Teachable William – Part 1

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william wilberforce


It was a letter that demanded an immediate answer. After a hectic day in Parliament, the fifty-one year-old, Christian statesman William Wilberforce was brought to a halt by a letter charging him with “deceiving people”. The charge certainly demanded a response. A duel in the streets? War of words posted in letters to the editor?

Well, it was a letter, but not to the editor. It was a thank-you – to his rebuker.


Teaching Children Conflict Resolution

Outside the pages of Scripture, history holds the greatest treasure-trove of interpersonal relationship examples for us and our children. Delving into the life of William Wilberforce, his friendship with Mr. Roberts showcases a secret we all need in life: conflict resolution. As homeschooling families, one of the benefits we possess is teaching children how to handle misconduct from siblings, friends, and authority figures in a Christ-honoring manner. Mr. Wilberforce’s story of addressing a charge on his character gives an unrivaled illustration of handling conflict with goodwill and grace.

Mr. Roberts had not previously met Mr. Wilberforce on that sweltering July day in 1811. Four days prior, Mr. Roberts had requested a meeting with the famous abolitionist, the reason of which has been lost to history. What we do know is the scattered statesman entirely forgot about his appointment and Mr. Roberts was left waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Finally, the disappointed man went home and wrote an account of his state of mind to Wilberforce saying because he was such an over-committed man, he was deceiving people by his inability to keep his word. Here we find Mr. Wilberforce picking up the story in his own diary.



“Wrote to Mr. Roberts, from whom I received a most frank and honest letter; too strongly charging me with deceiving people, though ascribing it to my attempting more business than I can execute.”

An ordinary mortal would have bristled receiving such a hard letter at the end of a taxing work day. Who hasn’t forgotten an appointment? Yet, Wilberforce was no ordinary man and returned with a blend of unexpected honesty and cheerful meekness.

“I love his frankness and thanked him for it.”

Thanked him? Why? Mr. Wilberforce provides both Mr. Roberts and our children that answer.

“I greatly respect your frankness on general grounds; but that still more on personal grounds I consider you as entitled to my warmest gratitude for what I must deem a signal act of friendship. Two of the best friends I have in the world have endeared themselves to me in no small degree by the same friendly frankness. Amongst other advantages which follow from dealing thus openly, is this, that if a man be not in fault, or not in fault greatly, he has an opportunity of vindicating himself in whole or in part; or if he be in fault, he has the opportunity of acknowledging, and as far as possible of repairing it.”

Openness and the opportunity for a hearing formed the “signal act of friendship” Wilberforce esteemed so much. Two keys which part-two will unfold as we continue our story.


Kenzi Knapp is a follower of Christ, homeschool graduate and student of history. A fourth generation Missourian she enjoys writing about daily life enrolled in Gods great course of faith and His story throughout the ages at her blog, Honey Rock Hills.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).