On the business of the Carmarthenshire Spring Assizes commenced. According to the Cambrian:
The Borough Calendar contains the names of nine prisoners, seven or eight of whom are charged with offences connected with the late riot at the Workhouse, and other offenced arising out of the recent disturbances. There are twenty-two names on the County Calendar, the majority of whom are charged with riots, assaults, and depredations connected with Rebeccaism. True bills against several of these prisoners were found at the last Assizes. Several respectable farmers and others are implicated in some of the charges; from their station in society, their cases naturally cause considerable excitement and apprehension as to the result of the trials. In four cases the defendants are Queen’s Bench traversers, having been at the last Assized removed by certiorari. They are to be tried by Special Juries, and are precisely in the same position as Mr. O’Connell and the other traversers at the late Dublin trials.
The Workhouse Riot
Before a Special Jury. — John Harris, aged 50, miller, David Thomas, 28, farmer, David Williams, 27, weaver, Job Evans, 49, farmer, Isaac Charles, 19, tailor, and John Lewis, 40, fisherman, were charged in a lengthy indictment, containing several counts, with having, on , unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled at the Carmarthen Workhouse to the disturbance of the peace of our sovereign lady the Queen, her Crown and dignity. There were also counts in this indictment charging several of the defendants with having committed assaults on different parties. True bills had been found at the last Assizes, and the defendants had then put in pleas of Not Guilty.
Messrs. Chilton, Q.C., Evans, Q.C., and E.V. Williams, were Counsel for the Crown.
Mr. Lloyd Hall defended the two last-named prisoners. — The others were undefended by Counsel.
Mr. V. Williams opened the pleadings by stating the nature of the charge.
Mr. Chilton, Q.C., then addressed the jury for the Crown. He had the honour to appear before them to conduct the prosecution on the part of the Government. It was an honour which devolved upon him from the accidental circumstance of seniority, and he assured them it was to him an honour attended with no little anxiety. To himself it gave no little pain, because that, during his long intercourse with the people of this part of the country, he had experienced nothing but kindness and courtesy from persons of all ranks and conditions of life. For that reason, he repeated, it pained him exceedingly that the duty had been imposed upon him of substantiating charges of disregard of the law against a large body of people whom hitherto it had been his (Mr. C’s) part and boast to point out as being the most peaceable people, the most obedient to the laws, within the realm. If the gentlemen of the special jury would glance over the calendars of that county during past years, and compare them with those of other counties, they would agree with him that it had been comparatively free from crime. It also gave him pain to appear before them after so many trials which had been conducted by the Attorney-General, whose temperate conduct, and whose firm and vigorous, yet forgiving spirit he (Mr. C.), with his numerous infirmities, could not expect to emulate; though he hoped that in no portion of his address would he show any disposition to strain the law against the defendants. His sympathies had always been enlisted in favour of the people. It would be his duty to call evidence before them, and if, after they had heard and weighed it, they should find anything which would justify them in returning a verdict of acquittal as to all or any of the defendants, no person could feel more rejoiced at that than himself. He had that moment been informed that only two of the defendants were defended by Counsel, but he (Mr. C.) was confident that would not operate prejudicially to the other prisoners, as they (the jury) would be their Counsel, and his Lordship would be their Counsel, and see that they should not be convicted unless the charges were well substantiated, and that they should be quite as well guarded as Mr. Hall, with all his zeal, would guard the interests of his client. To gentlemen of their experience it was unnecessary for him to dwell upon the various points of law which would arise; he would leave that to his Lordship. In some counts the prisoners were charged with a riot — in others with assaults, but all would be guilty of the acts committed by each of them, if it would be satisfactorily proved that they had assembled together for one common purpose. He would now give them an outline of the case, the details of which will be given in evidence. He (Mr. C.) charged the defendant John Harris with being a ringleader, or at least a very active promoter of the riot in question. He was a miller, residing in the parish of Abernant, in that county. This riot was unquestionably more or less connected with the disturbances which had arisen from the supposition that tolls had been illegally exacted. It would appear that the defendant Harris had refused to pay tolls at Water-street gate, in that town, and the consequence was that be was fined, and a distress warrant was issued against his goods. Considerable opposition was made to levying the fine, and a riot ensued, which he would merely refer to, as it was the subject of another prosecution. In that riot, which occurred on , several of the defendants took part, and threats were then held out by the mob that they would destroy Water-street gate