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THE TITHE WAR IN WALES. ROWDY PROCEEDINGS AT WHITE- CHURCH. The effect of last Tuesday's proceedings at Whitechurch involves the eventful abandonment of the moral influence plan. The agent of the associated clergy had committed himself, with some misgiving, doubtless, to a line of action based on the belief that the anti-tithers had decided, and would abide by the decision, to content themselves with mere passive resistance to the recovery of the tithe arrears. Mr Bowen, the chief-constable, not only desired, but had also worked, to justify the belief. The latter, how- ever, cannot survive to-day's proceedings. All the sanguine hopes of orderly distraints, levied without show of force on the one side and with- out lawlessness on the other, have been completely shattered. It is not for us to place the responsi- bility of destroying the armistice upon the shoulders of any particular class or individual. I The representatives of the tithe-owners affirm that they readily concurred with the suggestion of the chief-constable that the plan of the campaign should be left to him, and in all material points they have acted in accordance with expressed wishes. And this is the result of that implicit belief he professed to feel in the promises of the anti-tithers. Mr Bowen, on the other hand, admit in most matters Mr Peterson was as clay in the hands of the police authorities, but in one regard he acted on his own motion, and that one lapse from grace has set the district in a ferment The chief-constable alleges that it was his proposal to visit White- Church last rather than first. By reversing the order the distraiuers tapped Liberationist feeling where it runs most bitter. And this is the result. Needless is it for me to say that in describing the conflicting explanations I have adopted my own phrase, only borrowing the facts which it embodies, whatever may have been the true explanation, and fancy the present mode of the anti-tithers in this district must have been a powerful contributory cause. The fact is almost indisputable that moral influence as a restraint upon lawlessness is, for the present at all events practically played out. This by way of preamble to the record of the first day's incidents. Nine o'clock had been selected as the time for the distraining party to leave Cardigan. But it was nearly noon when the start was effected, the interval being taken up by a conference between the chief-constable, Mr Peterson, and Mr Ivor Evans, who represented the anti-tithe section. As the outcome of that interview, it was decided that when the distraints have ripened sales shall first become exhausted in one parish before pro- ceeding with other parishes. The preliminaries having been adjusted, a move was promptly made. Mr Peterson and his clerk occupied one trap; the chief-constable, Mr Ivor Evans, and the Rev. W. Jones, Moylgrove-the original discoverer of Peggy Lewis-the second; while the third vehicle conveyed the press representa- tive. Whitechurch lies about eight miles to the westward of Cardigan. The journey was made in perfect quietness. The weather was spring- like in its mildness, and there was a bright blue sky above. We gradually ascended the hills which overlook the old-fashioned little country town To our left, as far a" the eye could reach, stretched miles of fertile land, where the hills were diminutive and the valleys shallow. Keep- ing our faces set towards the rugged peaks of the more ambitious Preselly Range, which interposes itself between the northern portion and the sea, we drove steadily on for an hour, passing on the way the churches of Llantood and Eglwyswrw, both neat, compact structures, and bearing out- ward evidence of care and prosperity. I missed the local Bethels which usually obtrude them- selves on the notice of the traveller in Wales. A casual acquaintance, of Liberationist tenden- cies, declared that the chapels were to be found further to the northward, where the population was thicker. Thick is a relative terms and ap- plied to the population of Northern Pembroke it possesses special significance. Houses are so meagrely distributed over the broad billowy expanse that one is tempted occasionally to infer that it is absolutely free from human habitation. The extensive parish of Eglwyswrw, for example, does not contain a village or even a hamlet. On its somewhat extensive surface 100 tenements stand, and the population probably does not exceed 300. The resident clergyman (the Rev. W. Williams) .is a thorough Welshman, and preaches exclusively in the vernacular. There are 38 communicants at this church, which is usually attended by between 40 and 50 people- inconsiderable proportion of the population. The commuted value of his tithe is 2140, but is actually much less, and Mr Williams has also charge of the adjoining Church of Llanfair. Nantgwyn and Whitechurch