The preliminary hearing in the first big Rebeccaite criminal trial began on . Here’s how The Cambrian covered it:
The Rebecca Riots.
The Bolgoed and Rhydypandy Gates.
The examination of the parties charged with having been concerned in the destruction of the above toll-bars took place at the Town-hall, Swansea, on . In consequence of an announcement, that the proceedings would commence at , the hall was completely filled long before the Magistrates, who held a private meeting previous to the examination, had taken their seats.
Soon after , Capt. Napier announced to the prisoner’s attornies, reporters, and others who were anxiously waiting in the large hall, that the Bench was ready to proceed with the examination in the small petty sessions room. An instantaneous rush took place from the hall to that room, so that every avenue was immediately filled. The Magistrates occupied the whole of the table, and consequently there was not the slightest accommodation either for the attornies engaged or the individuals connected with the press.
Mr. Tripp, after remarking upon the inconvenience of conducting the examination in that confined room, expressed a hope that the Magistrates would consent to adjourn to the large hall.
J.D. Llewelyn, Esq., on behalf of the Magistrates, expressed their willingness to do any thing for the accommodation of the public, but they had come to an unanimous decision of holding the examination in that room, in consequence of the very unseemly manifestations of feeling evinced by the crowd at the last examination, which had a tendency to defeat the ends of justice. Still, the Magistrates were quite willing to adjourn to the hall (though they were not bound to give publicity to their proceedings) provided no similar demonstrations would recur.
The Magistrates then adjourned to the Hall. The following gentlemen formed the bench on the occasion:—
Sir John Morris, Bart., in the Chair. J.D. Berrington, Esq. J.D. Llewelyn, Esq. Col. Cameron. Griffith Llewellyn, Esq. The Rev. John Collins. Robert Lindsay, Esq. The Rev. S. Davies. J.N. Lucas, Esq. L.Ll. Dillwyn, Esq. Henry Lucas, Esq. Richard Franklyn, Esq. C.H. Smith, Esq. John Grove. Esq. T. Edw. Thomas Esq. The Rev. W. Hewson, D.D. Henry Thomas, Esq. W.I. Jones, Esq. J.H. Vivian, Esq., M.P.
Mr. Maule, the Government Solicitor, said that he would not trouble the Bench with a statement, but go through a regular examination, and leave the prisoners, by their attornies, exercise their right of cross-examining; but, in addition to the depositions against the defendants, David Jones, Wm. Morgan, Daniel Lewis, and Griffith Vaughan, there was another circumstance which affected one of them — that was Vaughan. That circumstance had recently come to light, and until it was satisfactorily explained, be would call upon the Magistrates to give it its due weight and effect. The fact he alluded to was, that a few days ago, a case arrived by steam-packet from Bristol; the agent to the steamer had received it from the railway carriers at Bristol. It was addressed to Mr. Griffith Vaughan, and after he had been taken into custody, the order for the contents of the case had been countermanded. That circumstance excited suspicion, and the case was consequently detained and examined, and upon examination it was found to contain fire-arms and ammunition — there were about a dozen guns, some of which were double barrelled, a brace of pistols, and a number of percussion caps. Now, that seemed to him (Mr. Maule) to be rather an alarming fact, and unless it could be explained, it was a fact which must affect the defendant. He should submit that circumstance, together with the depositions, to the attention of the Magistrates.
Mr. Tripp requested Mr. Maule to state the charge. Mr. Maule stated, that he charged the defendants under a statute of 7th and 8th Geo. 4th, which was to the effect that, if any person broke down or destroyed any turnpike-gate, bar, chain, or any toll-house, so as to prevent the collection of tolls, and allow passengers to pass without paying, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and punished accordingly. He charged the four defendants with having been concerned in the destruction of the Bolgoed Gate, on ; and if that charge should be brought home, the statute enacted, that they should be guilty of a misdemeanour.
Mr. Maule then called John Jones.
The Chairman:– Can you speak English? Witness (in English): “No, Sir” (laughter.)
Mr. Tripp said he understood English well, and it would be a convenience if he gave evidence in English.
The Chairman observed, that a Welshman who spoke English imperfectly always preferred giving evidence in his native tongue. He (the Chairman) could understand and speak French, still, if in a court of justice, he would insist on his right of giving evidence in English.
Mr. Glasbrook was then sworn interpreter.
John Jones was then examined:– I live in Cwmsciach, in the parish of Llangafelach, in this county. I am a labourer, and the place where I reside is about two miles distant from Bolgoed gate, which, I believe, is in the parish of Llandilo-talybont, in this county. I was out on the night of when the gate was destroyed. I saw the gate destroyed . The house was pulled down with pickaxes, and the gate cut with saws. The parties engaged in the destruction of the toll-house and gate were counted previous to leaving, and they amounted to some hundreds. I know there must be hundreds of men there. I did not see any women. I believe there were both old men and young men present. There was something peculiar in the dress of all. Some had white shirts on, and others had women’s bed-gowns about them. They also wore women’s caps on their heads. Some of them were armed. I cannot say how many. There might have been a hundred guns there. They were principally single-barrel guns, but some of them were double-barrelled. They had several hand-saws, a cross-saw, and pickaxes. They cut the toll-bar with cross-swords and hand-saws, and the toll-house they destroyed with pickaxes by undermining it, and taking out the lower stones with pickaxes. When the toll-house and gate were being destroyed there was a continual firing of guns. They were occupied for about ten minutes in destroying both the toll-house and the toll-bar. Some of the parties also had their faces disguised by having some kind of handkerchiefs tied around their heads, and hanging like veils over their faces. I did not observe that any of them had their faces blackened. One of the persons rode on a white horse. The men addressed the person on horseback by the name of “mother.” I was near enough to the person they call “mam” (mother) to hear them talk lo him. They were consulting with each other if it was time to go. That was before the gate and toll-house were demolished. It was the man on horseback that asked the men if it was time to go. They replied that they thought it was time for them to go. The person on horseback had a white shirt put over his clothes. He had also a cap and bonnet on his head. He gave them directions, and made a short speech. That man was the prisoner Daniel Lewis. I should know him if I saw him. This is the man (pointing to Daniel Lewis.) I had known him before that night. I know him to be a weaver, and that he lives near the Goppa, but I do not know in which house. The Goppa is near the Pontardulais road. I had seen him frequently before, but do not know how often. I had been acquainted with him for three or four years. I saw more persons whom I knew among the mob. I saw Mr. Griffith Vaughan, of the Pontardulais Inn. I see Mr. Vaughan now. He was among the crowd. He had a gun in his hand. I do not know whether it was a double or single-barrelled gun. He was dressed in some kind of a white shirt, a cap, and a bonnet. He fired several shots from the gun. It might be twice or thrice during the time the others were destroying the gate. I saw nothing in Daniel Lewis’s hand. I saw others whom I knew besides Lewis and Vaughan. I saw David Jones, of Dantwyn, present. His father is a farmer. Dantwyn is about