Defense of the Saints—Rees Davies

Ronald D. Dennis, trans. and ed., Defending the Faith: Early Welsh Missionary Publications (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003).

J20 [JONES, Dan.] Amddiffyniad y Saint; sef, gwrth-brofion o gam-gyhuddiadau maleis-ddrwg dyn or enw Rees Davies, o New Orleans, yn erbyn y Saint. (A defense of the Saints; refutations of the false and malicious accusations of a man by the name of Rees Davies, from New Orleans, against the Saints.) Swansea: Printed and published by D. Jones, [1854?].

12 pp. 17.3 cm. Welsh Mormon Writings 80.

This is Dan Jones’s third pamphlet with “Defense of the Saints” as the opening words of the title. The other two (J6 and J9) were pub­lished about seven years earlier in Merthyr Tydfil. This one, however, was published in Swansea where the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were relocated in September 1854.

Defending his religion against attacks made by a fellow Welshman, not of the same faith, writing from the other side of the Atlantic pre­sented particular challenges and disadvantages. The attacks were made by Rees Davies in two letters he sent to his parents in Wales. The letters were printed in the Gwron Cymreig (Welsh Hero), a widely circulated newspaper in Wales. Davies accused the Church leaders on board the Golconda of great misdeeds, one of which was forcing young girls during the crossing to marry old men against their will, and then upon reaching New Orleans tying the girls to their beds to prevent them from escaping.

In his refutation of Davies’s claims, Dan Jones appeals to the common sense of his readers and states that he knew such actions would not be allowed among the men of good standing on board the ship, many of whom Jones had known for years. Much of the defense centers around Margaret Williams, a young girl from Aberystwyth who purportedly had asked Rees Davies to help her escape from the Mormons and to write to her mother and tell her that she (Margaret) was sorry for not following her mother’s counsel to remain in Wales.

In the last two pages of his pamphlet Dan Jones quotes in its entirety a letter that Margaret Williams had personally written to her mother, proof that she had not needed Davies to perform the task for her. In the letter Margaret Williams bears testimony of the Church’s doctrine and encourages her mother to leave “Babylon” and join her in “Zion,” proof that she had no desire to escape from the Mormons. Jones concludes that Rees Davies is a liar purposely denigrating the Church and encourages his readers to reach the same conclusion.

Defense of the Saints;

Namely, A Refutation of the False and Malicious Accusations of a man by the Name of Rees Davies, From New Orleans, Against the Saints.

In the “Welsh Hero” for August 3, under the title “Letters from America,” alleged to have been written by one Rees Davies, son of some “Mr. R. Davies, from Crugyreryr, Cardiganshire, Teifi,” one reads examples of impudence so untrue as to disgrace mankind for even having been written, not to mention that they were published and offered to men as the truth! Only a few examples will suffice to satisfy the discriminating reader, and the fewer the better, of course; a duty to defend the truth is what compels us to do this. This young man writes to his parents, from New Orleans; he wrote on Sunday the 26 of March, but his writing the letter on the Sabbath did not make it any more truthful! The Sunday before that, namely, the 19th, a ship carrying Mormons from Wales entered the habour; among the passengers were, “old Esther, Rhiwbren, Llanarth, and two or three of her daughters,” says he. With that informa­tion, we understand that the name of the ship was the ‘Golconda,’ for we know that those persons sailed on that ship.

