The Slave and Sydney Cove Medallions

Two contemporaneous but smaller masterpieces of ceramic art can also be credited to William Hackwood. The first is the Slave medallion featuring a kneeling, manacled male figure surmounted by the words AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER? It was modelled in 1787 from the seal of the Abolition of Slavery Society by Hackwood, and Josiah distributed these medallions freely to fellow supporters. Thomas Clarkson, one of the members of the committee, described how the medallions became a fashion accessory. “Some had them inlaid in gold on the lid of their snuff boxes. Of the ladies, several wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair.” Josiah even dispatched a parcel of the medallions in 1788 to Benjamin Franklin, president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, a gift which Franklin gravely and courteously acknowledged.

The second small masterpiece is the Sydney Cove medallion of 1789. Modelled by Hackwood from clay sent by Captain Arthur Phillip RN from the infant colony which had been settled at Sydney Cover, Australia, this commemorative piece is sometimes referred to as “Hope Encouraging Art and Labour under the Influence of Peace.” It was Hackwood’s supreme modelling talents which brought the subject matter to life. A fragment of a bill dated September 8, 1789, indicates that “Josiah Wedgwood Esqr.” paid to “Mr Wm Hackwood,” the sum of £0 10s. 6d. for “. . . finishing a Basso the Medal of Hope- Peace labour and art.”


The Mould for the Slave Medallion, © Wedgwood Museum

The Mould for the Slave Medallion
© Wedgwood Museum