‘For the Better Management of the Poor: The Welsh Society of Philadelphia and the Relief of Emigrants, 1798-1850’
Dr Richard C. Allen. Reader in Early Modern Cultural History.
Date: Thursday 1 March 2012, 6pm – 8:30pm
Venue: University of Wales, Newport, City Campus (Room A16)
This lecture provides a fascinating insight into one of the oldest benevolent societies in America with a history that stretches back to their first meeting on St David’s day in 1729.
Charity, members of the Welsh Society of Philadelphia recognised, began at home but also needed to be dispensed to the ‘remotest parts of the Earth’. This was articulated in the preamble to a constitution they drew up on 4 February 1799. It stated that newly arrived emigrants should be taken by the hand ‘instructing him in what he is ignorant of and providing for his Immediate necessities’. Sixty-four Welshmen (or the descendants of Welsh emigrants) held the first meeting of the Society a year earlier on 1 March 1798 in Philadelphia. As part of its remit, members were expected to provide moral support, financial assistance and practical relief for Welsh exiles who would struggle in a foreign land without help. It is a Society which has enjoyed an uninterrupted history to the present day and, naturally, a long-lasting association with Welsh-Americana, particularly its promotion of Welsh cultural activities and its annual St David’s day celebration.
The purpose of this paper is not, however, to record the complete history of this Philadelphian Welsh Society, but rather it will focus primarily on the development of this cultural body, its early membership and the significant position and experiences of members in Philadelphia – the spiritual home of the Welsh exile in America. Additionally, it will explore why this Society appealed to Welsh exiles and their wealthy descendants. Finally, it will consider the role of the Society as a provider of charitable assistance to the needy, who from the late-eighteenth century onwards saw America, especially Philadelphia, as an alternative to a life of hardship in Wales.
6pm - 6:30pm – Refreshments
6:30pm – 8:30pm - Plenary lecture by Dr. Richard C. Allen & Questions