There was a combative instinct in Powell that, combined with a ready lack of scruple, willed him to thwart his rivals whenever possible. This is well shown in his dispute with John Nixon in the early 1840s. Powell was anxious to secure markets for his Duffryn coal and he made an agreement with Nixon to pay him a commission on all orders that Nixon secured in France where he had been working. There is no doubt that Nixon expended great effort in persuading French industrialists to change to Welsh steam coal from the Newcastle coal already in use; he even chartered a vessel to convey a cargo to Nantes and superintended tests to demonstrate the superior qualities of the Welsh coal. But at the end of three years Powell refused to pay up, on the grounds that Nixon was getting more out of the bargain than he was. Eventually the sum of £ 300 was 'squeezed from him', but when Nixon referred to the agreement and possible legal proceedings, Powell's reply was according to Vincent's adulatory biography of Nixon, 'Now, Mr. Nixon, I was never afraid of the law. I have had a law suit with Lord Bute, and I beat him. And I will beat you too. To hear you talk about agreements! I never in my life made an agreement that I could not get out of, and all that are against me I get out of. The source of this quotation may be suspect, but it accords with the reputation that Powell had acquired. This combative belligerency of Powell took him to the courts on a number of occasions, but it was the civil action heard at the Monmouth Spring Assizes, 1841,21 that illustrates once again this aspect of his character. In 1833 Powell had leased land from J.H. Moggridge and Lord Dynevor, but in order to raise all the coal at Buttery Hatch he needed to drive through reserves of coal owned by Sir Charles Morgan. Talks were held with Frederick Justice, the agent of the Tredegar estate, but they ended acrimoniously with Powell refusing the terms offered. In spite of this Powell started to work the coal under Tredegar land and it was not until 1840 that this was discovered. He was no doubt alarmed at the situation and he offered restitution, but, typically, agreement could not be reached as to the sum involved. At the Assize Powell's agent, Thomas Williams, could only put forward a feeble defence and Powell was ordered to pay £ 1,400 in damages. Even then he tried to justify himself with a letter to the press, claiming that he had misunderstood the terms originally offered. Was Powell exceptional at this time, taking into account the aggressive, competitive culture that dominated the industry? His belligerent disposition has been noted, and in doubtful practice he was no worse than his solicitor partner, Thomas Prothero, who became high sheriff of the county in 1846. Prothero also trespassed on the coal reserves of Sir Charles Morgan from his Woodfield colliery, and at a time when he was actually agent to Sir Charles. But in business dealings generally Powell was little different from many others. The landowners themselves were equally adept at extracting the last penny in the leasing of their property. The lease of the Plas and Mydfa farms on the Tredegar estate in 1840 can be taken as an example: the minimum rent was set at £ 700 a year, later raised to £ 962, with all coal having to be carried via the Sirhowy tramroad.22 It was Powell's very success that set him apart, and he was taken as a role-model by many at the time.