Henry Vincent Returns 1949
Summary of a lecture delivered 5th November to the 2016 Convention at John Frost School
In 1840 Henry Vincent, Chartist orator, left Monmouthshire in chains. He had been imprisoned for sedition prior to the Newport ‘Rising’ and was now being transferred from Monmouth gaol to Millbank prison in London. Nine years later he returned to Monmouthshire under very different circumstances, to give a series of lectures at the town hall.
Whereas in 1839 he had harangued crowds of working class Chartists, allegedly demanding ‘death to the aristocracy’ and the overthrow of the government, in 1849 his audience was made up of ‘respectable’ citizens including the mayor of Newport and the chief magistrate. Although town councillors were concerned that Vincent’s return might prompt a fresh round of Chartist unrest, they needn’t have worried.
Over the years since his release from prison in 1841 Vincent had moved away from Chartism, embracing the more limited programme of the Complete Suffrage Union and emphasising the need for the working classes to improve themselves through education and moral regeneration. He had gained a national reputation as a lecturer on political, historical and moral issues. The lectures in Newport were a great success and were highly praised by the Monmouthshire Merlin.
Over the next thirty years he continued to lecture around Britain and in the USA, returning to Monmouthshire on several occasions. Although the more militant Chartists regarded him as a traitor to the cause, he remained committed to the cause of democracy and embraced other progressive causes such as opposition to slavery in the USA and international disarmament.