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Lord Wilberforce was active in the Abolition movement in Britain, leading the movement since before 1890. He was a strong political ally of Lord Allendale, and his visits to Wollaton Hall made a lasting impression on a young William Laurence.
In 1807, after a bill to ban the slave trade was defeated in the House of Lords following a speech by Nelson, Lord Wilberforce recruited William Laurence as a spokesman and visible figure for the abolition movement. His intention was to use Laurence's standing as a hero of the Battle of Dover as a counter to Nelson's influence.