and the Workhouse. On , Harris called at the house of Capt. Davies, one of the magistrates who had signed the distress warrant, and told him that unless the money which had been paid were returned, he would he visited on . He also left a letter with Mr Davies, signed by himself, and purporting to have been signed by another party. Mr. Chilton here read the letter, which was signed, “John Harris,” “Thomas Thomas,” to the effect, that as they had been illegally fined, they give notice that, if the money was to be returned, was the time so to do. On , as would be proved, the Parish Clerk of Abernant had been compelled to make a kind of proclamation to the parishioners to assemble at Carmarthen on , or if any persons remained away, they would do so at their peril. A Magistrate happened to be present, and he endeavoured to dissuade the people from listening to the proclamation, and he sent for Harris, and tried to prevent him from carrying his purposes into effect; but it would be shown that Harris continued very active in persuading the people to assemble: the farmers on horses, and their sons and servants on foot; and that they would remain away at their peril. On , they accordingly assembled at the Plough and Harrow, which was four miles from Carmarthen. The assembly was a very large one, and they marched through Trevaughan village, and reached the town of Carmarthen , at which time they amounted to some thousands. They marched into the town, through the Water-street gate, in procession — the footmen being in the van, and the horsemen in the rear, bearing banners with various inscriptions on them. Having proceeded through several streets, they went towards the workhouse. He would show the jury that the appearance of the mob was so alarming that nearly all the shops in Carmarthen were closed. It would also appear that the master of the workhouse had observed about a hundred idle people loitering about the workhouse until the procession arrived, and admission was then demanded in the most intimidating manner. One individual, who had been at the Plough and Harrow in the morning, seeing the multitude at the door, suggested to the master that, if he did not open the door, he feared bad consequences would ensue. The master then admitted the mob. They went into the hall. Their acts and general conduct while in the workhouse would be described by the different witnesses who would be examined. Shortly after they had entered, a gentleman, named Morse, took the opportunity of addressing them. They attended to him and that, happily, afforded time for the arrival of the military — a small body of the Fourth Light Dragoons, who were nearly worn out by fatigue consequent upon their exertion in travelling. Immediately on the appearance of the military, the mob dispersed. Many of those actually engaged in the riot made their retreat, leaving their horses in the yard of the workhouse. That circumstance in the riot he thought was not unimportant, because it afforded a clue to what the ultimate object might be had they not been interrupted. “Conscience made cowards of all,” for he could not accuse the Welsh of such cowardice had they not been conscious that they were engaged in a bad cause. However, when the jury would take into consideration the time and circumstance of the assemblage, and the general character of their acts, it would be for them, under the direction of the Learned Judge, to say whether the defendants were legally justified in such a conduct or not. — The following witnesses were then called and examined:—
Captain David Davies examined by Mr. Evans. Q.C.:— I am a Magistrate for this county. Harris, the defendant, called on me on , and delivered me this letter. [The letter was put in and read — the substance of it is given in the Learned Counsel’s opening address.] The defendant added that if the money were not paid on , it would be demanded on . I was in the town on with the other Magistrates. I saw a crowd of about 350 people on horseback, and others on foot. They were more than a thousand. I remained in the Townhall. They passed the hall. The shops were closed. Those on foot were agricultural servants. I was not alarmed.
David Evans, road-surveyor, examined by Mr. V. Willams: On I was sworn in a special constable. On I assisted the police to levy a distress on the goods of Harris, the miller. It was a distress for a fine imposed for non-payment of toll. Our distraint was resisted by a mob who created a great riot. The mob then said that they would destroy the Water-street gate, and pay the workhouse a visit, and take it down.
Cross-examined by Mr. Hall:— I do not think Isaac Charles or John Lewis were present at the Talog meeting. They were not there.
Re-examined by Mr. Chilton:— There were about 500 persons present. I could not positively ascertain that those persons were not there. I cannot mention a fiftieth part of those who were present.
James Lewis examined by Mr. Chilton, Q.C.:— Is the parish clerk of Abernant. I attended service on . It is the custom after service to give public notice of any meeting, or of anything lost. I cried the loss of a mare on that day. After that, John Harris, the miller, Talog, desired me to make another proclamation. It was a notice to the parishioners to come to town next day, and whoever remained home would do so at their peril. I objected to crying it, but said I preferred having a written notice on the door. Having made the proclamation I heard Captain Evans advising the people not to go. That evening I heard a conversation between Harris and Capt. Evans.