a mile distant from the Bolgoed bar. He was also dressed in a while shirt, a cap, and a bonnet, and had a double-barrelled gun. He fired more than once, but I cannot say how often. That was during the time the others were engaged in destroying the toll-house and gate. I also saw John Morgans, of Bolgoed. I know his name is Morgans. I know him well. [Mr. Tripp observed that his name was William.] — He is a farmer, and lived at Bolgoed. He was dressed in a similar manner to the others. He fired a gun three or four times. There were neither shoutings or noise then. They were not speaking, only firing. I became acquainted with David Jones in the last winter, when I met him out sporting. I have known William Morgans for the last ten years. I partly know from where the crowd came. I first met them on the lowest part of Goppa mountain. This was . I accompanied them to the gate, but did not speak to one of them. Their numbers increased as they went on. They sat down on the mountain, and others came from all parts to join them. I understood where they were going to. They said they were going to break the Bolgoed bar. I had my coat turned inside out. I also put a handkerchief about my face. I did it for the purpose of being like the others. I had been on an errand, and saw two persons who were going there. I had previously heard that they intended destroying the gate, but I had not heard the night. They did not remain a minute after they had destroyed the gate. They went together to the side of the Bolgoed mountain. They then pulled the bonnets, &c. from their heads and dispersed throughout the neighbourhood. I then went home. I do not remember that I saw Lewis after I saw him by the gate.
Cross-examined by Mr. Tripp, who appeared for David Jones and Wm. Morgans, and, in conjunction with Mr. Walters, on behalf of Dl. Lewis:— I was with my father during a part of that day. I was at home during a very short portion of the day. I was not at home after seven or eight o’clock in the morning. I will swear I slept at home on the preceding night. I then went to Gellywran-issa, where my father resides; I remained there until the evening. I do not remember the hour I left. I did not return to my own house when I left Gellywran-issa. From my father’s house I went on an errand to my brother’s. My brother’s name is Richard Jones, he lives at Llanedi, in Carmarthenshire — that is about four miles distant from my father’s house; it may be five miles distant, or more. I reached there about dusk. It may be six, seven, or eight o’clock; I should think it might be about seven o’clock; I do not know when. I will swear it was not nine or ten o’clock it was not quite dark. I had left my father’s house between four and five o’clock. I did not call at any house between my father’s and my brother’s house; I went direct from my father’s to my brother’s house. I met several persons on the road, but I do not remember who they were. I did not speak to one. I do not recollect having met any person whom I knew; I will not swear I did not. When I arrived at my brother’s, I saw my brother and his wife, his daughter, and the servant — the latter was in the kitchen; the child was with her in the kitchen, and no other person. My brother was not in in the house when I arrived, but came in there about an hour afterwards, accompanied by his wife. I remained there until it was dark. I might have remained in my brother’s house for about three hours. When in my brother’s house I saw no person but those named.
The Chairman now asked Mr. Tripp, what course he intended pursuing with the defence?
Mr. Tripp, in reply, said, he did not exactly know at that period of the proceedings, but if the Chairman’s object in putting the question was for the purpose of sending all the witnesses who might be called for the defence out of Court, on the part of his clients he was very willing it should be done.
Mr. Maule observed, that it was usual to do so.
The witnesses were then ordered to leave the Court.
The cross-examination was then proceeded with:— The errand, to perform which I left my father’s house, was to consult with him about my going there to mow hay. I went there on my own account, and not for any one. I consider that to be an errand. When I left my brother’s, I went to the Hendy-gate, and thence to Pontardulais, and from thence to the Farmer’s Arms, and was on my way home. I had heard that the Bolgoed bar was to be destroyed on that night, but I did not know for a certainty. I saw the two persons, who were going to break the gate, going through the fields before me — I did not speak to them. I thought they were going to Bolgoed, because one had a white dress on, and the other a bedgown. When first I saw them, they had those dresses about them. I did not walk with them, but after them. I followed them until the wooden bridge, near the factory. I do not know that I saw them afterwards. I will swear that I did I not see their faces. I then went to Goppa Mountain; I saw scores of persons there. I have disclosed to the Magistrates the names of all the parties whom I knew were present at the destruction of the gate and toll-house. When I first saw them, they were sitting down — some were standing. I sat down above them all. I did not hear them talk, as they were talking in a subdued tone. I was near enough to hear, if they had spoken aloud. I remained there for about half an hour. During that time the numbers increased. Becca was calling upon them, throughout all the neighbourhood. When they left the mountain, they amounted to some hundreds; I was then in the midst of them. I well understood that they were going to destroy Bolgoed. One rose upon his feet, and said to me, “You know where we are going — it is to break down the Bolgoed-gate.” It was Becca that said that. I knew who Becca then was, but not so exact as afterwards. I suspected it was Daniel Lewis; I knew him by his voice, but at the gate I saw his face. I had heard all the neighbourhood say that Daniel Lewis was to act Rebecca’s character. I had not heard that he was generally Rebecca, but that he was to be so on that night. I heard that a week or a fortnight before, but cannot name any person who said so. I will positively swear that I heard Daniel Lewis was to be there, on that night, from a great number of persons. I do not remember one of the persons who told me so. I turned the sleeves of my coat by the factory, about three quarters of a mile from the Goppa mountain. I disguised my face when first I saw them; I used my neckcloth for that purpose. I turned my coat after I saw the two men disguised. I did so because I had heard they had done so in Carmarthenshire and I went to see them breaking the gates. I think all those assembled on the mountain were disguised. I named all I knew to the Magistrates; I cannot say how many I knew, but I knew many of them — perhaps about six, including the four prisoners. I did not positively recognize one of them on the mountain. While on the mountain, one of the persons stretched his hand towards me, but I did not know him. No person spoke to me. I heard conversations between several of them. I was within three or four yards of the toll-house when it was demolished. I was standing near, looking at them. I have said that they were about ten minutes destroying the gate and toll-house; it might have been fifteen minutes. I had seen and known David Jones previous to last winter, but not so well as afterwards; I never spoke a word to him in my life; I only know him by sight. I first knew Morgans when he was in the employment of Mr. Griffiths, of Penrhiew, at Swansea. I reside in a house in the Sciach valley; it is a poor house. I cannot name the day or week I heard that a reward was offered for the apprehension of the Rebeccaites — I cannot say how long before last Saturday week; I had heard some days before. I first mentioned what I have sworn to to-day, to Mr. Rees. Inspector of Police, last Saturday week. I had business at Swansea. I intended buying plates there. Near Mr. Attwood’s office. I had heard speaking about the Rebeccaites.
