Friday, 11 October 2013

Parliament Takes Action

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931), by A.C. Saunders. This chapter focuses on the takeover of Jersey by Parliament from the Royalist forces under Sir George Carteret. There is the unhappy destruction of the chapel at Elizabeth Castle, and the founding of New Jersey by Sir George.
As ever, there are some wonderful little anecdotes, such as the imprisonment of soldiers and their sentence to the torture of the "wooden horse" for mistreating the Constable of St Brelade. Here's some information from the Blacksteel Institute about that punishment::
"Riding the wooden horse or wooden mare was a common punishment for soldiers (usually for rioting or drinking). One example was a straight, narrow, horizontal pole, standing twelve feet long. Sometimes the upper edge of the board or pole was acutely sharpened to intensify the cruelty. The soldier was set astride this board, with his hands tied behind his back. Often a heavy weight was tied to each foot, as was jocularly said, "to stop his horse from throwing him."
Parliament Takes Action
By A.C. Saunders
In September 1650 the Duke of York left the Island and        Sir George remained in full authority. It was a very anxious time for rumours were current that the parliamentarians were making very great preparations to capture the Island, and certain of the inhabitants were suspected of holding communication with the enemy. Some of the soldiers did not get on very well with the inhabitants and, when the Constable of St. Brelade interfered, they abused and, ill treated him. But authority could not be defied with impunity. The Constable was a great man in his parish and the culprits having been seized; they were kept in prison until a wooden horse had been built at St. Aubin and the prisoners were then seated on the horse, and kept there for four hours with muskets tied to their feet.
Then suspicion fell on Jean Gallez, Ellie Picot, Ellie Le Gros and Matthew Enouf, and they were arrested and put into prison, as it was thought they were in communication with the enemy. Then came the news of the battle of Worcester and the flight of King Charles. So much had been expected from the Scotch invasion when Charles left Jersey that the defeat of their hopes must have been a sad blow to the Royalist party in Jersey and shattered the loyalty of many of his lukewarm subjects. Even Captain Bowden, who had done such good service as a Privateer, was suspected of luke-warmness. He and his vessel had been captured, and after having been in prison for over twelve months, he returned to Jersey grumbling that his services had been ignored, and he had been left to rot in prison when he might have been exchanged. So he left Jersey in disgust and went to France but Sir George was doubtful of his trustworthiness, and had him arrested there, on the ground that he had no passport to enter France. He was suspected of being a spy and therefore was safer in a French prison, than free to advise the Parliamentarian forces then preparing to invade Jersey.
Orders had been issued from Whitehall on the 12th September 1649 to the Governor of Weymouth, to keep strict watch on Jersey, and Colonel Popham was directed to send a squadron of vessels to Guernsey to prevent any communication between the two Islands. On January 21st 1650, a warrant was issued by the Privy Council to arrest any person and seize any ship suspected of trading or holding correspondence with the enemy at Scilly or Jersey, where they sold goods got by piracy.
People were getting very uneasy and there was a feeling of uncertainty in the air. The privateers ceased to be a source of revenue to the Island and many of the Royalists, who had taken refuge in the Island, found it very difficult to meet their expenses. They had no money, and were often in great want and their popularity with the Islanders went as soon as they had spent their means. On June 2nd,
1650, one of the courtiers, Dean Stuart, writes to Secretary Nicholas a long letter complaining of the hardships they were faced with and concludes with-" What has become of the fifty pounds designed for me ? Meantime I will pray heartily for those who, after many years service, have not thought an old man worthy of the necessaries of life."
They were getting short of money and Secretary Nicholas had very little to meet the many expenses of the Royal Court and those who adhered to the King's party. On the 16th February 1650, the Parliament passed an Act appointing a Commission to use all their powers to reduce the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Scilly and the Isle of Man, and it was determined to push forward the necessary expeditions. They appointed Colonel Heane to take charge of the forces intended for Jersey and on the 2nd August 1651, the Council of State informed him:
"Rumour has got about that we propose giving over our expedition to Jersey and it will much advantage if this rumour be spread and thereby put the Jersey people into a state of security. Meanwhile proceed secretly as speedily as possible."
On the 20th September the Council directed Colonel Blake to sail for Jersey and assist Colonel
Heane to reduce the Island and on the 25th they advised Colonel Heane that they were sending to him Captain Hockall, Captain Norman and Captain Lempriere as they might be useful by their knowledge and interest in Jersey.
Even Sir George was beginning to wonder how much longer he could keep the flag flying, and he took the opportunity of sending a great part of his valuables to France.
