“When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave
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He diligently amassed incriminating evidence about the mass-scale abuse of human rights taking place in far-away Africa and on the high seas transporting captured African slaves. He wrote and spoke extensively using facts and figures as well as appeals to human emotions. He collected eye witness testimonials, and gathered over 300,000 signatures in a petition from ordinary people calling for abolition of slavery — which countered the political argument that people didn’t care.
Wilberforce must have been among the first to realise the power of collective consumer action. On his urging, conscientious consumers in Britain boycotted sugar grown in the Caribbean with slave labour. One of the most successful campaigns the Abolition Movement was responsible for was the Sugar Boycott. According to one source: “In 1791 the society distributed leaflets encouraging the public, and especially women, not to buy or use sugar produced in the West Indies by slaves. As a result about 300,000 people boycotted sugar and sales began to drop. In an effort to increase sales, some shops stocked only sugar imported from India, which had not been produced by slaves, and goods were labelled to show this.”
He also worked on and with influential religious and political connections. He surrounded himself