JONES, John (1777-1842), of Ystrad Lodge, Carm.
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Family and Educationb. 15 Sept. 1777, 2nd s. of Thomas Jones, attorney, of Job’s Well and Capel Dewi, Carm. by Anna Maria, da. and h. of John Jones, attorney, of Crynfryn and Aberystwyth, Card. educ. Carmarthen; Eton ?1791-3; Christ Church, Oxf. 1796; L. Inn. 1798, called 1803. unm. suc. bro. Thomas 1793.
Mayor, Carmarthen 1809-10; recorder, Cydweli 1814.
A portentous figure in Welsh politics, Jones was a bustling barrister, resourceful, courageous and pugnacious, nicknamed ‘Jack Slack’ after a popular pugilist. He was the first Welsh politician to use the language of and depend on the sympathies of the mob in the only Welsh borough which then had one. A native of Carmarthen, a ‘St. Peter’s boy’ like many of his rowdy friends, he liked to claim descent from the Jones family of Llansadwrn, self-styled cadets of the house of Abermarlais: his grandfather ‘Admiral’ Thomas Jones was a well-known Carmarthen Blue (Whig) and his father an agent for the Vaughans of Golden Grove.1 Jones himself had little to look forward to except the contingent reversion of the Tyglyn estate in Cardiganshire, which eluded him. He practised on the South Wales circuit and was not worth £1,000 p.a., and was described as having been about 1806 ‘the rankest radical in the borough’.2 On 14 July 1806 he wrote to Windham, then colonial secretary, asking for employment at the Cape or overseas.3
He offered his services to the local Blues under the leadership of Lord Cawdor but in 1810 presided over a meeting at Carmarthen sympathetic to the cause of Sir Francis Burdett and was circularized by the Friends of Constitutional Reform a year later. When it became clear that Cawdor was not interested in promoting his ambition for a seat in Parliament, he stood against the peer’s brother in the election for Carmarthen in 1812, espousing the Red colours and the support of the Red leader Lord Dynevor.4 He was nearly successful, and although his petition against the return failed, he began to undermine the Blues by legal action against the corporation. He decided not to oppose Cawdor’s son in the by-election of December 1813. In 1815 on the death of Sir Thomas Picton, Sir John Owen, Cawdor’s foe in Pembrokeshire, who regarded Jones’s activities in Carmarthen with a sympathetic eye, brought him in for Pembroke Boroughs. In his address, 29 June, he expressed ‘a firm reliance on the intentions of the present ministers ... who have recently raised the fame of the Empire to an unexampled height’. Had he held on to his seat, he intended to sponsor a friend at Carmarthen, and applied to government, as a friend, for the borough patronage.5 When he lost his seat in 1818 owing to a coalition between Cawdor and Owen in Pembrokeshire and fell back on Carmarthen, he was again defeated there. In 1820 he stood down there to facilitate the return of Dynevor’s son for the county, but triumphed on the death of Cawdor in 1821. Had he forsworn ‘electioneering’, a flighty kinswoman might have left him the Tyglyn estate.6
In Parliament Jones first spoke against the severity of the income tax on Welsh farmers, who worked ‘as hard as any of their servants’ to pay rents of between £200 to £300 p.a., 12 Feb. 1816; he voted for the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., but opposed the property tax by speech and vote, 28 Feb., 12 and 18 Mar., as it hit the poor hardest: at the same time he advocated keeping France militarily strong as a counterweight, with British naval power, to the expansion of Russia, and was sure that the people would bear any burden rather than become ‘the province of a continental power’. On 22 Mar., opposing the agricultural horse tax, he proposed alternatives and asked for relief for the Welsh peasantry. Yet he thought too little was spent on a monument to Sir Thomas Picton, 23 Feb., defended the naval contractors against charges of extortion, 26 Mar., and gave ministers credit for practising economy, against their Whig critics, 4 Apr. He voted with them on the civil list, 24 May. He opposed the aliens bill at every stage that month, thinking it unconstitutional and oppressive, and on 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817 voted for Catholic relief. On 17 Feb. 1817 he defended the war salaries of the secretaries of Admiralty: ‘public men were by no means overpaid’. Two days later, he voted for a committee on the Bank of England. He opposed the reception of disrespectful petitions for reform, 12 Mar. He voted for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and against scrutiny of government informers, 5 Mar. 1818. On 13 May 1818, in anticipation of proposals to abolish the Welsh judicature, promoted by Cawdor through his son John Frederick Campbell, Jones proposed reforms to make abolition unnecessary: these were agreed to, but he was out of Parliament before he could bring them about.
As Member for Carmarthen from 1821, Jones continued to combine support for administration with the airing of Welsh grievances. He applied in vain for judicial and administrative office and lost his great battle to preserve the Welsh judicature. He lost his seat after opposing parliamentary reform but, having risked his life and spent his all, was at length compensated by the Carmarthenshire Tories with the county seat. He died 10 Nov. 1842.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales, 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 382.
- 2. By George Thomas of Carmarthen, Welshman , 6 May 1842.
- 3. Add. 37916, f. 28.
- 4. Carm. RO, Cwmgwili mss 534, 659; A19/5, Election squibs, ‘Political Consistency’ ; 1 Cawdor 132, Jones to Cawdor, 31 Dec. 1811, draft reply; 2 Cawdor 135, address of J. F. Campbell, 5 Aug. 1812; 137, Rev. Lewis to Morris, 20 Dec. 1813.
- 5. Essex RO, Sperling mss DSE/13, Jones to Brogden, 28 Sept., 25 Oct. 1815.
- 6. R. G. Owen, Ceredigion , viii, 235.