Monday, 15 April 2013

Sir Walter Raleigh in Jersey

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931),  by A.C. Saunders. There is a lot of social history in Saunders, which throws up some quirky details that are often overlooked in the history of Jersey, and this is the case here, even with such an obviously political figure as Sir Walter Raleigh.

Saunders doesn't know if Raleigh actually brought potatoes into the Island, but what he definitely did bring was tobacco. It was evidently much more profitable for farmers than food, so much so that it was banned, and crops were ordered to be destroyed. When Saunders was writing, there was little knowledge about the malign effects of tobacco on the human body, and he actually recommends the reintroduction of farming the plant as a means of improving farming in the Island in the 1930s.

There is also an interesting legal question which came up. Did a Bailiff automatically lose his office on the death of the Governor, who had appointed him on behalf of the Crown, and need re-appointment? It was decided that the Bailiff once elected to the position, remained in office until, for some reason or other, he was deprived of his office.

Raleigh seems to have been very much a "hands on" Governor, improving the militia and the Island's defenses, fostering trade and encouraging the trade in Newfoundland, attending sittings of the courts. This was a sea-change from previous Governors who had regard Jersey as a sinecure, from which they could largely line their own pockets.

Curiously, Saunders doesn't mention the renaming of the castle on the islet in St Aubin's bay by Sir Walter Raleigh as Elizabeth Castle (or to be more exact ""Fort Isabella Bellissima", Elizabeth the Most Beautiful) after Elizabeth I of England. Balleine notes that  "This pretentious Latin name never came into general use; but an Act of the States in 1603 calls it le chateau Elizabeth. It was not yet, however, the size that it is today. Ivy only fortified the high rock on the south-west corner of the islet, leaving all the rest to the abbey ruins and the rabbits.."