Mr. Tripp:— What did you tell Mr. Rees?
Mr. Maule objected to that question. It was quite unusual to ask witness what they had told any person with a view of comparing it with his evidence.
The examination was proceeded with after a short discussion.
I did not name to Mr. Rees the parties whom I have mentioned to-day. Mr. Rees desired me to accompany him to Mr. Attwood’s office. Mr. Attwood sent for two Magistrates, who arrived there. I was examined before them, and I believe my examination was taken down in writing. When speaking to Mr. Rees, I believe not a word was spoken about the reward. I then knew that a reward was offered. I think I had asked Rees if I would be free if I informed about others. Mr. Rees said I would have the reward if I could make out who had broken the gates. I do not remember all the conversation between me and Mr. Rees, but I think something might have passed about the reward. I have no doubt of it. You must have heard if I said that not a word had passed between us. — [The witness was also cross-examined as to whether any person had influenced him to become informer on this occasion, which he strongly denied, and stated that he gave the information of his own accord, uninfluenced by any one. — During his examination, the witness said, that if his word was doubted, the Magistrates might sign two warrants, and he would produce two witnesses who would confirm his statements in every particular.]
Mr. Jeffreys, on behalf of Mr. Vaughan, cross-examined the witness:— I have known Mr. Vaughan for some years. I do not remember that I ever spoke to him. I believe I was in his shop some years ago. I think his shop was in a street called High-street. I have been often in Swansea. I do not know the names of the streets. On the night in question I was within two yards of Mr. Vaughan. I did not exchange a word with any one by the gate — nor on the mountain. In leaving the gate I spoke to two men after they had taken off the covering from their faces. It was a dry light night. I do not remember that it was a moon light night. It might have been. I know Mr. William Jones, of Rhyd. I spoke to him in coming from the lime-pits a few days after the destruction of the gate. It might have been a week after. I spoke to him on two occasions, but only once upon that subject. I will not swear it was not on the next day. I did not tell him whom I saw, but that I witnessed the destruction of the gate. I did not say I was close to them, or that I was at a distance from them. I did not tell him that I knew any of them, We had no conversation as to the parties who were present. William Jones did not ask me where I met the Rebeccaites, but I said I had seen them breaking the gate. He said, “where were they? If I knew where they were, I would go with them.” I did not say I did not go near them as I was afraid of them, or any thing to that effect. I did not say I turned off the road as soon as I had a place to turn. I did not tell him that I could not recognize one of them, nor did I say they had come from Carmarthenshire, as I knew better. I was brought before the Magistrates about six years ago for cutting birch. I was compelled to pay a fine on that occasion.
Cross-examined by Mr. Walters, on behalf of Daniel Lewis. I do not hold any land. I was working with my father for three or four days in the week I gave the information. On the previous week I also worked with my father, perhaps during the whole week. I was working with Mr. Williams, of Penyfidy, on the week before. I used to mow for my brother, and my brother for me. I lived for the last six weeks in a barn belonging to Morgan Pugh. I had left Pwllfa. I was turned out of that house. I had not occupied the farm since Michaelmas. I wished to have a house near the mountain for the purpose of keeping cattle, otherwise I had the offer of many houses. I wished to live in a house near Rhosfawr, and Mr. Powell told me that he intended making the two houses into one. I went to bed about . That was the first time I returned home after leaving on the previous day. In leaving the gate I met a man on Goppa Mountain. When I returned to my house I saw no person, as they had all gone to bed. I did not see Morgan Pugh. I know Mr. John Williams, of Penyfidy. I had some conversation with him shortly after the gate was destroyed. I did not tell him that I was at a distance from the gate. I named to Mr. Williams, at that time, the persons whom I have named to day. I did not tell him that I did not know one of them. In coming to the gate the four defendants turned the covering they had on their faces on one side, and afterwards returned to shoot.
Re-examined by Mr. Maule:– Mr. Williams, of Penyfidy, is a farmer. I do not remember whether he or myself commenced the conversation. What I told Williams was in reply to questions put by him. Mr. Williams did not express his regret that this disturbance had taken place. Mr. Williams seemed rather to advocate the parties who had broken the gate. — William Jones is a small farmer and a publican, and is generally called William, of Rhyd. The information I communicated to him was in answer to questions put by him to me. He made no observations expressive of regret at what had occurred, but appeared very partial to Rebecca’s doings.
Mr. J. Naish Smart was then called by Mr. Maule.
Mr. Jeffreys stated, that if the witnesses were called to prove the arrival of a case of arms, he would object to his evidence, as Mr. Vaughan denied having anything to do with the arms in question. It was also irrelevant to the case, for the arrival of arms would be no proof that Mr. Vaughan had destroyed the gate.
Mr. Maule insisted upon the necessity of calling the witness. It was most important that an explanation should be offered if that were possible, for it appeared in evidence that Mr. Vaughan, and a multitude of others had riotously assembled, armed with guns, and at the very time he was in custody on that charge, a case of guns and pistols arrived by packet and addressed to him and the order for which had been countermanded since he had been taken into custody upon the charge. He would say that the Magistrates were bound to receive such evidence, though it was not yet complete as the order had not yet been proved; still he maintained, that it was closely connected with the circumstances of the case, inasmuch as it was evident that he collected arms for some purpose, though it might be no proof that he was present at the particular riot in question.
Mr. Tripp observed, that the evidence might effect his clients, and contended that it was no evidence relating to the destruction of the gate. It was merely of a general character.
