Friday, 2 March 2012

Henry Vincent and the 'Welsh republic'

Chartism appears to have become something of a hot political issue in Wales, where Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price has laid claim to the Chartist legacy, invoking the Chartist orator Henry Vincent (left) as an early advocate of Welsh independence.

The move has, predictably, angered local Labour politicians, who point out that the labour and trade union movement celebrated and commemorated Chartism and the Newport uprising for decades before Plaid developed a belated interest.

Here is a newspaper report on the spat published in the Western Mail.

The row was sparked by Price in a speech in Newport last week in which he claimed that Vincent, who worked extensively in Wales for the Chartist movement but was born in London and brought up in Hull, had told local radicals in a speech on 26 March 1839: “Wales would make an excellent republic.”

In fact Vincent never said it in this or any other speech.

He did write it – in his account of a journey through Wales to Newport where he was to speak later in the day, and as a reflection on the geography rather than the politics of the area.

The full text of what Vincent wrote – and his own account of what he said later that day in Newport – can be found in an article from the Western Vindicator now republished on the Vision of Britain website.

Assuming the Western Mail report to be accurate, Price has added Vincent’s written reflections on Welsh geography to a spoken regret that he was unable to understand a fellow orator’s speech in Newport, to create an imaginary proto-nationalist speech that Vincent never made.