by A.C. Saunders
At the dawn of the 17th century Elizabeth still reigned over England, but she was no longer the great Queen who, notwithstanding her little meannesses and vanities, had upheld the honour of the English name throughout the world. A sick woman, soon to die, she had lost interest in things around her. Her old ministers had one by one passed away, and she, had difficulty in getting accustomed to those who now filled the administrative posts around the throne.
Essex was dead, Leicester was dead, and Raleigh, somewhat out of favour, had been appointed to the Governorship of Jersey, and in 1600 had found refuge in the Island from the many who had always resented his good fortune, and the haughtiness of his methods.
He remained in the Island, subject to periodical visits to the mainland, until near the end of 1602, shortly before the death of the Queen, and his departure was a great loss to Jersey. -During--his Governorship he had fostered trade and introduced a registry for title deeds. He took great interest in the affairs of the Island, and, when possible, attended the sittings of the Courts, and listened to the debates of the local orators anxious to win the favour of their distinguished Governor.
It is said that Sir Walter usually smoked his pipe during these sittings, and possibly he had great difficulty in following the speakers, who would use the French or Jersey-French language in explaining their different points of argument. He was a shrewd and capable observer, and there he sat, dressed in the height of fashion, a man of action, endeavouring to find the best solution for the benefit of his little kingdom.
Raleigh had the reputation of having introduced the value of the potato to his fellow countrymen and possibly to Jersey. He certainly brought tobacco into use in the Island, but the people did not take kindly to the new custom. Several years afterwards the Royal Court, by their Order of the 5th February, 1624, forbade the sale of tobacco as injurious to the morals of the people.
Tobacco was evidently grown in the Island, for on 15th September, i6z8, Attorney-General Heath writes to the Council, that there is a great quantity of tobacco planted in Jersey and Guernsey contrary to various Proclamations and having " this further inconvenience of taking away the bread from the inhabitants of this Island if the ground fit for Corn be thus employed," and he recommended John Blanch as a proper person to see the tobacco destroyed.
But Jerseymen still carried on, and on the 1st March, 1631, a Proclamation was issued by the Council forbidding the planting of tobacco-" all plants to be destroyed and none must presume to plant hereafter, and no tobacco is to be brought from these parts into any Port save London."
If tobacco could be grown in the Island in those days, then it is a question whether, at the present time when potatoes and tomatoes are sent to an overfed market, the re-introduction of tobacco-growing might not improve the condition of the farmers.
Raleigh's presence was required in the Mother Country, for times were full of anxiety and he had great estates and held important appointments.
Students of history have to recognise the greatness of men by the way in which their names dominate the times in which they lived. We hear of Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and many others, and although much might be written against them, they remain great historical figures who have made their mark in the world. Thus it was with Raleigh, who, among the many great men of the period, is the best known "great man " during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
He succeeded Sir Anthony Pawlet as Governor of Jersey, and the Bailiff was George Pawlet, who had held office since 1583. When he arrived in Jersey, he found that the Islanders were very much oppressed and the poor people could obtain little or no justice. They were very poor and ill-educated, and had no idea how to develop their resources.
Raleigh was known as the " great man of action of his time," and there are few men in the world who have been to the forefront of so many activities. Soldier, sailor, author, poet and adventurer, he was always ready to leave the gaieties of Court life for the hardships of a voyage of discovery, and well might the Americans erect a tablet in Westminster Abbey acknowledging him as the " Founder of the British Empire in America." He always had some great scheme on foot and was ready to take advantage of any means to further the great work of his life,. We can well realise the sacrifice of his best coat to enable his Queen to cross a muddy path, and, later on, the loss of his Queen's favour, to marry the beautiful Bessie Throckmorton.
He joined with his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, when the latter claimed Newfoundland in the name of the Queen, and, later on, after Gilbert's death, he obtained from the Queen the grant of a large plantation in the neighbourhood of St. John's, Newfoundland.
When he came to Jersey he found that some four hundred of the inhabitants followed the profession of the sea, and so he did his best to encourage the Islanders to participate in the Newfoundland fish trade on a sound commercial basis, and thus a Jersey colony settled on his land at a place on the East coast called Ferryland. One would like to know something of those early settlers, but we have to be satisfied with the knowledge, that it is to Raleigh we owe the magnificent trade which our forefathers developed with the New Land.
We must not imagine that Jerseymen did not know of the New Land before the Governorship of Raleigh, for we hear of codfish being used in the Island as far back as the reign of Henry VIII., when there was great scarcity of food, and there is even a suggestion that Cabot was himself a Channel Islander, or that his forebears came from there.
On the 7th January, 1600, a great honour was conferred on a Jerseyman, Amice de Carteret, a Jurat of the Royal Court, who was selected as Bailiff of the neighbouring Island of Guernsey on account of the good opinion " conceaved of his meetness for his sufficiencie and integrete to exercise the said place."
The British Government allowed the Island 165 chaldrons of " Sea Coales," without payment of duty and the Governor had authority to appoint certain persons to bring the coal from London and Neath. The vessels in those days were very small, but on the 30th April, 1600, the Good Shippe " Frances " of Jersey sailed from Swansea with 1 5 wagons of coal consigned to Nicholas le Basse, and on the 17th June in the same year The " Grace of God " of Jersey sailed from the same port with 12 wagons of coal for Andrew Bissard, and the " Le Flower de Luce " of Jersey, 20 tons, Captain Besheruse, with 4 wagons of coal.
Jersey was always in fear of invasions, and on the 25th March, 1602, the States received information from Sir Walter Raleigh that the Spaniards proposed to seize the Island, and that an expedition of 6,000 troops was in readiness to start from the Low Countries for that purpose.
