The Welsh Foundation of the American Revolution by Sarah Woodbury

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 in 18th Century U.S., Historical Tidbits | 3 comments

Our_greater_country;_being_a_standard_history_of_the_United_States_from_the_discovery_of_the_American_continent_to_the_present_time_(1901)_(14784848695)Today is Independence Day for the United States. What most Americans don’t know, however, is that, while Wales never managed an independence day for itself, Welsh people had a huge impact on the founding of the United States and were leading inciters and leaders of its revolution.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified on the 4th of July, writes in his autobiography:

“The tradition in my father’s family was that their ancestor came to this country from Wales, and from near the mountain of Snowdon, the highest in Gr. Br.”

Other founders with Welsh ancestry include Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and its religious freedom, William Penn, Samuel Adams and his cousin, John Adams, the second president of the United States. James Madison, Patrick Henry (of ‘give me liberty or give me death’ fame), Benjamin Franklin, George Washington himself, Benedict Arnold, and up to a third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had Welsh ancestry. One key to whether or not a name originates in Wales is if the last name is a ‘first’ name (e.g. Adam, Madison, Henry, Arnold, Jefferson, Williams). Another less well-known founder, Richard Morris, was dubbed by George Washington as the “Financier of the American Revolution”.  (http://www.flint.umich.edu/~ellisjs/Davies.PDF).

That Welsh immigrants would be primary instigators in the American Revolution should be surprising to nobody. Facing persecution and discrimination in their own country at the hands of the English, they immigrated to America in large numbers from the very beginning of the colony. Given their long history of rebellion against the English, it explains a great deal about the willingness of the founders of the United States to stand up to England. Wales fell as a nation to the English in 1282 at the hands of Edward I. Since that time, however, despite continual and repeated attempts on the part of the English to wipe out their language and culture, the Welsh people have maintained some kind of cultural autonomy for the last 734 years.

Such was the influence of the Welsh to the birth of the United States, that the New York Welsh American society was able to include a tablet on the Washington monument, which reads; “Fy iaith, fy ngwlad, fy nghenedl Cymru – Cymru am byth” (My language, my land, my nation of Wales – Wales forever).

Happy Fourth of July!

Sarah Woodbury, July 4, 2016

 

3 Comments

  1. Being of Welsh decent, I was unaware of so many founders were from Wales. This was enlightening.

  2. Thank you for the bit of history. Such things are never told anymore and they are so important to know.

  3. That is so interesting. My great grandmother came from Wales and we brought up our children on Anglesey. My hiraeth for the area is always there. I am not surprised that the Welsh were amongst the founding fathers of U.S. independence. The ancient Welsh laws have always been so egalitarian and favourable to women, too.
    I hope that ‘Where Rowans Intertwine’ demonstrates this.