Friday, 30 August 2013

The Commissioners Poley, Vaughan and Janson

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931),  by A.C. Saunders.

This short chapter tells the story of the Royal Commissioners and their action in the Royal cause. It is interesting that they sentenced various opponents of the King but relatively few were actually executed; instead imprisonment and heavy fines, sometimes forfeiture of lands and wealth, were permitted if an oath of allegiance was sworn.
It is notable that "everything was done in the most legal manner possible", as we are told. Judicial independence of both Jersey and Guernsey begins in 1204, but the law was often applied in unjust ways. Here, it was used as a weapon to enforce one political side - the Royalist party, and there is no doubt that it was an abuse of power by the Royalists. So we must not be too triumphalistic about judicial independence, when it was capable of being used for political ends, and as an instrument of tyranny.
And as can be seen by the hanging in effigy those not present, these trials were "show trials", because the result of the trials was predetermined, and the verdict was a foregone conclusion.
Elise Groulx Diggs, speaking of "show trials", notes that "All trials must contain an element of risk-namely the risk that the accused may be freed. If this aspect is missing, what we have is a show trial, a clear lack of legitimacy, and no desirable legacy for the future of international criminal justice."
These trials did allow the accused to be free in many cases, as long as they submitted an oath of loyalty to the King, and paid a heavy fine. But they were "show trials" nonetheless, designed to impress. No one could walk away with impunity without pledging loyalty to the King; that freedom did not exist judicially. They were rituals of vengeance, for all their legality.
The Commissioners Poley, Vaughan and Janson
by AC Saunders
The Commissioners had plenty to do, and on the 2nd August, 1645, they sentenced Maximilian Messervy to death for his actions in aid of the party against the King. Messervy was a young man, twenty nine years of age, and belonged to a respectable family, and in 1641 he had been pardoned by the King for passing false coinage in the Island and this fact was brought up against him, with the result that the execution was carried out and he was buried in St. Saviour's churchyard. On the 11th of August, Thomas Durel, Zacharias du Hamel and Jean le Mestre were allowed to plead for their lives, and pardon was granted on condition that they each paid a fine of 8,000 livres tournois, but the prison doors were not opened until they had paid the porter's fee of fifty ecus and the Greffier's charge of 10 ecus.
On the 20th August, the trial took place of Benjamin Bisson, Phelipe Messervy, the Sieur de Bagot, Phelipe de Ia Perelle, Ellie Jean, Pierre Hamon, Josnas Marie, prisoners from Mont Orgueil Castle. Bisson had been a Jurat at the Royal Court and had failed to flee from the Island when Lydcott left. For nearly two years he had been a prisoner and during that time he must have realised that he could expect very little mercy from those in power.
But the Commissioners were evidently out for obtaining is much as possible from the prisoners, and the lives of all he prisoners were spared on condition that each took the oath of allegiance to the King. Bisson and Mons de Bagot had each to pay a fine of 8,000 livres tournois, de la Perelle 2,000 livres, besides the official fifty and ten ecus, and Jean, Hamon and Marie were pardoned on the payment of a small fee for the opening of the prison doors. The following Sunday all the prisoners had to attend the Parish Church and here, after partaking of the Sacrament, they publicly recanted the errors of their ways and formerly took the oath of fidelity to the King and his deputies.
There were many fugitives from the Island who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion, and the Commissioners directed the Viscount on the 4th October, 1645, to call out their names in the Royal Court, citing them to appear within a certain date. They directed that all those who failed to answer were to he hanged in effigy in the Market Place, and afterwards exposed on the Town Hill, and that all their goods and chattels were to be confiscated for the benefit of the King.
Apart from Michael Lempriere, Herault and du Maresq, Chevalier gives us the following names of those thus condemned : Phelipe le Boutillier, Abraham Bequet, Charles Maret, Simion Enouf, Nicollas De Rue, Clement Lempriere, Daniel Norment, Andry le Vavaseur Durel, Jean Ricart, Pierre Ricard, Pierre Dassigny, Denis le Gerdain, Jean Herault, Nicollas Efart, George du Maresq, Benjamin Lempriere, Ellie Chevallier, Thomas Pipys, Thomas Lempriere, Hanry le Vavaseur dit Durel, Moise le Vavaseur dit Durel, Pierre le Gallez, Thomas Robert, Phelipe Sallemon, George Sallemon, Ellie Huelin, Jean le Dain, Abraham Maugiet, Nicollas Blenpied, Jean Blenpied, Samuel Chevallier, Nicollas le Quesne, Jacques Maugier, Francois Luce, Jean le Feuvre, Josue Maret, Pierre Louis, Phelipe Messcrvy, Pierre Luce, Edouard Luce, Aron Corbet, Phelipe le Feuvre.
After this sentence all the lands and other property were seized, and the lands were let by auction. Everything was done in the most legal manner possible, and thus large sums of money came into the possession of the King's Receiver.
On the 19th July, 1645, the Reverend Jacques Bandinel was brought to the Court, but there was so much work to do that his case could not be attended to on that day. He was remanded until the following Saturday, when he was too ill to attend, and he remained prisoner in the castle until his death.
We hear nothing more about Jurat Benjamin Bisson until 23rd January, 1655, when his widow, Rachel Bisson, appealed to the Protector, pointing out that in 1642 her husband had been made a Commissioner for the Parliament to oppose Sir Philip de Carteret. Having failed to escape from the Island with Lempriere and others, he had been most barbarously treated by the Royalists, who kept him in prison for two years, and threatened to hang him unless he gave up his estate at a nominal price. This he was compelled to do but he sickened and died leaving a widow and five children to the tyranny of a cruel enemy. He was fined £916 13s 8d before he regained his liberty, and Col. Gibbons the Governor, and Michael Lempriere the Bailiff recommended that she should be repaid that amount out of the fines levied on the Royalists, and the Protector granted the request.

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