William Henry Renwick

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William Henry Renwick
Born 1862
Gateshead, England[1]
Died 1 January 1933
Kent Street, Surrey Hills[1]
Burial place Box Hill Cemetery[2]
Residence Kent Street, Surrey Hills[1]
Nationality British
Children R. T. Renwick (son), J. F. Renwick (son), H. H. Donaldson (daughter)[1]

William Henry Renwick was a councillor for Centre Ward on Camberwell Council. He was a company director and political activist in the free trade and anti-socialist movements.



After his migration to Australia, Renwick became heavily involved in social and political movements of the time. He was an anti-socialist and dedicated many of his activities to this and the cause of free trade. He became secretary of the Free Trade Democratic Association following his resignation as chair of the board of a local printing firm in Melbourne. Following the federation of Australia in 1901, he was appointed as the Australian organiser for the growing Free Trade Party.

In the 1910s, he became a leading figure in the Georgist movement in Australia, becoming president of the Henry George League for a number of years. Upon the creation of the Henry George Foundation in 1928, he became its inaugural president and held this position until he died in 1933.[1]


Renwick was a staunch proponent of the ideas of Henry George, a U.S. classical economist who advocated integrated the ideas of social justice with that of economic liberalism and reform, including the replacement of all current taxation with a single levy on the value of land.[3] This was to become a key part of his political activities.

Election to Camberwell Council

Council activities

Renwick was instrumental in introducing an unimproved rating system for the city, a matter that was the subject of much discussion and debate both before and after its introduction.[1]

1913 Victorian Senate election

He stood a candidate for the Australian Senate in 1913 but was ultimately unsuccessful. Renwick used meetings around Victoria to rally support for the Free Trade Party following its fusion with the Protectionist Party in 1909.[4][5][6]

At events around the state, he put forward his election platform and answered questions from the audience. He was often reported as using many visual aides to explain complex economic theories and using humorous language to respond to particular issues.[6] Upon being challenged from one of the attendees at a speech in Camberwell on 3 May 1913 about the effects of a trade monopoly by farmers in particular parts of Victoria, he is reported to have replied: "If there was an epidemic of burglars in my neighbourhood, I would not call a meeting of burglars [farmers], but a gathering of victims [workers]".[4]

In the early stages of campaigning, he was embroiled in a dispute with The Age newspaper, which accused him of selectively quoting an article to make it appear that the paper was endorsing him for election.[7] Renwick defended his quotations in a speech in Cambertown in country Victoria, denying that he had misquoted the articles. This prompted the paper to respond, calling his actions "a monstrous perversion of the real sense". Although the incident was widely reported at the time, any impacts on his campaign are unclear.[8]

Renwick repeatedly quoted British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone as having said that "protectionism is a fraud" at many of his speeches.[9] He also expressed support for the White Australia Policy and preferential voting.[10]

He received only 1.4 percent of the total vote, polling 25,528 out of 1,796,895 votes cast in what proved to be one of the closest elections in Australian history, heralding many years of turmoil in federal politics.[11]


Renwick retired as a councillor in 1924 due to ill health.[1] He was succeeded in his role as councillor for Centre Ward by T. Purves.


William Renwick died on Sunday 1 January 1933 at his home in Surrey Hills at the age of 70. He was buried at Box Hill Cemetery[1]


Renwick Street in Glen Iris is named for him.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 The Argus. Obituary - Mr. William Henry Renwick. 3 January 1933. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4517470, accessed: 18 November 2016
  2. Box Hill Cemetery. Deceased Search - William Henry Renwick. 2015. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Renwick&GSfn=William&GSmn=Henry&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GScntry=15&GSob=n&GRid=123935888&df=all&, accessed 18 November 2016
  3. Hudson, Michael; Miller, George; Feder, Kris. A Philosophy for a Fair Society. 1994. Shepheard-Walwyn: London.
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Argus. Senate Campaign - Mr Renwick at Camberwell. 5 May 1933. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10781854, accessed: 18 November 2016
  5. Bendigo Independent. Mr. Renwick at Castlemaine. 16 May 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/22785628, accessed: 18 November 2016
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hennesey, J. F. The Senate - Mr. Renwick at Geelong. 2 May 1913. The Age. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199441075, accessed: 18 November 2016
  7. The Age. Mr Renwick and "The Age" - A Free-Trader's Electioneering Methods. 26 April 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199435385, accessed: 18 November 2016
  8. The Age. Mr Renwick and "The Age". 1 May 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199439286, accessed: 18 November 2016
  9. Riverine Herald. Senate Election - Mr W. H. Renwick's Address - 'Protecionism is a Fraud'. 10 April 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/115191763, accessed: 18 November 2016
  10. The Age. The Senate - Mr Renwick's candidature. 5 May 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199439444, accessed: 18 November 2016
  11. The Age. The Senate Poll - Declaration Speeches. 28 June 1913. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199445301, accessed: 18 November 2016