Saturday, 30 June 2012

Henry Richard a man of principle.

I have just finished reading Gwyn Griffiths 's biography of Henry Richard (. Arguably the first MP to represent Wales as a Nation in the House of Commons .

A well researched and argued book I would recommend you all to read this. I had always hoped that Ieuan Gwynedd Jones would have written Richard's Biography but this while it may lack Profesor Jones lively style. It is an excellent account of Richard's life and beliefs.

Born in n 1812 in Tregaron, Ceredigion, and educated initially at Llangeitho grammar school, Henry Richard attended college at Highbury, near London, to obtain qualifications for the ministry switching from his Minister fathers Calvinistic Methodist to the more open Congregationalist.

Although a highly successful minister at the t Marlborough Chapel, a Congregational chapel in the Old Kent Road London for some 15 years . He resigned in 1850 to devote himself full time as secretary to the Peace Society, a post he had undertaken two years earlier on a part-time basis. He helped organize a series of congresses in the capitals of Europe, and was partly instrumental in securing the insertion of a declaration in favour of arbitration in the treaty of Paris in 1856. Through this work he became universally known in Europe and the United States until his resignation in 1885.

In this role ,when the British Empire was at the height of its aggressive powers. He opposed British military adventures in the Crimea, Egypt, Afghanistan, South Africa, China and Burma and constantly advocated a system of arbitration to settle disputes between countries.

His pacifism also saw him although a committed abolitionist ,opposing the American Civil War a conflict he argued was not started to free the Slaves anyway. Arguing that the people of the Northmen States "Hated the Black man as much as those in the South".

But its not only his tireless and principled stand on the issue of peace that Henry Richard should be remembered..for. His outspoken criticism of Brad y Llyfrau Gleision . (The Treachery of the Blue Books) in which a reports of the commissioners of enquiry into the state of education in Wales published in 1847 attacked the Welsh.culture and Langage brought this London based Welshman to prominence in his own country

The public inquiry was carried out as a result of pressure from William Williams, Radical MP for Coventry, who was himself a Welshman by birth and was concerned about the state of education in Wales. The enquiry was carried out by three English commissioners, R. R. W. Lingen, Jellynger C. Symons and H. R. Vaughan Johnson. The commissioners visited every part of Wales during 1846, collecting evidence and statistics. However, they spoke no Welsh and relied on information from witnesses, many of them Anglican clergymen at a time when Wales was a stronghold of Nonconformism.

Their report was detailed. It concluded that schools in Wales were extremely inadequate, often with teachers speaking only English and using only English text-books in areas where the children spoke only Welsh, and that Welsh-speakers had to rely on the Non-conformist Sunday Schools to acquire literacy. But it also concluded that the Welsh were ignorant, lazy and immoral, and that among the causes of this were the use of the Welsh language and nonconformity.

As a leading Nonconformist Richards was one of the leading critics of the report pointing out that Griffith Jones circulating Schools had creatates country with a literate population with a deep knowledge of the Christian scriptures. defended the Welsh people and Language against what was an outrage slur on their character.He went on to play an active in the development Welsh education. qhere he He opposed sectarian schools and the teaching of religion in schools, especially when funded from the public purse.

In 1868 he was elected one of the Two MP for Merthyr where he never bowed to popular suport for "John Bulls" Wars and constantly spoke out with well researched argument about Britains Gun boat and jingoistic diplomacy of the Day.He remained a MP for 20 Years  untill his death in 1888.

It would be wrong to call Henry Richards a Proto Nationalist but he was the first MP to represent Wales as a Nation though it was not untill the end of his Political carrer that we saw the Likes of Tom Ellis that we saw the development of modern Weslh Poltician.

A Principled politician (how many are there today?) who spoke for Intenational Peace but also for the rights of his own people . Henry Richard desevers to be celebrated throughout Wales and I am grateful to Gwyn Groffith for making a major contribution to this.

Henry Richard, Apostle of Peace and Welsh Patriot
by Gwyn Griffiths (Francis Bootle Publishers).

Soft cover, 354 pages with 16 illustrations in black and white
ISBN 978 1 903427 33

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