Early in October 1651, Blake and his fleet put to sea and on the 20th it was in sight of Jersey. It was a day of great excitement for Jersey and the church bells were rung so as to call the trained bands to arms. In his enthusiasm, one Mourant rang the bell of St. Saviour's Church with such force that the bell was broken. Four of the Parliamentarian vessels had anchored in the Bay of St. Ouen and the next day, 21st, the whole of the fleet arrived, and began firing on the militia and soldiers assembled to meet them.
The men under Sir George accepted the challenge and made good use of the little artillery they had. So the ships moved from St. Ouen's to St. Brelade's and returned again to St. Ouen's. An attempt to land had been repulsed but Blake and his ships had the advantage, for the ships could move about without exertion on the part of the soldiers, whilst the defenders of Jersey had to be moving about from place to place in order to meet any possible landing by the enemy. After two days under arms, Sir George allowed most of the Militia to return to their homes for necessary rest and refreshment, remaining with his regular troops to watch the movements of the enemy.
Blake and Heane had also been watching those on shore and at the middle of the night a battalion of soldiers was landed and were immediately charged by the Royalist troops. But once landed, boat after boat, each full of soldiers, landed and joined their friends with the result that Sir George, seeing that further opposition would be useless, gave the order for his men to follow him to Elizabeth Castle, which he intended to defend to the last. Some three to four hundred men followed him and the Castle was well provided with stores and ammunition. Heane and his men soon got possession of the rest of the Island. Mont Orgueil having been given up on the 27th, the soldiers treated the inhabitants with great severity and were billeted on them. The Parliamentarians lost about four men killed and twenty-five wounded.
Sir George must have recognised that he could not hold out for long and so he sent Dr. Durell to the King to state the circumstances and ask for assistance or instructions. Charles directed Durell to return to Jersey and say that no assistance was available and that therefore Sir George had better make the best terms possible-
We cannot but admire the loyalty of Sir George who fought for and was willing to die for his King. In all acts of amnesty his name was excluded and his actions against British shipping by means of his privateers must have made his name hated by the Parliamentarians. Even now he could have escaped to France ; but here he was in command of a small body of men defying a great fleet and large army at the risk of his life, and in the hope that Elizabeth Castle might be the last stronghold to fly the Royal flag.
Since 1643 he had defied parliament and not only defied them but carried terror into the enemy's country. Now he knew that the chapter was about to be closed and yet he fought on to the last. Some of his men were anxious to surrender. Some mutinied and tried to escape from the Castle, but still he held on, and for fifty days he returned the fire of his Parliamentarian foes. But alas, they had better cannons, and a bomb fired from the Town Hill fell upon the ancient chapel which was used as a powder magazine and destroyed the chapel and killed between thirty and forty of his best men, and did so much damage that the next night, Lady Carteret and the other ladies in the garrison left for France.
With his King's permission, he saw that all that remained was to obtain the best terms possible, and on 15th December 1651, Sir George at the head of his men marched out of Elizabeth Castle, and were accorded full honours of war by the enemy, who doubtless, were only too pleased to get out of the Island so redoubtable an enemy to their cause.
The troops under Sir George's command were of mixed nationality, consisting of Danes, Germans, Swiss and Dutch, soldiers of fortune, who were willing to fight under any Captain who could pay them. When the Castle was surrended the Parliament troops took possession of 17 brass pieces, 36 iron pieces, 450 musket, 64 barrels of powder, rood great shot and great quantities of warlike stores and provisions, including 14 hogsheads of wine and 4 tuns of beer.
Naturally there were great rejoicings when the news reached England, and Parliament voted £100 to Captain William Heans and £50 to Cornet Dobs for bringing the good news of the taking of Jersey. January 16th was fixed for a day of rejoicing when there was much firing of great and small guns. When Sir George and his friends went over to St.-Malo they had a very cool reception, and only ten people besides himself were allowed in the town, so they hastened away and continued their journey to Paris.
Sir George was undoubtedly a very remarkable character. He was not a very well educated man, and was a man of violent passion, but Clarendon who was a very good judge of men describes him thus :-
" He was truly a worthy and most excellent person of extraordinary merit towards the Crown and Nation of England. The most generous man in kindness, the most dexterous man in business ever known : and a most prudent and skilful Lieutenant-Governor who reduced Jersey not with greater skill than he kept it. And besides his other parts of honesty and discretion, undoubtedly as good, if not the best seaman of England."
This was great praise from so great a man as Clarendon,  and he had good opportunity of studying the character of Sir George, during his stay at Elizabeth Castle.
