Carmarthenshire Assizes Try More Rebeccaite Cases

From the Cambrian:

 — This morning, the business of the Court commenced at the usual hour. The Attorney-General begged to enter a nolle prosequi as it regarded the indictment for felony against John Jones [acquitted of having sent a threatening letter], 22, farmer, Thomas Hughes, sawyer, and Benjamin Jones, charged with having committed a riot, and feloniously demolishing the dwelling-house of Griffith Jones, being the Pontarlleche toll-house. The charge of misdemeanour for destroying the gate, was removed by a writ of certiorari to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Case of the Late Mr. Thos. Thomas.

 David Evans, aged 20, farmer, and James Evans, 25, labourer, were arraigned upon an indictment charging them, with divers others, unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled at Pantycerrig, in the parish of Llanfihangel Rhosycorn, and with having, during the riot, assaulted one Thomas Thomas, and with force demanded the sum of forty shillings, with intent to steal the same.

Both prisoners, who were defended by Mr. Nicholl Carne, pleaded “Not Guilty.”

Considerable interest was felt as to the result of this trial, from the circumstance of the prosecutor, who was the principal witness, having been found dead under very peculiar circumstances, and that of his premises having been fired soon after the prisoners had been committed. The Attorney-General said, that the charge against the prisoners was one of misdemeanour — for having committed a riot in going to the house of the prosecutor Mr. Thomas Thomas, who had since lost his life; but he must in justice to the prisoners observe, that having been in custody, that circumstance could not in the remotest degree cast any reflection upon them. Whatever violence might have been offered Mr. Thomas Thomas (and he did not say such was the case), it could in no way have been done by them. The names of the prisoners could not be connected with any catastrophe of that kind, for they were in gaol at the time. It was only to be regretted that the deceased’s evidence could not be obtained excepting from the deposition taken before the Magistrates, and that was evidence in law. It appeared that a number of persons disguised in the usual characteristics of Rebeccaites, with circumstances of considerable force and violence, demanded a sum of money from the prosecutor, and this proceeding did not appear to have originated for the purpose of removing any public grievance, real or imaginary; but, in which it appeared, that the alarming state of the country had been made subservient to the promotion of a private end, and to the settlement of a mere personal claim between the parties. A short time previous to , it appeared by the deposition, that Mr. Thomas’s cattle strayed at night into a corn field belonging to one of the prisoners, who had estimated the damage at 10s. Early on the morning of , a number of disguised persons assembled together and surrounded the house of Mr. Thomas, and demanded 5l. as a satisfaction for the damage done to the corn. Thomas would not allow them to enter his house, neither would he go out to them, but refused to accede to their request. They then reduced their demand to 50s. and subsequently to 40s. They then dragged Thomas from his own house to the house of the prisoner David Evans, and when Thomas challenged them with having offered to settle the matter for 10s., Evans said, “’Tis now in these people’s hands.” It was for the jury to judge from that expression, whether the riot did not originate with him. The deceased then asked permission to remain in Evans’s house, but he was finally taken back to his own house, and allowed nine days to pay the money. Some time afterwards Thomas was found dead, under circumstances which he thought justly created no suspicion against any one. As far as he (the Attorney-General) could learn, those who possessed the best means of judging, were of opinion that strange and unaccountable as were many of the appearances, there was no just foundation for believing that he came to his death by violence. As reports had been circulated, he thought it right publicly to state for the sake of the character of the county, that, as far as his opinion went, there had been no reasonable grounds for supposing that the man was murdered. To resume his statement, the jury would find, that, at one o’clock, the younger prisoner and the other, who was his servant, were at the prosecutor’s house. Thomas distinctly swore to the presence of both the defendants, as the jury would find on reading the deposition. In three or four days afterwards a complaint was made, and a a warrant issued, for the apprehension of the defendants. On , the officer went to David Evans’s premises, and asked him for James Evans, when the former said that James had left his service in consequence of a quarrel, and that he had not seen him for many days. The premises were searched, and James Evans was found concealed