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Wales played a central role in the creation of the USA and its founding ideals must be allowed to endure for generations to come, the Welsh Government’s Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan has said today to mark American Independence Day.

First published:
4 July 2019
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Wales has long historical, cultural and business ties with the USA – and today, is home to 270 US-owned business, employing almost 50,000 people.

The Welsh were among the very first settlers to go to America. The first large group of immigrants were Quakers who colonised a large tract of land in Pennsylvania under William Penn, himself of Welsh extraction.

At least 5 of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Welsh or of recent Welsh descent, and there have been at least 8 US Presidents with Welsh ancestry, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Unique to Wales was the manufacturing of steel using local anthracite coal - the steel roof structure of the White House was made in Pontardawe, south Wales in the late 19th century.

One of the memorial stones on the Washington Monument is inscribed with “Fy iaith, fy ngwlad, fy nghenedl, Wales – Cymru am byth” - My language, my land, my nation, Wales – Wales forever.

There are now more than 10 million people in the USA with a Welsh surname.

Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan said:

“Wales has long historical, cultural and business ties with the USA and Welsh-Americans have made an important contribution to life in the USA – and continue to do so.

“It’s no exaggeration to say the Welsh helped build the foundations of a nation that has become the modern day USA. The Welsh were among the very first settlers to go to America. The second wave of Welsh immigration took place in the mid-1800s, and this continued throughout the Industrial Revolution, when Welsh immigrants brought new skills to the American coal, steel and slate industries. Welsh steelworkers even built the steel roof structure of the White House!

“So on this Independence Day, I send good wishes from Wales to all Americans, and especially to the 10 million Americans who have Welsh ancestry. Their ancestors left Wales to start new lives and find new opportunities in a new world. The United States of America was established on a set of ideals that are as relevant today as they were then, that we are all born equal, and that we all have a certain set of rights – ‘that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

“Abraham Lincoln, himself of Welsh descent, in his Gettysburg Address in November 1863, reminded those present why the founding fathers established America 87 years earlier. But he very much underestimated the significance of his address, believing his words would not be remembered.

“My message to America today is this – those words were not forgotten, and will not be forgotten. The set of ideals that American was founded on have stood the test of time, and must be allowed to endure for generations to come.”

Today, the US is one of Wales’ biggest trading partners.

  • The USA is the largest source of inwards investment into Wales, in terms of the number of inward investment projects
  • The USA is Wales’ largest export market outside Europe – equating to 14.7% of exports, worth £2.44 billion
  • There are 3,715 Americans living in Wales (2011 Census data)

On Monday, the US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson attended a reception in Cardiff, hosted by the minister, to mark Independence Day.

The minister added:

“It was not a coincidence that the US was the location of my first official overseas visit back in February this year. I was completely blown away by the breadth and depth of the links between Wales and USA, but also, perhaps more importantly, by the opportunities that are available for Wales in the United States.

“Economically, no one country is more important for Wales than the United States. And of course it’s a 2 way flow. We have world leading expertise in compound semi-conductors, cyber security and specialist aspects of life sciences such as wound healing, our Welsh Universities are developing world class research and student exchange partnerships with US counterparts. All of these links ensure that the bonds of friendship across the Atlantic remain as strong as ever.”