Richard Price was a Welsh moral philosopher, non-conformist preacher and mathematician. He was also a political pamphleteer, active in radical republican and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He spent most of his adult life as Minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church on the outskirts of London. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was born at Tynton, a farmhouse in the village of Llangeinor in Glamorgan. He was educated privately, then at Neath and Pentwyn. He studied under Vavasor Griffiths at Talgarth, Powys. He was part of the Bowood Circle, a group of liberal intellectuals around Lord Shelburne. He was a part of the group that Benjamin Franklin christened, 'The Club of Honest Whigs'. At home or in his church he was visited by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine and other American politicians such as John Adams. The support Price gave to the Colonies on British North America in the American War of Independence made him famous.
In early 1776 he published, 'Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty', 'The Principles of Government' and 'The Justice and Policy of the War with America'. 60,000 copies of this last pamphlet were sold within days and a cheap edition sold twice as many copies. He was presented with the Freedom of the City of London and it is said that his pamphlet had a part in the Americans determining to declare their independence. A second pamphlet was published on the war with America and the debts of Great Britain in the spring of 1777. Franklin was a close friend and in the winter of 1788 Price was invited by the Continental Congress to go to America and assist with the financial administration of the States.
In 1781 he alone, with George Washington, received the degree of 'Doctor of Laws' from Yale College. He preached to crowded congregations and when Lord Shelburne became Prime Minister in 1782 he was offered the post of his private secretary. The same year he was elected a foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1785 Price was elected an international member of the American Philosophical Society. Price also wrote, 'Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution and the Means of Rendering it a Benefit to the World'. It was well received by the Americans and it did suggest that the greatest problem facing Congress was its lack of central powers. He was also to write about the French Revolution and was fêted as a demographer and also as quite an expert on moral philosophy.
In terms of the past presidents of the United States with Welsh origin, there was John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, General WH Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and General Garfield.
JOHN ADAMS 1797-1801, JOHN QUINCY ADAMS 1825-1829
This father and son pair were the second and sixth presidents, John Adams played a key role in the peace negotiations with Great Britain and became the first president to live in the White House. His son was a leading opponent of slavery. Their ancestry has been traced back to Penybanc Farm in Llanboidy Carmarthenshire. According to author Phil Carradice the earliest reference to his family comes in 1422 when a distant ancestor
John Adams of Pembroke married the daughter of Penybanc Farm. David Adams, one of the latest sons of Penybanc was educated at Queen Elizabeth School at Carmarthen, took Holy orders and in 1665 emigrated to America. As a former president, Quincy Adams successfully supported slaves who had mutinied while being transported from Cuba.
In his autobiography Thomas Jefferson says, 'The tradition in my father's family is that their ancestor came to this country from Wales, and from near the mountain of Snowdon. My father's estate on James River was called Snowdon after the supposed birthplace of the family.'
Parton the biographer said of Jefferson, 'Of all the public men in the United States he was incomparably the best scholar and most variously accomplished man'. We also know that Thomas Jefferson kept a Welsh dictionary in his library.
What's more, he named one of his horses Caractacus, the chieftain who led opposition to the Roman invasion of Britain. No man was ever more fond of his Welsh blood than he. He attended the William and Mary College and became a successful lawyer. He was elected President in 1801. It is claimed that the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson was signed by 18 Welshmen or men partly of Welsh descent.
JAMES MONROE 1817-1825
His mother Elizabeth James Monroe is understood to have been of Welsh descent. According to his biographer she was the daughter of a well to do Welsh immigrant in King George County, Virginia.
WILLIAM HARRISON 1841
After just 31 days as the 9th president, he passed away from pneumonia, the first president to die in office. He had delivered the longest inaugural address in history at 1 hour 45 minutes. The story goes that he did so without a hat or coat during a snowstorm. The North America Wales Foundation lists him with roots in Wales, and it also lists James Madison and Calvin Coolidge.
Lincoln according to TA Glenn the New York historian was of Welsh descent on his mother's side and inherited her characteristics. His grandmother was Sarah Evans, daughter of Cadwallader Evans of Gwynedd Pennsylvania. He certainly understood the power of the Welsh in 19th century America. In 1860 he made a bid for the support of voters with roots in Wales by having up to 100,000 Welsh language election pamphlets printed.
His great grandfather emigrated from Wales to Philadelphia, perhaps as early as 1701 when a number of Welsh Baptists landed in the Pennsylvania port. He served as a senator and secretary of war but left the Senate in 1861 when Mississippi where he had a cotton plantation seceded from the Union. He was captured and imprisoned for 2 years at the end of the Civil War. Jefferson Davies as well said he was the grandson of Evan Davies, youngest of 3 brothers who emigrated from Wales in the early part of the 18th century and who settled at Philadelphia. Jefferson became President of the Confederacy.
JAMES A GARFIELD
March 1881-September 1881
According to his 1881 biography, even as a boy the blood of his old Welsh ancestors was burning in his veins. In this account his mother tells him that the 1st James Garfield was one of the brave knights of Caerfili Castle. He became a major general during the Civil War on the Union side. He was shot by an embittered attorney who had sought a consular post and he died from his injuries.
RICHARD NIXON 1969-71
He is said to have been descended on his mother's side from the Pulleston family who lived at Hafod y Wern on what is now Wrexham Caia Estate. In the film 'Nixon' he was portrayed by one of Wales celebrated actors, Anthony Hopkins. Despite his role at Watergate, he did a lot to reconcile the United States with China.
Yale University owes its existence to a legacy of Elihu Yale who was born near Boston. He was the second son of David Yale, a native of Bryn Eglwys in which parish the manor house of Plas y Yale lies. Here the Yales lived for many generations.
William Penn once said to Hugh David a minister whom he knew, 'Hugh, I am a Welshman myself and I will tell you by how strange a circumstance our family lost our name. My grandfather was John Tudor and lived upon the top of a mountain or hill in Wales and was generally called John Penmynydd, which in English is John of the hilltop. He removed from Wales to Ireland where he acquired considerable property. Upon his return to his own country, he was addressed by his old friends and neighbours as Mr Penn, which became the family name.'
Rhodri Morgan AM once told me he was not popular with some of the Welsh because he was not keen on the Welsh language being the official language in the House of the Assembly. Other great Americans were Roger Williams who founded the State of Rhode Island, and JP Morgan the great banker.
Harvard University is greatly indebted to Joshua Mooney, a Welshman who collected funds for the institution. Brown University came into existence as a result of the efforts of Welsh ministers the Rev Morgan Edwards and Dr Samuel Jones.
Philips Academy was founded by a Welshman, Samuel Philips, and 2 other American institutions bear the names of their Welsh founders, Williams College and John Hopkins University.
Another great Welsh American was Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the world’s top architects. It is interesting that the beginning of Carnegie's fortune was due to the extraordinary ability displayed by William R Jones in his management of Carnegie's new works at Braddock, near Pittsburg. The father of the anthracite iron trade of America was David Thomas, son of David and Jane Thomas of Tyllwyd Farm near Neath. He was regarded as an outstanding authority in all matters appertaining to the iron trade, and by his skill and industry to the building up of the iron industries of the country.
Hillary Clinton came from Welsh families on both sides and her father is buried in the Welsh cemetery at Scranton, PA. She was a recent contender for the US Presidency and is partner of ex-President Bill Clinton. She was a very able Secretary of State and has long been involved in American politics.
The Welsh have had a huge influence in the USA, with Hillary Clinton as the latest manifestation. Many of them were influential as industrial managers and many in the foundation of the state. Lately there has been some research which casts doubts on Jefferson's Welsh roots, but he certainly believed he had them.