RADICALISM IN ANGLESEY, 1837-68 Methodists (alongside the more politicized Independents) as participants in this contest was of profound importance in two respects: it signified the emergence of a coherent political conscience, and it served as a political apprenticeship in an age which put a high premium on leadership. Educational controversy leading to local disputes between church and chapel in mid-century provided a further catalyst. It sharpened public attitudes and gave extra prestige to those who acted as spokesmen in defence of Nonconformist rights. And invariably it was the religious leaders in the community, more often than not members of the emergent middle-class, who gave the lead. A coterie of merchants, shopkeepers, traders, professional men, farmers and ministers of religion, independent in economic status as well as in religious spirit, occupied the central stage. As J. F. C. Harrison has noted, 'Time and again the historian is impressed by the frequency with which the same men turn up as the leaders, especially at the local level, of successive reform movements'.5 Their achievement was nothing less than a political revolution6 in that they successfully liquidated a parliamentary tradition which spanned three hundred years. The political rule of a minority, landed aristocracy was replaced by a more popularly-based middle-class grouping owing a common allegiance to Nonconformity. With an alignment of forces based primarily on religion only rarely did party affiliation cut across sectarian lines. Taken in its context, the return of Richard Davies in 1868 was but the logical outcome of a gradual process-although the actual victory itself turned out to be more the product of special cir- cumstances. Be that as it may, sooner or later, someone was destined to reap the fertile harvest of radical dissent. Press and platform polemics, issues such as the payment of Church rates, disestablish- ment and the removal of civic and religious disabilities, the struggle to establish non-sectarian British schools, resentment against government bias towards Church schools, the bid to democratize the endowed grammar school at Beaumaris, and the role of the Liberation Society had each played its part in the evolution of radical con- sciousness and Nonconformist militancy by the mid-1860s. But in the final analysis, it was local leadership which proved to be the main determinant of political change. Political influence and the ability to 5 J. F. C. Harrison, The Early Victorians, 1832-51 (London, 1971), p. 174. That this terminology was current in contemporary radical minds is evident from Henry Richard's speech at Liverpool in 1868. He declared that reformers should work to revolutionise the whole of the representation of North Wales': Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald (C.D.H.), 6 June 1868.
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