EARLY DAYS IN SOUTH AMERICA1 On 27 February 1794, John Meredith Jones was born, the eldest son of Edward and Eleanor Jones, smith and maltster of Penybryn, Wrexham. Two more sons and two daughters were born before the death of Edward Jones in March 1812 at the age of forty-seven. The family would seem to have been moderately well off and a good education was secured for the children. From the letters that John Meredith Jones subsequently wrote home from South America, he appears to have been a highly sensitive and introspective man. One can but speculate whether these characteristics contributed to the estrangement between himself and his mother and younger brother Meredith. What is certain is that in July 1823 John left home and made his way to Buenos Aires in search of his fortune, careless whether or not he heard from his family again. He arrived in Argentina at a time of turbulence and unrest, the country having severed the bonds that bound her to Spain and defied all attempts to re-establish them. The removal of the common enemy, however, resulted in a partial disintegration of the country into fourteen mutually jealous and hostile provinces. At the same time relations with the Brazilian monarchy were far from good and the Indian tribes south of Buenos Aires were a constant threat to life and property. The city of Buenos Aires with the territory which from 1814 formed the Province of Buenos Aires, was by far the most populous and wealthy of all the provinces and had the only commercial link with the outside world. Its position on the edge of the country, however, made it difficult for it to come forward as the political capital. Within the Province of Buenos Aires some measure of stability was secured from 1820 onwards by Rivadavia, minister under the Provincial Governor, Rodriguez. The affairs of Argentina were not of immediate interest to John Jones as he was primarily concerned with the problem of making a living. He had brought out with him some watches among other goods but offers for them were disappointing. The selling of hats struck him as another possibility as he estimated that on a 12s. to 14s. hat the profit would be about 150 per cent. In December 1823, however, he decided that if his family could arrange for £ 50 of coal to be despatched from Liverpool, this would prove most profitable when sold. He found Buenos Aires itself, 'a shocking dull place neither society nor amusement worthy a rational being. The city is rather large, the houses low with large iron gratings about the windows, more like prisons than common houses. The ladies are very handsome, rather small with black eyes and hair, wear neither bonnets nor caps but have their hair dressed English fashion with a silk shawl thrown over the head, covering part of the face. Their amusements are the Theatre and a circus lately opened by an Englishman. These are attended only on Sundays and Feast days. They attend mass in the morning and every evening take their evening sleep and afterwards their amusements. We have no English church nor chapel of any description. Two American missionaries who came here about a month ago have not obtained encouragement sufficient to justify their opening a place of worship. There are none of my countrymen here although a great number of foreigners of every description English, Yankees, Germans, Italians, Scotch, Irish, Dutch and a motley amounting to 7000, 3000 of English and Americans. I increase in the knowledge of the language, a very great advantage. The country swarms with fleas, musquitoes and bugs, no house being free from them. 1 N.L.W., Ms. 4856 E. Nearly all these letters of John Meredith Jones were written to his sisters.