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Lot #114
William Wilberforce Autograph Letter Signed

Wilberforce on the difficulties of completing his chapel, St. Paul’s Church, Mill Hill: “I scarcely need say that it is a sad disappointment to me to find myself mistaken in the hope I had indulged”

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Wilberforce on the difficulties of completing his chapel, St. Paul’s Church, Mill Hill: “I scarcely need say that it is a sad disappointment to me to find myself mistaken in the hope I had indulged”

British politician, evangelist, and philanthropist (1759-1833) who played an important role in the movement to abolish slavery. ALS signed “W. Wilberforce,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.25 x 9, July 30, 1832. Handwritten letter to Dr. Stephen Lushington (1782-1873), a noted judge, Member of Parliament, and a radical for the abolition of slavery and capital punishment. ​​Wilberforce writes to his correspondent to seek information “which I know not where else to obtain,” continuing: “You may remember that about 4 years ago, an Act of Parliamt. was passed, empowering certain Parliamentary Commissions for building new churches and chapels, to give a perpetual right of Patronage over such new Churches & Chapels, to such individuals as should build & endow them on the Conditions there specified. My house at Highwood Hill & the neighbouring tenements being between 3 & 4 miles from the parish church of Hendon, which of course was attended only by those who keep carriages, no sooner had the Act passed than I proceeded to avail myself of it. Entre nous, the Rector, Mr. Williams, had given me reason to believe he would befriend my design. In fact however he opposed me to the utmost of his power, but the want of a place of worship was so urgent, that all his hostility was unavailing, & above 3 years ago, the Commissrs. promised me the perpetual patronage of the chapel I should build & endow & also that a district should be assigned to it. Consequently I proceeded to build & by the kind aid of a wide circle of friends, the Chapel was above a year ago all but quite completed. Meanwhile I was surprised to hear, some few months ago, that the management of the business, in the case of my chapel at least, had been transferred from the Parliamentary Commrs. & had been vested entirely in the Bp. of London, who was himself indeed so obliging as to inform me that he had put all the papers relating to my chapel into the hands of Mr. Shepherd, his Deputy Registrar, desiring him, if it should be necessary to take farther advice, to apply to Dr. Lushington.” Wilberforce adds that he then applied to his agent to see how matters were progressing, who then informed him that they were obtaining the certificate required by the Act of Parliament as to the number of inhabitants within a two-mile radius of the parish church. To this, he remarks “This answer surprised me greatly, for several years ago at the very outset of my application, to the Commissrs. my son had obtained & presented to them a particular account of the population within the required distance from the chapel. It seems hard to be compelld to go over the same ground once more & deliver in the same circumstances as when I originally set on foot this design, I should make no objection. But as you may probably have heard from rumour, that my eldest son, who, when compelld by ill health some few years ago to quit the profession of the law had taken a large dairy farm, in connection with a friend on whose skill he depended, had incurred so heavy a loss that I was compelld to let my house & reduce my establishment & expenditure very greatly to enable me to continue to my children the allowances necessary for their comfort & to which some of them indeed were entitled by law. Thus circumstanced, I scarcely need say that it is a sad disappointment to me to find myself mistaken in the hope I had indulged, that I should have no more to pay for my chapel, and I resolved to apply to you to inquire whether the Bp of London if he were so disposed, could not under the powers he already possesses, or in short whether or not he could not in any way give me the patronage of my chapel witht. requiring the same conditions exacted from those who apply to him for ye first time & on the ground of the Act recently passed by the legislature. Really my dear Dr. if you could put me in the way of getting my chapel business completed with’t much farther expense, you would oblige & serve me very greatly.” In fine condition.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Classical Music
  • Dates: #661 - Ended April 12, 2023

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