Our reporter asserts that the Mormons marry the dear young girls to the oldest of the old men while crossing the sea, that two of the elders hold the girl to be married and force her into bed with the one who loves her the most. Now reader, is there any need to say that such an assertion is a barefaced lie with absolutely no foundation to it, bearing no resem­blance whatsoever to the truth? Any man having common sense will readily understand that such a thing is totally impossible! Is it likely that the Presidents and the seamen on the ship would permit such a thing to be done while everyone and everything is under their complete authority? Are there not hundreds of people on the ship, and about six hundred on this particular ship, and would the girls’ parents who gen­erally accompany their daughters permit such a thing? Has anyone ever heard of similar circumstances in which so many people would agree to allow two men to force a girl into bed with a man against her will? And what purpose would be served afterwards, while they are on their way to a free country where such a thing is considered a great violation to its laws, where a woman would have freedom and all possible assistance to punish them for such a deed? Have not tens of thousands of Saints emigrated before now, and from their midst has so much as one case been heard of to prove that any man was ever punished for raping a woman, or that anyone has been accused of forcing a woman to marry him, before this adventurous reporter found out that that was a custom among them? If so, we have yet to hear about it. Do not the reports published by our enemies, and by ourselves as well, and the daily letters that come even from Great Salt Lake City about the marriages of young women after reaching the States prove that many of them arrive there single, and marry after arriving there, and many of them are still single; does all this not prove beyond argument that this accusation is but the imaginary lie of our accuser or of someone else? And are there not hundreds and possibly thousands of relatives of the young girls who are accused of being raped into marriage on the sea, who understand through con­stant letters from them that the accusation is a complete lie? All of this is too obviously true to require proof, and it cannot be denied.

But what if we make some inquiry into the source or the foun­dation of such an accusation, for a man should have unquestionable authority before claiming such heinousness against his fellowmen, and every reasonable man asks for a strong foundation to convince his reason to believe such incredible things. What proofs are offered? Up to now nothing has been offered to us except the allegations of that Rees Davies, and he does not furnish any notice as to how he came to know that the Mormons on the sea force girls to go to bed with old men! He was not on board the ship. He does not say that he saw that himself, and he does not say who saw that,—or who told him, or the name of as much as one person who was treated thus! Oh, no, he does not offer any kind of proof, but he expects his “dear parents” to believe him,—their dear son writing from a distant country, of course! And since they believe their own child, they are foolish enough to expect the sensible readers of the ‘Hero’ to believe such incredible things without any kind of proof! Well, I suppose they must excuse all reasonable men and all lovers of the truth for failing to believe it. But, since they have asked us to have such faith in their son, it is only fair that we judge what kind of a person he is by his work; and since they bring their son before the public like this, he being in the high office of the accuser of his own blood brothers by the thousands; and since his accusations attempt to disgrace their characters in that which they consider the most intolerable of practically all offenses, and since he is smearing the dear religion, on which we depend for eternal life, for causing or supporting such behav­ior, by saying, “So much for the Mormon religion,” we take pleasure in helping them to raise their dear son higher to the wind so he can be seen in his proper shade, and the first feature that manifests itself in his char­acter is that he is a harsh and free-wheeling revivler! It is not we who say that, but he himself, as follows:—”The old———,” says he, without saying the old what; however, it is very likely the old what was itself in the original, but it appears that his parents have thrown cold water on the steam, and hidden a bit of their son’s passion. “Esther Rhiwbren,” says he. Who has ever heard of such a name; did he not know that Esther Jones was her proper name, but let us pass over that, since perhaps that is the way the poor boy was reared. In his second letter, the two men who refuted his accusations to his father he calls two g——r. What shall we make of two g——r? it appears to be some nickname that his father who reared him was embarrassed to put before the country in the language of his dear son, for fear of shaming the family who brought up a child in such language! “I shall put salt on their tails,” says he, about the two men, and about their learning to “ride the Black Maria, * * * “—this is splendid language, like “teaching them the Yankee touch.” The latter are words he learned in a far country, to show to his parents his progress in scholarship, to be sure; “the d——l, wooden legged shoemaker, vil­lain, old clump,” &c., is the language of the man whom we are asked to believe! What do you think, reader? What is expected of such a reviler? not a lot of truth, is it? But perhaps that is the way he was reared, and he cannot help himself, and surely the shibboleth on his father’s tongue betrays him also somewhat, if it was he who wrote the preface to the two aforementioned letters,—"two little old Saints,” says the latter; where does one hear such a name as “little old Saints” except in Crugyreryr? “Daniel from Brechfa,” “Jack from Penlannoeth,” “bunglers,” &c. Does not the style expose the close relationship between the eagles in the cairn and the eaglet in New Orleans? Perhaps he is of a higher degree, and was polished by some Rev., for the little boy boasts of having a Rev. uncle in Cenarth; yes, that’s it, he says, just have a Rev. in some corner of it, and it will be sure to pass the test; not only will it be published, but it will be believed as well, will it not; and who has ever seen a pack of lies against the Saints or their religion, without having a Rev. as the tail or the handle, or as some­thing not far removed from it; but an old custom that is now very unpopu­lar is to believe a story because Rev. is linked to it; it is more likely to be believed without it now. At least, the similarity in dialect and the taste of these revilers substantiate the words of “Twm o’r Nant,” namely that

“Like father, like son

In size and tongue.”