Before commencing the next chapter dealing with Jersey after the fall of Elizabeth Castle, it may not be amiss to give some further details of Sir George's later life. After he left Jersey, he joined the French Navy as Vice Admiral, under the Due de Vendome, and we hear of him capturing English vessels with cargo, bound for England. But through the influence of Lockhart, he fell into disgrace. He was suspected of trying to seduce from their allegiance, the officers of the English troops then serving in the Low Countries, and he was kept a prisoner in the Bastille until December 1657 when he was set at liberty but banished from France.
At the Restoration of Charles, he rode with His Majesty in his triumphant progress through London on
29th May 1660, and was made a Privy Councillor, and Vice Chamberlain of the Household, the next day. In 1661, he was elected M.P. for Portsmouth and was Treasurer of the Navy from 1661-1667, when he exchanged his Navy appointment for the Deputy-Treasurership of Ireland.
During his stay at the Navy, he had to deal with Pepys, and we frequently come across details of his life and conversation as recorded in that delightful diary. Pepys evidently thought it wise to keep well with him, for as he points out, Sir George could he very useful to him in his endeavour to get on in the world. Sir George was always known as the " rich Sir George," and we have details of his dispute with Mr. Coventry, about the fees and sale of offices. He was not altogether pleased with the goings on at the Court, and warned the King that he should be more careful, especially with respect to religion, and take note of how Cromwell made use of Religion to further his ends.
He is described as the most passionate man in the world, determined to get his own way. He made many enemies, and by his carelessness in keeping the Admiralty accounts, they were able to formulate charges against him which were brought before the House of Commons on the 10th December 1669. A vote was carried by one hundred to ninety-seven by which he was suspended from sitting in the House and found guilty of misdemeanour, but the King remembered his past services, and in 1673 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy. He continued in office until 14th January 1679, when he died, an old man who had spent fifty-five years in the service of his King and Country.
Had he lived, he would have been made a Baron from the 11th February. A Royal Warrant was issued granting precedency to his wife, as if Sir George had actually been created a Baron.
After he left Jersey, we hear of him occasionally in connection with the affairs of the Island. It was through his influence with the King, that Thomas Langais, a prisoner in Jersey for stealing a sheep from Matthew Le Gallais, escaped the gallows.
Langais sent a petition to the King, and pleaded that he had been tempted by Satan, but stated that he was now fully penitent, and if pardoned, would live hereafter in the fear of God and His Majesty's laws ; and he and his wife will ever pray for Your Majesty's long and happy reign."
Charles sent the petition for Sir George to deal with and Langais was pardoned. Only history knows whether he kept his promise.
Then we find that in 1664, the Duke of York having granted the Province in America called ' Nova Canaris ' to John, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, they decided to divide it into two parts and name them East and West New Jersey.
East New Jersey, bordering on New York, became the property of Sir George, and he appointed Philip de Carteret, Seigneur de la Hougue, as first Governor of the colony. The Dutch had possession of New York, and attacked and captured the Colony, but it was recaptured and New York taken, and the Dutch were given the option of either settling down as British citizens or going elsewhere.
Most of them remained and founded the families of Dutch origin which are, at the present day, so numerous in the colony. The colonists sent out by Sir George, started at a place called Elizabethtown, named after his wife, and when Philip the Governor died, he left all his property in New Jersey to his wife, with all his negroes and other servants excepting " Black Jack, who I set free from and after the day of my burial."
It remained in charge of the Carterets until the 20th April 1702, when both proprietors gave up their rights of government into the hands of Queen Anne, after which the New Jerseys came under Royal authority.
Thus we have seen Sir George a sailor, soldier, administrator and adventurer. He was a man of great ability and was far above most of the men of his day. With all his faults, faults often brought out by necessity, the fault of knowing what to do, and doing it without regard to the rights of those who opposed him, the fault of serving his King and pulling down his enemies, yet withall, a great man who lived in times when each party was fighting to the death to overthrow the other without sentiment or scruple.
We see this gallant sea captain, with but a small following, keeping Jersey for eight years as a stronghold for his King, governing an Island not altogether loyal, and carrying war into the enemy's camp, by capturing her ships, and interfering with her trade, and when we consider the period he lived in, and the records of other commanders of that time, we must raise our hats to Sir George Carteret, as one of the Great men of his age.

1 comment:

Freedom said...

very interesting

Thank you

Michael Nicolle