. Wilberforce had gone into the country. Henry was out. Samuel was not yet come. And this great man, so popular, so much worshipped, was left to strangers and servants within thirty-six hours after his death.90

In his will of 11 Apr. 1831 he had expressed a wish to be buried ‘without the smallest pomp which in such a case seems to me to be preposterous and unseemly’ in the Stephen family vault in Stoke Newington churchyard; but in response to a requisition signed by many peers and Members of Parliament his family agreed to his interment in Westminster Abbey, near Pitt, Fox and Canning, on 3 Aug. 1833. He left his wife £300 and household goods, devised his real estate to William and divided his personal estate, which was sworn under £25,000 in the province of Canterbury and under £6,000 in that of York, equally among his three younger sons. There was no residue.91 Wilberforce’s eldest son William (1798-1879) was Conservative Member for Hull, 1837-8, and unsuccessfully contested Bradford and Taunton in 1841. The three younger, Robert Isaac (1802-57), Samuel (1805-73) and Henry William (1807-73) made careers in the church, with ‘Soapy Sam’ becoming bishop of Oxford and Winchester. He was the only one to remain in the Church of England, for his three brothers converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1850s.92

Wilberforce was a great humanitarian reformer and a very skilled propagandist, whose life and career helped to shape the attitudes of a generation of public men by promoting belief in the possibility of changing human nature through practical Christianity.93 Littleton observed in 1831 that like all ‘truly great men’, he had ‘activity and energy of mind in its purest and most ethereal form’.94 Brougham wrote after his death that he was

naturally a person of great quickness and even subtlety of mind, with a lively imagination, approaching a playfulness of fancy; and hence he had wit in an unmeasured abundance ... These qualities, however, he had so far disciplined his faculties as to keep in habitual restraint, lest he should ever offend against strict decorum ... His nature was mild and amiable beyond that of most men. His eloquence was of the highest order. It was persuasive and pathetic in an eminent degree; but it was occasionally bold and impassioned.95

Mackintosh said that ‘I never saw anyone who touched life at so many points; and this is the more remarkable in a man who is supposed to live absorbed in the contemplation of a future state’.96

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


Based principally on R.I. and S. Wilberforce, Life of William Wilberforce (1838) and the two deposits of Wilberforce mss in Bodl. The many current biographies include R. Furneaux, William Wilberforce (1974); J. Pollock, William Wilberforce (1977); P. Cormack, Wilberforce (1983); K.C. Belmonte, Hero for Humanity (2002); M. Pura, Vital Christianity (2002), and D.J. Vaughan, Statesman and Saint (2002). See also the bibliography by L.W. Cowie (1992).

