Friday, 10 January 2014

Governor Gibbons

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931), by A.C. Saunders. This chapter focuses on what it was like living under Parliamentary rule.
Governor Gibbons
By A.C. Saunders
Governor Gibbons appears to have been not only a  bully, but a very unscrupulous man. In his efforts to rule Jersey for his own benefit, he was assisted by Captain Richard Yardley and Mr. Benjamin Dumaresq, the Attorney General. The protests of Michael Lempriere were ignored, and he realised that it was in his own interest to keep quiet. It must have been greatly against his nature, for in the past he had shown himself as not wanting in courage, and when the government of the Island under Cromwell was under discussion, he proposed that the twelve Rectors should be excluded from sharing in the work of the States and deprived of their seats in the local House of Commons as they talked too much.
There was a pamphlet published during Gibbons' Governorship, giving an account of the crimes, and misdemeanours, of this man. There is no doubt that his conduct would have been inquired into, if it had not been for the death of the Protector, and the very uncertain -condition of affairs in England at that time. He had been a man of very considerable importance, and was well in favour with those in power. We hear of him arranging for troops in the various expeditions which took place during the rule of Cromwell.
Evidently his unjust rule had become known at headquarters, for on the 15th June 1659, Colonel John Mason was appointed Governor of the Island, and Colonel in command of the Militia, at the pay of twenty shillings a day. Gibbon was ordered to hand over to the new Governor the Castle, forts and all guns, ammunitions and stores. During his rule the Islanders suffered much, and there was no discrimination between those who had been loyal to Parliament, and those who had fought against them. All were treated alike, and many must have been the comparisons between the period under Gibbons and the lighter rule of Sir George Carteret, when the young King warmed all hearts by his affability and good nature. Gibbons as described in the pamphlet, was a monster of iniquity who ignored all the privileges granted to the Island, and simply made use of his power to further his own interests- He refused to allow any letters to leave the Island without being submitted for his inspection, and when Mr. Philip Maret wrote to a friend, complaining about the troublous times they were suffering, Gibbons had him taken to Mont Orgueil Castle, and kept him there a prisoner for over eighteen months.
No one was allowed to leave the Island without a passport which was in force for five days, and for which a charge of sixpence was made. This applied as well to fishing boats and those who went in boats to gather wrack. If the wind was unfavourable and boats were unable to start within the five days, then another passport was required. It had always been the privilege of the Island, for the inhabitants to be free from the Press Gang, a privilege granted to them because they had to defend the Island as one of the keys of the English Channel.
Gibbons. ignored this privilege and sent his soldiers to get recruits to man the fleet. When Francis Maret of St. John's Parish asked the soldiers for their warrant, one of the ministers of justice drew his pistol and shot Maret through the heart, thereby killing him. No notice was taken of the outrage as the man was simply doing his duty according to his ideas and those of his superiors.
He made use of the inhabitants of the different parishes to supply labour for the repairing of the fortifications at Elizabeth Castle. He made them work long hours without pay, and those who objected, were liable to imprisonment and possibly the bastinado.
It was certainly a reign of terror, and people, when they dared, talked about the good old times. We have read that the Government had continued the allowance of wool and leather to Jersey merchants, but Gibbons had ideas of his own on the subject. He allowed the supplies to be distributed among his friends, many of whom had no direct connection with the Island. This left but a small quantity for the local merchants, who had to obtain a licence to obtain what they were entitled to, and this at a substantial fee.
When a man was fined, and it was difficult to find the money at once, then Gibbons had soldiers quartered at the offender's house, and expense, until the fine was paid, and the soldiers adapting themselves to the times, required of the best.
It was a terrible time for Jersey, but eventually the Jersey people managed to get their petition to headquarters, and on 16th June 1659 Colonel John Mason was appointed Governor of Jersey and Colonel of the Militia. Circumstances however prevented proper enquiry into Colonel Gibbons conduct, for on the 3rd September 1658, Cromwell died and Richard, his son, became Protector in his place.
Not for long, for he was unequal to cope with the task of guiding the various parties towards freedom and prosperity, and he resigned in the following April. Then began the fight between Monck the General of the troops in Scotland, and Lambert who was in charge of those in England. Monck proved himself the stronger man, and keeping his plans to himself, marched his troops to London, where, heralded by a cry for a free Parliament, he had a most enthusiastic reception.
Letters passed between
Monck and the Royal refugee and in May 1660 Charles, from Breda, declared that he would grant a free pardon, except to those named by Parliament, and not interfere with the religion of anyone. The Country tired of the conflicts of the past, became so aflame with royalism that when Charles landed on the 29th May 1660, he met with such enthusiasm that he wittily remarked how " the people had always been longing for him and it was his own fault he had been away so long."
And thus Charles came into his own again. Jerseymen, as we will see later, welcomed the change after their terrible sufferings under a Parliamentarian Governor. They were anxious for peace, and justice, and a return to their ancient laws and customs, and felt assured that, after the many sacrifices made by them in the Royalist cause, they might find favour in the eyes of their King.

1 comment:

James said...

One side note: 29 May was celebrated as a public holiday (Oak Apple Day) right up until 1859. It was also Charles's birthday.