Cross-examined by Mr. Hall:— I do not know whether Isaac Charles and John Lewis were present, at the Church, on that occasion.
Capt. Evans, Pantykendy, was called on his subpoena, but was not present.
Thomas Evans, Plasyparke, examined by Mr. Evans Q.C.:— Is a farmer, who lived at Plasyparke. On , he was in this town. Knows John Harris, the defendant; saw him that day in Carmarthen. Harris asked witness, “If he would accompany Becca and her children to town on ?” Witness said he would not. Harris said (continued witness), I had better go, or Becca would destroy all I had. I said I would not go, but send my servant. He said, that was not Becca’s request — that every farmer must go on horseback, and his sons and servants on foot. I mentioned to Capt. Evans what had taken place; I also spoke to the Rev. Mr. Evans. That was on , before I left Carmarthen. On , I went to the Plough and Harrow, where Harris told me they were to meet; that is a mile and a half from my house. It was nine in the morning when I went. There were a number of people there — about fifteen to eighteen hundred might be present. I saw the defendant Harris there. I did not stay there five minute, but went on business to Carmarthen. I crossed the fields for part of my way. I was in Carmarthen about two hours before the crowd. I saw the crowd coming down by Darkgate, and passing the Hall. I heard it talked in the country that it was the intention of the mob to visit the Workhouse. I went there and saw some people kicking the door. I did not see any of the people I had seen in the morning there. I went to the door, and spoke to the Governor. I thought they were inclined to break the door, and told him he had better open it. I heard the Parish Clerk making a proclamation on , at Abernant. I heard Capt. Evans endeavouring to persuade the people not to go to town. I saw a written notice on the Church-door of Merthyr, which is the adjoining parish.
Cross-examined:— I fell some alarm in consequence of the threats used about the country — the threats that people’s goods, would be burned, &c.
Re-examined:— I felt alarm at the time I spoke to the Governor of the Workhouse.
Thomas Davies, a labourer, living in an adjoining parish to Abernant, proved having given notice in his parish to the people to meet at the Plough and Harrow. The notice was, that all who had horses were to ride, and others to come on foot. I also had notice, that all who remained home did so at their peril. Joshua Hughes gave the order.
John Ray Evans, Master of the Workhouse, examined by Mr. Chilton:— On , my attention was attracted by seeing about a hundred people about the hedge, opposite the Workhouse, idling; the majority were country people. There was about an equal number of women and men. About one o’clock I saw a large body of people assembling; those in front were on foot, and others on horses. There were at all events hundreds on foot. I saw musical instruments with them. When they came to the Workhouse, I heard them knock and kick the door, and demand admittance. Mr. Evans, Plasyparke, requested me to admit them, and afterwards advised me to let them in. I at first refused, but becoming alarmed, I requested the porter to open the gate. The mob rushed in; a portion followed me to the dining-hall — the numbers filled the hall. Many had sticks in their hands, others beat the table, others said they would turn the paupers out — that no workhouse was required, and that my services could be dispensed with. I had two keys in my hands — those of the men’s wards and women’s wards; these were wrenched from my hand. The mob wished the children to go out of the school-room — the children cried. About this time an alarm of the soldiers coming was heard; all the mob disappeared. A man named Job Evans struck me with a stick when in the room. I know the defendant defendant John Harris; I saw him afterwards in front of the house. The lock of the board-room was broken open. I know Isaac Charles well; he was one of those who came into the hall. I did not observe a stick in his hand.
Cross-examined:— I begged of them to desist. The defendant Charles cried out “Hurrah.” I do not think he was cheering me.
Capt. Evans examined by Mr. Evans:— I live at Pantykendy, and am a County Magistrate. I was at Abernant Church on . I heard of the notice given the people. I endeavoured to dissuade the people from going to town. I heard that John Harries and Thomas Thomas had been active. I sent for them to meet me at the Vicar’s house. They did not then come, but I subsequently met them. I went by the Plough-and-Harrow on my way to town on . I saw Harris there. There were not many people there then, as it was very early. I requested Harris to come to town to talk to the Magistrates, and endeavoured to get him to dissuade the people. Harris said, that if I spoke to Mr. Webb, and if he would come out, it might have some effect in dissuading the people. I afterwards addressed the people, and endeavoured to persuade the Band I met on the road to go back, by telling them the people would not come to town. The Band said they were paid for their services. I then went to Carmarthen, and called at Mr. Webb’s — could not see him. I then returned homewards, and met the crowd, with the Band at their head — endeavoured to persuade them to return. They said that they only wished to state their grievances. I said that many idle fellows in town would get them into mischief. Many remained with me and another Magistrate.
