Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Sir Thomas Morgan - Part 1 by A.C. Saunders

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

Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Baronet (1604 – 13 April 1679) was a Welsh soldier during the English Civil War, and Commander-in-Chief in Scotland during the Restoration

Sir Thomas Morgan - Part 1
by AC Saunders

After the Earl of St. Albans had given up the Governorship of the Island, Charles decided to send Sir Thomas Morgan as Governor, and on the 10th December 1665, he arrived in Jersey, and took up his appointment.

Sir Philip de Carteret was Bailiff, but he died on September 25th of that year and was succeeded by Sir Edward de Carteret. Sir Thomas was a man very much below the average of the height of men, with a broad set figure, and a very choleric disposition. He was a very distinguished soldier who had served in the thirty years war. He had joined the Parliamentarian party, and had taken part in the siege of Lathom House in 1644.

During the troublous times in Scotland in 1651, he was one of Monck's Major Generals, and was knighted by Richard Cromwell on the 25th November 1658. He was a strong follower of Monck and Lambart, for-as he told his general-" I am no statesman : I am sure you are a lover of your country and therefore I will join with you." So when Monck marched to London, Morgan remained in charge of the troops in Scotland, and when Charles was proclaimed in Edinburgh as King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Morgan showed his enthusiasm by firing off the celebrated cannon " Mons Meg " with his own hand.

He was made a baronet and appointed Governor of Jersey but as he arrived before his appointment he refused to take office until everything was in order. In his instructions from Charles dated 21 December 1655, he was directed to take over the stores, and ammunition, from the Lieutenant-Governor at Elizabeth Castle, and the other forts, and at once report on the present state of the Island; the defects and dangers and the best means to redress the former and defend the people. Charles directed him to assure the Bailiff and people of Jersey, of his particular care in preserving them in full enjoyment of their Civil rights, and to protect them from all violence, and invasion from abroad. He was directed to fortify the bowling green at Elizabeth Castle, and was authorised to spend £2,000 on such work. This work was completed in 1668 when Elizabeth Castle proper, and Fort Charles were joined. He was to take charge of the King's Revenue reserving for himself £1,000 per annum, and finally he was directed to make a weekly report on the state of the Island, and especially to watch the movements of their French neighbours.

Morgan was a very keen soldier, and took every opportunity to strengthen the defences of the Island. We hear of him spending days and days, watching the Islanders and others repairing the defences, seated on a cannon, or on a wall, and smoking his pipe. He was apt to swear at the men if they did not do at once what he wanted, and threaten them with all sorts of terrible punishments. It was nothing for a workman to hear the Governor threatening him " Sirrah, I'll cleave your skull ! " or " By God, Sirrah, I shall rub your nose ! "

But with all his threats, he was popular with those under him, for they knew he was a good soldier, and liked what he did to be well done. He was essentially a man of action, and was bored stiff by the meetings of the States, with the long speeches about what he considered matters of little importance, and during such meetings he would be seen walking outside smoking his pipe. As he said, he was no statesman, and therefore it is no wonder that he, and the Bailiff and Jurats, did not get on well together.

He was very autocratic, and gave orders and took action without any consideration for the wishes of those who were entitled to be consulted, and, during his rule of thirteen years, we find this great little man governing the Isle of Jersey, and getting more and more unpopular with the officials whom he ignored, but retaining the respect of those who, knowing the dangers of those days, recognised that he was the best man to look after the defences of the Island.

In the Treizieme Bulletin of the Societe Jersiaise, we have a copy of the Petition to the " King's most Excellt. Matie." from the Bailiff and Jurats of the Island which. was read in Council on the 21st May 1679, and orders were given for the redress of the grievances contained therein.

In the meantime the Governor, Sir Thomas Morgan, had died on the 13th April 1679 and, although the question came up again, by the efforts of Sir Thomas' successor, Sir John Lannier, to delay the registration of the Order in Council, the dispute developed into " Les proces entre Les Etats et le Gouverneur Lanier," the remonstrance of the States dealt principally with the actions and misdeeds of their late Governor.

One of the complaints against Morgan was about the old question of Wool licences. At first the manufacture of stockings in Jersey was dependent entirely upon Jersey wool, but as the trade increased, quantities were allowed to be imported from England, by licence up to 2,000 tods.

The Governor had reserved for himself and friends one quarter of this allowance. This quantity, the petition said, the Governor disposed of at the rate of 2/6 per tod. So long as he got his fee, he did not care whether the wool was purchased by Jerseymen, or by those who had no connection with the Island. Therefore the Bailiff and Jurats pointed out, that the wool was allowed for the benefit of the Islanders only, and that the Governor had no right either to charge a fee, or dispose of this quantity against the wishes of the inhabitants.

Then they objected to the action of the Governor in claiming the sole power to grant passports for ships, and certificates for the due arrival of goods imported to Jersey under a licence. They contended that they were better fitted to carry out such regulations respecting the shipping " both by theire owne interest & by feare of forefiting Yr. Maties. favour in case of abuse." They asked that the States should be joined in the responsibility of the shipping laws, and at least that the " Customes " appointed by the Governor, should be appointed, and sworn, by the Royal Court and be responsible to it " for all excesses and defects committed by him in ye said office."

The petition then goes on to explain the very many grievances the Islanders had suffered under military rule, and pointed out that when the Attorney General questioned the Governor's authority in claiming dues in connection with " Seawracks " over and above those claimed by previous governors.

Morgan got very angry, and furiously told him that " he had been like to lay him by Ye heeles." He did not mince matters with the States, for at one of their sittings he caused a paper to be read to those present - " Gentlemen, You are here nowe altogether, and I must tell you that you have provoked me very farre, & affronted me very grossely by using Yor authority to imprison the Kgs. soldiers before my face & Yt without my consent and to detain them for fifteen days prisoners upon pretended Priviledge."

The States had certainly many grievances but Sir Thomas went his own way, and let them see that he cared nothing for the respect due to the Bailiff and Jurats.

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