#From the Archives, no. 2


In writing a Concise Life of Henry Williams, I am busy tracking down some critical primary sources. One important set of these are the journals of his uncle, the musician and composer extraordinaire, John Marsh. He kept a detailed and lively dairy, which was then turned into a fuller narrative Journal; all 37 volumes of these are now held in the Huntington Library in California. The amazingly helpful staff there are sending me extracts from the Journal, which have been popping into my inbox over the last few days.

One of the extracts I really wanted to obtain was the account of Thomas Williams, Henry’s father, having to moderate his ‘republican’ or ‘democratic’ sentiments in order to be seen to support Government and Order – this was in December 1792, just after the French Revolution had flared up anew with hundreds of political executions; by January 1793 the French monarch (Louis XVI) had been tried and executed.

At this significant historical juncture, as he appears at other times in the John Marsh Journals, Thomas Williams is revealed as the true Dissenter (English Nonconformist) that he was – concerned equally for both religious and political liberty.

The Journal images are extracted below, along with the relevant quotation:

There being at this time a great spirit of Republicanism & Levelling prevalent all over the Kingdom, kept up by the corresponding Society [of London] & their Emissaries, there were great apprehensions of Riots & Tumults in London, on w’ch account the Tower was fortified & the Guard at the Bank doubled etc. Ships were also put in commission & the militia in the Eastern Counties ordered to be embodied, on w’ch account the Friends to good Order & Government also now met in several places, to form associations for supporting the Constitution, a Meeting of w’ch kind was on this day [December 10] held at the Town Hall, Chichester, where some Resolutions against Sedition were drawn up & signed. There being also a Meeting of the same kind about this time held at Portsmouth, Mr. Williams, who had been rather imprudent in uttering his democratic sentiments, & fearing he had gone too far & might be reckon’d a mark’d man, put himself in as conspicuous a part of the Hall as he co’d & warmly supported the Resolutions, joining in the cry of God save the King [George III] etc. with great vociferation, as he inform’d us the next day, when he came over to spend a day or two with us.

John Marsh, Journals, vol 15, mssHM 54457, Huntington Library, California

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