Mr. James Morse examined:— I am a distributor of stamps, residing in this town. I overtook a large crowd in King-street, on the day in question. The foot part of the procession had reached the workhouse before I overtook them. There might have been three to five hundred horses there, and about eighteen hundred people on foot. I went into the workhouse yard, and met the Master, who appeared to be very much frightened. I addressed the crowd from one of the windows. I endeavoured to persuade them to return, and make known their grievances to Parliament. My address had the desired effect. Knowing them to be principally Dissenters, I touched on the Education Bill. They gave me three cheers. My address was interrupted by a man in the room upsetting the iron bedsteads. On my requesting him to desist, he put himself in a fighting attitude. He was subsequently taken into custody. I do not remember his name.
Mrs. Sarah Evans, matron of the workhouse, examined and said, that one of the mob threatened to kill her, unless she would deliver the keys to him. Another man held his fist in her face, and said that he wished the children to get out, as she had locked them in the pantry. Saw beds and bedding thrown out of the windows. The children were crying, and requested the mob to leave their mistress alone. The mob said that they would provide for the children. The noise up stairs was dreadful; and suddenly the mob disappeared. I then saw the military. One of the floor boards was forced up.
Cross-examined:— There were provisions in the pantry when the mob asked me for the key.
Mr. Morse recalled:— I recognize none of the defendants as the man who put himself in a fighting attitude towards me.
At this stage of the proceedings, it was discovered that none of the defendants were present near the bar, with the exception of those defended by Counsel, but scattered about the Hall. They were requested to come forward, and those portions of evidence given in English were interpreted to them from the Judge’s notes.
Mr. Ray Evans recalled:— I saw the defendant, Lewis. He took an active part in the riot.
Cross-examined by defendant Job Evans:— I am certain that you are the man who struck me; a farmer interfered, or you would have proceeded further.
Defendant made a statement to the effect, that he was not farther than the workhouse yard.
Mrs. Sarah Thomas:— I am schoolmistress of the Workhouse. I was on the plain in front of the Workhouse when the mob came up on . I remained but a short time after I heard the noise of the mob, but went into the dining-hall. A number of the mob came in. They commenced making a great noise, beating the table, &c. I requested them to be peaceable. The master, Mr. Evans, then requested me to go to the school-room — that the children were crying. Two men followed me. — The witness here corroborated Mrs. Evans’s evidence respecting the conduct of the mob, as it regarded the children. I asked one of the men if he was the father of children himself, and requested him to have some compassion on the children, He said he was a father — that as he had commenced the work he would finish it, or lose every drop of his blood. The people suddenly disappeared. On going to her room, the door of which had been previously locked, she found that it had been burst open.
David Levi, jeweller, proved that, at the time in question, he acted as special constable; and described the appearance of the mob in similar language to the other witnesses. He added, that he took several persons into custody, and took them before the Magistrates. He took one person into custody at Capt. Hughes’s request. I think it was the defendant David Williams. Had some difficulty in taking him, as some persons endeavoured to prevent me. One man struck Captain Hughes, and I received several blows.
John Pugh examined by Mr. Chilton:— Was Inspector of Police on . He gave a similar description of the procession to that given by other witnesses. There were thousands on foot, and he counted 310 horsemen. By the direction of the Magistrates, I took several persons into custody in the Workhouse yard. I saw the defendant David Thomas engaged in a conflict, with a bassoon in his hand; he had also a large stone. When I seized him, we both fell in the scuffle. [Witness produced a great number of sticks found in the Workhouse after the mob.]
Cross-examined:— I have been employed to watch some gates — the toll-houses of which have been taken down. I don’t know whether they were destroyed by sticks or not.
Thomas Hughes, a special constable, corroborated the other witnesses in the evidence relating to the conduct of the mob at the Workhouse. He saw the defendant Thomas striking Capt. Hughes. Saw the defendant Harris there.
