When I was researching Grouville Church's history for areas that could be dramatised well for the 1987 pageant, I came across this interesting pamphlet. The case of Lydia Walling, in particular, stood out, and I dramatised it in an exchange in the Church between Peter Briard and Abraham Le Sueur.
Abraham Le Sueur was one of the great reforming Rectors of the Victorian Age, and we see in this conflict what might be termed the "establishment" position of Peter Briard, who clearly wanted to run the Orphan's home on the lines we see clearly drawn in Dicken's Mr Bumble (in Oliver Twist). Le Sueur was plainly a man of great compassion, whereas Briard seems almost paranoid in his insecurities, and more concerned with his position than the welfare of the children.
In these days of "blogs", statements like those of Le Sueur's are easier to make than in the past, but it would be a mistake to assume they were not made. This was the age of the pamphlet, where people would publish and circulate their comments by the power of the printing press. They were not tied to letters in the newspaper. Here, then, is the answer of Abraham Le Sueur to charges brought against him, and it gives a fascinating snapshot of the past.
Answer of the Rev. Abraham Le Sueur to certain charges brought against him by Peter Briard, esq., Before the committee of the Jersey Female Orphans' home, on the 27th December 1881, Addressed to the Chairman, and read at a Meeting of the Committee, held on the 11th Jan. 1882.
PRINTED BY HUELIN & LE FEUVRE, "NOUVELLE CHRONIQUE II, ROYAL SQUARE. 1882.
ANSWER OF THE REV. ABRAHAM LE SUEUR
To certain charges brought against him by PETER BRIARD, Esq., before the Committee of the Jersey Female Orphans' Home, on the 27th December 1881, addressed to the Chairman, and read at a Meeting of the Committee, held on the 11th January 1882.
I think it right to address you on a subject which has for me a painful interest, but which also concerns, in some sense, the Jersey Female Orphans' Home, inasmuch as Mr. BRIARD has taken occasion therefrom, to bring certain accusations against me, before the Committee of that Institution. This he did, at their sitting on the 27th ult., during my unavoidable absence.
Anxious to hear from himself what he had to complain of, I sent him the following note :
28th December 1881.
Will you please send me a detailed statement of the accusations brought by you, against me, yesterday, during my unavoidable absence, before the Committee of the Jersey Female Orphans' Home ?
I shall also thank you to allow me to see the Minute Book, which, if convenient to you, might be left at the Orphanage for my inspection.
I am, Sir,
ABM. LE SUEUR
PETER BRIARD, Esq., Secretary,
Jersey Orphanage. -
To this note I received the following reply :
1, Westbourne Terrace, Jersey,
29th December 1881.
I am in receipt of your letter of yesterday's (late and must decline your request.
I shall be ready to repeat at the next Committee Meeting, the Statement which I made at the last, and which you were forewarned I was going to make, before you left the Meeting.
I must also decline leaving the Minute Book at the Orphanage, without an act of the Committee, but am quite willing to send you any minute you may require.
I am, Sir,
I was thus unable to obtain from Mr. BRIARD that which I feel I had a right to ask for, and to expect to receive from him, not only as an act of courtesy, hut of justice.
The excuse given by Mr. BRIARD for his proceeding-, that I was " forewarned " of what he " was going to do before I left the meeting" I cannot regard as sufficient. Had I left the meeting without assigning any cause for doing so, there might have been a seeming propriety in Mr. BRIARD'S mode of action, but I duly informed the Committee that I was obliged to leave, and also stated the particular duty which called me away. I therefore applied for information to some members of the Committee, and have been assured that the following is a correct report of what was stated to the Committee by Mr. BRIARD.
Mr. BRIARD said that he was sorry I was absent, and could not hear what he had to say. That an unpleasant occurrence had taken place on Christmas day. That he had come expressly from St. Helier's to give the children their dinner, which he had been informed by the Matron, was the duty of the Secretary, but that I had ignored him altogether, and humbled him before the staff. That I had directed the children to say their grace, and had then proceeded to carve the dinner, on seeing this, he left the room. That he also said, that I must have been aware of his coming, as he had told the Matron, who no doubt must have told me.
He further stated that I was constantly interfering in the internal arrangements of the Home, giving orders to the Matron and Teacher, and the rest of the staff.
That on being asked by a member of the Committee, whether he could give some cases in proof of his assertions, he replied that I had interfered in the case of Lydia Walling who, contrary to his order that she should not be admitted into the Home, was admitted, and slept there one night.
Mr. BRIARD also added: That the children were sent to church without his knowledge. That they had gone on the week day during- Lent , that if that were continued be could not possibly retain the office of Secretary. That it was necessary to have the respective duties of the Chaplain and Secretary defined.
Such are the accusations brought against me by Mr. BRIARD, to which I now proceed to reply in order. I shall first observe, that the author of this "painful occurrence," is Mr. BRIARD himself, due to his mistaken views respecting his duties and responsibilities in the matter of the children's Christmas dinner. By his own showing, he sought information from the Matron, but seems to have misapprehended, or to have put his own construction on what she told him. I have never regarded this as the duty either of the Chaplain, or of the Secretary, but exclusively of the Matron.
I have attended every Christmas dinner at the Home since 1862. On most of these occasions I have met there other members of the Committee. The Matron has always presided at the table, and superintended the distribution of the food to the children, assisted by her subordinates. On these previous occasions, I have invariably done what I did last Christmas.
