Our Homegrown US Presidents; Hillary Is Proud of Her Welsh Heritage and So Was Abraham Lincoln, but Thomas Jefferson Wasn't Interested in His Roots. Political Editor David Williamson Uncovers the US Presidents Who Originally Came from the Land of Our Fathers

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 28, 2017 | Go to article overview

Our Homegrown US Presidents; Hillary Is Proud of Her Welsh Heritage and So Was Abraham Lincoln, but Thomas Jefferson Wasn't Interested in His Roots. Political Editor David Williamson Uncovers the US Presidents Who Originally Came from the Land of Our Fathers


ILLARY Clinton speaks with pride of her Welsh roots and we can only imagine the St David's Day reception she would have staged if she had won the White House.

HBut there is no shortage of presidents with Welsh connections who have shaped the history of this superpower for better or for worse.

On a single day you could visit the ancestral stomping grounds of, allegedly, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon.

Here are some of the US commanders in chief with Welsh links of varying strength who may have felt the occasional tug of hiraeth: JOHN ADAMS (1797-1801) AND JOHN QUINCY ADAMS (1825-1829) This father-and-son pair were the second and sixth US presidents, respectively.

John Adams played a key role in the peace negotiations with Great Britain and became the first president to live in the White House. His son was a leading opponent of slavery.

Their ancestry has been traced back to Penybanc Farm in Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire.

According to author Phil Carradice: "The earliest reference to his family comes in 1422 when a distant ancestor, John Adams of Pembroke, married the daughter of Penybanc Farm and duly took over the business. David Adams, one of the later sons of Penybanc, was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Carmarthen, took holy orders and in 1675 emigrated to America."

As a former president, Quincy Adams successfully defended slaves who had mutinied while being transported from Cuba, events which are portrayed in the Steven Spielberg film Amistad.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1801-1809) Welsh fans of the third US president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence have proudly claimed his as one of the nation's own.

Hillary Clinton, when secretary of state, stated in a St David's Day greeting that he traced his ancestry to Wales. The precise details are a little fuzzy.

The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopaedia notes that he "showed relatively little interest in his own origins or family history".

But he did write that the "tradition in my father's family was that their ancestor came to this country from Wales and from near the mountain of Snowden [sic]".

His father, Peter Jefferson, named his estate on the James River Snowden. We also know that Jefferson kept a Welsh dictionary in his library - what's more, he named a horse Caratacus, after the chieftain who led opposition to the Roman invasion of Britain and is remembered in Welsh lore as Caradog.

JAMES MONROE (1817-1825) The fifth US president shaped the future history of the world when he laid out the doctrine that European powers must not interfere in the affairs of the western hemisphere. In return, the US would stay out of Europe's political affairs.

His mother, Elizabeth Jones Monroe, is understood to have been of Welsh descent. According to his biographer, Harlow Giles Unger, she was "the daughter of a well-to-do Welsh immigrant" in King George County, Virginia.

WILLIAM HARRISON (1841) Harrison secured a place in the history books - but not for the reasons he would have hoped. After just 31 days as the ninth president he passed away from pneumonia, the first person to die in office.

He also delivered the longest inaugural address in history at 1hr 45mins. The story goes that he did so without a hat or coat during a snowstorm and this led to the malady which finished him off.

The North America Wales Foundation lists him among the ranks of presidents with Welsh roots (it also claims 'father of the constitution' James Madison, 1809-1817, and Calvin 'Silent Cal' Coolidge, 1923-1929).

Harrison was the last president who had been born a British subject. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, served as the 29th president from 1889 to 1893 and on his watch the union grew to include North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.

This Republican wanted to see an American tin plate industry thrive despite competition from Wales and, in his letter accepting the presidential nomination, vowed that "the alliance between the Welsh producers and the Democratic party for its destruction will not succeed". …

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Our Homegrown US Presidents; Hillary Is Proud of Her Welsh Heritage and So Was Abraham Lincoln, but Thomas Jefferson Wasn't Interested in His Roots. Political Editor David Williamson Uncovers the US Presidents Who Originally Came from the Land of Our Fathers
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