Mr. Maule said that it would not be made evidence against the other prisoners, but thought it of importance as far as it regarded Vaughan. If the evidence would not be taken as it then stood, the only course would be to adjourn the investigation for the purpose of ascertaining the whole of the facts connected with the transaction. The only evidence he could at present offer was, that the case had been addressed to Mr. Vanghan. He was aware that it was necessary to prove some connection between Mr. Vaughan and the case, either by means of a written order or otherwise, as a case of arms might have been addressed to Vaughan by him (Mr. Maule) or any other person, though that would not be a very probable circumstance.
After some further discussion, the Magistrates admitted the evidence.
Mr. Smart’s examination was proceeded with. He deposed to the following effect:– I am the agent for a Steam Packet Company in this town. On , we received a case addressed to Mr. Griffith Vaughan, of Pontardulais. It was received from Messrs. Bland, who were the railway carriers. It reached this town on the same day as it was put on board. The witness read the extract from the manifest relating to the case as follows:– “Bland and Co., shippers, one case, Vaughan, near Swansea.” Then follows amount of freight. 1s. 6d.; charges, 3s. total 4s. 6d.. The Mayor took possession of the case. On I received a letter. It was half-past eight o’clock on Sunday evening when I received it. — [Letter produced]. It arrived by post, and was given me by Mr. Turner, who is also a steam-packet agent. — [Mr Jeffreys having glanced over the letter, objected to its being admitted in evidence.] — [The case was then produced]. It was addressed “G. Vaughan, Red Lion Inn, Pontardulais.” Witness said that the first word after the name appeared Rich. Upon the receipt of the letter, I wrote to the Clerk of the Magistrates. Within five minutes afterwards, he came to the house where I board, and returned in company with the Mayor and Capt. Napier. There were three or four policemen present. Mr. Rees was one, and there was a Mr. Jones present. The case was opened in my presence, and contained twelve fowling-pieces, one brace of pistols, a bullet-mould for the pistols, and ten or twelve boxes of percussion caps. There were three or four double-barrelled guns, and the rest were single-barrelled. The contents after they had been inspected were replaced in the case, which was fastened up. It is the practice to keep goods in the warehouse until called for. I do not know in whose writing these letters are. Some of the policemen took away the case.
Cross examined by Mr. Jeffreys:— The box was opened about [Mr. Jeffreys handed the witness a letter.] This letter is in my hand-writing. it was written on . [Mr. Jeffreys wished to put the Magistrates in possession of the letter, to show the course adopted towards Mr. Vaughan.] I received no communication from Mr. Vaughan direct or indirect. I received no answer from the letter addressed to Mr. Vanghan. The letter referred to was to the following effect:–
County of Pembroke Steam Packet Office, Swansea,
Sir, — A case arrived per County of Pembroke steamer on , addressed to you. As we have but little room to spare in the warehouse, probably you will call or send for same at the earliest opportunity.
I am, Sir, yours, obediently,
John Naish Smart.
Mr. G. Vaughan, Pontardulais.
Mr. Tripp asked if there were any additional evidence against Vaughan?
Mr. Maule answered in the negative.
Mr. Jeffreys again begged leave to urge the objection made by him before, against admitting, as evidence, the circumstance of Mr. Vaughan being in possession of arms weeks after the occurrence had taken place upon which the charge was founded.
Mr. Maule:— “Weeks after.” We must see what time the order was sent.
Mr. Jeffreys said, that be would be able, at a future period, to give a full and satisfactory explanation of circumstances attending the case of arms being addressed to his client.
The above was all the evidence offered on behalf of the crown.
Mr. Tripp, on behalf of David Jones and Morgan, submitted to the Bench, that the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution was not sufficient to warrant a committal. The evidence given by John Jones fully established that, in point of law, he was an accomplice in the case, having formed a part of the company when they first started from the mountain — having accompanied them to the spot, and remained present during the whole of the time that the gate and toll-house were demolished. It could, therefore, be safely said, that Jones was an accomplice to an equal degree with any of the other two hundred and fifty, stated to have been present, with the exception of those who were actually engaged in breaking up the gate, and pulling down the house. It was therefore clear that Jones was an accomplice and it was equally clear that he was also an informer, and, in that character, he hoped to receive the reward offered for the apprehension of the parties. He (Mr. Tripp) would therefore submit, that the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice would not justify the Bench in committing the parties for trial. In support of that opinion. Mr Tripp quoted a case from Carrington and Payne, and opinions given by Baron Alderson and Mr. Justice Bailey.
Mr. Walters urged similar objections, and contended that Jones was an accomplice in whatever aspect the question was viewed. He had accompanied the party, disguised his face, and turned his coat. It was evident that he had considered himself as such, for the first question he put to inspector Rees was, — Whether he should be free, if he informed on the others? Supposing that Jones had been instructed by the Magistrates to disguise himself, and appear among the crowd for the purpose of bringing the offenders to justice, he would appear in quite a different character. In that case, he would not have been an accomplice; he would have been present from understood pre-arrangement, but in that case there was no such arrangement. He would not trouble the Bench by quoting any cases, as Mr. Tripp had quoted several high legal authorities, shewing with what caution the evidence of an accomplice should be taken. The Magistrates ought not to be satisfied with a committal, on a primâ facie case, from the evidence adduced, but they should also be satisfied that the evidence was accredited.
Mr. Jeffreys, on behalf of Mr. Vaughan, contended that no primâ facie case had been made out. Supposing Jones’s testimony to be creditable, there was no evidence that Vaughan was concerned in the demolition of the gate and house, but merely that he was present, as the witness himself was.
Mr. Maule replied to the observations made by the gentlemen who defended the prisoners. He agreed with some of the remarks made, but the Magistrates could not assent to all of them, unless they had made up their minds to think that Mr. Smart and Jones were not creditable witnesses. The gentlemen who defended the prisoners were entirely mistaken in the cases they had quoted. If, instead of being before the Magistrates for examination, the prisoners were tried at the Assizes, the Judge had no power, in point of law, to reject the evidence of an accomplice, even though uncorroborated; but it was usual, unless circumstantially or directly corroborated, to recommend the jury to acquit the prisoner; yet that was a rule of discretion rather than a rule of law. The question was, not whether there was sufficient evidence to convict the prisoners, but whether the account given by John Jones was sufficiently satisfactory to warrant the Magistrates to send the prisoners before another tribunal. With respect to the witness being an accomplice, he (Mr. Maule) would observe, that there might have been accomplices in various degrees. If that argument were to operate, there were many persons, besides John Jones, whose evidence would be rejected. He alluded to parties, who might be mere spectators, encouraging others who were intent upon mischief.
