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Welsh History Review


Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 1996-97

Transatlantic Brethren. Rev. Samuel Jones (1734-1814) and his friends. Book review.

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study. Most explorations in this field tend either to be confined to an
account of the causes and circumstances of some aspect of emigration from
Britain or else to an examination of the activities of the emigrants having
arrived in America. It is rare, indeed, to be presented with so detailed and
thoughtful an analysis as this of the relationships between Baptists (or any
other group) on both sides of the Atlantic. The wide span of original
materials which the author has traversed is deeply impressive. He has
ranged in detail through many sources on the American side: in
Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Kentucky and New York. On this
side of the water he has been no less painstaking in combing the
manuscripts to be found in the National Library of Wales and Regent's Park
College, Oxford. He has turned to particularly good account the
voluminous correspondence as well as the printed tracts of the major figures
involved on both sides of the ocean. One welcomes the book very warmly
and hopes that it will be the first of many to flow from the author's pen.
Dr Davies takes as the core of his study the pivotal figure of the Revd
Samuel Jones (1735-1814), a Welshman who emigrated with his father,
Thomas Jones, previously an elder in the Glamorgan Baptist church at Pen-
y-fai, and the rest of the family to America. Samuel was a two-year-old infant
when they arrived in Pennsylvania in 1737. He was a Welsh-speaking
Welshman who remained intensely conscious of his ethnic origins through-
out his life. He cherished what he himself described as a 'peculiar regard' for
the Welsh, though never to the extent of allowing this to diminish one whit of
his passionate pride in being American. He became a leading figure in
American Baptist circles, a widely respected minister and adviser, and a
highly successful man of business and affairs. So much so that it was he who
was called upon to preach the sermon intended to celebrate the centenary of
the Philadelphia Association in 1807. However, the main focus of the work is
not on the biographical details of Samuel Jones, fascinating though they may
be, but on the connections which he established with other North American
Baptists and with his fellow-believers back in Britain. Among Jones's most
interesting and devoted British correspondents were Joshua Thomas,
Morgan Jones, and William Richards of Lynn. Joshua Thomas, an unusually
percipient and conscientious historian, thanks to the correspondence became
increasingly conscious of the close links which existed between Wales and
America and particularly of the pioneering role of the Baptists in
Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Like Samuel Jones, he was much concerned
that many of these connections, and their value to the Baptists on both sides
of the Atlantic, should be preserved. This was, as the author affirms, 'Baptist
transatlantic co-operation at its best'. Furthermore, Samuel Jones was a
figure of 'first resort' for many of the Welsh who emigrated to America.
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