beneath some straw on a loft. It would be proved that David Evans, in speaking of the transaction, said that they should not have done what they did, if Thomas Thomas had paid the money, and while before the Magistrates, the prosecutor persisted in saying that the demand was 5l. then 50s.s., and then 40s., when David Evans added that he had offered to take 1l. The jury must observe, that he assented to the truth of all the evidence, with the exception of the reduction to 20s. He had also pointed out the spot where he had offered to accept of 1l. He would now read the deposition. The Attorney-General then read the deposition, as taken , before Col. Trevor and J. L. Price, Esq., in the presence of the prisoners. The deceased stated, that on the day in question a number of people came to his house, and demanded satisfaction for the trespass, as described. Deceased did not go to the door, but his wife went. They at last reduced their demand to 40s. He was then taken by the collar by one of the disguised party calling himself “Becca,” and was taken to Bergwm. When there he distinctly recognized James Evans, who behaved worse to him than any of the others. He also recognized David Evans. James Evans had with him a short gun, and had his face blackened. David Evans was but slightly disguised. The Attorney-General observed, that he could very easily have identified him. They then took him to the Bergwm field. They kept him outside the door until some one went in to tell the inmates, lest they should be frightened. They then took him to the house, when he told David Evans that he had agreed to receive 40s. for the damage when the latter answered, “’Tis in the hands of these people.” The Attorney-General commented upon this answer, as affording convincing proof that the prisoner acted in concert with the mob. The deposition further stated, that after coming out of the house, James Evans pushed witness on in a contrary direction to his home, and when alone, told him, “I wish to kill you.” The party who personated Becca called upon him to bring the witness back. So that Becca, observed the Attorney-General, appeared to have been actuated by better considerations than the prisoner James Evans. The deposition concluded by stating that the party allowed deceased nine days to pay the money, and if they would visit him again, they would burn his effects. — The Attorney-General proceeded:— That was the deposition of Thomas Thomas. He had gone to his account; but the jury could not, in consequence of that, be satisfied with less proof. It was not necessary there should exist that certainty which could be produced only by witnessing the scene, but with that degree of reasonable certainty which would satisfy them in any important concerns of life. He hoped they were now rapidly coming to a close with the cases. He did not know but that he might be addressing them for the last time. That, he believed, was the last case in which these parties had taken advantage of the agitated state of the county for the purpose of committing outrages. The guilt was not inconsiderable of those who took advantage of the turbulent state of the country, arising from real or imaginary grievances, and perverted it to their own selfish purposes, for others had some excuse — excuse he should not have called it — pretense rather, who did those things on the ground of abating a public grievance. — The object of those prosecutions was not to punish every individual who had been concerned in the disturbances. Their number was so great that no reasonable man could wish, even were it possible, to punish all. The extent of the outrages and the number concerned in them forbade that wish, but the grand object was to restore the authority of the law, and regain the confidence of those who relied upon that authority for protection. He trusted the conduct of those whose duty it was to advise the Crown would not be thrown away in reclaiming the misguided inhabitants of that county. With those observation he would call the witnesses, and leave the case in their hands, and he had no doubt they would do that justice which the circumstances required. He (the Attorney-General) might be permitted to add — and he did so with unfeigned sincerity, that he had been in various parts of this country performing his official duties and exercising that profession to which he belonged, but he never, in the course of his experience, addressed any gentlemen who inspired in his mind more confidence, that the duties they discharged were done consistently with a sense of right; and he begged to thank them in the name of the public and of the country, for the attention, impartiality, and justice which marked the course of the proceedings which he had the honour to advocate.

[The following evidence was called for the purpose of introducing the depositions.]

Robert Bray, Superintendent in the A division of the Metropolitan Police, examined by Mr. Chilton, Q.C.: Knew deceased — saw his body the morning it was picked up.