Sir Walter warned them to make every preparation to repel the invaders, and it was decided that the Lieutenant-Governor should have charge of the defence of St. Helier, and St. Laurens ; Mons. de Rossel of St. Sauveur and St. Martin ; Mons. de Sausmares, of St. Clement, and Grouville ; Mons. Dilamen of La Trinite, and St. Jean ; Le Sr. Jean de Carteret of St. Ouen, and St. Marie, and Sr. Helier de Carteret of St. Pierre, and St. Brelade. Later, on the   7th August, Sir Walter was informed that fifteen Spanish Galleys were making for the Island, and he petitioned the Queen to send her navy for a short time to protect the inhabitants. Evidently the expedition did not reach Jersey, and, after a time, the inhabitants settled down to their ordinary routine.
The people were always quarrelling among themselves and there was a great feud between Sr. Jean de Carteret, and Bailiff George Pawlet. The former suggested that the Bailiff ceased to be Bailiff on the death of Governor Sir Anthony Pawlet. The matter was referred to the Governor, who decided that a Bailiff, once properly elected, remained Bailiff until, for some reason or other, he was deprived of his office. This decision did not satisfy the de Carteret, who openly insulted the Bailiff in Court by stating that he was not a fit person to try any civil or other case.
The Court upheld the Bailiff and de Carteret was condemned to be sent as a prisoner to Mont Orgueil Castle. He promised to proceed to the Castle quietly if he were allowed to do so without guard, and the Court granted his request, but instead of going to Gorey he escaped, and the Court ordered the Master Porter of the Castle to seize him. Later on Sir Walter saw de Carteret, and tried to make him see the irregularity of his conduct, by pointing out that by insulting the Bailiff he was insulting the Queen, whose representative the Bailiff was. He so impressed the prisoner that he confessed that he had failed in respect to the Bailiff and, after some hesitation, the Bailiff accepted the apology and the matter ended. In the Court, de Carteret had said that " he wished to be judged in any case by a plus home de bien than the present Bailiff."
Raleigh returned to England towards the end of 1602 and his time was fully occupied in fighting for his own possessions. The country was in a very unsettled state, and when Queen Elizabeth died on the 24th March, 1603, the throne passed to the Scotch King James, who had no liking for such a man as Raleigh.
A man who would allow his mother to be executed, without making any definite effort to save her for fear of losing his chance of the English throne was not likely to appreciate a great man like Raleigh (whom he feared), who could hardly conceal the contempt he felt for the narrow minded and timorous monarch.
Even Jersey realised that the change might result in danger to the Island, and that the opportunity would be taken by French or Spaniards to seize the Channel Islands, and so every effort was made to keep her defences in good state. Rumours reached the inhabitants that Sir Walter was ill and had been wounded. In the diary kept by the Secretary of the Lord Salisbury of that day it is stated that between the 27th and 29th July, 1603, Sir Walter " attempted to stab himself to the harte with a knife but missing his harte and wounded himself greatly."
Owing to the anxious times, it was decided to see that the old Castle was in good condition and well found in all respects. The Castle was in charge of Honeste Gent Hiersome Ferrat,- who had been sworn in on the 27th September 1600, as Master Porter to carry out the laws, liberties and privileges of the Island.
The Bailiff and Jurats proceeded to the Castle during the month of April, 1603, on their tour of inspection, but evidently the Master Porter had heard many rumours about the unsettled state of affairs and was uncertain what to do, and, when the inspectors arrived at the Castle, he refused to allow them to inspect the fortification, and see that they were in proper order. He evidently considered that an inspection could only be made by a Governor, or his Lieutenant, and that the Bailiff's power was restricted to civil cases.
Possibly he may have been afraid that the many irregularities at the Castle might be brought to light if he allowed the inspectors to carry on. However, they had their way, and having entered the Castle, found it in a very bad state, with guns dismounted and the fortress guarded by but a few men who were incapable of carrying and using arms, so the Bailiff and Jurats decided that the Castle should be put in charge of the Sr. de Rossell, who was empowered to put it in as proper a state of defence as possible.
Raleigh was soon deprived of his Governorship, despoiled of his possessions, and, having been charged with high treason, sent to the Tower of London as a prisoner in charge of Sir John Peyton, its Lieutenant.
Sir Walter may be considered one of the best Governors of the Island. When he arrived in Jersey, he found the inhabitants in a terrible position-little better than slaves-ground down by previous Governors, who were only too anxious to ignore justice, and make the most out of the people they were sent to govern. The States simply played into the hands of the Governors, and ignored their responsibilities. There was no justice in the Island. The             money which should have been used for the defence of the. Island, went elsewhere, and the trained bands were without arms and ammunition. Sir Walter changed all this, frequently called the States together and saw that the trained bands were properly drilled.
At first there was much opposition, but gradually the States, and the people, began to see that their new Governor was desirous for their welfare. When the bands were properly drilled, he is reported to have told them that, supported by the trained bands of Jersey, he was ready to face the best troops of Europe.
He saw that the fortifications of the Island were put into a proper state of defence, and realized that Elizabeth Castle, properly guarded, was a wonderful asset to the Islanders as a fortress of that date, and almost impregnable. It was a great misfortune to the Islanders that his rule was so short, otherwise they would have reaped much benefit and made much progress under the guidance of so able a Governor.

1 comment:

SSTAG said...

We should not forget that Raleigh was executed as a pirate after spending many years in the Tower of London.
Now it is difficult to assess his true contribution to the world but his own history book is a muddled offering and reads more like the ramblings of someone with a troubled mind.
That he warrants a small memorial tablet overlooking the public gallery of the States' chamber says much in an Island where more politically important locals - like those of September 1769 - are long forgotten and uncelebrated.
History it seems belongs to those with the best PR agents.