William Edward Vincent, one of the founding printer-proprietors of the Wellington Independent, was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England, probably on 17 September 1823, and was baptised on 20 July 1829. He was the fourth child and second son of Anna Muddle Canney and Thomas Vincent, a former goldsmith and silversmith, who worked as a customs officer.
After two years at Christ's Hospital School William followed his elder brother, Henry, into the printing trade, becoming apprenticed in November 1837 to Walter McDowall, a leading London printer. Meanwhile, Henry became well known as a Chartist journalist and lecturer; he was imprisoned in August 1839 for involvement in the Newport riots the previous May. These radical contacts influenced William considerably and through them he was introduced to Henry Chapman, a 'respectable' supporter of Chartism, on whose recommendation William embarked for Wellington, on the Slains Castle, in September 1840.
In Wellington Vincent joined the printing office of Samuel Revans's New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, where radical fellow workers encouraged his participation in the 1842 elections for the Wellington Borough Council, along with active membership of the Mechanics' Institute and the Oddfellows.
Vincent soon became involved in the shifting fortunes of the colony's newspapers. In October 1844 Revans's Gazette was succeeded by the New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, managed by a partnership of merchants and printed on Revans's equipment which was leased by the printers. In March 1845 the Spectator's printing was transferred to other equipment, and the five printers – Edward Roe, James Muir, Thomas McKenzie, George Fellingham and Vincent – with some commercial support began the Wellington Independent. This paper was forced into recess in August when financial difficulties obliged Revans to transfer his now completely nominal ownership of the Independent's equipment to the Spectator proprietors. Roe withdrew from the venture, but Vincent sailed to Sydney and bought for the partnership type and a press from the Sydney Morning Herald, allowing the Independent to publish again in November.
The circumstances of the Independent's establishment, together with the radical ideas and expressions Vincent had learnt from his brother, combined to create an unusually aggressive tone in the newspaper's columns. The early years were not easy, but the Independent gradually became the dominant Wellington paper, absorbing the Spectator in 1865. Vincent was business manager, and probably principal leader writer, while he remained in the partnership.
When the Wellington Settlers' Constitutional Association was established in late 1848 to press for representative government, Vincent became secretary of the embryonic political party. The resulting support from political sympathisers helped the Independent's growth, but Vincent withdrew in June 1850 to become proprietor of the Te Aro Hotel. This venture failed and in March 1851 he was forced to abandon the licensed trade, probably returning to the Independent as an employee.
Vincent had married Anne Sophia Squibb at Wellington on 1 July 1844; they had five sons and four daughters. The family moved to Sydney in 1853, where Vincent worked as compositor and then proofreader on the Sydney Morning Herald. In June 1859 he established a weekly newspaper, the Clarence and Richmond Examiner, in Grafton, northern New South Wales. As in Wellington he sought to support the commercial community rather than the pastoralists, but his principal backer disapproved and early in 1861 the Examiner was sold off. A few months later Vincent began the Clarence and Richmond Independent, which was barely established when he died at Grafton on 22 November 1861. His two eldest sons, Henry (aged 14) and Frank (nearly 12), continued the paper, the first of many Vincent-owned newspapers in the district.