Mr. Spurrel examined:– Am Clerk to the Magistrates. [Deposition handed to witness]. This is the deposition made by Mr. Thomas Thomas; I saw him sign it — the Magistrates also signed it.

Cross-examined by Mr. N. Carne:— Mr. Thomas Thomas first made his statement in Welsh, and it was translated into English by Mr. Price, the Magistrate. He translated into English, everything stated by Mr. Thomas. He was not sworn as an interpreter. I understand Welsh sufficiently well to understand the evidence given.

Mr. Carne went over the whole of the deposition, criticising upon the various English words, given for Welsh expressions used by the witness.

J. Lloyd Price, Esq., examined:— Am a Magistrate for this county. Took the deposition of Thomas Thomas. It was taken in Welsh. He understood English sufficiently well to correct anything which was written not in consonance with what he had said. I was at Bergwm, the residence of one of the prisoners. I do not remember the day, but it was on a Friday previous to the apprehension. I remember it, because, on the following night, his houses were burnt down. I was accompanied by a policeman of the A division of the Metropolitan police, and a special constable. I went with the officers to show them the house, because I could get no assistance in the neighbourhood that I could depend upon. When I went there, I found David Evans in bed. When he was asked for James Evans, he said, “He has left me; I would not allow him to go to Brechfa fair, and he got offended — has left me, and I have never seen him since.” He repeated the statement before I sent out the policeman to search the place. The officers then went ont, and I saw James Evans brought from a hayloft. The officers brought him to the house. I remember that near the close of the examination of Thomas Thomas, when he said that they demanded 40s., David Evans said, “When near the gate, we consented to take 20s.

Cross-examined by Mr. Carne:– I translated nearly the whole. There might have been some portions of his statement irrelevant to the business omitted. Some people state many things which are quite irrelevant. During the first portion of the examination, I put questions to commence the examination. I had taken a previous examination for the purpose of issuing a warrant. I took that down in writing, but after the second examination, made in the presence of the prisoners, was over, I did not think the first examination of any importance, so I put them with other useless papers.

The depositions were then put in evidence, and read by the Officer of the Court.

Thomas Evans examined by Mr. Evans, Q.C.:— Is a mason. Lives with his father at Ty’nyfordd farm, half-a-mile from Pantycerrig. Lives a mile from Bergwm — the house of the prisoner, David Evans. Remembers . Remembers being disturbed about twelve or one o’clock that morning. Heard a man crying out “heigh” three times at the window. Went to the window. Saw people outside. There were several people present, but I could see only three. The first thing I heard was a man calling out, “I give you warning, that you must not go to the farm you have taken, or we will burn your hay and corn, as you see your neighbours’.” My father had taken a farm in the neighbourhood. To the best of my judgment, that person was James Evans. I knew his voice, as I was intimate with him. We had been in the same singing-school. After this, I and my father got out of bed, and went out of the house. We heard several guns fired. When in a field near Pantycerrig, I saw a number of people. It was too dark to distinguish their dress; but when the guns were fired, we could perceive something white about them. They then returned from Pantycerrig. I met a neighbour in the road, whom the mob had desired to shew them the way to Pantycerrig. Next morning, I went to Bergwm. The inmates were not up; but the servant shortly opened the door. David Evans then came downstairs. I saw a gun on the table, and said, “Here are one of Becca’s guns, I think.” D. Evans said, “Yes, it is;” and seemed surprised, and said, “Stop, let me see if there is a load in it,” and blew in it, and said there was a load. I took the screw, and drew the load — it contained powder only. I then requested D. Evans to come out, and told him “that his servant had been at our house, warning my father not to take the farm.” He denied it, and said “No; he has been in the house during the whole night.” David Evans then told James Evans, who came towards me, and said, “D–n you, tell that of me,” and raising his fist. David Evans put his hand on his shoulder, and said, “Be quiet, James.” Witness then went to Pantycerrig. On next day (Sunday) met James Evans, who said, “Why did you tell Thos. Thomas that I had confessed being at Pantycerrig.” He said the servant of Pantycerrig told him so, and added, that if he had a chance, he would put witness quiet enough; and added, “Well, if you transport me for seven years, I’ll give you a coating when I come back.”

