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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 14:22 GMT
When the White House wooed Welsh
1860 US election leaflet in Welsh( picture Library of Congress American Memory site)
The election pamphlet canvassed the sizeable Welsh vote in the Lincoln election
It was the battle for the White House where thousands of Welsh speakers played a key role.

While today George W Bush and John Kerry target ethnic groups such as Hispanics, almost 150 years ago their counterparts focused on Welsh emigrés.

Abraham Lincoln canvassed settlers from Wales in 1860, with up to 100,000 election pamphlets printed in Welsh.

Lincoln won a narrow victory over the Democrats and the rest - as they say - was history.

In the 1860s obviously there were enough Welsh speakers living in the US to target them
Prof Gruffydd Aled Williams
Copies of the Welsh language pamphlets aimed at the 100,000 plus community of immigrants who had crossed the Atlantic to work in the mines and other industries are held in the US Library of Congress.

Gruffydd Aled Williams, professor of Welsh at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, said evidence showed 50,000 copies of one leaflet had been printed in Utica, New York, where there was obviously a sizeable Welsh population.


George and Laura Bush
George W Bush criss-crossed America in the search for votes
A similar leaflet was printed in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where many Welsh emigrés had gone to work in the mines.

"The Utica leaflet was printed by David C Davis, the man who also printed at the time the American Welsh language newspaper Y Drych (The Mirror) which is still going," said Prof Williams.

"There were very sizeable populations of Welsh incomers in Utica and Pennsylvania and also Ohio in the 1860s.

"What's interesting is that Bush and Kerry have both been targeting various ethnic communities - especially the Hispanic one - in this election.

"In the 1860s obviously there were enough Welsh speakers living in the US to target them".

The 16-page leaflet printed in Utica included biographies of Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin, and even a Welsh translation of their campaign song.

John Kerry holds baby Brianna McElroy after Mass in Orlando
Like his rival, John Kerry canvassed votes to the last

There were 3,000 Welsh living in Utica at the time, said Professor Williams, another 21,000 in New York, and more in Ohio.

Prof Williams said traditionally most Welsh people in those days had supported the Republican cause, but he said the party's policies then were broadly similar to Democrat ones today.

"The Republican party had only been found founded in 1854, of course it was quite radical.

"The Republicans were anti-slavery, the Democrats were pro-slavery".

Lincoln triumphed in the election with a minority vote over his Democratic opposition and went on to abolish slavery before his assassination during his second term.

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