From the Cambrian comes this account of the examination of Rebeccaite prisoners who had been rounded up after being fingered by a fairly sketchy informant, and then subjected to a very irregular proceeding in which the witnesses and defendants were interrogated in the presence of the judges while their own counsel was denied the ability to be present. The examination mostly concerns the desperate actions the prisoners took to resist arrest, and so doesn’t concern the main Rebeccaite activity directly, but that act (and the sympathy for it shown by members of the public attending the trial) says a lot about the state of Welsh public opinion towards the authorities:
On , the Magistrates commenced their public sitting soon after nine o’clock [the Monmouthshire Merlin, by contrast, says “The doors of the Town Hall were not opened till nearly ”]. The following Magistrates were present:– Sir John Morris, Bart., in the chair; J.N. Lucas, Esq., H. Lucas, Esq., W.I. Jones, Esq., J. Homfray, Esq., High Sheriff, J.D. Llewelyn, Esq., John Grove, Esq., Rev. S. Davies, Rev. J. Collins, Howel Gwyn, Esq., C.H. Smith, Esq., J.D. Berrington, Esq., J.H. Vivian, Esq., M.P., T. Edw. Thomas, Esq., N.E.V. Edwards Esq., and Col. Cameron.
The following persons were then placed in the dock:– William Morgan, and Esther Morgan, his wife, Rees Morgan, and Margaret Morgan. There was also a charge against John Morgan, who was in the Infirmary.
Mr. Wm. Walters appeared on behalf of the prisoners.
The Chairman stated, that the Bench had, on , taken down the evidence as to the facts connected with the assault, and they had been engaged a long time about it, as they thought it would be best to explain to the prisoners the nature of the charge against them, for the sake of giving them every opportunity of offering any explanation. Whatever explanation they had offered, was not taken down in writing at the time, so that it could not be used in evidence against them. They were desirous of having the evidence explained to them in Welsh, which was done. He (the Chairman) would read over the depositions of Captain Napier and the other witnesses; and Mr. Walters could cross-examine them as to any of the statements made.
Mr. Walters begged to make one observation. He was somewhat surprised at the course the Magistrates meant to pursue, and at that which they had pursued on . He had then applied to be present, which was refused, and that was the first intimation he had received that any examination had taken place. He would say, that the fairest way would be to go over the evidence orally. He had the opinions of several Judges by him, who said that such a course was the best to pursue. He also thought the way proposed to be adopted by the Magistrates would be prejudicial to the prisoners’ case.
After a short consultation with his brother Magistrates, the Chairman observed, that they had no objection to the course Mr. Walters proposed to pursue. If he wished that all the evidence should be taken de novo, it should be done, and what was taken down on considered as mere waste paper.
Mr. Walters said, that he felt obliged to the Magistrates for the option given him. He should certainly give a preference to the course of going over the whole of the evidence de novo. He would not unnecessarily lengthen the examination. Considering that the case was connected with some of the unfortunate disturbances which had lately been so prevalent in the Principality, it appeared to him that it was decidedly better to have a public examination, for if the depositions which had been taken in a private meeting were merely read over, some evil disposed minds might think that the parties had not been fairly dealt with. — (Loud cheers, and other manifestations of public feeling, followed these observations as well as on two or three previous occasions).
The Chairman observed, that the Magistrates wished to make their proceedings as public as possible, but those demonstrations would not be allowed. They were not bound to make the examination public, and if people could not behave themselves, the Hall must be cleared. If the prisoners could be exculpated, either through their own innocence, or by the ingenuity of their advocate, that should be done; but those demonstrations could not be allowed there, more than in any other Court in the kingdom.
After some further conversation between the Magistrates and Mr. Walters,
Captain Napier, having been sworn, made the following deposition:– I am chief constable for this county. On I proceeded to Cwmcillau, in the parish of Llangafelach, in this county, for the purpose of executing a warrant upon two persons.
Mr. Walters:– Don’t say upon whom, but produce the warrants.
Captain Napier left the Court for a short time while getting the warrants.
Mr. Walters:– I take this opportunity of applying, that the witnesses for the prosecution should be sent out of Court. — The witnesses were then ordered out.
The Chairman:– You would, I presume, not wish Dr. Bird to be sent out.
Mr. Walters:– I do not know why any distinction should be made, as the evidence of the other witnesses might influence him.