Mr. Walters observed, that there was no difference between the case of Daniel Lewis and that of the witness Jones, with respect to the parts taken by them in the riot.
Mr. Maule was of opinion, that there was a material difference between the two cases. Had Jones ridden on a while horse? Had he acted the part of Rebecca, which Daniel Lewis seemed to have done to admiration? Had the mob consulted Jones as to their manner of proceeding? He had only turned his coat at that moment, but they were better prepared, having white shirts, caps, bonnets, and gowns. Mr. Maule quoted several authorities, to prove that the evidence of an accomplice was sufficient to commit, and that it would be legal evidence before a jury. The Magistrates would necessarily adopt one of three courses — either to acquit the prisoners, to commit them, or to adjourn the proceedings. Mr. Maule proceeded at considerable length, replying to the observations made by Messrs. Tripp, Walters, and Jeffreys.
Mr. Walters repeated his objections to committing on the evidence of an accomplice.
Col. Cameron read an opinion from a legal authority, to the effect that any person could be convicted on the evidence of an accomplice, provided the jury thought him worthy of belief.
Mr. Tripp observed, that prisoners formerly were convicted on the unsupported evidence of an accomplice, but that old rule was entirely abrogated.
Mr. Jeffreys hoped the Magistrates would entirely exclude from their minds the circumstance of the possession of fire-arms by the defendant Vaughan.
The Magistrates then retired to an adjoining room, and in a short time returned, when the Chairman said that the Magistrates had come to a determination to commit the prisoners.
Messrs. Walters and Tripp then proposed calling witnesses for the defence, when Mr. Maule objected to hear, in a preliminary investigation before Magistrates, evidence to contradict statements made on behalf of the prosecution. They could call evidence to prove that the witness was not worthy of credit, but not to contradict circumstances stated by the witness, for if the Magistrates decided upon the credibility of witnesses, they would be assuming the functions both of judge and jury.
After some further observations from Mr. Tripp and Mr. Maule, the following witnesses were called on behalf of the prisoners.
William Jones deposed to the following effect:– I reside at Rhyd. I remember the time when the Bolgoed bar was broken. I heard from some sort of a friend of mine that the gate was broken. It was from John Jones, whom I met on the following day. I was returning from the lime, and he was coming from Llandilo. We were on the road between Glamorganshire and Carmarthenshire. I had a conversation with him about Rebecca. John Jones said that he had seen Rebecca on the previous night. He said that she went before him from Pontardulais to Bolgoed. I asked him if he did not go near them. He said he was afraid to go near them — that they were walking before him, and he following. He said that he was looking for a place to turn, and that at last he turned up by the Fountain Inn to the Goppa Mountain. He said he looked down from the bank, and saw Rebecca on a white horse with a white dress. I asked. “Did you know none of them?” He said. I did not, and added, [“]I was glad to get out of their way.” I asked. “Did you not know one of them?” He said, “No, not one of them. I saw them going before me to Pontardulais, and heard them firing from Llandybie.” — Mr. Jeffreys:– Are you sure that he is the man who was called as a witness to-day? — Witness:– Good God, yes; do you think I would commit such a blunder as that. (A laugh.)
Cross-examined by Mr. Maule:– I was returning from lime at the time. I had not known before that time that the gate was broken down. I believe I commenced the conversation about Rebecca by asking how it came on about Llandilo? I was just asking for news. I had been in Llandilo in . I was curious to know how matters got on. I had never heard of the intention of breaking down Bolgoed gate. Jones might have been lagging behind me on the road for about two miles. I mentioned this conversation to Mr. Llewellyn, of Cardinen, and to Mr. Williams, Clyn Castle, and another person. I told Mr. Jeffreys the circumstance on . Mr. Jeffreys sent for me. I might have told a dozen more. I cannot name any of them, but my wife. I had a boy with me. He was about eight years old, but did not appear to take notice of any thing.
John Williams, of Penyfidy, examined:— I am a farmer, and reside in the parish of Llangafelach. I first heard of the destruction of Bolgoed gate from John Jones. He spoke to me upon the subject . In the conversation John Jones had with me he told me he had been with them breaking down the gate. I asked John Jones if he knew one of them, and he said he did not know one living being. I asked him if there were any gentleman present? and he answered that he could not say. He did not name any of the four defendants.
Cross-examined:— The conversation took place at different times. He spoke to me on two successive days. He told me the same story both days. I will swear he did not name either of the defendants. I reside three miles distant from Bolgoed gate. I will swear I had not heard of the destruction of the gate before he told me. I mentioned the circumstance to my own family on that day, but not to any one else. I think I was in Chapel on the Sunday following the destruction of the gale. I attend Salem Chapel, which is between three and four miles from Bolgoed.
Mr. Tripp stated, that the next witness he intended calling, would prove that, from Jones’s general character, he was not worthy of credit.
Mr. Maule objected to evidence of that description being adduced before Magistrates.
Mr. Tripp replied, and quoted Phillips on Evidence in support of his opinion.
The following witness was then called—
Evan Roberts said:– I live at Llandimor, in the parish of Talybont. I have known John Jones for the last twelve or fifteen years. From his general character I would not believe John Jones on his oath.
Rees Morgan, who stated that he lived in Glyn Castle, in Llangafelach, said:— I have known John Jones for twenty-five years, and would not believe him on his oath.
Cross-examined:— I live about three miles from Bolgoed. I do not remember the day of the month on which I first heard or the gate being broken down, but I was going to meet the boys coming from lime. I am generally at home at night, and I think I can swear I was at home on the night the gate was destroyed. I do not know what time of night I went home. I will swear that I saw no person going to destroy the gate, until it was destroyed. None of my family were out on the night the gate was destroyed.
John Joce Strick, Esq., examined:— I reside at Clydach. I have known John Jones for three or four years. I cannot say whether I would believe him on his oath. I think that, from so much as I know of him, I would not believe him on his oath but I am not sufficiently acquainted with him to say so positively.