Mr. William Davies Phillips, Clerk to the Board of Guardians, being examined by Mr. V. William, deposed to the riotous character of the assemblage of people. He repeatedly saw the defendant Harris among the mob. First saw him near the Lion in Spilman-street. Saw the mob pass through King-street. He then came down to Guildhall square, and there saw Harris among the mob on horseback. He subsequently saw them turn up Red-street towards the Workhouse. He attempted to enter the Workhouse, but could not go in. He then gave information to the Mayor. On returning to the Workhouse he saw several people in custody. Among them the defendants Harris, Williams, Evans, and Thomas in custody. The appearance of the mob was calculated to cause alarm.
Cross-examined by Mr. Hall:— Is not particularly aware of any widely spread dissatisfaction respecting the Workhouse. I do not know that these feelings against the magistrates is general. I have seen Oddfellows’ processions.
Cross-examined by the defendant Harris:— I believe the defendant’s daughter was on horseback behind him.
By the Court:— She might be three or four and twenty.
Re-examined by Mr. Chilton:— The procession did not resemble an Oddfellow’s.
Capt. William Garnons Hughes described the conduct and appearance of the mob. I received a blow from a bludgeon. The appearance of the mob was such as to create alarm in the minds of quiet persons not bred to arms.
Thomas Charles Morris, Esq., examined by Mr. Evans:— I am a banker residing in this town, and Mayor of the town. Was a magistrate in . I accompanied the military to the Workhouse. Several persons were taken into custody. Taking the state of the country into consideration, I thick the assembly was calculated to cause alarm.
This closed the case for the prosecution.
Mr. Hall then addressed the jury for the defendants Charles and Lewis. He contended that in one count of the indictment, the defendants were charged with a riot. He thought his Lordship would tell them that no riot had taken place, and that all the defendants must be acquitted on that count. The utmost that could be made of it was that of an unlawful assembly. He appeared only for two of the defendants. He was happy to hear that the others would find a much better advocate in the Learned Judge who presided. There was no doubt but that the riot charged in the indictment had some connection with the Agrarian disturbances which had taken place — disturbances alike indefensible in law or reason. He could attribute them only to the poverty of the country and the general dissatisfaction with the New Poor-law and the conduct of the Magistracy, but Rebeccaism was not the means of procuring a redress of grievances. He was confident that the gentlemen of the jury as well as the unfortunate persons who had been implicated in the disturbances must have suffered both in pocket and in peace of mind by the late disturbances. No person could stand up and state that the country laboured under no real grievances, but yet they could not be redressed by such outrageous conduct. Mr. Hall then proceeded to comment upon those portions of the evidence which apparently bore against his client. He contended that there was not the least evidence that the defendants Charles and Lewis took part in the illegalities which he acknowledged had been on that day committed. The evidence of the master of the Workhouse went merely to prove, that, like foolish boys, they entered the Workhouse at the excitement of the moment, for it was not proved that they took any part in the procession. It was evident that on the day in question there was both a town and country rabble. If the country mob contemplated committing any depredations, was it to be concluded that the town mob — among whom two defendants were — had the same objects in view. He concluded by stating, that he confidently expected an acquittal for the defendants Charles and Lewis.
Mr. James Morse gave the defendant Charles a good character. He is a married man and has several children.
The four other defendants declined saying anything to the jury, but Harries called Captain Evans, Pantykendy, to character. He said that up to the present time he was a peaceable man. He thought he was induced to join the assembly in consequence of having been fined by the Magistrates.
Mr. George Goode gave Harries an excellent character.
Cross-examined by Mr. Chilton:— I have since heard that he has been connected with Rebeccaism.
Thomas Evans one of the witnesses for the prosecution gave him a good character.
Mr. W.B. Swan, a Magistrate, and other persons, including several witnesses for the Crown, gave evidence to the same effect.
Other witnesses bore testimony to the characters of the other defendants.
Mr. Chilton waived his privilege as Counsel for the Crown, to reply to Mr. Hall’s address.
The Learned Judge then summed up the evidence. The first question for the jury to ascertain was, whether any riot had taken place. To constitute a riot it was not more necessary that all the parties implicated should be proved to act unceasingly in it from first to last than it was to prove that a man acted riotously throughout his life before being considered a rioter. There might have been no riot, yet it might have been an unlawful assembly. Looking at the conduct of the parties when the Magistrates were in conversation with them, they could not be called riotous, though the assembly might have been illegal, as they had met for an illegal purpose. But the conduct of the mob at the Workhouse was certainly riotous, though it had not been so before. His Lordship then read over all the evidence, commenting upon it and elucidating all legal difficulties involved in any parts, as he proceeded.
