Early Political Life and InfluencesAfter graduating from St Johns College, Cambridge, at the age of 20, in 1779, William Wilberforce chose to follow a career in politics and stood as Independent candidate for Member of Parliament for Hull, in 1780. He won by an overwhelming majority and was elected to represent the citizens of Hull, at the age of just 21.
The young Wilberforce was a natural politician. Following the deaths of his father, Robert, and his Uncle, William, he had inherited enough money to financially support his political career. He was also well known and liked among Hull's wealthy merchant families, who hoped that he would represent their business interests in parliament. Two of Wilberforce's most appealing qualities were his engaging personality and his eloquent speaking voice. He was so well known for his public speaking ability that he quickly became known as the " Nightingale of the Commons".
On taking up his parliamentary seat in the House of Commons, Wilberforce once again met up with his university friend, William Pitt the Younger, who had also chosen a political career. Pitt and Wilberforce, spent much time studying the more experienced Members of Parliament, from the Commons gallery, and listening to heated political debates of the day. Pitt enjoyed a very sucessful political career, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1782 and Prime Minister and the new Tory party leader the following year, aged just 24. Although not quite as ambitious as Pitt, Wilberforce took the decision to stand as candidate for Member of Parliament for Yorkshire. This was one of only two county seats and would enable Wilberforce to be a more influential politician and supporter of Pitt's government.
Following Wilberforce's conversion to Methodism in 1785, he experienced strong feelings for giving up politics. It was Pitt and John Newton who convinced him to persevere as a Member of Parliament and to use his work as a way of serving God. With newly found political and religious convictions, Wilberforce saw the campaign to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a way of following his religious and humanitarian beliefs and moral conscience. As Wilberforce started out his political career, it meant that he spent increasingly more time in London, attending to parliamentary business, and less time in Hull.
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