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MR. ALFRED THOMAS, M.P.i

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MR. ALFRED THOMAS, M.P. THE NEW LEADER OF THE WEL-H PARLIAMENTARY PARTY. EAST GLAMORGAN HONOURED THROUGH ITS MEMBER. REPORT OF THE ELECTION PROCEEDINGS. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. A gathering of the Welsh Parliamentary party, which may well be an historical one, met on Tues- day afternoon in Committee Room No. 13. The following members, taken in their order at the tables, were present, viz., Messrs Samuel Smith, Charles Morley, Lloyd Morgan, Bryn Roberts. Herbert Lewis, Pritchard Morgan Samuel Evans, William Jones, David Randell, Alfred Thomas, William Abraham, Thomas Ellis, Reginald Mc Kenna, Ellis Griffith, Humphreys-Owen, Albert Spicer, Samuel Moss, Vaugban Davies, Lloyd George, Abel Thomas, Brynmor Jones, and Her- bert Roberts. It will be observed that, with three exceptions, the whole of the Welsh Liberal constituencies were represented, Sir William Harcourt is not in the habit of attending the Welsh meetings. Mr David Thomas has, unfortunately seceded from the party, and Mr Wynford Phillips had not yet arrived to represent Pembrokeshire. Mr Samuel Smith was provisionally elected to the chair. Mr Brynmor Jones presented the re- port of the secretaries and Convention Committee as to the Welsh National Liberal Convention, re. cently held at Cardiff, and laid a copy of the re- I organisation scheme, as adopted by the convention, upon the table. The further consideration of the report was postponed to the meeting of the party, which will probably be held next week. The question of the chairmanship was then brought forward. Mr Lloyd Morgan moved, and Mr Abel Thomas seconded, that there be no sessional chairman, but that the senior member of the party present preside at any meeting- when a quorum for that purpose be seven. After discussion this motion was rejected, only five voting for it. Mr Brynmor Jones proposed, and Mr Alfred Spicer seconded, that Mr Alfred Thomas be re- elected chairman for the Session. Mr McKenna, dealing at some length with the qualifications required for the chair, proposed that Mr Lloyd George be elected chairman. The proposal was briefly seconded by --r Her- bert LewisL Mr Uoyd George, howfever, declined to be placed in competition with his friend, Mr Alfred Thomas. Mr Ellis Griffith moved as a further amendment ] that Mr Brynmor Jones do take the chair, but Mr Brynmor Jones immediately rose and declined to j be put in nomination. < There was some discussion, but the original ( motion being put it was carried unanimously. ] Mr Alfred Thomas suita- acknowledged the i honour conferred upon him. and the meeting ter- ( initiated. Mr Thomas, on his appearance in the Lobby, i was cordially congratulated by numerous friends i on both sides of the House on his new appoint- ] ment. J 1 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE NEW ( CHAIRMAN. < Mr Alfred Thomas's election to the chairman, ship of the Welsh liberal Parliamentary party will le received with special gratification in Cardiff, for the hon. member is one of the worthiest of Cardiff's citizens, and in the municipal life of the torousra he had nobly won his spurs as a public man many years before the call reached him to serve his countcy and generation in a still wider and more distinguished sphere. On this interest- ing occasion .in his life history. when he becomes the official head of his country's representatives in Parliament, a bref sketch of Mr Thomas's career may nqffc be amiss. A native of Cartmi, he was born at Llwynygrant. Peay'an on the 16th of September, 1840, so that at the present .time he ton. member is in his 58th yeir. His father, the late Daniel Thomas, was the owner of the large lime-kilns at Llandough, and united with this undertaking a large business as contractor. Mr | Alfred Thomas was educated at the Weston School, -near Bath, and a university career was offered h:m, and the fact that he then declined that golden op- portunity has oeen one of the great regrets of his life. He was anxious to enter upon a business career as soon as possible, and thus it cime about I that early in life he left school to enter his father's offices. He took upon himself a large share of his father's rapidly increasing business, and one of his earliest. duties was that of assisting in the construction of the Rhondda Fach branch of the Taff Vale Railway, of which his father was con- tractor. and in those days he formed an intimate acquaintance with most important section of the East Glamorgan Division, which in after life he was called upon to represent in Parliament. At that distant period, however, such thoughts and ambitions probably troubled him not. His father was a zealous Baptist, and the lad followed in that respect closely in his footsteps. He became a faithful and active member of the Tabernacle Sundav School in the Cardiff Hayes, and subse- I quently joined the church at tint place, of which he has now for many years been a deacon. Mr Alfred Thomas's first entry into public life was as a member of the Cardiff Town Council. He was first elected in November. 