We have already seen that the shriek of the eaglet who was reared at “Crugyreryr,” and perhaps the base of the nest also, are the only foundation of this accusation!

Next, we petition the reader’s attention on another feature that stands out in the character of our accuser, namely as follows:—”And indeed I wished to drown him, the old——.” Dear me!!! what did he say now? he wished to drown a man? What a thing to wish! What can one believe from a man who wishes the life of his fellowman? What else but manslaughter—murder is that? Who believes that the murderous reviler who was sufficiently liberal to publish to the whole world, and assure everyone on his word that he was so thirsty for the life of a man, that he “Wished to drown him,” would be too good to do so if he could? Does this not prove, if he himself on his word is to be believed, that the spirit of murder is in him! Does his father believe him, I wonder, when his son declares on his word that he is a murderer at heart? It is he himself who declares that, remember, not we, observe that closely! In the letters that his friends tell us were written by him, he affirms and not we, that he is a murderer at heart! and we ask his father whether he believes his own son, when he says on his word that he is a murderer at heart, from desire, and emotion, thirsting after the life of his fellowman? His believing everything else in his letters, and his sending them to the ‘Hero’ to be published, suggests that he believes it all, and consequently his own belief that his son is a murderer at heart is a fact that helps us to warn the country not to believe one word that a man of such character says; and we believe that that will be sufficient to cause everyone to disbelieve the assertions of a reviler who boasts that he wishes to end the life of a man!

I heard earlier of the eagle’s violence

“In drowning the chicks in the pond;”

Thus the “eaglet” from the “Cairn” felt he wanted

“To drown a MAN,”—something far worse!

The law, I believe, has frightened him

From fulfilling his horrible “desire,”

And though he bears the markings of Belial,

His father believes him to be a Saint!

On the other hand, if his father and also the Rev. with him, not to mention the Editor of the ‘Hero,’ believe that such is our accuser when he asserts that on his word, how will they believe anything else he says? So, one way or the other, one can see that they should not expect anyone else to believe his accusations; and if one believes everything he wrote, one must also believe he who wrote it was a murderer at heart! If one does not believe that he is of such nature, how can one believe that he tells the truth when he says the Saints ravish women on the sea? Of the two, it is easier to believe the first than the last! and it is easier for the boy’s father to believe that his son on his word is a murderer at heart, than for outsiders who have a grain of sense in their heads to believe, without his “on his word” oath, that his other absurd accusations about the Saints are true.

He said that his father boasted to the two men who tried to persuade him not to believe the first letter, “that neither he nor anyone else had ever had rea­son to doubt his son’s truthfulness,” but now that he is on the scales, can one get him to say that again? if he says that “he does not doubt the truthfulness of his son,” while maintaining that his son is, “on his word,” a murderer at heart, then he must allow others to doubt without taking offense, for it is difficult to believe such a character even “on his word;” for concerning anyone who is sufficiently liberal to desire the life of his fellowman, it must be allowed that he is also sufficiently liberal to claim impudent lies about others; nevertheless, a baseless assertion of this kind is all the proof that is offered against the Saints in the foregoing things.