The jury retired, and after a short absence returned a verdict of Guilty against all the defendants. — Sentence deferred.
The Riot at Talog.
The Queen v. Jonathan Jones and Others. [Special Jury.] — This also was an issue from the Queen’s Bench. The defendants, Jonathan Jones, aged 21, Howell Lewis, 21, David Lewis, 25, David Davies, 60, Jonathan Lewis, 21. and John Jones, 24, were charged with having, on , unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled, together with divers other evil-disposed persons, at Talog, in the parish of Abernant, Carmarthenshire, and then and there made a great noise, riot, and disturbance, against the peace of our Sovereign Lady the Queen, her Crown and dignity. In other counts the defendants were charged with having committed assaults on various persons. Mr. Chilton, Q.C. (with whom were Messrs. Evans, Q.C., and E.V. Williams, as Counsel for the Crown), stated the case to the jury, the circumstances of which must be fresh in the recollection of our readers. The Learned Counsel said that he would merely give the jury an outline of the facts, which, according to his instructions, he was in a condition to prove. He understood that only one of the prisoners had the advantage of being defended by Counsel. This riot arose out of a refusal to pay toll on the part of a man named John Harris, who was not included in the present indictment. He was a miller, residing at Talog, and in consequence of his refusal to pay toll a fine was imposed upon him, and a warrant issued to levy upon his goods, served by the Mayor and a Magistrate of the Borough, and endorsed by a Magistrate of the County, of Carmarthen. On , a number of special constables, and about 30 pensioners were sent to levy the distress upon Harris’s goods. As they approached Talog, they observed a crowd of disguised persons running towards the mill. A horn was blown by one of the rioters, and the number continued increasing. One man told the constable that if they persisted in going into the mill, they should be killed. After considerable interruption, they entered the mill, and effected the levy. On their road home, when about 300 yards from the mill, they were pursued and overtaken by a large crowd, many of of whom were disguised, and variously armed with hatchets, pickaxes, bludgeons, guns, &c. &c., who insisted upon their leaving the goods behind. The constables were comparatively few and the pensioners rendered little or no assistance. At last, a responsible person named Thomas, offered to answer for the payment of the fine, if the constables would leave the goods. To this the latter assented, but they were not then allowed to return to Carmarthen. One of them was knocked down, his pistol and staff taken from him, and thrown into the river. Others were greatly abused, as the jury should hear from the various witnesses who would give evidence before them. The constables were followed until they reached Troesmawr gate, when the warrant was demanded of them. The mob also compelled the constables to pull down a piece of wall, stating “that they must do Rebecca’s work.” Various threats were held towards them relating to Water-street gate and to the Workhouse. Now, it would be shown that Jonathan Jones and all the other defendants had acted in the manner described, but Jones was particularly active. Howell Lewis wore a kind of mask. Jonathan Lewis took part in the riot, but he (Mr. C.) did not charge him with acting prominently. Though David Davies personally committed no act of outrage, yet he encouraged the others to do so. David Lewis carried a bludgeon, and was the person who knocked down one of the constables. John Jones had merely a small stick in his hand, but took no active part in the affair. He merely charged him with being present, countenancing the acts of the rest. He had merely given the jury a brief outline of the proceedings. Should they find that the charge was not clearly made out against any or all the defendants, he would rejoice to see them acquitted; but, if otherwise, it was their bounden duty to convict them.
Evidence was then adduced in support of the charge. The witnesses who were principally the special constables sent to exercise the warrant, deposed to the circumstance of all the prisoners having taken the part stated in the riots, with the exception of John Jones, who on their arrival they found talking to Harris’s daughter by the door of the mill. He merely had a small slick in his hand, but did not use it.
Mr. Richards then addressed the jury on behalf of Jones, contending that he was only accidentally present, as it was well known that he paid his addresses to Harris’s daughter. The Learned Gentleman then proceeded to call witnesses to Jones’s character, when the foreman of the special jury interfered, and said that the jury were satisfied and had agreed to acquit Jones.
Witnesses to character were then called on behalf of the other defendants.
