Donald Norwood
Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society
I first encountered Henry Richard when writing about the laity in Congregationalism, for his claim to fame here is as the first lay Chairman of the Congregational Union in 1876. Not all Congregationalists welcomed the distinction of clergy and laity and in Richard’s case it was misleading for he was ordained as a Congregational Minister and served as such for fifteen years before feeling called to devote all his energies to the Peace Society that flourished in the 1830s and 1840s until subdued by what we would call the “Falklands factor”, wild enthusiasm for the Crimean War. Later, and as a proud native of the village of Tregaron, near Aberystwyth, he felt called to be an MP. At the time almost all Welsh MPs were Anglicans and had little sympathy for the Welsh, the vast majority of whom were then Nonconformists. Henry Richard, the “Apostle of Peace”, made his mark as “the Member for Wales”. This well researched biography can also serve as a refresher course in nineteenth century Welsh, English, European and American History. Name any major event and Richard (1812-88) seems to have been involved in it and was in close contact with many of the protagonists. On the Anti-Slavery campaign in Lincoln’s America he knew and supported Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom s Cabin and on other issues was in close touch with Cobden and Bright. Gladstone praised him for changing his mind about Wales. So read on. And if you wish to see a fine statue of the man himself, visit Tregaron. He is there, just outside the public house, and in those Nonconformist Temperance days probably had no wish to go in.