Captain Napier now returned, and produced two warrants, signed by T. Edw. Thomas and J.D. Llewelyn, Esqrs., for the apprehension of Matthew and Henry Morgan, for the destruction of Rhydypandy gate.
Examination continu[ed:– portion illegible] warrants signed. I was accompanied by Inspec[tor Rees portion illegible] of the Swansea Police, Sergeant Jenkins, and H.L. [portion illegible] the Rural Police. We arrived at Cwmcillau at , and apprehended Matthew Morgan on the road near his own house, which is about three hundred yards distant from Cwmcillau. I left Matthew Morgan in the custody of Sergeant Jenkins and H. Lewis, and then proceeded, accompanied by Inspector Rees, across the fields to Cwmcillau farm-house. On arriving there, I directed Inspector Rees to ascertain if Henry Morgan was in the house. He went into the house, and in a few minutes the prisoner Margaret Morgan came out, and I went with her into the house. The family offered me a chair. I do not remember which of them did so. When I sat down, Inspector Rees spoke to them in Welsh, and told me–
Mr. Walters:– I beg you not to proceed further. As Captain Napier is going to say what Rees told him in English, I apprehend it cannot be evidence against my clients, who could not understand what was spoken in that language.
Examination continued:– I heard the old man speak English, but not the rest. Rees told me that he had informed them that I was Chief Constable of the County. The other three prisoners must have heard him. I then produced the warrant against Henry Morgan, and desired Mr. Rees to explain to the parties the nature of it, and tell them the name of the Magistrate who had signed it. Mr. Rees spoke to them in Welsh, and told me–
Mr. Walters objected to hearing witness describe what Rees said, as Rees himself could say that.
Mr. Attwood was of opinion, that as all the prisoners were present at the time, that what Rees said in their presence could be taken as evidence.
A long discussion ensued, after which the examination was proceeded with.
Inspector Rees informed me that the father stated that his son was lame and could not walk. I desired him to tell him that he (the son) must come with us, as we were bound to take him into custody. Rees spoke to them in Welsh, and seemed to have some discussion with them. At last he proceeded to lay hold of Henry Morgan by the arm, and the whole family surrounded him, and endeavoured to prevent his taking him from the corner in which he sat. Morgan Morgan, the father, and Esther, his wife, John Morgan, the young man in the Infirmary, Rees Morgan, and Margaret Morgan, the daughter, attacked him, and Henry finally succeeded in disengaging himself from Mr. Rees, and attempted to run towards the stairs. I laid hold of him by the collar, upon which the old man and his wife attacked me. The old woman jumped on my back, put her two fingers to my eyes, scratched my face, and bit my ear, while the old man took a stick [“a crutch,” wrote the Merlin] and struck me repeatedly upon the head, my hat being then off. The old woman then took an iron bar from the fire place, and struck me several times on the head with the middle part of the bar. Immediately afterwards, Margaret Morgan and the young man in the Infirmary, attacked me. Margaret, after striking me on the head with a stick, took a saucepan, containing some boiling water from the fire, and poured it over my back. Eventually, I was compelled to let Henry Morgan go. They continued struggling with me until I got outside the door, when I fell. Previous to my falling I had taken a pistol from my pocket. When I was on the ground, the old man laid hold of my hand by the wrist and turned the muzzle of the pistol towards me, while John Morgan, who is in the Infirmary, put his hand over mine and pressed the trigger with his finger. The pistol was not cocked at the time, the hammer being on the cap. The father had his right foot upon my thigh, and his left upon my groin, while John Morgan had his foot on the right side of my thigh, and was kicking me with the other foot, and by their endeavours they succeeded in turning the muzzle of the pistol towards my stomach, and kept pressing it to my body while John Morgan continued pressing the trigger. At that moment, I received a cut on my head with a reaping-hook from Margaret Morgan. Had the pistol been cocked it would most certainly have been off. I had seen Margaret Morgan approach me with a rusty reaping-hook. Considering my life to be in danger I turned the pistol, cocked it with my thumb, and fired. I hit the young man, John Morgan, who is now in the Infirmary. He stepped backward on receiving the ball, and again attacked me. I at last succeeded in getting on my feet, and observed Rees Morgan, who had a hammer in his possession, and Morgan Morgan, who had a reaping hook approach me [the Merlin says this testimony fingered John with the hammer and Margaret with the reaping hook]. I fired a second time into the air. No person received the shot. Henry Morgan had a hatchet in his hand. Rees Morgan struck at me with a hammer, and I knocked him down with my fist. Observing Henry Morgan running away, I directed Inspector Rees to follow him, which he did. I was following Mr. Rees, while Rees Morgan again interrupted me, and endeavoured to prevent me. I again knocked him down with my fist. Inspector Rees then returned, having failed to apprehend Henry Morgan. Observing a mason’s hammer in Rees Morgan’s pocket, I attempted to get possession of it, but he resisted and struck at me with it. At length I succeeded in wrenching it from him, and struck him on the head with the hammer. He then left me alone. I afterwards directed Sergeant W. Jenkins and H. Lewis, who had arrived on the spot with Matthew Morgan, who had already been taken into custody, to bring John with them in custody to Swansea.
