Friday, 13 September 2013

Sir George Carteret again

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931),  by A.C. Saunders.
Jersey at this time was still in Royalist hands but the tide was turning against Charles I. The Civil War was getting nasty on both sides, with acts of cruelty. Sir George threatens reprisals if his followers are not treated as Prisoners of War, and by way of counter, the Parliamentary party threatens with reprisals against Royalists in England.
A future chapter deals with Sir George Carteret's Privateers, but even here we see how the merchants are finding this a danger to their shipping. A Privateer is effectively a licensed pirate, and whom they prey upon depends very much whose goods ships may be delivering.
When the Parliamentarians gained power, it was to crush opposition; they could be as cruel as Sir George could be. For the ordinary people, there was no respite, and one of the lessons of war is that an army of liberation can be just as tyrannical as that overthrown. We tend to simplify history and want to see it in terms of black and white, of good against evil, but matters are rarely that simple, and an the armies of rebellion can be just as oppressive when they come to power.
Sir George Carteret again
By A.C. Saunders
Rumour was very busy in Jersey towards the end of 1646, and it was stated that Lord Jermyn, the Governor of the Island was in treaty with France, to sell the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey for the sum of 200,000 pistoles, and a Dukedom of France ; that he was to buy the estate of Aubigny from the owners for 50,000 pistoles, and that, under pretence of delivering the Island of Guernsey from the Parliamentarians, he was to be assisted by 2,000 French troops, levied as being in the service of the King of England.
As soon as the news came to the notice of Sir George, he consulted my Lords Capel, and Hopton, and Sir Edward Hyde, and these four signed an agreement by which they decided by all means in their power to defeat such a proposal, " with the help of God not only never to give our consent to so infamous a transaction (which we are confident His Majesty will abhor) but to the utmost of our power, and with our utmost hazard, to oppose the same and resist the delivery up of these Islands into the hands of the French or other Foreign Nation, by what act, power, or authority soever the same shall be attempted or endeavoured."
We can imagine the indignation of these loyal subjects of the King at the base suggestion of the Governor who had been appointed to defend the Island against the King's enemies. Lord Capel was sent to Paris to find out what he could and get the ear of the Prince of Wales and others.
It is satisfactory to know that the action of Carteret and his friends, stopped the negotiations then proceeding, and we hear nothing more about the matter.
Sir George's rule in Jersey was the rule of a rnan who was accustomed to brook no interference with his will. He was in a very difficult position, and although he was the Lieutenant-Governor and Bailiff, and had full control of both Military and Civil affairs, and by means of his ships of most of the supplies for the Island, yet he was fully aware that many so called Royalists sympathized with their relatives, whose estates had been confiscated and who were afraid to come within the reach of Sir George.
Family ties were always strong among the Islanders, and the refugees did their best to spread sedition among their friends. The King's cause in England was in a very bad way, and the armies of the Parliament were everywhere victorious. It is no wonder that the rumour of possible uprisings in Jersey should have reached the advisers of the young Prince of Wales who wrote a letter to the States, which was considered at their meeting of the 26th March 1647. In this letter the Prince directs them to be very vigilant against those persons in communication with those seditious fugitives who had forfeited their lives and estates to his Royal Father and " Nowe reside with Ye Rebells do pretend to hold strickt correspondence and to have a Partye still residing in Jersey ready to Joyne them by wh. means they hope to procure a power to be sent that may Invade Ye Island."
But Sir George was a strong man greatly to be feared, with a strong will, and if opposed he had a very violent temper. He did many harsh things in his endeavour to uphold his authority and knew no fear. Here he was in a small island upholding the honour of his King, and surrounded by many who wished his downfall, and yet with a small following he was, as a representative of a failing cause, not only able to keep the Island for his King, but also to spread confusion among his opponents on the mainland who sent their ships to sea.
It was a wonderful period of English History, and thanks to Sir George, Jerseymen played a great part in it. Even when writing to his enemies he adopted the tone of a conqueror, and threatened reprisals should any of his followers, captured by the Parliamentarians, be treated otherwise than as Prisoners of War. Thus on October 11th, 1649 when one Gardiner, a follower of Sir George, had been caught practising treachery against some of the garrisons, he had rendered himself liable for trial and when Sir George 'heard this he warned the Parliament that if Gardiner were punished he would make reprisals on such prisoners as he had in Jersey. To his letter a reply was sent that if he did anything contrary to the rules of War on any of the prisoners with him, there are sufficient Royalists in England and Ireland upon whom retaliation will be made in full.
Later on the Council of State directed that a letter be sent to Carteret, Governor of Jersey, stating that the persons mentioned in his letter, are to be proceeded against according to Justice, and that if he presumes to retaliate upon any in his power they will hang as many of that party as they shall think fit and himself likewise as soon as he shall come within their power ; also the Council did not think fit to trouble the Parliament with such a piece of insolence as that of his letter coining from so mean a conditioned person as himself.
It was all very well for the Parliamentary leaders to describe Sir George as a " mean conditioned person," but he was causing them considerable anxiety, and merchants were continually complaining to Parliament about the dangers to their shipping, on account of the Privateers sent out by Sir George. We find the Parliament party was always willing to entertain the question of exchange of prisoners. They had great consultations as to the ways and means by which they could reduce the Island and on April 24th, 1647, the Council approved the proposal of Colonel Rainsborough, to take the Island and directed that shipping be provided to transport thither twelve hundred men for that purpose. Captain Badden was directed to provide the necessary convoy and the controller at Portsmouth, John Holt, was instructed to provide a month's supply of biscuits, cheese, and beer, for that number of men.
Evidently Rainsborough's expedition came to nought, but the matter was still before the council, and from time to time letters were passed between the many departments of the state describing the necessity of taking immediate action in the matter. On the 13th February 1649 the Council decided to reduce Jersey, and Mr. Holland was directed to hasten his report on the subject as the Lord General and Council were determined to get possession of the Island. But Sir George was undeterred by the many rumours which reached him, and was quite ready to make reprisals against his enemies. The Council of State was warned on the 29th April 1649 by Captain Reynolds of the frigate " Crescent " that an attempt was to be made by Sir George to capture Guernsey, and the Generals at sea were directed to prevent the expedition from Jersey and at the same time report on the best way of capturing the Island, and the sum of £6,ooo was allotted for the purpose.
It was a very cruel age and men's passions were aroused. They knew not what the next day would bring forth and each one was more or less dominated by the fear of what might happen. Whitelock in 1647 stated, that Sir George Carteret was very cruel against the Parliamentary party, and letters were being received by the Council of ` cruel oppressions and tyranny by Carteret.' No wonder that they were anxious to dispose of so powerful and masterful man as Carteret, who ruled the Island with a strong hand, and treated the opposite party in England as if they were merely enemies of War. We find that they were quite ready to consider exchange of prisoners and on August 6th, 1649 the Council directed that Henry Harding, lately prisoner in Jersey and on parole, may be exchanged for Captain Sam Tickell and on the 25th August Nehemiah Collins of Jersey, a prisoner in Newgate, was allowed to proceed to his native Isle, under bond for £500 with two sureties, in order to obtain the release of Henry Hetsell, and John Wyatt, and if he did not succeed within three months he was to return to his prison in Newgate.
Then came the execution of Charles I much to the dismay and horror of many of his opponents. The Parliamentary leaders had now full power, and they had no scruple in using it. They talked about the cruelty of Sir George but now that they had the power they did not hesitate to crush those who opposed them and we hear of thousands of prisoners being transported to the colonies, because rightly or wrongly, they had followed their conscience and fought for their King.

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