Rebeccaite Prisoners Enter Guilty Pleas

The special commission trying the Rebeccaite cases continued on , starting by considering the cases against David Jones and John Hugh, who were captured during a Rebeccaite attack on a toll booth. They chose to plead guilty, probably as the evidence against them was pretty near identical to what the same jury had been convinced by a couple of days earlier in the trial of John Hughes, who had been captured alongside them.

A report of the pleas and sentencing appears in the Monmouthshire Merlin.

The court sentenced Jones and Hugh to be exiled to a penal colony in Australia for seven years. Hughes, however, got sterner treatment:

He appeared to be one in a station of society far above the rest — one not likely to be misled by others, and upon evidence proved to be a leader, if not the leader of this lawless multitude.

He got 20 years of penal colony exile. The court then moved on to other cases. The charges against David Lewis were dropped. Lewis Davies was charged with destroying a turnpike-gate, and pled guilty, but was not yet sentenced.

Morgan and Esther Morgan pled guilty to assisting in the assault on the man sent to take Henry Morgan prisoner, but the prosecutor, “[c]onsidering their advanced age and other circumstances connected with the case,” declined to pursue the felony charge. Margaret, Rees, and John Morgan also pled guilty, Margaret to the assault itself, and the others similarly with abetting. The prosecutor again declined to pursue the felony charges, “and observed that, having ascertained the circumstances under which this aggravated assault had taken place, he did believe they were under a mistake with respect to the right to resist. Under these circumstances he was not disposed to press for a severe punishment in this case…” Margaret was sentenced to six months in prison, and Rees & John to twelve months each.

The Rebeccaites were “bad cops” that allowed peace-loving, law-abiding, innocent Welsh farmers to play “good cop” and use the implicit threat of Rebecca to get more attention for their grievances. Here is an example (from the Monmouthshire Merlin):

High Rate of Turnpike Tolls at Nash, &c.

To the Editor of the Monmouthshire Merlin

Sir, — I am sorry no abler pens than mine have undertaken to draw the attention of our neighbourhood to the monstrous high rate of tolls, as well as the unequal system of collecting them. For instance, from Nash or Goldcliff we only travel one mile on the turnpike road, and have to pay 9d a horse, while in many districts it is only 3d or 4d, and where, too, materials are much more expensive.

Again, the toll to Caerleon from Newport, I understand, is 17d or 18d for one horse. Surely, the tolls might be arranged so that a person might pay in proportion to the distance he has to travel, for under the present system he might go thirty or fourty miles for the same money he is obliged to pay for one — As we small farmers find great difficulty in scraping our rents together for our landlords, I hope and trust the proper authorities will look after these local burdens, as they were advised to do by Lord Granville Somerset at the last Quarter Sessions, in order to prevent tumults and outrages like those which are disgracing South Wales, for we ar really very desirous that Rebecca and her children should never come among us to create an anti-toll rebellion — we would rather have our grievances redressed after a lawful fashion.

Should you think these few remarks deserve a corner in your intelligent paper, till some abler advocate may come forward you will greatly oblige,

Several Poor Little Farmers.

PS. Would not our monthly agricultural meeting do a good service to us, by taking the matter into consideration, with a view to assist.