1875. for the Rfmth Ward, which, like Canton, was then. by the extension of the borough's boundaries, brought for the first time within the municipality. On that occasion nine candidates sought the six seats allotted to Roath. and Mr Alfred Thomas, who was one of the Liberal eanaidates, was returned second on the poll with 711 votes, the premier place being occupied by Mr John Evans, of Pen- jmn (C.). wit-h 832 votes. Among the other elec- ted candidates on that occasion were Messrs R. G. W. Armstrong, J. Price, and W. T. I MR. ALFRED THOMAS, M.P. I Raper. Mr Thomas continued to represent Roath uninterruptedly until his resignation, which took place on the 7th of October, Il-v6. During that period of 11 years his re-election was twice chal- lenged, but on both occasions he was returned with great majorities. His tenure of office was mark- ed by thorough devotion to his duties. In taose days it was by no means unusual to find the chair- manship of several of the Corporation committees held by one man. Mr Thomas headed an agitation against this monopolising of honours, and a resolu- tion which he moved proti.ng any member from acting as chairman of more than one committee at a time was eventually carried, and a salutary change was effected. Mr ->omas's devotion to public work and his keen business instincts were soon recognised by his fellow members, and he had not long been member of the governing body of the town before he was ca..e.4 upon to accept the vice-chairmanship of the Water Committee, then, as now, one of the most important and re- sponsible committees of the Corporation. Upon the resignation of Mr Alderman Daniel Jones, Mr Alfred Thomas became chairman of the committee. ;1 e had long evinced a deep and active interest in the future waiter supply of toe borough, and it was under his chairmanship that the committee promoted and secured the Caru.^ Corporation Aqt of 1884. providing for the present Taff Fawrreser- voir. It was during that period also that the W later Committee proceledled 1)o construct the reservoir at Llanishen to conta^ 300.000,0" gal- lons, and new filter beds at Health, involving an outlay of £ 121,000. Some years previously it had been discovered that the water supply of the town bad become inadequate. At the end of 1000 the Town Council considered a proposal to extend the resources of Llanishen. --us was met by warm opposition, and Mr Thomas, leading the vanguard of the dissentients, moved an amendment that a practical survey of the whole district be made, and a report upon it prepared and presented to the Council. He enforced his amendment in a practical and exhaustive speech, and in the end the amend- ment was carried by a large majority, and thus was initiated that forward policy which, in the matter of water, has been Garam's salvation. Though at the completion of v_^ Llanishen works Mr Thomas was not actually a member of the Corporation, the honour was conferred upon him I of turning on the first water sunnly to these new I works, a ceremony which he gracefully performed amid considerable rejoicing on the 28th October, 1886. In 1881-2 he was Mavor of and his year of office was a year of great and important events. The Mayor was lavish in his hospitaLty, and his munificence was unbounded. The Bath and West of England Show and the A.M.C. of the Oddfellows met that year in Cardiff, and both were entertained by the mayor in a most generous man- ner. It was during his mayoralty also that Car- <w entered upon the long and arduous struggle to secure the selection of the borough as the locale of the University College of South Wales. Mr Mr Thomas ithrew himself heart and soul into that movement, and generously subscribed the hand- some sum of JB1000 towards the fund raised by the burgesses to convince the authorities of the ear- nestness and bona fides of Cardiff in the movement. Mr Thomas was still