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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 67. Political Orators and Writers of Pamphlets; William Wilberforce

The great age of English political oratory might seem to have passed away with the fatal year (1806) which removed both Pitt and Fox from the scene of their mighty conflicts; a greater orator than either—Burke—had died nearly a decade earlier. When, in 1802, James Mill arrived in London, he at first thought the eloquence of the house of commons inferior to that of the general assembly (though nearly a generation was to elapse before the chair of that assembly was filled by Chalmers, the most brilliant of all luminaries of the Scottish pulpit). But Mill listened with admiration to Fox and Sheridan, as well as to some other well-known parliamentary speakers of the time.

One of these was William Wilberforce, then in the midst of his immortal efforts for the abolition of the slave trade, accomplished in 1807. The all but unique position which, after this, he held in public estimation was by no means due only to his self-devotion to a cause appealing to the deepest instincts of humanity, and to his detachment from all party motives of action, in “any undertaking which had the welfare of mankind for its object.” It, also, owed much to the charm of his personality, the modest dignity of his bearing and the unaffected ease and simple grace of his delivery.