William Brown

In the East Reception Room of Liverpool Town Hall hangs the portrait of Sir William Brown (1784-1864), by Sir John Watson Gordon. The plaque (pictured) that currently accompanies the painting refers to him as: “William Brown (1784-1864) was born in County Antrim and was the son of a linen trader. When he came to Liverpool in 1810 he became active in the political life of the Town, serving as Alderman from 1831. William Brown, a Freeman of the City, was one of the major benefactors of the Town, providing both a public library and museum costing £40,000. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1860.
By Sir John Watson Gordon (1788-1864) dated 1857 and commissioned for the Free Public Library in honour of the donor of the building. Gordon ranked among the leading painters at that time and was knighted in 1851.”
I think something more appropriate would read like this:
William Brown was born in Ballymena, Ireland, his family travelled to the U.S. where they established the firm of Alexander Brown & Sons, linen merchants. William, Alexander’s eldest son, came to Liverpool from Baltimore in 1810 to establish a branch of the family business here. He would go on to become one of the premier importers of slave-produced cotton into Britain during the first half of the nineteenth century. With the money the family made from cotton they established themselves as bankers, providing mortgages to slave plantation owners in the US. During the economic panic of 1837, the Browns foreclosed on many of the properties they had financed and as well as taking ownership of the land, the family also took ownership of the enslaved people who cultivated the land. The family sold the last of their plantations and their enslaved labourers, just before the outbreak of American Civil War that culminated in the abolition of slavery in the US. William’s great wealth allowed him to give £40,000 for the building of Liverpool’s public library and museum that officially opened in 1860. He served as MP for South Lancashire from 1846 to 1859 and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1860.
William Brown panel
William Brown portrait