The Learned Judge carefully summed up the evidence, when the jury returned a verdict of Guilty, against all the prisoners with the exception of Jones.
The Queen v. [Thomas] Lewis and [Thomas] Morgan. — [Special Jury]. — In this case, the prisoners were tried at the late Winter Assizes, on a charge of riot and destruction of the toll-house, but Mr. Justice Cresswell being of opinion that the evidence did not support the indictment, as far as the riotous assemblage was regarded, directed the jury to acquit the prisoners on that charge. A true bill had been found against them for misdemeanor, and the prisoners put in a plea of “Not Guilty.” They were now tried before a special jury, on an issue from the Queen’s Bench.
Mr, Chilton, addressing the jury, observed, that the best course next to not committing an offence, was to acknowledge having committed it. The defendants wished to retract their plea of “Not Guilty,” and consent to a verdict against them; therefore it would be unnecessary for him to call evidence.
His Lordship expressed a doubt as to the propriety of that course, as the pleas had been made at these Assizes.
Evidence was then called, but in consequence of the absence of a witness (who had left pursuant to that understanding), the case was adjourned to the next day.
. — the examination of witnesses in the case of the Queen v. Morgan and Lewis, was proceeded with. The facts of the case appeared in our paper during the late Winter Assizes — it is therefore unnecessary to repeat them.
The Judge having summed op the evidence, the jury retired, and after an absence of a quarter of an hour, returned a verdict of “Guilty of being present, but no evidence is adduced to prove that they took part in breaking the gate.”
The Judge:— That amounts to a verdict of “Not Guilty.”
The defendants were accordingly acquitted.
The Queen v. Hughes and others. — (Special Jury.) — Counsel for the Crown, Messrs. Chilton, Q.C., Evans, Q.C., and E.V. Williams. For defendants, Messrs. Nicholl Carne and Lloyd Hall.
Mr. V. Williams opened the pleadings. This was an issue joined between the Queen and the three defendants, Thomas Hughes, Benjamin Jones, and John Jones. The defendants had pleaded “Not Guilty.”
Mr. Chiltlon addressed the jury for the Crown, and observed, that the three defendants were indicted under the statute 7 and 8 Geo. 4, c. 30, s. 14, which provided that if any person destroyed a turnpike gate wholly or in part, he should be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour. The indictment also charged the defendants with a riot, and they were also indicted for an unlawful assembly. He thought that, after the jury had heard the evidence, the proofs would be so clear, that they could convict the defendants without doubt or hesitation. The three defendants had been very leniently dealt with, for they might have been indicted for the destruction of the house, which amounted to a felony, but they were merely indicted for a misdemeanour. The defendant Thomas Hughes was a sawyer; John Jones was a farmer, of some property, and was generally known by the name of Capt. Jones; Benjamin Jones was a farmer’s son. The toll-house and gate, which were the subjects of the present indictment, were called Pontarlleche gate and house, situated on the road leading from Llangadock to Neath and Swansea. He would call a person named Griffith Jones, who had been appointed collector at the gate eight years ago, by a person named Anthony, who was entitled to receive the tolls. He also carried on the business of a smith at a forge about a mile distant, and his wife generally attended to the gate. After retiring to bed on , the toll-keeper and his wife heard a great and alarming noise, and had no time to dress themselves before the house was entered, and upon getting out, they observed about thirty persons, armed with guns, pickaxes, &c., disguised in various ways. The mob so conducted themselves as to cause great alarm. Both he and his wife well knew John Jones, and would swear that they had not the slightest doubt as to his identity. He was partly disguised, and took a very active part in the riot, They would also, with equal certainty, identify the other defendants, Hughes and Benjamin Jones, who took part in the business. The case mainly depended upon the evidence of the toll keeper and his wife. They both, it appeared, went before the magistrates a few days afterwards, to lay an information against a person named James, who was not included in the indictment. It was his duly to state, that on that occasion the witnesses did not inform against the defendants, for knowing them to be the ringleaders of the Rebeccaites, they were naturally afraid to mention any names; but it would be proved that on the next day they told a person, named Mary Jones, who the parties were. In a few days afterwards, they communicated the same information to Anthony, the lessee of the tolls. In addition to this, he (Mr. C.) should lay in evidence before the jury, certain conversations by which John Jones showed that he was a prominent actor in the Rebecca outrages. He would not detail the conversations, but let the jury hear them from the witnesses, and after hearing what his learned friend had to say in defence, to which he should reply if necessary, he had no doubt the gentlemen of the jury would return such a verdict as would give satisfaction to the country at large.