On Mr. Walter’s application, the Magistrates allowed Morgan Morgan to come out of the dock and sit by him.
Examination continued:– During the whole time Henry Morgan took no very active part in the assault, but appeared desirous of getting away.
In his cross-examination by Mr. Walters, Capt. Napier said– When I went into the house, and asked for Henry, I did not understand that his father said that he would appear on . The old lady, Esther Morgan, did not receive a shot in any part of her dress. The only two shots fired were those fired by me — one at John Morgan, and the other close by his head, but not at any one; it was fired in the air. I saw Morgan Morgan, the father, lay hands upon me; he also put his foot on my thigh. Inspector Rees was engaged in struggling with Margaret Morgan, who endeavoured to throw the remainder of the hot water over him. When on the ground, my face was towards the door of the house. I observed the girl, Margaret Morgan, approach me with a hook; she had procured it from the cart-house, the door of which I could see. Rees Morgan struck at me, but the blow did not take effect.
Mr. Tripp, at this period, made an application to the Bench, on behalf of Messrs. Jones, Morgan, and Lewis, who were in custody. The application was twofold — first, he requested the Magistrates would grant permission to inspect the warrants upon which they were taken into custody; and, secondly, that they would allow him, as their attorney, to have access to the prisoners as often as necessary. With respect to the first, the law provided for it — the Magistrates had no discretion to exercise; and with regard to the second, he trusted the Bench would afford the prisoners every opportunity and facility for making their defence.
The Chairman, after consulting with the other Magistrates, said that they would accede to the first request, but the second could not be then granted, as all the Magistrates were not present.
Mr. Tripp stated, that he had not been able to ascertain the nature of the charge against the prisoners, and without that it was impossible for them to make any defence. The prisoners had already been in custody. Could he be informed when the Magistrates would decide upon the other application made to them?
The Chairman, after a pause, during which he consulted the other Magistrates, said, that the Magistrates themselves did not yet know the extent of the charge against the prisoners, but they had come to a decision to accede to Mr. Tripp’s application, though not instanter, but within twenty-four hours.
Mr. Tripp:– I am then to understand that to be the answer of the Magistrates. May I ask the reason why the request is not now granted?
The Chairman said, the Magistrates were not bound to give reasons for the course which they pursued.
Mr. J.G. Jeffreys made the same application on behalf of Mr. Griffith Vaughan, who was in custody.
The Chairman gave him a similar answer.
Mr. Tripp asked if any evidence relating to the charge against his clients had been taken in their presence.
We understood the Chairman to answer in the affirmative.
The assault case was then proceeded with.
