Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Attempted Blackmail of William Wilberforce

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
Public figures in every historical era have been subjected to the abuses of strangers. Whether from motives of jealousy, vanity, envy, or maliciousness, unscrupulous individuals have resorted to using defamatory language and threats against a well-known personage. It is a horrible experience, and unfortunately it is one that resonates throughout history.

One such victim of attempted blackmail was the late 18th century British politician and philanthropist William Wilberforce (1759-1833). He is best remembered as the tireless campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade, and the man who struggled against almost overwhelming opposition in the House of Commons from the late 1780s until the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Wilberforce was joined in his efforts to put a stop to the trade by his great friend, the then Prime Minister William Pitt (1759-1806), amongst others.

In 1787, just as Wilberforce was gathering evidence against the inhumane trade with the intention to bring forward his first motion for its abolition, he was confronted with attempted defamation of character. The man threatening to publish a serious libel against Wilberforce was Anthony Fearon. He was a former neighbor of Wilberforce during his time at Lauriston House in Wimbledon, Surrey. At that time, Wimbledon was still a rural, country village several miles on the outskirts of London. (Read more.)

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