Rebecca and Her Daughters Increase in Power and Influence

More tales of Rebecca, this time from the Cambrian:

Rebecca’s Daring.

The lawless depredators, known by the name of Rebecca and her daughters, appear not only gradually to increase in power and influence in Carmarthen­shire, but it is pretty sure, that if they continue to progress in the same ratio as they have done during the last few weeks, civil power, as far as local authority goes, will be completely subjugated, if, indeed, it be not so already. Their proceedings on affords a striking instance of daring, and even success in setting the civil authority at defiance. On , three men, named [Thomas] Thomas, [John] Harries, and [Samuel] Bowen, passed through the gate, or rather through the aperture where the gate had previously been, refusing to pay toll. The toll-collector summoned them before the Magistrates, to whom they said, that Rebecca had given them notice not to pay. They were fined in the penalty of 40s. each and costs, which not having been paid, a distress warrant against their goods was issued. Some bailiffs and constables were sent to execute the distress warrant, but the officers were summarily ordered by Rebecca’s disciples to return, which they readily did. The Magistrates, determined to enforce the law, “swore in” about thirty pensioners as special constables, who, together with a number of policemen, bailiffs, &c., proceeded on to execute the warrant. They succeeded in making the distraint with little or no molestation, but ere they had proceeded a quarter of a mile with their booty, the loud sound of a trumpet assembled an immense concourse amounting to several hundreds of Rebecca’s fair daughters, some of whom had their faces blackened. They immediately compelled the constables to deliver up the goods, together with all the fire-arms and other weapons of defence in their possession. They then proceeded to demolish a wall, belonging to Mr. Davies, of Trawsmawr, a Magistrate for the county, who had offended them, and they gave the special constables and police their choice, either to assist them in demolishing the wall, or run the risk of being stripped and sent to town naked. The officers made choice of the former alternative. We understand that about forty additional special constables have been since sworn in.

Henry Tobit Evans’s book adds some details. The sentence against the three was 48 shillings, six pence (fine + costs) “or three months’ imprisonment.” Captain Davies’ wall was destroyed (along with “the plantations which ornamented the same”) in revenge for Davies “endorsing a warrant of the Borough Authorities against John Harris, miller, and Mr. Thomas Thomas, shopkeeper… for non-payment of tolls at Water Street Gate.” Evans puts the attack on Davies’s property on , and the attack by the blackfaced Rebeccaites on the magistrates , after which they swore in new constables and tried (and failed) to enforce the levy, and then another attack is made on the property of Davies. I’m not sure what to make of this; Evans sometimes seems confused in his chronology, but the newspapers of the time can also be hard to interpret.