Inspector Rees examined:– On , I accompanied Captain Napier to Cwmcillau. We arrived there at , and having apprehended Matthew Morgan, we proceeded to Cwmcillau farmhouse. Mrs. Morgan offered me a chair; I told them that I wished Henry to accompany me to his brother’s house. The father said that his foot was bad, and that his brother must come to him. I then told Morgan Morgan (the father) that Captain Napier was outside, and I asked Margaret to request him to come in, which she did. Captain Napier, at my request, produced the warrant against Henry Morgan. I explained the nature of the warrant to Henry and his father, and told them that it was a warrant against the former, signed by J.D. Llewelyn and T. Edw. Thomas, Esqrs. I spoke to them in Welsh. I also told them that Captain Napier was the Chief Constable for the county. Morgan Morgan said that he would lose his life before he would allow his son to be taken out of the house. I told Captain Napier, in English, what the old man had said, and asked what was to be done. Captain Napier said, “Lay hold of him.” I took him by the arm, upon which Rees, John, and Margaret Morgan, took hold of me, and succeeded in taking the prisoner from me. He then went towards the stair, and Captain Napier laid hold of him. Esther Morgan struck Captain Napier on the head, with a piece of iron. I was pushed out by Rees, Margaret, and John Morgan. After I got out of the house, Rees Morgan took up this [producing a three-pronged fish-spear], with which he prevented my returning to the house. Margaret and John returned to the house, and left Rees with me. In a short time I saw them bring out Captain Napier, who bled profusely from the head. They threw him against a wall, which was before the house. Margaret Morgan then brought the saucepan from the fire, and threw some hot water at me, and then aimed several blows at my head with the edge of it; I warded them off with my club. Margaret Morgan went to the carthouse, from which she brough a reaping-hook [produced], and aimed a blow at the head of Captain Napier, while the father, mother, and the person who was wounded (John), kept him on the ground. I cannot say whether the blow took effect or not. At this time, I observed in Captain Napier’s hand a pistol, the muzzle of which was turned towards his own body. Morgan and John Morgan struggled with him, as if to get the pistol out of his hand. I then heard a shot fired, upon which Captain Napier rose from the ground, and Henry Morgan came out with this hatchet [produced], or one similar to it. — After describing some other unimportant particulars, witness went on to say — Rees Morgan came after me with this hammer [produced — it was a large mason’s hammer], which Captain Napier afterwards wrested from him, and with which he struck him on the head. We then went to the field, near the house, and Morgan Rees, Margaret Morgan, and the old woman, followed us. Rees had a pike, and Esther Morgan a stick, with which they aimed several blows, which I warded off. [The Merlin adds: “Margaret Morgan had the sickle in her hand.”] Sergeant Jenkins then came into the field, and drew his sword, with the flat part of which he struck Rees Morgan on the body. We then returned to Swansea, with Matthew Morgan and John Morgan, who was wounded.
Cross-examined:– The first thing Esther Morgan did was to strike Captain Napier with an iron bar on the head. The old man did not say that Henry should come on the next day. He did not object to his coming on the ground of his not being properly dressed, or because he had had no food. He said that he would lose his life before he would allow him to go. During the assault upon Captain Napier, I was engaged with Rees Morgan, who fenced me with his pike. I could command a view of the entrance to the carthouse.
G.G. Bird Esq. M.D., examined:– I examined Captain Napier’s head, at , and found a cut on the left side, about two inches long, and down to the scalp-bone. There were also scratches on his face, and a mark on the right ear, which appeared to be that of a bite. There were other bruises on the head. He also complained of a pain on the hip, and walked lame. — [Dr. Bird corrected himself, and said that the mark was on the left ear].
Cross-examined:– The cut appeared to have been made with an edged instrument.
Sergeant W. Jenkins stated, that after taking Matthew Morgan into custody, he was left in charge of witness and Henry Lewis on the road, while Captain Napier and Inspector Rees proceeded to the house. In a short time (observed witness), I heard a shot fired, and went towards the house. Upon getting into the field before the house, I observed that Captain Napier was bleeding; his face and clothes were covered with blood. The four prisoners, and Henry Morgan, followed him. Margaret Morgan threw a stone. The old woman used a stick to me, as soon as I approached them. Margaret tossed the hats of Captain Napier and Mr. Rees towards me, at the same time saying, “Go home, you scamps and vagabonds.” Captain Napier gave John Morgan, who was wounded, in charge to myself and Lewis. We handcuffed him to his brother Matthew, and both were conveyed to Swansea.
It was then announced that no more witnesses were to be examined on behalf of the prosecution; and the Chairman told Mr. Walters that he was at liberty to produce any witnesses whom he might think proper to call on behalf of the prisoners.
Mr. Walters replied, that it was not his intention to offer any evidence, or of making any defence, at that time. He perceived that a primâ facie case had been made out against his clients — sufficiently strong to warrant their committal for trial. The only application he had to make to the Bench was, respecting bailing the prisoners. He apprehended that there was nothing felonious in the rescue of Henry Morgan, consequently the prisoners would be committed for a misdemeanor, as the rescue of a prisoner could not be a higher crime than that with which the party rescued was charged. Mr. Walters quoted an opinion from Archbold’s Pleadings in Criminal Cases, as his authority.