Griffith Jones was then examined by Mr. Evans, and deposed to his being the toll-keeper of the Pontarlleche-gale, which is on the road from Llangadock to Neath and Swansea. After having retired to bed on , he heard noises as of iron bars under the door. The windows were broken. He got out of bed, and immediately four disguised men came in, and dragged him in his shirt to the other side of the road, He did not know those four men. On going out, he saw about thirty persons, some of whom were engaged in destroying the gate, and others in destroying the house. He positively identified Thomas Hughes, who was partly disguised and engaged in sawing the large gate-post. John Jones was breaking part of the house with a pickaxe. Had known him for seven years. The crowd appeared not to have been aware, for a considerable time, that witness was amongst them, as they had, in the first place, taken him to some distance. He was afterwards taken to an upper floor in the opposite house. He could distinctly see the people breaking up the gate into pieces, which they threw into the river. Shortly after this, witness laid all information before the Magistrates against a person named Jones: but did not inform against the three defendants. In coming out of the Magistrates’ room, he met the defendant Jones, who told witness that he might as well leave the country. On another occasion, John Jones told witness’s wife that his furniture would not have been broken had not witness threatened to inform against any parties who might break the house. Witness informed Mr. Anthony, in a few days, who the parties were who had broken the gate.
Cross-examined by Mr Carne:— There were more than a hundred shots fired, He was full half an hour amongst the mob in his shirt. As they had white shirts about them, he supposed that they did not recognize him. His wife was likewise turned out of the house in her night-dress. Witness did tell some persons that he did not recognize any of the rioters, as he was afraid of them. Heard of some rewards being offered for informations against Rebeccaites, but never heard the amount mentioned. Never told any one “There is something for swearing now — I must think of my wife and children.” Never told so to John Evans; for I have not spoken a dozen words to him for years.
Anne Jones, the last witness’s wife, was examined and cross-examined at great length. Her evidence corroborated that given by Griffith Jones.
J. Anthony, the lessee of the tolls, stated in evidence that, soon after the gate had been destroyed, the collector’s wife informed him of the parties who had been engaged in the riot but, at her request, he did not tell the Magistrates. He was also afraid.
Mary Jones proved that, on the day following the outrage, the collector’s wife told her the name of the parties.
Mary Anthony proved that John Jones was seen going in the direction of the gate on the night in question, but that road also lead to his residence.
Mr Nicholl Carne then addressed the jury for the defendants. He contended that the jury could not rely either upon the accuracy or the veracity of the witnesses for the prosecution. When it frequently happened that gentlemen had held conversations with country people, mistaking one for the other, how could the witnesses identify the parties at the gate, under the various circumstances of confusion, dread, disguise, and anxiety which must have haunted the minds of the witnesses, seeing that their house and furniture were broken — their lives, and that of their child in danger. He then commented upon the fact of the witnesses not having mentioned the names of defendants before the Magistrates, and the reasons given for not so doing. He also called the attention of the jury to the rewards offered upon the conviction of any rioters.
Isaac Morris, Elizabeth Jones, and John Jones were called to prove that the toll-collector and his wife, in conversation with them declared that they could not identify one of the rioters.
Benjamin Jones, father of one of the defendants, was examined but proved nothing important.
John Evans was called to contradict statements made by Griffith Jones in cross-examination. This witness acknowledged being present at two Rebecca meetings. He went with Mr. Foster, of the Times, to interpret.
—— Matthews, a constable, who had been employed in watching the gate, said, both the collector and his wife told him next day, that they did not know any of the rioters. Witness had been dismissed after three nights’ watching.
Mr. Chilton replied to the evidence adduced for the defendants. He defended the witnesses for the prosecution from the imputation of perjury, as insinuated by the Learned Counsel for the defence.
The Learned Judge then summed up the evidence, elucidating the various points of law arising in the case; after which the jury retired, and returned into Court in about ten minutes, with a verdict of Guilty against all.
. — …Six prisoners, charged with riot and burglary, were arraigned, and pleaded Not Guilty. — This charge arose out of the Rebecca disturbances, but as it was not probable the case would conclude , his Lordship took a nisi prius cause.