mayor when, in October, 1882. the welcome announcement came that Car- diff's efforts had been crowned with success. From that day ,to this the University College has found ity no truer friend than the hon. member for East Glamorgan. Not content WLtlil the thousand pounds he had already subscribed, he shortly after- wards contributed yet another five hundred £ o the college funds, and two years ago, when the college building fund was inaugurated, Mr Alfred Thomas again came forward with a cheque. for another thousand. Another event of great importance that happened during his mayoralty was the formal opening of the new Free Library and Museum, and the Schools of Science and Art, an event which induced the laie Mr Menelaus to present to the Cardiff Corporation a collection of 36 beautiful oil paintings, valued at £ 10,000. which are now to be seen on the walls of the museum, this being shortly afterwards followed by the handsome gift of 100 volumes to the Free Library bv the late Judge Falconer. Although elected in 1885 as mem- ber for East Glamorgan, he continued member of :hé Cardiff Corporation until October, 1886, when I much the regret of his fellow-townsmen, he found that his Parliamentary duties rendered his resignation imperative. His manifold services to the town were not, however, to go unrecognised. In October, 1886, a few days after his resigna. r tion, the Council unanimously resolved to confer the freedom of the borough upon Mr Thomas, "in recognition of the important services rendered by 1 him during his connection with the Council, and particularly while he held the office of Mayor." 1 The freedom was accordingly conferred upon him ) on the 13th of August, 1888, by the then Mayor, I Alderman Jacobs, the only name on the honorary- I roll of freemen aft that. date being that of Alderman Fulton. Among the speakers on that occas:on was ■1. •- i the late Dean Vaughan, who paid a glowing tribute to the Christian virtues of the new freeman. "Mr Thomas," said the Dean, "has lived amongst you in a way which would have disclosed any spot or blemish in his private or puu^c character, and I think you will say that the honour paid him to- day is one which you all feel to be his due. It is f an honour to you to render it, it is an honour to I him ito receive it." The "South Wales Daily News" on that occasion also joined in the paean of praise. "In Mr Thomas"-we quote from the leading article of the following day— Cardiff has a citizen to be proud of. No prominent member of the community has been more disinterested in s efforts, and no one has discharged his duties more faithfully. We can say with all sincerity that not a single word of praise or appreciation fell from the lips of any of the speakers yesterday in excess of the merits of the man for whom such expressions were intended. Nothing distinguishes Mr Thomas more than personal character, and one of themost strongly marked features in his charac- ter is that unaffected modesty to which the Dean of Llandaff referred in his well-chosen quotation. The mayoralty of Mr Thomas was an eventful year with eventful issues, and we believe it has been admitted on all hands that he was equal to the occasion and adorned his office. Mr Thomas is one of the few who wear well. The longer he is known the more he is liked and respected. He has rapidly become popular, and is very likely to win more of that solid and enduring esteem which only the good and true-hearted ever have the good fortune to obtain. Some men rise to the top of the tree by smartness and bounce, and as often fall headlong to the ground. Mr Thomas has quietly and unobtrusively risen to HAS place of dis- tinction among his fellow townsmen. There he will remain, setting before the rising generation an example of genuine modest worth of which we should like to see a great deal more in every com- munity. May he live long to see how highly he is valued." In Welsh Liberal circles Mr Alfred had been regarded as a "coming member" lon~ be. fore his election came to pass. Even in the summer of 1882 his name was prominently associated with the representation of Cardiganshire. It was given out that Mr David Davis, of Llandinam, the sit- ting member, contemplated retiring, and yielding to strong pressure the Mayor of Cardiff, as he was then, permitted his name to be mentioned as a likely candidate. »»Qetn, however, Mr Davi^ Dav- likely candidate. n n.en, however, Mr Dav-. is made up his mind to retain the seait, Mr Alfred Thomas at once withdrew. The Redistribution But of 1885 