Congregationalists have their chapel, and so also have their rival, the Septists The two buildings are so situated that they serve also for residents of bordering parishes. The congregation at either place of worship does not exceed about 120, I am informed so that, having regard to the advantage enjoyed by them, the disparity in the relative strength of Church and Dissent is not so marked. This is the condition of Whitechurch, which had been selected as the first Liberationist line to be assailed. Shortly after one o'clock we heard the first warbling note. At Pontyfaen a crowd of about a hundred people had placed themselves across the road, and when the vehicles swung in view there was a roar of human voices, to which a dozen horns supplied an ear-splitting accompaniment. And now the fun began. Close at hand was the farmhouse of Pontyhowell, debited with arrears amounting to 21 5s 6d. With our noisy escort dancing arouud, we drew up to the building, to find it tenantless, and the doors locked. Wildly jubilant were the anti-tithers when they beheld Mr Peterson try the door and look searchingly around. A fixed notion in the mind of the average farmer is that nothing can be distrained upon unless the agent touches it-hence their glee. The parish poet reeled off doggerel verses, weak, perhaps, in diction, but robust in sentiment. His admirers sang them lustily. The local wits, always abundant, gird at the agent and the clergy. A dog fight or two happen and then the procession moves on once more. Both parties are satisfied —the agent because he knows the distraint has been levied the anti-tithers because they think they know it has not. The procedure is nearly always the same, except where varied by some action of unexpected boldness. At Wenallt Meredyth, the second farm every possible device had been utilised to embarrass the distrainer. The pigs were not iu the sty nor the tenants (David and William James) in the hcuse, and a stalwart female, proud of her trust, mounted guard over each entry to the barn. An entry into the haggard involved much labour and inconvenience. The crowd, which had been steadily accumulating, strengthened now, and included half a dozen mounted men and a band of enthusiastic females of every age. When Mr Peterson tried the latch of the barn there was a chorus of yells, renewed again and again while he pulled over the hedge that enclosed the haggard. In the result he dis- trained upon one of the ricks, whereat the escort waxed wroth, alleging that he did not do his work fairly and legally. A prettily-conceived arrange- ment by which Mr Peterson was to bave been compelled to leave the yard by way of a pond was upset by some of the leaders, who compelled the more mischievous to abandon thescheme. Walking from this farm in company with the Rev. W. Jones. I had an oppurtunity of ascertain- ing the views of one of the leaders of the move- ment. He told me that the anti-tithers as a body objected to the application of the tithe to a sectarian purpose. They wanted to see the money devoted to educational and other purposes. Here and there persons might be found who had no clearly defined purpose in view, but, so far as he could understand, this was the object sought by the majority of those refusing to pay tithe. Up to this time the crowd, while noisy and demonstrative, had been good-tempered. Possi- bly the general belief that Mr Peterson had failed to distrSin was in some degree responsible for this. It was only when the truth gradually dawned upon the minds of the festive agitators that the noise and the manifold devices had failed to defeat the object of the visit that evidence of growing irritation was manifested. In passing towards the southern part of the parish we encountered a sturdy old man of the old school, in the person of Mr Thomas, of Glyn Meredyth. He was pointed out to me by one of the most active of the crowd as the head of the only conscientious family of Church-goors in the parish. This description is only valuable in so far as it bears on the character of Mr Thomas, whose erect, sub- stantial form shook with emotion as he pointed to the queerly-constituted body vigourously tramp- ing through the slush. There they go," he observed, doing the work of Satan. What sense is there in getting together this wild. impetuous crowd ?" He spoke in eulogistic terms of the vicar-" A better was not to be wished for." Invited to express an opinion as to the conscienti- ous objection, he clapped his hand on his breeches pocket, and earnestly rejoined, "It means what I have down here. Those persons want the money. It is not conscience at all." A few yards higher up the road an incident happened which made the angry passions of the agitators rise. The pace of the leading vehicle wasquickened. That action was interpreted as the outcome of a desire on the part of the agent to rid himself of his disgreeable followers, and some