But in case his son had not written the truth in the first letter, his father says he wrote back to his own son, that is, still the same son who had written the lies, to ask that he say the same thing in yet another letter! Strange foolishness is this! But it is still more foolish to attempt to present the second letter as any kind of proof of the first! No one doubted that it was he who wrote the lies in the first letter; it was not that that needed proving, rather whether that which he first wrote was true. And behold, the second writing of the lies, with wicked names and passions, proves their truthfulness! We have heard an old prov­erb,—”Ask my brother if I am honest.” But here the proverb is,—”Ask Rees Davies if what Rees Davies wrote is true!” and since Rees Davies wrote the lies the first time, without thinking that perhaps they would be looked into further, or because perhaps some girl had told the story of the strange weddings in the style of the old Welsh weddings that took place on the sea, to entertain everyone, as was published in the “TRUMPET,” Rees Davies then gave his passion a little rope and added the foregoing to it, possibly out of jealousy for not having had his way with some of the most chaste Mormon girls, or for some other reason? Since the story has gotten out, Rees Davies must do the same as did the Jockey who claimed his horse was nineteen feet high, because he first said feet instead of hands; “what I said first I say last,” says the former as does the latter, and therefore the matter is proved. Rees Davies has written a second time and certified on his word that Rees Davies wrote the same thing before!

But it is useless to pay further attention to such foolishness as that; next we shall see that this Rees Davies in his great desire to make the story sufficiently bad, has made it too bad to be true. In his first let­ter he says that the leaders bound the girls, once they perceived they were trying to escape, and in the same breath he says that he himself took a girl from the ship in the presence of all to the house of a Mrs. Hughes, and he does not say he had any opposition! Well, one must reconcile those two contradictions first. Was he perhaps stronger than the hundreds of Mormons who were on the ship, so that he was able to overcome them? If no attempt was made to stop him, we see that his first assertion is not true.

It is surprising what a great desire the gentleman manifests to obtain the names and to “settle” with the two men who dared to doubt the truth­fulness of such a man, if “man” is the appropriate word. Well, you know what he was proved to be, or rather what he proved himself to be, we should say! In his second letter, as if forgetting what he had written in the first, he says—”They stole nearly all of Margaret’s clothes, and tied her to the wood of the bed to keep her from coming with us.” Note that he does not say in the other letter that she was tied or anything similar, but that the girl came to him, and accompanied him to the shore to the house of a Mrs. Hughes, &c. “And when she was coming with us from the boat,” he says again, while tied to the bed, to be sure! and from what boat, for every man who has been to New Orleans knows that all the ships stay tied to the shore, which they call the levee, and that there is no need for a boat,—we know the place well. Furthermore, “There were three other girls who wanted to run away, and the Mormons took hold of them and carried them back to the boat,” he says. Well, the poor thing, what was he doing? why did he not free them the same way he freed the other, I wonder. He does not name them either, nor could he. And he does not tell us what the Police and the Custom House Officer, and the hundreds of Americans on the shore made of the whole thing.

Next we shall have some fun with him. The three girls were ‘run­ning’ from the ship, of course, and were carried back to the boat; so they must have been running on the surface of the water, else why was it necessary to carry them back to the boat? Why not carry them to the ship instead of binding them in the boat? and why did they bind the three while he says the fourth was there and free at the time? He does not clarify the location or the use of the boat, and we cannot understand. Now, we have heard that Joseph Smith was accused of trying to walk on the water, but now this Rees Davies affirms that he has seen three girls running, on the surface of the water of course! and the Mormons running after them on the surface of the water, even faster, and catching them, binding them and putting them in the boat! Our reporter refers to some Mr. Morgan Griffiths, who will prove the truthfulness of these things; but we do not fear any Morgan Griffiths from here to New Orleans, or to the ends of the earth, to stand before us to affirm that the foregoing accusations are true; and we are too incredulous to believe that he will try to do so either. Oh no, we know hundreds of men and women who were on that ship and we know they are pious people, and there is no way they would permit anyone to work an injustice like the foregoing; there were present men with characters as good, worthy, and moral as those of any men in any part of this country; so, on all accounts, we see that the tales of Rees Davies are undeserving of credence, even if they were affirmed by his father also, and all the Revs. of Cardiganshire.

