Picture of Henry Vincent

Henry Vincent

places mentioned

Apr. 22 to 27: the Welsh Valleys

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April 22, 1839. — Rose at three o'clock, and wrote for the Vindicator until nine. Broke my fast, and left Newport for the hills, in a gig, in the company of Mr. Edwards. The morning was very fine. Our ride was exceedingly pleasing. Primroses and pretty wild flowers were peeping from under the hedge-rows. The hills and vallies were clad in beautiful virgin green, and the birds sang merrily. We arrived at the Greyhound, Pontlanvraith, at twelve o'clock. We put up our gig, and walked about a mile to the Half-way-house, at Gellygroes. A large concourse of persons was assembled to greet us on our arrival. A platform was erected in an adjoining field. We dined off a fine piece of Welsh mutton and greens; washed it down with a cup of coffee. We then mounted the platform and found it surrounded by about 1500 persons, amongst whom were several well-dressed ladies. A shrewd Welshman was called to the chair, who briefly opened the meeting, and introduced Mr. Edwards, who addressed the people in a good speech, and was loudly cheered. I referred to the Devizes affair, and fully detailed the principles of government, as well as the principles embodied in the People's Charter. I pointed out to the people their duties, and appealed to them to unite firmly together. I spoke for nearly two hours; was listened to with patient attention; and was loudly cheered on sitting down. The meeting was addressed in the Welsh language. At the conclusion of the meeting three cheers were given for Vincent and Edwards — three for the Charter — three for our wives, our sweethearts and ourselves, and the meeting broke up.

At a quarter to three the people formed into procession, five a-breast. About 200 little boys and girls arrived from Blackwood, with their pretty devices of flowers and flags. Our procession was about half-a-mile long. The children sang "Here's a health to Radical boys"; and on we marched to Blackwood. On reaching the Coach and Horses we halted. Myself, Edwards, Dr. Price, and the Committee, mounted the hustings. The business commenced with Dr. Price being called to the chair, who opened the business in a Welsh speech, full of eloquence and argument; and he concluded with a quotation from the "Rights of Man", which was loudly cheered. The numbers present were between 2000 and 3000. Mr. Edwards addressed the meeting at some length, and was loudly cheered. I next addressed the people in a long speech, which appeared to infuse new fire and energy into all present. The ladies were particularly enthusiastic in their approbation. At the close of the meeting sundry cheers were given for myself and others; and the meeting separated. I then took tea, and in the company of Edwards rode to the Greyhound, Pontlanvraith.

At eight o'clock about 4000 persons assembled in front of the Greyhound. The night turned wet, and the rain fell heavily. The chair was taken by an intelligent man, who briefly opened the business, and introduced Mr. Edwards to the meeting. Edwards made a capital speech, and was loudly applauded. I next addressed the meeting on the Charter, and political economy. I showed to the people that the present movement resolved itself into the best mode of creating and distributing wealth. I was loudly cheered. The meeting broke up at ten o'clock. Thus, we attended three meetings on one day, at each of which the greatest enthusiasm prevailed. We spent the night at the Greyhound; listened to a few songs; and retired to bed, much exhausted, two hours beyond midnight.

TUESDAY, April 23rd. — Rose at eight o'clock, breakfasted and started for Nantiglo. Had a heavy ride over a mountainous country. Passed through Tredegar, a densely populated district. About two miles beyond were met by about 300 of our Nantiglo friends. We passed through the town amidst the cheers of the brave fellows who accompanied us. We arrived at the King Crispin , Mr. David Lewis, the landlord, is a famous fellow. There is no mistake about him. He says what he means, and works hard to spread our principles. We had about 2000 people present. Mr. Guthery took the chair, and made a short speech, and introduced Edwards to the meeting. Edwards is very popular on the hills, and he has done much good by his unwearied activity. [Vincent also spoke, for two hours] The meeting was a noble display of enthusiastic patriotism. The ladies attended in great numbers ... [We] broke up the m,meeting at four o'clock. I then walked about a mile in the company of Edwards and Mr. Williams, on to the Royal Oak Inn, Coal Brook Vale, Blaina, the landlord of which, Mr. Williams, is one of the most intelligent men it has ever been my good fortune to meet with. On our road to his house, we met Crozier Bayley, Esq., an extensive proprietor of ironworks; and a rank Tory. The following conversation took place.

Bayley.— "Which is Mr. Vincent?" — To which I answered, "My name is Vincent, Sir".

Bayley.— "If I had known you were about to address the people this morning, I would have had you put in a pond."

"Why, Sir", said I, "I thought you were a Conservative gentleman, and of course a moral-force man".

Bayley.— "D——n your moral force; what business have you here amongst my men; I employ a great number of men, and I give you notice that if you speak to the people on the hill tonight, I will upset you and have you put in the pond".

I smiled at this, and said, "Where will you get the men to do it?" He then pointed over to the blazing furnaces where his men were working, and said, "There!" I replied "My life on the issue, Sir, they will not oppose me; I will beat you on your own ground."