Richard Jones examined:– I reside in the parish of Llandilo, and am a brother to John Jones. I heard of the day the gates was destroyed. I do not remember seeing my brother on that day. I do not think my brother was in my house on that day. To the best of my recollection the last time previous to the time mentioned I saw my brother was about . I saw him then on a Sunday. I did not see him in the week the gate was destroyed.
Cross-examined:– I swear I did not see him — that he was not seen or my family would let me know. I am a tenant of the Rev. Samuel Davies, to whom I pay ground-rent. I also pay rent to Charles Vaughan. I am not aware that he is any relation to Griffith Vaughan. I am come here at the request of the young men. I felt for them, as I thought they were not guilty. They told me to swear nothing but the truth. I had previously told them that my brother had not been in my house. — There was nothing elicited in the remaining part of his cross-examination.
Mr. Tripp, on behalf of David Jones, offered to call witnesses of the highest respectability, who would prove that David Jones was at Neath on the night in question. He knew the Magistrates were not bound to hear such evidence it was entirely at their discretion, but he hoped they would exercise that discretion in a favourable manner.
Mr. Maule stated at considerable length his objections to such evidence, which he had never known to have been received by Magistrates, who were not to decide upon the guilt or innocence of parties, but to send them before another tribunal. In cases which were summarily disposed of by Magistrates they heard evidence for the prosecution or from the complainants, and also for the defence. They also decided upon the guilt or innocence of the parties, and passed sentence. In those instances Magistrates performed the functions of Judge and Jury, but such evidence could not be admitted in a case like that which was to be sent to the Sessions or Assizes.
Mr. Wallers replied, after which the Bench decided that the evidence offered to be adduced by Mr. Tripp could not be received.
The Chairman then slated that the Magistrates had come to the determination of committing the parties for trial at the Quarter Sessions.
Mr. Tripp hoped the Magistrates would allow the prisoners to chose the tribunal before which they should be tried, and that they would commit them for trial at the Assizes, where they should not only be tried before one of the Learned Judges of the land, but where they should have the assistance of able Counsel, who would do justice to their cases. — The Bench assented to Mr. Tripp’s request.
On the usual question being put, each of the defendants declined making any statements, as they left the matter entirely to their attornies. They were then committed for trial at the next Assizes; and having entered into recognizances to appear at that time, were liberated.
The Monmouthshire Merlin was also on the case:
Swansea, . we attended at the Assize Court, at nine o’clock, in anticipation of an early commencement of the public business, but the magistrates remained in their private room , when it was officially announced to those in the great hall that the court was opened, that is, that the proceedings against the parties charged with the demolition of the Bwlgoed gate, were to take place in a small apartment, inconvenient to the magistrates, and insufficient to accommodate more than about 50 of the anxious public, when closely packed. The assigned cause for this very unpopular arrangement, against which we heard the good citizens of Swansea and the visitors from distant parts, strongly and loudly declaim in the precincts of the court, where several “rate payers,” in the peace of our sovereign Lady the Queen, were constitutionally holding forth on the liberty of the subject, was, that on the former day of hearing, the feelings of the public in court were so loudly and irrepressibly expressed, that it was resolved to avoid such unseemly interruptions and annoyances this day, and thus give the people a “great moral lesson.” No sooner, however, were the magistrates assembled, than the overwhelming heat produced by the closely-packed audience in a small apartment, rendered a motion by Mr. Tripp, the solicitor, for an adjournment to the capacious court, favourably entertained, and Colonel Cameron strongly expressing his disapprobation at the very limited accommodation, seconded by other gentlemen in the commission, the Assize Court was resorted to, which in a few minutes presented an exceedingly dense mass; the far greater proportion of which were farmers, and their country’s pride, a “bold peasantry,” here and there relieved by bright-eyed Cambrian mountain maids.
Pontardulais and its neighbourhood poured its almost entire population into Swansea; and as a “great demonstration” was expected to conduct the defendants (some of whom are great favourites in their respective localities) to the court house, a procedure properly prevented by their legal advisers, the streets were thronged from an early hour of .
The report (since authenticated) that on the previous night, Llanon toll house and gate, together with another “trust” in that locality, had been levelled with the dust, gave an additional interest to the proceedings of the day; whilst the presence, to prosecute, of Mr. Maule, of the Treasury, assisted by the able Mr. Haven, of the same Government department, brought to the Court House the most intelligent gentlemen of Swansea and its precincts.
The following magistrates took their seats on the bench… [omitted; the list is the same as above except that it contains “J.N. Miers” instead of J.N. Lucas, “J.W. Dilwyn” in place of L.Ll. Dillwyn, and adds F.E. Leach, Esq.]
The following defendants were placed at the bar:– Griffith Vaughan, an exceedingly well-looking rustic, Daniel Lewis, an unsophisticated young farmer, charged with being the Rebecca of , and who would certainly look more effeminate than masculine as a petticoated and capped heroine, David Jones, a staid good humoured looking yeoman, and William Morgan, a merry-countenanced blade, who seemed anything but a fellow addicted to deeds of darkness.
All the reputed Rebeccaites were accompanied and cheered to the court by numerous friends, and seemed to think that it would be “all right.”
