Portrait of William Wilberforce by Karl Anton Hickel in 1794 maintained by Hull Museums (Wilberforce House Museum) Collections at Kingston-upon-Hull, U.K. Image online courtesy, Wikimedia Commons.
Having heard all of this
you may choose to look the other way
but you can never again say
that you did not know.
Wilberforce had the evidence, but he faced a very difficult problem. Britain's slave trade was legal, so the crimes weren't crimes and the wrongs weren't punishable.
As one hundred thousand Africans were wrenched from their homes every year - to become "owned" by foreigners - people in the slave-trading business could ignore their plight because Parliament allowed it.
With extraordinary dedication, however, the Cambridge University essayist (Clarkson) and Parliament's youngest member (Wilberforce) staked out a new path.
Their journey, to illegalize Britain's slave trade, would take twenty years.
ISSUES AND QUESTIONS TO PONDER: Britain's laws allowed slave-trading. The buying-and-selling-of-people was therefore legal under British law. Were such legal actions moral? If not, does that mean government-enacted laws can sometimes be immoral?
If a law is immoral, how can it be changed? Can you think of any laws, today, which are legal-but-immoral? What are they?
What happens if everyone just "goes along" with an immoral law? If individuals harmed by such a law have no power to change it, how would the law ever get changed?
If an immoral law doesn't impact you - or someone you love - is it realistic to expect that you'd do anything to bring about change? Why, or why not?
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