of the mounted men endeavoured to head off the vehicle. One of the horses attached to the latter thereupon began to plunge. A pedestrain named Enoch John either fell or was struck down by the wheel of the break. Before he could re-gain his feet a horse carrying one of the party passed over him, the pace being too hot and the pace to confined to permit of the rider pulling up or turning the horse aside. When our trap reached the spot the injured man was lying on the side of the road. He was subsequently conveyed home with a leg broken, so it is alleged. The responsibility for the mishhp was by general consent fastened on the driver of the vehicle, and sundry threats of vengeance were declared against him. By a strange course of reasoning, the few who saw the accident and the many who did not arrived at the satisfactory conclusion that the Liberationist horse went clean over the prostrate man without touching him. At Lyddin Farm Mr Peterson received the sum of R10 3s due from Melchio Evans, the occupier. This result was due to the illness of the latter, and it was arranged that the party should not go near the house. Payment under any circum- stances was resented by a section of the crowd, and while a recognised chief, Stephen Picton, dubbed General" by reason of being a nephew of the celebrated General Pictou, negotiated terms with Mr Peterson, the latter was struck with a piece of turf on the side of the head, the earth, with commendable impartiality, distributing itself also over the "General." It was in an angry mood that the band of conscientious objectors moved towards M'iesgwynue, the home of another picton, John to wit. A joyful shout from the advanced guard affo-ded the first noti- fication of trouble ahead to the agent. The latter, closely attended by the chief-constable walked into the private road leading to the farm-house, and about fifty paces from the high- way found the road blocked with a thick and well-made barrier of furze Pieces of turf were levelled at him as he approached the latter. Mr Peterson grasping the situation, began to climb the adjoining hedge. 44 Pull him down don't let him get up!" Trespass and similar exhortations were addresied to those near him, and not in vain, while those who had placed themselves on the hede pushed him on the road, others seized his legs and quickly brought him down. Great was the uproar. The twa sides of the land were lined with people, who hooted and jeered and p tinted their sticks at the embarrased agent. Mr Peterson made an attempt to address his persecutors, but failed to secure silence. After a pause of some minutes—employed in assailing the Englishman with witticisms, more or less agreeable—Mr Peterson retraced hi3 steps, and cries of triumph rent the air. Before reach- ing the highway the agent appealed to the chief- constable for advice. "I am to a certain extent in your hands," he said, and in my opinion if I attempt to force my way through there will be a breach of the peace." Mr Bowen made no immediate reply, but. whether as the result of his advice or not, Mr Peters >n again tried to scale the hedge. Immediately he did so, the latter was covered with obstructions. When the agent repeatedly attempted to get up those immediately in front, pushed him away, whilst others pulled at his coat-tails. He appeared likely to gain a footing when a terrier dog was flung upon him. This ended the struggle, and the distraining party withdrew. It is just to add Mr Ivor Evans and the Rev. W. Jones tried to prevent these actions. The former, when asked by Mr Peterson, If I endea- vour to get over this bank will they resist me ? I cannot hope to successfully oppose them single- handed," replied. Unfortunately, I have not the prescience to tell you." The crowd laughed, whermpon Mr Evans, recognising the situation, demanded a more suitable rejoinder, and added, If I had my way you would not be resisted." As the legal adviser of the local anti-tithers repudi- ated any official connection with the crowd, and the tenant of the farm would not disclose himself, Mr Peterson, exercising a discretion, sound under the circumstances, did not further perserve with the distraints. The conduct of the crowd at this juncture met with the frank disapproval of the recognised leaders. It is the worst thing that has happened to-day," was the verdict pronounced in view of the promises made by virtue of which the chief-constable dispensed with a force. Distraints are to ba resumed to-morrow at Whitchurch under precisely the same conditions as those obtaining to-day. But it needs not a prophet to foretell that the well-meant efforts to carry out the process without the safeguard of an adequate police or otht-r force are certain to fail. The anti-tithers of Whitechurch have tasted the sweets of licence, and they will not now readily forego them.





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THE C.E.T.S. 1