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Should a Change of Law Be Gradual or Abrupt?

Wilberforce, and his abolitionist colleagues—black and white—continued their efforts to convince Members of Parliament to abolish the slave-trade law. Enduring newspaper attacks, physical assaults and death threats, Willberforce had to travel with an armed bodyguard.

As the public began to turn in favor of abolishing the law, people boycotted sugar, signed petitions and marched on the Prime Minister's office.

In 1796, when it seemed momentum had shifted in favor of slave-trade abandonment, slave-trade proponents offered certain MPs free tickets to the opera.  The law did not change, and Wilberforce had a nervous breakdown.

Finally, at 4 o’clock in the morning - on the 23rd of February, 1807 - the law changed by a vote of 283 to 16. Wilberforce, who was present, bowed his head and wept.

Do you see parallels between abolishing the slave-trade law and legal issues which are hot topics in the 21st century? Explain your answer.

Do you think it is better to change a law gradually or abruptly? Explain your position.

Do you think the more controversial the law the greater the need for a public-relations effort? Why, or why not?


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