gave East Glamorgan a. member of its own, and Mr Alfred Thomas being well known in that constituency a. large and influential section of the electors advocated -.S claims before ithe Liberal association. Another section, however, favoured the candidature of Mr Bowen Rowlands, Q.C., and for many months the electors were sharply divided into two rival calnps. Both candidates toured the division, and without in anv way discounting the eligibility of Mr Bowen Rowlands it mav fairly be stated that Mr Alfred Thomas's sturdy national- ism, his uncompromising Nonconformity, his robust Radicalism, and his knowledge of Welsh gained for him new adherents everywhere and decided scores of waverers to take up his cause. Happily, how- ever. further division was averted by Mr Bowen Rowlands' withdrawal; Mr Alfred Thomas be- came the nominee of the united party, and so well did the friends of the popular cause rally to his aid that in the first electoral contest in East Gla- morgan in 1885 Mr Alfred Thomas defeated his Tory opponent. Mr Godfrey L. Clark. with the splendid majority of 2.800. In the great Home Rule split of 1886 Mr Alfred Thomas never wav- ered in his loyalty to the Grand Old Man, and I that he reflected the views of his electors in his then attitude was sufficiently demonstrated when, in the General Election of that year he was re- elected without opposition. In 1892, however, he had to defend his seat in the face of a deter- mined assault. The Conservatives pitted against him Mr H. C. Lewis, of Mardy, the son of Sir William Thomas Lewis, and all the force of the Toryism of the county was brought to bear in support of the attack. In spite of this. however, Mr Thomas held his own valiantly, and Mr Her- bert Lewis retired discomfited, and with a major- ity piled against him of 2.963. In 1895 Mr Chas. J. Jackson, Cardiff, barrister, attempted to wrest the seat, but for the third time Mr Alfred Tho- mas retained it, and increased his poll. The pop- ularity of the hon. member in the division is un- bounded, and the electors have never regretted their choice, Tories no less than Liberals recognis- ing in him a representative who reflects honour upon the division, and one whom to know is to esteem. His services to the constituency are be- 4 yond enumeration. The miners of the division re- gard him as a tried and stendfast friend, for apart from his Parliamentary services they have learnt from experience that in the dark hour of trouble and distress there is no readier hand to help than ] bat of the member for East Glamorgan.. The widows of Cilfynydd look upon him as a benefactor a and recall with gratitude to this day how, when afiter that terrible explosion which deprived them of their breadwinners the subscriptions sent to I their aid by a generous puouc were in danger of II being absorbed in the funds of a wealthy provident society, Mr Alfred Thomas came gallantly to tiieix aid, and by his timely interposition, backed by the Press and public opinion, he helped to secure for those poor widows their rights. The hon. member gives largely and frequently. The demands upon his generosity are enormous, but his bounty is equal to the demands, though he gives so quietly j and unostentatiously that no,t a tithe of his bene- factions reach the public ear. There is scarcely a church or chapel or friendly society in the divi. j sion that has not at one time or other appealed to I the hon. member, and seldom do -y appeal in vain. In tlrs respect he is an admirable proto- type of one of the Brothers Clieerybie. He delights in good works, and his left hand seldom knows whait his right hand gives away. One of the finest ornaments in the town of Pontypridd is the massive fountain which the hon. member presented to the town three or four years ago. Cardiff is likewise indebted to him for a similar g. which stands at the Castle Street entrance to Westgate Street, opposite the Angel Hojtel. Only last sum- mer, to mark Her Majesty's longer reign festivals, the hon. member entertaine, e school chil- dren of Eastern Glamorganshire to a treat of tea. and cake. In the House itself be has done ad- mirable work. Though he is now one of the senior members for Wales, and the honour conferred upon merited for that reason, he has by signal services rendered more than earned whatever distinction his We'sh colleagues can give him. He does not verv often interpose in debate, but when he does speak he has generally soi say that de- mands attention, and in the House he is listened to with respect. Mr