  • 1. Gurney, Familiar Sketch of Wilberforce (1838), 10, 13-14; Gurney Mems. ed. J.B. Braithwaite, i. 411-12, 493.
  • 2. J.S. Harford, Recollections, 255, 262; Life, v. 51.
  • 3. Lord Teignmouth, Reminiscences, i. 244-7, 253-5.
  • 4. CUL, Smith mss Add. 7621/15, Julia Smith’s recollections, 11.
  • 5. Add. 38191, f. 272. See B. Hilton, Age of Atonement, 57-61; R.J. Hind, ‘Wilberforce and Perceptions of British People’, HR, lx (1987), 321-35.
  • 6. Life, v. 54, for an e.g.; Melbourne’s Pprs. 379.
  • 7. Hazlitt, Spirit of the Age ed. E.D. Mackerness, 239-41; Black Bk. (1823), 202.
  • 8. Hants RO, Calthorpe mss 26M62/F/C70-72.
  • 9. Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 430; Add. 51820, Wilberforce to Holland, 27 May, 15 June; The Times, 19 May 1820.
  • 10. Life, v. 54-55, 57; Add. 30123, f. 171; 52444, f. 138; NLW, Coedymaen mss 939; Bodl. (Rhodes House), Buxton mss ms Brit. Emp. s. 444, vol. 1, p. 247; Hatherton diary, 10 June 1820; Greville Mems. i. 95.
  • 11. Life, v. 56.
  • 12. Add. 52444, f. 151.
  • 13. Life, v. 57-58; Hatherton diary, 19 June 1820; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 44-45.
  • 14. Add. 52444, f. 165; 56541, f. 43; Life, v. 59; Hatherton diary, 21 June 1820.
  • 15. Life, v. 59-60; Add. 52444, ff. 120, 168; 56541, ff. 44-45; Hatherton diary, 22 June; Grey mss, Grey to Lady Grey, 23 June 1820; Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 119; Pollock, 271-5.
  • 16. Life, v. 61-62; Greville Mems. i. 99; Von Neumann Diary, i. 27; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 25; Grey mss, Grey to Lady Grey, 24 June 1820; Add. 56541, f. 45.
  • 17. E.M. Forster, Marianne Thornton, 19; Life, v. 62-68; Bodl. ms. Wilberforce c. 37, ff. 248, 250; d. 16, f. 114; Eg. 1964, f. 96.
  • 18. The Times, 7 July 1820.
  • 19. Eg. 1964, f. 99; Life, v. 70-72.
  • 20. Eg. 1964, f. 99; Pollock, 277; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 433-5.
  • 21. Life, v. 74-75; Walpole, Russell, i. 121; Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 99; Pol. Reg. 12 Aug. 1820.
  • 22. Add. 49508, ff. 16-31.
  • 23. ms. Wilberforce d. 16, f. 130; Life, v. 77; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord [16 Aug. 1820]; Buckingham, i. 70; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 31-32; Creevey Pprs. i. 306; Hobhouse Diary, 35.
  • 24. Life, v. 78-79.
  • 25. Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR46/11/33/1.
  • 26. Add. 38191, ff. 274, 280.
  • 27. Life, v. 79-80; ms. Wilberforce d. 16, f. 122; Teignmouth, 258-9.
  • 28. Life, v. 80-81; ms. Wilberforce d. 16, ff. 136, 145, 148.
  • 29. Add. 38288, f. 209; Arbuthnot Corresp. 18.
  • 30. Add. 31232, ff. 254, 260, 264-8; Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840/C530/6.
  • 31. Life, v. 84-85; Add. 38742, f. 171.
  • 32. Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 442-5.
  • 33. Life, v. 86; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 71; Buckingham, i. 122.
  • 34. The Times, 21 Feb. 1821.
  • 35. Life, v. 95.
  • 36. The Times, 17 Mar. 1821; Bankes jnl. 126; Add. 58967, f. 138; Lady Holland to Son, 3; Life, v. 96.
  • 37. Life, v. 96-97; Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 23 Apr. 1821; Calthorpe mss F/C273; Pollock, 278-9.
  • 38. The Times, 24 May 1821.
  • 39. Life, v. 100; Buxton Mems. 117-19, 121, 123.
  • 40. The Times, 31 May 1821.
  • 41. Ibid. 1 June 1821.
  • 42. Life, v. 101; Add. 40862, f. 60.
  • 43. The Times, 11 July 1821.
  • 44. Pollock, 277-8; Life, v. 102.
  • 45. Life, v. 106-7; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 453-4, 456.
  • 46. Edgeworth Letters, 251-2.
  • 47. Life, v. 109-16.
  • 48. Ibid. v. 118-20; Add. 41266, f. 218.
  • 49. Life, v. 121-2; Add. 41267A, f. 99.
  • 50. The Times, 2 Apr. 1822; Life, v. 122-5.
  • 51. Life, v. 125-6.
  • 52. Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 459.
  • 53. Add. 52445, ff. 84-85.
  • 54. Life, v. 127; Buckingham, i. 326, 328-9.
  • 55. The Times, 6 June 1822.
  • 56. Life, v. 128-31; Eg. 1964, f. 107.
  • 57. Life, v. 133-8; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 466.
  • 58. Calthorpe mss F/C86, 87.
  • 59. Life, v. 154-5.
  • 60. Wilberforce Priv. Pprs. 205-6.
  • 61. Buxton Mems. 124; Life, v. 163-70; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 473-4.
  • 62. Add. 51820, Wilberforce to Holland, 25 Feb.; Brougham mss, same to Brougham, 20 Mar. 1823.
  • 63. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 19 Mar. [1823]; Life, v. 170-1; Broughton, Recollections, iii. 17; Furneaux, 406-7.
  • 64. Life, v. 172.
  • 65. Ibid. v. 173-6.
  • 66. Ibid. v. 177-9.
  • 67. Ibid. v. 180-2.
  • 68. The Times, 21 June 1823.
  • 69. Ibid. 26 June 1823.
  • 70. Ibid. 3, 5 July 1823; Life, v. 186.
  • 71. Life, v. 187; The Times, 8 July; Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 16 June, 5 July 1823.
  • 72. Pol. Reg. 30 Aug. 1823.
  • 73. Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 3 Oct. 1823, 6 Mar., 31 July 1824.
  • 74. Add. 41085, f. 47; ms. Wilberforce c. 39, f. 62.
  • 75. Life, v. 201-2; Macaulay Letters, i. 194; Buxton Mems. 142; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 477-8.
  • 76. Life, 207-8, 213-15; Agar Ellis diary, 16 Feb. [1824]; ms. Wilberforce c. 39, ff. 61-62.
  • 77. Life, v. 216; The Times, 18 Mar. 1824.
  • 78. Buxton Mems. 149.
  • 79. Life v. 217-21; ms. Wilberforce d. 55, 23 [May 1823].
  • 80. Creevey Pprs. ii. 76-77; Life, v. 221-3; Agar Ellis diary, 11 June; Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 6 July 1824.
  • 81. ms. Wilberforce c. 39, f. 64; Life, v. 225-7.
  • 82. Life, v. 233-9; Buxton Mems. 151-2; Harford, 158-9; Gurney, 34-35; Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 3 Feb.; ms. Wilberforce c. 1, f. 115; d. 55, 20 Feb. [1825].
  • 83. Greville Mems. ii. 126.
  • 84. Life, v. 231.
  • 85. Ibid. v. 248, 262-3, 272; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 495-8, 524-7; Add. 52453, f. 176.
  • 86. Smith Letters. i. 469.
  • 87. Life, v. 315.
  • 88. Pollock, 296, 302-6; Life, v. 326-7; Wilberforce Priv. Pprs. 264-5; Brougham mss, Wilberforce to Brougham, 28 Apr., 21 June, 19 Sept. 1831, 8 Feb. 1832; CUL, Thornton mss Add. 7674/1/H/11.
  • 89. Life, v. 352, 373; Gurney Mems. i. 494-6; Gladstone Diaries, ii. 51; Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 527; Macaulay Letters, ii. 284-5; Gent. Mag. (1833), ii. 273-6.
  • 90. Macaulay Letters, ii. 286.
  • 91. PROB 11/1825/794; IR26/1342/665; Macaulay Letters, ii. 289-92; Gent. Mag. (1833), ii. 561.
  • 92. See D. Newsome, The Parting of Friends.
  • 93. Hind, 321, 329.
  • 94. Three Diaries, 164.
  • 95. Brougham, Hist. Sketches (1839), i. 269-71.
  • 96. Life, v. 315.