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Welsh History Review


Vol. 9, nos. 1-4 1978-79

Richard Davies and nonconformist radicalism in Anglesey, 1837-68 : a study of sectarian and middle-class politics /

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CONCLUDING an otherwise undistinguished campaign speech on the
eve of the 1874 election, Captain Richard Mostyn Lewis Williams-
Bulkeley, scion of the Baron Hill family of Beaumaris and Con-
servative candidate for the county of Anglesey, appealed to his
audience 'not to allow Messrs. Davies, Donne and Dew to say who
you shall send to Parliament'.2 A voice from the Tory gathering in
the town hall at Llangefni responded with a shout of 'Not the three
D's', and this might simply be taken as a catchy rallying-cry for the
party faithful. But much more was involved, namely, a scornful
recognition of the political power and influence wielded by a radical,
Calvinistic Methodist triumvirate headed by Richard Davies, the
Liberal M.P. for the county since the election of 1868. Aided by his
first lieutenants, the Rev. James Donne,3 minister of Capel Dinas,
Llangefni, and Samuel Dew, a local solicitor and deacon in the same
chapel-who were themselves but representative of an activist
leadership group-Richard Davies had emerged as the symbol of a
middle-class Nonconformist political awakening that made possible
the historic triumph of '68. He embodied not only the assertive
ideology of a developing social class attracted by mercantile Liberal-
ism, but also the related aspirations of an increasingly self-confident
dissenting majority which was tilting at the established, aristocratic
landed order alienated by its religion, language and political values.
To the politically motivated Dissenters the cry was the declaration
of their political independence.
Indeed, Richard Davies's career was tightly linked with the
dramatic events that spurred the radicalization of the Calvinistic
Methodists both in Anglesey and Caernarfonshire-a process which
can be traced back to the formative by-election of 1837 in his native
county. Apart from its sheer novelty, the involvement of leading
1 I am grateful to Professor G. O. Pierce for reading this paper, and for his comments and
North Wales Chronicle (N.W.Ch.), 7 February 1874.
James Donne (1822-1908): a native of Bala, he settled in Llangefni in 1847 and became
the minister of Capel Dinas for almost forty years-a post he combined with a flourishing
building and grocery business.
4 Samuel Dew (1814-84): born in Llangefni, for a short period in 1846 he assisted H.
Vaughan Johnson, one of the Education Commissioners responsible for the infamous 'Blue
Books' Report of 1847. He was elected first president of the Anglesey Liberal Association
in 1874.
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