Cross-examined:— I never had a quarrel with Evans previous to that time. To the best of my knowledge, the voice I heard was James Evans’s. Got out of bed when first I heard the man calling at the window. I told Thos. Thomas when I saw him, that James Evans was there.

Robert Bray re-called:— I accompanied Mr. Price, the Magistrate, P. C. Powell, and a special constable, to Bergwm. I saw David Evans, and went out to the barn to search for James Evans. I heard noise in the loft above the barn, and got up to the loft, and saw the feet of a man showing from under some straw. I called to him, and took off the straw. He was James Evans. We passed Thomas Thomas’s house, who was standing by the door. I said, “It was a pity you should have gone to this poor old man.” He said, we should not have gone, had he paid for the damage done by his cattle on our farm.

Rosser Thomas corroborated this witness’ statement.

Mr. Nicholl Carne then addressed the jury in reply to the evidence in support of the charge, and said he should be enabled to prove an alibi on the clearest evidence — that David and James Evans were both in bed at the time of the outrage.

After the examination of several witnesses, whose evidence appeared to be totally at variance with their former statements on oath, Mr. Carne folded up his brief and sat down.

The Judge:— Mr. Carne, if you say you will not hold a brief in this case any longer, I think you will adopt a discreet and honourable course.

The Attorney-General replied, commenting in very strong terms on conduct of the witnesses for the defence.

Verdict — Guilty. Sentence deferred.

Rebecca’s Daughters

John Jones, aged 21, stonecutter, William Jones, aged 17, stonecutter, Thomas Jones aged 14, stonecutter, Seth Morgan, aged 21, carpenter, Henry Thomas, aged 21, labourer, and Thomas Harries pleaded Guilty to the charge of having, on , with divers evil disposed persons, unlawfully and maliciously thrown a certain turnpike toll-house, the property of the trustees of the Three Commotts district of roads, situate at Porthyrrhyd. — Discharged on their own recognizances, to appear when called upon to receive the judgment of the Court, and to keep the peace in the mean time towards all her Majesty’ subjects.

George Daniel pleaded Guilty to the charge of having, on , committed a riot, &c., at Blaennantymabuchaf, in the parish of Llanegwad, in the county of Carmarthen. — Discharged on his own recognizances, to appear to receive the judgment of the Court when called upon.

John Thomas, smith, pleaded Guilty to the charge of having committed a riot and an assault at Llandilo-Rhynws bridge turnpike gate, on . — Discharged on his own recognizances, to appear and receive judgment whenever called upon. Mr. Chilton intimated to the Court, that it was not the intention of her Majesty’s Government, to proceed with the case against Francis M’Keirnin and George Laing, charged with the demolition of a turnpike gate, near Llanelly. The Counsel for the Crown looked into the depositions, and did not think it a proper case to be proceeded with.

William Davies, farmer, Benjamin Richards, farmer, David Thomas, farmer, William Evans, labourer, and Arthur Arthur, labourer, charged with various Rebecca outrages, were discharged by proclamation.

Thomas Morgan, aged 28, labourer, and Thomas Lewis, aged 24, labourer, pleaded Not Guilty to the charge of having, on , at Dolauhirion toll-gate, in the parish of Llanegwad, in this county, and then and there demolished the said gate. — This case was not proceeded with; but removed by certiorari into the Court of Queens Bench. In the course of a few minutes, the prisoners who perceived their companions in tribulation set at liberty, wished to withdraw their plea of Not Guilty, and to plead Guilty, but the Judge told them it was too late.