I will now state the particulars. On my arrival at the Home at the usual dinner hour, the Matron informed me that she had received a note from Mr. BRIARD, in which he requested her to delay serving" the dinner until he came at 1.15. I was walking in the garden when lie arrived, and then went into the dining room. He was not there, but came in soon after. On entering, he went up to the Teacher and the sub-Matron, shook hands with them, and presented the usual greeting, I was left completely unnoticed, without receiving even a nod of recognition. The dinner was set on the table. After a pause, I asked the sub-Matron, who was near me, "Where is the Matron?" She replied, that she was detained in the kitchen, but had told them to begin and not to wait for her.
As a matter of course, I led the children in saying their Grace, and afterwards assisted in carving. Mr. BRIARD, instead of following my example, withdrew.
I was quite unconscious in this, of any failure of duty or courtesy towards him, although I felt I had been subjected to deep humiliation and marked disrespect, and that too, in presence of two officers of the Home, and of all the children. This did not, however, prevent me from rendering to the Matron the assistance which courtesy and kindness demanded, and which I had given continuously on every Christmas day since 1863.
As I have already said, I believe Mr. BRIARD misapprehended what the Matron did say, which was as lie puts it " that it was the duty of the Secretary to give the dinner to the children." The Matron has distinctly declared to me that she did not tell him that it was the duty of the Secretary to do this.
Supposing-this -statement to he correct, is it not strange that Mr. BRIARD should have sought information from the Matron, instead of asking- me ? and is it not stranger still, that after receiving- the information he asked for, and without any reason to believe that I should discontinue my invariable practice, (which my respect for the Matron and her helpers, and my affection for the children, as well as my duty as Chaplain alike demanded) he should have given me no notice whatever of his intention to set me aside?
Had he done so, I should most certainly have submitted to the contumelious act, as I have in silence, submitted to many more from him.
The next accusation is, that " I am constantly interfering in the internal arrangements of the Home." This I meet by a positive denial, and defy Mr. BRIARD to prove a single act of interference on my part with the internal arrangements of the Home. Mr. BRIARD also accuses me of" giving- orders to the Matron, Teacher, and to other members of the Staff." My answer to that is-that I have not in a single instance, assumed nor exercised the right of giving- an order to the Matron, nor to any -one engaged in the work of the Home. This I maintain is proved by Mr. BRIARD himself, who is compelled to cite the case of " Lydia Walling-," which occurred in June last, and as I shall show is not a case in point.
Lydia Walling- left the Home, in company with several of her companions, in 1879, for Gait, Ontario, under the care of Miss Macpherson. Last summer, I received a letter from Miss Macpherson informing me, that, for the reasons stated by her, she had been obliged to bring- Lydia Walling- to England, and would send her back to Jersey. She arrived in Jersey on the 29th of June, under the care of a messenger, and reached Grouville about 2 p.m. I notified her arrival at once to the Matron, and this was conveyed immediately to the Secretary, who forbade her admission to the Home.
On that afternoon, the Matron and the children had been invited to a treat at Government House. Mr.. BRIARD and I were invited. On the party passing the Rectory, I joined them, Mr. BRIARD came up to me and told me that the child " must not be sent to the Home." I explained to him the circumstances of the case, but found him inexorable. I said, "surely you will give her shelter for the night. You cannot leave her in the street," but he gave me a positive refusal and said " no, she must go to the Hospital, she cannot be admitted into the Home," I said " you are very hard, but as it is a case of absolute necessity, I must request that she be received for the night, and shall take the responsibility."
The facts were very simple. The agent of Miss Macpherson had fulfilled his task on bringing the child to her destination ;- he could not in justice be sent to other parties, to whom moreover he was a stranger and unknown, nor could the child be left on his hands.
Further, I had no authority to send her to the Hospital, nor could I go to St. Helier's that afternoon, as I was actually on my way with the Home children to Government House ; but had I gone, it is very unlikely that I should have found either the President of the Hospital, or the Constable of St. Helier at that hour of the day, to obtain an order for her admission. Unable to receive her at my own House, it was a thing of sheer necessity that she should be received at the Home, but in my judgement, it was even more than that, for it was a case for the exercise of common humanity. Moreover it was not a question of "admission in to the Home" for I did not ask for this, but a mere question of giving a night's shelter to a homeless, friendless child.
On the following day I obtained " an order," and she was therefore sent to the Hospital. I communicated the circumstances of the case to the President, who obtained from the Committee a grant, to recoup a portion of the expenses incurred by her return, which sum I duly transmitted to Miss Macpherson : the child was subsequently transferred, by order of the Hospital Committee to the Home, where she is at the present time.
Another accusation is " that the children are sent to Church " without Mr. BRIARD'S knowledge. That they went on the week " days during Lent." Implying evidently that this had taken place by my orders, without asking his permission.
The fact is that I give no orders respecting the attendance of the Children at Church, either on Sundays, or on week days ; or at special services in Lent. But as a well-trained Christian family they follow dutifully the traditions of the Home in this respect, the Matron using- her own discretion, sending such of the children to the Sunday and week day services as she thinks proper, without any interference whatever on my part.
During last Advent, I had a short daily service at 9 a.m., but -the Matron did not send, nor did I expect any Children from the Home, as this was an inconvenient hour for them, although it suited well those whom I wished especially to benefit.
Mr. BRIARD must surely be at a loss for causes of complaint against me, to launch forth such accusations, even had they been founded, but which, on the contrary, as I have shown, rest on his own surmisings, and cannot be said to have any foundation in fact.
I shall reserve for the present, what I have to say on certain grave and important matters, meanwhile, allow me to request you to move the Committee to adopt some mode of defining more clearly the respective duties of the Chaplain, and of the Secretary of the Institution.
I am, Sir,
Your Obedient Servant,
Honorary Chaplain of. J.F.O.H.
TO: COL. P. D. MARETT, R.A.,
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