J. Ralley Tripp, — Jeffreys, and — Walters, Esqs., solicitors, defended the prisoners.
Mr. Maule rose and addressed the Bench to the following effect:– He had the honour to be engaged by the Crown in the conduct of the present proceedings against the persons who stood there charged with having taken part in the breaking down and destruction of a toll gale at Bwlgoed, distant about eight miles from Swansea. The four persons then at the bar, named David Jones, William Morgan, Daniel Lewis, and Griffith Vaughan, had been liberated on bail, but this morning had surrendered, in order to have the charge against them investigated. The witness, upon whose testimony proceedings had been taken against the defendants, would be placed in the box and examined before them, that being the most regular course. The gentlemen who appeared on behalf of the defendants would then have an opportunity afforded them of cross-examining the witness, and of using every other means of defence which 1 the law placed at their disposal. In addition to the facts which the witness Jones would prove, he (Mr. Maule) would be in a position to prove a circumstance of a peculiar nature affecting defendant Vaughan. The circumstance he alluded to was of a most extraordinary character, but as it had only transpired within the last day or two, he (Mr. Maule) was not able to enter very fully into the details of the case. He would, therefore, merely state that a day or two ago a case, containing arms, and addressed to Mr. Griffith Vaughan, Pontardulais, had been found at the warehouse of the Bristol Steam Packet Compaqny. It would appear in evidence that after the case had arrived in Swansea, a letter, countermanding its delivery, was received at the packet warehouse. That case was found to contain from ten to twelve guns, ammunition, caps, bullet moulds, &c., and a brace of pistols. The defendant Vaughan might be in a position to explain satisfactorily the reason for having arms in such quantities directed to him, and he (Mr. Maule) hoped he would do so; but as the case stood, he was bound to ask the magistrates to admit that fact in evidence. The degree of importance to be attached to it, he, of course, would leave to the Bench. The prisoners stood charged with having been concerned in a public outrage committed some short time since. The statute 7 and 8, Geo. Ⅳ., c 30, s 14. enacts— “That if any person shall unlawfully and maliciously throw down, level, or otherwise destroy, in whole, or in part, any turnpike gate, or any wall, chain, rail, post, bar, or other fence, belonging to any turnpike-gate, set up or erected to prevent passengers passing by without paying any toll, directed to be paid by any Act or Acts of Parliament relating thereto, or any house, building, or weighing engine, erected for the better collection, ascertainment, or security, of any such toll, every such offender shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be punished accordingly.” The several defendants were charged with having been participators in the destruction of a toll gate, called the Bwlgoed, on , and if the charge was substantiated, it would become the duty of magistrates to commit them for trial.
The learned gentleman then called John Jones, the informer, and on his appearance the indignation of the persons in the body of the court could scarcely be repressed by the officers; hisses were first loudly heard, and when calls of “order” and silence were authoritatively called, a slight under current of sibilations was muttered.
Jones was very firm and collected, and gave his evidence without apparent embarrassment. He was examined by Mr. Maule. The examination took place in the Welsh language, which was cleverly interpreted by Mr. Glasbrook, a respectable trader of Swansea.
Witness said that he lived at Cwm Skeach, in the parish of Langafelach, in this county: is a labourer, lives about two miles from the Bolgoed gate. I was out when that gate was destroyed. It was destroyed on . I saw the gate destroyed between twelve and one o’clock somewhere. It was calculated that there were about 250 people there. I saw no women there. Every one of them had something remarkable in their dress. Some had white shirts on, and some had women’s bedgowns on. They had women’s caps upon their heads. I observed that some of the men were armed. Perhaps there were a hundred guns there, some were double-barrelled. They had pickaxes, handsaws, and cross saws with them. They destroyed the toll-house by pulling it down with pickaxes. While this was going on there was firing of guns all the time. It took them about ten minutes to destroy the toll-house and toll-bar. Besides the dresses which I have described, some of them had their faces disguised with some sort of handkerchiefs tied round their heads, and hanging over their faces like veils. I did not observe that any of them had their faces blackened. They were not all on foot, one was mounted on a white horse. I heard the people address the man upon the horse. They called him “mother.” (Laughter.) I was so near to them as enabled me to hear them talking. I heard the people address the man upon the horse saying, “Is it time for us to go?” I heard that before the house was pulled down. The man on horseback asked them, “Is it time for us to go?” An answer was made to that question. They thought it was time for them to go. The man on horseback had a white shirt over his clothes, a cap on his head, and a bonnet over the cap. (A laugh.) He spoke a few words to the people. I know who that man was. It was Daniel Lewis. I should know him again if I were to see him. [Witness then stood forward and pointed out the prisoner Daniel Lewis, who smiled derisively at witness.] I knew him before that night. He is a weaver, and resides near the Goppa, but I do not know in what house. I saw Mr. Griffith Vaughan, of the Inn, there. I mean the Pontardulais Inn. I see Mr. Vaughan now in the hall. He was in the middle of the crowd. He had a gun with him. He was dressed with some sort of a white shirt over him, and a cap and bonnet. He fired the gun off two or three times while the people were destroying the toll-house and bar. I saw David Jones, of Tantwm, there. I see him here now. He had a double-barrelled gun in his hand. I saw John Morgan, of Bolgoed there; I see him here. He was disguised like the others, and had a gun with him. There were no shoutings or noises. They were not speaking; only firing. I joined them on the lower part of Mynydd-yy-Goppa, by Velin-ucha. It was I joined them. People came from all directions. I learned where they were going to. They said they were going to break the Bolgoed bar. I had my coat turned inside out, and a handkerchief about my face. After they had broken down the bar and the house they did not stop a minute, but every one went away to [t]he side of Bolgoed mountain again. I went with them. When they got to the side of the Bolgoed they drew off the things from about their heads, and scores of them went home. They spread all over the neighbourhood, and dispersed. I went home. I do not remember having seen Daniel Lewis after I saw him by the gate.
Cross-examined by Mr. Trapp (who appeared for David Jones and William Morgan, and who throughout distinguished himself by evincing the ability of a lawyer, with the zeal of an advocate.)
I was with my father during ; that is not my home; I was not at home scarcely any time . I was at home about but not afterwards that day. I will swear I slept at home . I reached my brother’s house in the evening. Perhaps it might have been six, or seven, or eight o’clock. Perhaps it was seven, I cannot say exactly. I am prepared to swear it was not so much as nine or ten, it was something in the dusk of the evening. It was not dark. I left my father’s house between four and five o’clock. I did not call at any house between my father’s and my brother’s. I went direct from one house to the other. I know I did. I met some people on the road, but I cannot say whom I met. Do not recollect having met a single person that I know. I will not swear that I did not meet some person that I knew. When I arrived at my brother’s house I saw the servant. I also saw my brother and his wife. I saw no one else except my brother’s daughter. I saw the servant in the kitchen doing the work of the house. Only the child was in the kitchen at the time with the servant. My brother was not in the house when I first arrived there, but came in about an hour afterwards. He and his wife came in together. I remained at my brother’s house till it was night, I remained there in all two or three hours. I believe I was there three hours. During the time I was in my brother’s house I saw no other person except my brother, his wife, daughter, and servant.