Thomas, however, uelights more in hard work than in flights of oratory, and has initiated some measures which, ithough not themselves passed, have had their principles adopt- ed by the Government and incorporated in other Bills which are now among the laws of 'tihe land. Of such was his well-known Poor Law Amendment Bill. As ex-omcio member of trie Carv— Board of Guardians-he is a J.P. for .amorgan—his attention was early directed to the suiie^ jigs im- posed upon the deserving poor in. being compelled to herd indiscriminately in Workhouses, to spend the evening of their days in the company of others whose poverty was uiie result of —eir crime. He jgnly the need of a better classification of paupers, and the abolition of i/uousand-and-one anomalies that marked the administration of our poor laws. Thus it came about that 1889 he set about drafting a Poor Laws Amendment Bill. The immense amount of labour and expenditure which this entailed upon him will probably never be known. He drafted a series of questions, and at his own expense communicated them to each of the 650 Boards of Guardians in England and Wales, the object being to ascertain what difference and similarities existed in the working of the Poor Law system throughout the country. Following this another set of 15 questions were afterwards sent out. These aroused much attention through- out the kingdom, the subject was discussed at all the .Boards of Guardians, and the reform was started with every prospect of success. On the basis of the replies- received the hon. member drafted his Poor Law Amendment Bill, which was received 'on all hands w- approval; and letters of thanks poured in upon -in from every quarter. The Bill comprised 62 clauses, and was backed by Messrs Warmington, Leatham, Bright, W. -oraham. and the hon. member himself. Several of the desirable proposals outlined the Bill, es- pecially those relating to methods of election, and .the abolition of ,the ex-officio element on Boards of Guardians, were- afterwards adopted in their Local Government Act of 1894, and clearly it is only a matter of a short time for the other admirable re- forms foreshadowed by Mr Thomas in this Bill to become similarly part of the laws of the land. In the debate on the Address in 1890 Mr Alfred Thomas took a bold stand for Welsh Home Rule. His colleagues were by no means convinced of the wisdom of the course he then took, but the hon. member was not to be dissuaded, and accordingly he moved an Amendment to the Queen's Speech "humbly to reDresent to her TVfaifisfv t.Tia.+. Tno. j satisfactory arrangements for the administra,ion of I the affairs of Wales are imperatively required, and that a separate and' independent Department of State should be created for the conduct of distinctly Welsh affairs, presided over by a Minister acquaint- ed with the national characteristics of Wales." This was moved by the hon. member on the 24th of February, 1890, and seconded by Mr Prijtchard Morgan, while those who spoke in opposition in- cluded the Ron George Kenyon and Mr (afterwards Sir) Osborne Morgan (who held that it was op- posed to the Welsh Home Rule movement), and "he Home Secretary (Mr Mathews). The amend- mend of course was defeated, but with the stead- fastness of purpose so characteristic of all his ac- tions Mr Alfred Thomas continued to advocate the reform, and in 1891 he drafted his Welsh Institu- tions Bill, which included these proposals, and which was described bv some of his opponents as "half-way house to Welsh Home Rule." The Bill provided for the creation of a Welsh University, a National Council for Wales, a. Welsh Department, a Welsh Secretary of State, and other matters Th:s Bill was considered at. several conferences in Wales convened for that purpose and heartly ap- proved. Some of the reforms he aimed at. not-ibly the creation of a Welsh di versity, have now been secured, and Welshmen are by no means without hope that other reforms herein sketched out may be shortly attained. Mr Alfred Thomas leads a busy life, and m-nv and various are the caiis upon his time. Notwith- standing his 'Teat public duties, he finds many opportunities to serve ais denomination in various •apacities, and he:s one of the few laymen who ha ve filled the chair, of the Baptist Union of Wales. tYs I honour falling to his lot in the year 1886. when he presided over the Aberdare Conferences. The new Chairman is a bachelor, and resides a' | Bronwydd. on Penylan Hill, overlook ng the Roith Park. »

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