We beg the reader’s patience for a while longer; in this man­ner Rees Davies claims that the Margaret who escaped, was in New Orleans when he wrote his second letter on June 20, and had been there from the time she had left the ship; to disprove this we have letters to prove that she had gone with the Company as far as St. Louis, which city is over a thousand miles from New Orleans; this time we will quote just a part of the letter of Thomas Jones from Aberystwyth, as follows:—”A letter from Thomas Morris came here from St. Louis, * * * and he said that Margaret Williams [namely, the Margaret to whom R. D. refers, since there was no other girl with the same name and from the same place on that shipload] had remained in St. Louis, and had found employment there.” Compare that to Rees Davies’s assertion that she was in New Orleans, and consider that Thomas Morris was from Aberystwyth, and that he could not have any ulterior motives to falsify the story, and he was not aware of a word of Rees Davies’s false accusations; and if one judges according to the weight of the testimony, one must confess that this assertion of R. D. appears to be a lie also. But, once again, he says that some woman told him that someone (still Mr. Nobody!) for three days had tried to persuade her sister to marry him, and finally he forced her to do so; but again all we have to prove this is the word of a reviler who boasts of having the spirit of murder in him, and we challenge him to prove that the Leaders of the Saints did such a thing,—let him produce their names and those of the witnesses, and we give assurance that they will not continue in their callings any longer than the moment they are proved guilty of such offenses. They are very diligent men, are they not, to spend “three days to coax” a girl to marry a man with a wooden leg! Who paid them? Not a cobbler with two legs who had sufficient money to buy the reader to do such work, was it?

As far as there being any truth in the accusation that young girls were forced to marry old men on the sea, we declare that we have published witnesses in ZION’S TRUMPET, No. 14, Vol. vii, that no one was married on board the Golconda, namely the ship referred to by Rees Davies, but the following, David Lewis and Esther Williams of Carmarthenshire, we believe from Pembrey, two young people; and Wm. Gillman from Blaenau Gwent, also a young man, and Ann Davies, Pendeulwyn, Vale of Glamorgan. Those who doubt may inquire of their relatives. Now, Mr. Rees Davies, go ahead and state the names of the old men who were married on the ship if you can, or be ashamed of your malicious lies, and may those who reared you and who have supported you in such slander­ous and hideous work be ashamed. Now that is enough on the subject.

With respect to the girls who tried to escape in New Orleans, we allow that this could have happened; for we know by experience that corrupt and dishonest men of evil intentions, slither in among the Saints when they land there, with their hearts full of deceit, and their mouths full of lies; and it is not strange that occasionally they charm a girl into believing that such good wages are to be had there, and they would have such an easy life, &c. We have seen parents before who have had trouble with their own children, because of such charmers, but in no way because they were “ravished so they would marry old men,” as our slan­derer asserts. Be it known to the reader that wealthy men hire maids in this country, paying for their expenses, their clothes, &c., on the condi­tion that they pay back in service, and we know that such was the prom­ise of the aforementioned Margaret Williams, to a respectable gentleman by the name of Mr. Thomas Jones, originally from Cefncoedycymer, Breconshire, who, as we shall see from her following letter, was to serve him for some time; and therefore, was it not right for him to try to keep her from the claws of the busybodies such as this Rees Davies and his kind, who persuaded some to violate their conditions of service, and run away without paying back that which they rightfully owed, because others had done so? What if the reader had paid the cost of a maid in this way, would he consider it just for some boy to seduce her, together with the clothes that he had put on her back? Everyone responds that that was none of his business. Nevertheless, the Saints frequently have considerable difficulty in keeping away the eaglets, such as this one from “Crugyreryr, Cardiganshire;” as the saying goes, “where there is a carcass there are eagles;” so it is with this eaglet from “Crugyreryr, Cardiganshire,” who, upon seeing a number of Welsh girls so far from their nest, thought that he could find a carcass there, but his distant cry to the eagles of his old nest proves that for once he was disappointed in New Orleans.