The Chairman observed, that the crime for which the prisoners would be committed, depended, not upon the nature of the charge against the party rescued, but upon the means adopted for effecting the rescue. He understood that, if Henry Morgan were in custody on a charge of misdemeanor, and if the prisoners were simply charged with rescuing him, without having committed any act of violence, in that case, their crime would amount to no more than a misdemeanor; but here the parties had committed an aggravated assault.
After a short consultation, the Chairman informed Mr. Walters that the Magistrates had determined on liberating the prisoners on their finding bail. The bail required would be, each principal in the sum of 200l., and also two surities in the sum of 100l. each. — The Chairman also stated, that the case would not be further proceeded with that evening, but the prisoners would be remanded until .
Mr. Tripp now applied to the Bench for the liberation of Mr. David Jones, on his finding bail to appear whenever required.
The Chairman asked if there were any distinction between his case and that of the other persons who were in custody?
Mr. Tripp replied that there was not, but he applied on his behalf first of all, as the decision of the Bench, in his case, would govern that in the cases of the other prisoners.
Mr. Walters made a similar application on behalf of Matthew Morgan, and Mr. Jeffreys on behalf of Griffith Vaughan.
The Magistrates were of opinion, that the parties could not be admitted to bail before committal.
Mr. Tripp observed, that Jones was in custody upon a charge of breaking a turnpike-gate, which was simply a case of misdemeanour, and he submitted that it was a case of great hardship that enquiry into the charge should be so long delayed. He (Mr. Tripp) could produce most unobjectionable surities for the appearance of the party whenever called upon. Mr. Tripp proceeded to contend that, in point of law, the Magistrates were bound to liberate persons charged with misdemeanors on their finding bail. At common law, all offences were formerly bailable but murder, and were still so, excepting in those cases specifically excepted by subsequent statutes, and by the present law he contended that misdemeanour was an offence for which it was provided that bail should be accepted. Mr. Tripp quoted several authorities, among others, an opinion from the fourth volume of Mr. Justice Blackstone’s commentaries, and from the third volume of Burn’s Justice, and also an opinion expressed by Lord Denman, in the case of O‘Neil, the chartist, who was charged with misdemeanor.
After a consultation, the Magistrates declined acceding to the application.
The prisoners were then remanded until . Henry Morgan, one of the party for whose apprehension the warrant was originally granted, and by rescuing whom the assault was committed, surrendered in the course of by the advice of Mr. Walters, and was in the dock during the latter part of the examination.
The report in the Merlin adds a few things to this description, and many more judgements. Here, for instance, is that article’s description of the Morgan family:
The following prisoners were placed in the dock: Morgan Morgan, Esther Morgan, his wife (a sharp-looking lady, who though upwards of 70 years of age, had jumped on the chief constable’s back, bit his ear, and clapper clawed his face), Rees Morgan who appeared with his head bound up. Margaret Morgan, daughter of Esther, a pretty and innocent looking Welsh damsel, who seemed more suitable to trim roses than to cut men’s heads with reaping hooks.
The Merlin reports also that “[s]ymptoms of dissatisfaction were apparent” as the chairman of the inquiry explained that they had taken testimony and interrogated the prisoners in closed court, and out of the presence (and over the objections) of their counsel, “only… that they might be better enabled to do justice to all parties.”
When their attorney objected again to this practice at the current hearing, according to the Merlin, “[c]onsiderable excitement pervaded the court, and loud cheers and clapping of hands followed the learned gentleman’s remarks. It was quite evident that the sympathy of the people was strongly with the persons in the dock; and the magistrates throughout the day had considerable difficulty in restraining popular ebullitions unusual in courts of justice.”
The Merlin also reported, in another brief article, about the attack on the Tyllwyd gate and toll-house on :
Destruction of Another Gate and Toll-House within Two Miles of Carmarthen.
A letter from Carmarthen on , says: “You will be astonished to hear, that notwithstanding our vigilance and precaution, notwithstanding the presence of forces which might well be supposed to frighten Rebecca and her family out of the county, or, at all events, into decent behaviour, that ubiquitous person and her vagabond family came last night within two miles of our county town, and on the main road, destroyed the Ty Llwyd gate.”