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William Brock

(1807-1875), Dissenting divine

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter in 4 portraits

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'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840), by John Alfred Vinter, after  Benjamin Robert Haydon - NPG D23546

'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840)

by John Alfred Vinter, after Benjamin Robert Haydon
lithograph, circa 1846-1864 (1841)
NPG D23546

'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840), by John Alfred Vinter, after  Benjamin Robert Haydon - NPG D32033

'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840)

by John Alfred Vinter, after Benjamin Robert Haydon
lithograph, circa 1846-1864 (1841)
NPG D32033

'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840), by John Alfred Vinter, after  Benjamin Robert Haydon - NPG D20516

'The Abolition of the Slave Trade' (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840)

by John Alfred Vinter, after Benjamin Robert Haydon
lithograph, circa 1846-1864 (1841)
NPG D20516

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Elinor Mountford

18 June 2020, 21:55

William Brock was a Baptist minister who joined St Mary's Norwich in 1833 and became Friends with Joseph John Gurney who lived at Earlham Hall. He was a committed abolitionist and I've included an excerpt from his memoirs about this time if it is of any interest to you.

Vol 2 pages 49 – 53 (1838. William was then 31)

"This year witnessed the triumph over colonial slavery, after a 4 years conflict of a kind that was altogether unique. An act of the British parliament had abolished slavery in 1834. From the 5th day of August, liberty was declared throughout our West Indian colonies. But it was prospective, rather than present liberty. The scheme of apprenticeship had been devised and enacted, according to which the slaves were to be reckoned and dealt with as servants, under bond to their masters, for the given period. Laws were enacted and organisations instituted for the workings of the apprenticeship, in accordance with righteousness and fairness to all who were concerned. The discovery was presently made that the apprentices were no better off than when they had been slaves. The old temper of tyranny, which had distinguished the Planters for generations, was distinguishing them still. It seemed indeed their tyranny was exasperated by the fact that freedom though postponed, had been authoritatively and definitively decreed: at any rate, they behaved themselves tyrannically: setting at defiance the plainest requirements of the apprenticeship law: and repeating, if not surpassing the cruelties and inhumanities which that law expressly proscribed. The cry was raised in the colonies and at home, for the repeal of the law and for the enactment forthwith of freedom unconditionally, and out and out.

Now came a struggle, as for life and death. By the planters of course unconditional freedom was laughed to scorn: by politicians of the several schools it was maintained that the apprenticeship scheme should have fair play and be left alone: by fashionable society it was said that, but for the fanaticism of the Baptist missionaries, nothing would have been heard of the so-called cruelty or inhumanity: and by Parliament itself the greatest unwillingness was shown to discuss the subject, with a view to the demanded changes.

The old anti-slavery folk were recalled to the council chamber and the field of action.
I had been included in their ranks, by Joseph John Gurney and Fowell Buxton in particular, at the close, as it was deemed, of their long and arduous warfare: sharing the joy of their glorious victory, rather than the wearisome-ness of their protracted fight. It seemed indeed on, on the first of August1834, that all the public speaking and
careful counselling, and earnest meetings about the abolition of slavery, had reached their perpetual end. Emancipation had been secured. Our brethren, who had been in bondage for generations, were actually and forever free. Alas, they were in bondage
still. We had no alternative but to take the field, and at public meetings, and through the press, and by such general means as we had in our power, to attempt to awaken the sympathy of the nation and to secure its influence.

There was ample opportunity for me to fight: and fight I did: going first and last to every town in Norfolk and to a good many towns in Suffolk, lecturing or preaching, or visiting , or doing anything else which seemed likely to contribute to our success. Never did a man work harder than I did in the crusade against “the apprenticeship scheme”. I felt that necessity was laid upon me to devote every hour that I could fairly take from my proper work at St. Mary’s, in order to accomplish the destruction of that scheme. Every now and then I had to go to London on the subject. Ministerial brethren in country places were frequently asking me to put them in the way of rendering help. Articles in newspapers called for correction and reproof. And what was the worst of all, half-hearted and temporary abolitionists had to be answered, when they charged me with being headstrong and going too far.

For a long time did the strife continue: but at length, in 1838, our end was gained, and unconditional freedom was proclaimed, with the full consent, and indeed as the act, of the colonists themselves. I had laboured hard: but I had received in many ways , great recompense afterward. Now with emancipation in actual, pure, practical, inalienable possession I had the richest of all possible rewards. How glad I was, God only knows!"

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