A running conversation took place between Mr. Edwards and Bayley, in which Edwards charged him with a few awkward things. I then said, "Well, Mr. Bayley, I wish you a good day; I hope you will not forget your threat — depend upon it you will be beaten". He bowed, and we separated. We took tea at the house of our good friend, Mr. Williams, who did all in his power to make us comfortable. At seven o'clock from 5000 to 6000 people assembled on a beautiful hill, behind the house of Mr. Williams. A shrewd Welshman was called to the chair. He addressed the people in the Welch language, and was much applauded. Edwards next addressed the meeting, and made a capital speech. I observed young Bayley arrive, with about a dozen clerks and managers, and take up their station at the left of the meeting. They interrupted Edwards occasionally, but he pumelled them famously. I then addressed the meeting, and lashed the big O's unmercifully. The poor "managers" looked very sheepishly, for the people were cheering me with much zeal. At last young Bayley completely lost his patience. He looked like Sam Weller when he exclaimed, "human nature can't stand it!" So he cocked up his head, and said, "What is the meaning of the word Tory, Mr. Vincent?" "THIEF", was my reply. I told him to look into the dictionaries — I told him the name first originated in Ireland, where the brigands were termed Tories! He then asked me "if I was for a Republic". I answered, "I am for giving the people the power of choosing their own rulers, and whatever government they may choose to form, is the only legitimate government" — (Loud cheers.) He then said, "Are you for a revolution?" I answered, "Yes; because revolution means change — and we need change — and intend to have one." He then said something of our insulting nature, when the people drove him and the clerks off the ground, and would have killed them had I not begged of the people not to hurt them. Thus ended the threat of "putting me in the pond"! Success to the brave Welchmen — they are noble fellows! We had lots of cheers, and the meeting broke up. Retired to bed at twelve o'clock very tired.

WEDNESDAY, April 24. — Left Nantiglo for Pontypool. Had a ride over one of the most delightfully- romantic tracts of country it has ever been my good fortune to see. Such beauty of scenery! Lofty hills — valleys luxuriant with foliage — fruit trees blossoming in the gardens — and all around wearing the appearance of gladness and gaiety. Passed through Abergavenny, a fine built town, with many very pretty buildings in its vicinity. Arrived at Pontypool at three o'clock. I never passed through twenty miles of such beautiful scenery in my life! What a nation would Britain be, were her people but free! Took tea with our esteemed friend Llewellyn. At six o'clock walked to the centre of the town, with about five hundred of our friends, five a-breast. In half-an-hour we had from 10 to 12,000 persons present; the men and women came in from the hills in all directions. Such a concourse of people had not been seen in Pontypool before. We spoke from the window of a good friend. Edwards made a capital speech, and was much cheered. He seems to be highly respected by the people of Pontypool. They laugh at the lies of the Merlin . I addressed the meeting for two hours and was enthusiastically cheered. The people swore they would have the Charter. At the conclusion of the meeting I addressed the ladies in a room, and was loudly applauded by them. Spent the night with a few friends and retired to bed at twelve o'clock.

THURSDAY, 25th April, 1839. — Rose at eight. Broke my fast and rode to Newport; where we arrived at eleven o'clock. Found the town all excitement. The foolish magistrates had issued a proclamation, forbidding our meeting, and calling all Chartist meetings illegal. I immediately printed an address, calling upon the people to meet me in the evening, and maintaining that our meetings were legal. Rumour was abroad that I should be arrested in the evening. At seven o'clock several thousand people assembled, joined me at Mr. Frost's, and conducted me in procession through the town. On reaching Pentonville there could not have been less than 8,000 persons present. The Mayor and several magistrates were there. I spoke for two hours and a half, in a very animated strain. I insisted upon being arrested. I told the magistrates they were bound to take me, because they said the meeting was an illegal one. I told them that if they feared popular excitement, they could have me in the morning; I should rise at seven, and not leave the town until two o'clock; and that unless they did so at one o'clock next day, I should brand them as liars, knaves, and cowardly poltroons. At the conclusion of my speech I was cheered for several minutes. The people then conducted me to Mrs. Frost's, and I briefly addressed them from the window, telling them to go home quietly, which they did.

FRIDAY, April 26. — Still found myself at liberty. Walked out with my esteemed young friend William Townsend. At one o'clock found hundreds of people assembling in all directions. At a quarter to two walked up to Mrs. Frost's in the company of Townsend, and was loudly cheered by the populace. Townsend asked the people from the window whether I should address them there, or at the Packet Ship. The Packet Ship was decided upon. — so we went in a body, the people cheering me on the road. On arriving at the Packet Ship, I addressed the assembled thousands for one hour; I taunted the magistrates for their cowardice and knavery, and had a hearty laugh at the threat of being arrested "on the other side". The packet bell ringing, I was conducted on board amidst tremendous cheering. On the packet starting, I was cheered all down the river by the shipwrights who assembled on the hulls of the various ships they were building; and the seamen hoisted their flags mast high as I passed them. I was really overcome by this display of kind respect. I will take care not to make myself unworthy of their good esteem. "KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY" was on board the packet with us. Young Townsend missed the boat and was obliged to accompany me to Bristol. Arrived in Bristol at six. At seven o'clock went to Thomas Street in a fly with two others. About 12,000 people were assembled. A band of music was in attendance with numerous flags, and we proceeded in procession through the Bristol streets on to Brandon Hill. Mr. McKay occupied the chair. W.A.Townsend of Newport, was introduced to the meeting and was received with tremendous cheers. He delivered a very able and eloquent speech which was loudly cheered. I next addressed the meeting at great length, and was warmly cheered. We then returned to the city in procession. I told the people to disperse quietly from my window. Mr. Morgan went down to settle with the band, when he was arrested by a policeman because he had a life preserver in his hand, he having to walk home late at night through a very dreary country.

SATURDAY, April 27. — Had a walk to the Council House, saw a lot of "gentlemen" swearing to certain things said by myself and friend Townsend on Brandon Hill, in order to send the news to Jack Russell. Had a hearty laugh at an ill-tempered blue-magistrate called Newman, who talked about the military, and gave a decision on a certain case before any witnesses were heard. Saw them take friend Morgan's life preserver from him, and heard them bind him over to keep the peace.

Henry Vincent, 'Life and Rambles', in the Western Vindicator , no.11 (4th May 1839), p.3

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