Again, we ask the old eagles from Cardiganshire, to prove to us how their distant eaglet can be telling the truth, by saying that the girls are being ravished to marry old men on the sea, while he also says that that Margaret, and three girls, note, not women, who had been forced to marry on the sea, were running away from them, namely the Saints? If it is true that they were forced to marry on the sea, how could they be ‘young girls,’ that is unmarried, after reaching New Orleans? An old say­ing is that a lie is a lame man, but the lies of Rees Davies are sufficiently agile to make young girls of those who earlier were married on the sea; yes, sufficiently agile to have them run on the surface of the water to the shore, and not only those four, “But,” says he, in his first letter, “there are many GIRLS [note, not wives, consequently they were not married on the sea; and thus we see that Rees Davies’s accusation is not true accord­ing to Rees Davies himself] running away from them here,” he says. If they were married, how is it that their husbands were not watching over them, I wonder? Strange the kind of nonsense are such assertions as these! Where have the humanity and the common sense of those who believe such incredible things gone? We shall not say more, although we could do so, but this will suffice concerning the heap of cries of the “Crugyreryr, Cardiganshirecreatures. We shall end by placing before you the following quotes from the letters of the Margaret Williams to whom Rees Davies refers, which she wrote from New Orleans, by which we shall understand that she feels completely contrary to that which she is accused of feeling by this slanderer. Let the reader judge, and let him believe as he chooses; we have no choice, and it is not possible for a lover of the truth to err, is the opinion of the EDITOR OF “ZION’S TRUMPET.”

Letter from Margaret Williams, Originally from Aberystwyth. On board the Ship Golconda, March 17, 1854.

My Dear Mother,—I take the present opportunity to write to you, hoping that you are in good health, as I have been ever since I left Merthyr Tydfil.

The first thing I shall tell you is that we had a comfortable and lovely voyage all the way here. At present I am with as good a husband and wife as there can be; they have but one little boy who is seven years old. I do not have too much work; I am almost my own mistress.

I wish for you, my dear mother, not to worry about me, as if I were going to destruction by going to the land of America, for many have gone before me; they are doing well, and they are sending assistance to their parents, and perhaps I shall be able to do the same for you, before the end of our lives; I know that I shall do that if I find favor in the sight of God, and if I keep his commandments, and reach the land of Zion, where I know I shall have temporal and spiritual salvation. When Noah finished preaching the gospel, and when he had completed the ark, the Lord called him to go into it, while he poured out judgments on the inhabitants of the earth. Lot received a commandment also to flee to the mountains for safety, when Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed, and had he disobeyed, he would also have been destroyed. The New Testament says that as it was in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of God. I know that such a time is in this age and generation,—that God’s command has now gone out again over all the earth, to every man and woman to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; the conditions of this are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands by one of the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, as did the Samaritans of old, by the laying on of hands by Peter, James, and John, after Phillip had baptized them. * * *

After you have completed all the deeds mentioned, you have to obey another commandment, namely to come quickly out of Babylon to the land of Zion, for this is as important as believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and being baptized for the remission of sins, and my reason for telling you this is because the Lord has uttered this from his own lips; he said that He would gather his sons and his daughters from all the corners of the earth to the valley which Isaiah the Prophet mentioned in the days of old.

My prayer to God day and night for you, is that your life will be spared so you can obey the laws of God, and in the end be saved to heavenly glory, among the number John the Revelator saw standing on mount Zion, having come up out of great tribulation, and having made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.

According to the saying, a child of God must suffer persecution before he will ever be saved in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, permit me to plead for you, my dear mother, to obey the laws of God, so that you will be one of the great throng I mentioned. Do not fear the great persecution upon the Saints; you will also be persecuted when you come to the Saints, for if you intend to live in the presence of the great God, you and everyone else must suffer persecution for the gospel’s sake.

Please note,—We started from Liverpool toward New Orleans at 12 o’clock Saturday night, February the 3rd. We had a lovely voyage all the way across the ocean. Only one person died the entire way, a three-week-old baby.

Esther Jones from Rhiwbren Fawr is hale and hearty, and sends her regards, grieving that you are not here with her.

We reached New Orleans Saturday, March 18, at ten o’clock in the morning. This is one of the biggest and most remarkable towns I have ever seen. The buildings here are of brick and wood: attached to them are large gardens, in which oranges, apples, grapes, and all kinds of vegetables grow.

You will hear more in my next letter.

I am, your dear daughter,

MARGARET WILLIAMS.

The above was copied from the original by Thomas Jeremy, and was translated by Wm. Lewis. We understand that the letter was finished the day R. D. says she escaped, or after that.—ED.