The witnesses were ordered to leave the court, but to remain within call. Cross-examination resumed–
I had a message to my brother, when I left my father’s house on the night in question. It was a message to talk to him about mowing hay. I left my brother’s house for the purpose of returning home. I had heard the Bolgoed bar was to be destroyed that night, but I did not know exactly. I did not know what night it would be destroyed. I saw the two persons who told me the bar was to be destroyed that night, going before me on a field near the Pontardulais factory — did not speak to them. Knew they were going to the Bolgoed bar, because one had a white dress, and the other a bedgown on. I do not know whether I saw them afterwards. I did not know them, nor see their faces. I afterwards found scores of people on the Goppa mountain. I have disclosed to the magistrates the names of all the parties present at the Goppa that night, that I knew. Stayed there as long as they stayed — perhaps half an hour. Becca was calling upon them all the while. There were some hundreds there when we left the mountain. One rose on his feet and said– “You know where we are going? We are going to break down the Bolgoed gate.” Becca said that — Becca was Daniel Lewis. I saw his face at the gate, and suspected his voice on the mountain — had heard all the country say it was Daniel Lewis to be there that night as Becca. I disguised my face when I was near to them — when I saw them. It was after I saw two men I turned my coat sleeves. I thought I should see the Rebeccaites — it was night, but not very dark. I knew many of them. I went with all of them to the gate. I could not swear to one of them on the mountain. I was within a few yards from them when they commenced breaking down the toll house. I stood by looking at them — it was all done in about ten or fifteen minutes. I live in Cwm Skuach, in some sort of a little, poor house. I first mentioned this to Mr. Rees, the inspector of police. I left home last Saturday week, to transact business in Swansea, and I wanted a scythe. I told Mr. Rees, Becca broke the gates of our country, but did not tell him the names I mentioned here . Went with him to Mr. Attwood’s office, and two magistrates came there, who examined me. In speaking to Rees not a word passed about the reward — knew one had been offered. Believe I asked him if I should be free if I were to inform on others. He told me I should have it if I could make out who broke the gates. No doubt something was said about the reward, when talking with Mr. Rees.
Cross-examined by Mr. Jefferys on behalf of Griffith Vaughan–
I have known Mr. Vaughan for some years, but do not remember having ever spoken to him. On the night in question I was within two yards of Mr. Vaughan. It was a dry, light night — not moonlight, I think — the stars were shining. I know Mr. William Jones, of Rhyd, and had a conversation with him after the gate was broken down — did not tell him whom I had seen in the night, but told him I saw the breaking of the Bolgoed gate. I did not tell him I knew any of the men — he did not ask me. I did not say I did not go near them, because I was afraid of them. He said — The devil! if I was to find them, I would go near them. I was brought before the magistrates for cutting birch about six years ago, and paid a fine.
Cross-examined by Mr. Walters, on behalf of Daniel Lewis–
I was working with my father before I gave this information. I worked with Mr. Williams, of Penyfiddy, the week before the week I worked with my father. I was working two days in exchange with my brother — he came with me two days to mow hay, and I went with him two days to mow hay. I have lived in Morgan Pugh’s barn six weeks. I went to bed about two at morn after the gate was broken — all were gone to bed. I did not tell Mr. Williams I was at a distance from the gate at the time it was broken.
Mr. Williams is the son of Ynisfawr, and is a farmer. William of Rhyd told me that he was very willing for the gates to be pulled down.
The whole of the evidence was then read over and explained to the witnesses.
The same paper also covered the part of the examination concerning the arms shipment. It is similar to the coverage in The Cambrian, although much less extensive about the nature of the objections from the defense. It also reports the testimony about whom the case was addressed to as “G. Vaughan, Rich Lyon, Ponterdulais, near Swansea” while The Cambrian reports it as “G. Vaughan, Red Lion Inn, Pontardulais” but adds “Witness said that the first word after the name appeared Rich.”
That article also covered the examination of the witnesses called by the defense to impeach the credibility of the prosecution’s main witness. It is more perfunctory in general than the report in The Cambrian. The way it reported John Joce Strick’s brief testimony was different in a somewhat interesting way:
I reside at Clydach, and have known John Jones for three or four years. I would not credit his oath after the way in which he has treated me.
The night of this trial (if I have the difficult-to-interpret chronology correct), there were more toll gate attacks. A later issue of the Monmouthshire Merlin reported:
Alarming Progress of Rebeccaism.
From our Second Edition of last week.
Swansea, . The Rebeccaites have brought the anti-toll-gate war literally to the gates of this town, and the audacity of the movement has astonished the natives. Notwithstanding the strong garrison of soldiers, and numerous police force, with us, the midnight levellers , in considerable numbers, destroyed the Ty Coch gate and two other bars, situated about half a mile from the Town Hall. On going to the scene of Rebecca’s misdeeds , the work of ruin appeared effectively done: the heavy posts were sawed down nearly to the level of the road; bars were wrenched from their hinges, and cast upon a neighbouring lime-kiln, where they were partially burned, and every part of the “trust” evidenced the determined purpose of the malefactors, whose display of wantonness of power has annoyed the authorities exceedingly.
Ty Coch, which is a sort of suburb, is separated from the town of Swansea by the river, which is crossed at the ferry side by a floating bridge. In the very centre of this village, completely surrounded by habitations, is a toll house, to which two gates are attached, called the Ty Coch gates. It appears that at nearly , the woman who is the toll-keeper, was alarmed by a noise outside, and immediately afterwards the window of the toll house was broken in; being very much frightened, she remained in bed, but shortly afterwards the door was violently burst open. She then rushed out of the house, and saw 30 or 40 men in the road, and found that the gates had been broken down. She screamed out murder! as loud as she could, when a man rushed at her with an iron bar, and struck her a violent blow on the arm, which inflicted a serious wound. She then succeeded in re-entering the toll-house, and closed the door, which was endeavoured to be forced, and was split in pieces. She again rushed out and screamed, on which the men all ran away.
It was then found that the posts of the gate had been sawn off, and the gate itself thrown on a lime kiln, where it was burnt. They not only demolished these two gates, but also a bar about one hundred yards from Ty Coch. They were not disguised, but dressed in their usual dresses, those of workmen. No person came to the poor woman’s rescue, although, as before observed, Ty Coch is a populous village, and the noise must have been great.
No one appeared this morning to be cognizant of the outrage, except from seeing the gates down, and it is quite evident that Becca has friends at hand.
Destruction of the Furnace Gate, Near Llanelly
Official intelligence has just reached me, that these depredators made an irruption into Llanelly, about , and totally demolished the Furnace Gate, on the road leading from that town to Carmarthen, and burned the toll-house to the ground. This is a new — a very formidable feature in this servile war. They also destroyed the Sandy Gate on the road leading to Pembrey, as well as a private gate, the property of a gentleman named Lewis, of Stradey.