Thursday, 8 January 2015

Sir Thomas Morgan - Part 2

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 2
by AC Saunders

The apple season was good, and the Bailiff and Jurats decided that a good way to encourage work in the Island was to stop all importation of apples, and cider, from Normandy; therefore they passed an order to that effect.

Although Sir Thomas was present when the order was passed, yet that same evening, he issued licences to two persons to import large quantities of Normandy apples, and made it public that lie was prepared to grant others.

Not only this, but he allowed a large number of hogsheads of Normandy cider to be landed at Mont Orgueil, not only for the use of the garrison, but for sale by retail to any who cared to buy. As the Magistrates pointed out, the people flocked there, mostly on Sundays and during Divine Service, where they could get a cheap drink and be drunk and disorderly. And when this abuse was modestly represented to the Governor, by the Constable of St. Martin at one of the sittings of the Court, Sir Thomas, indignant at being so bearded before the assembly, threatened to " lay him by Ye heeles & Yt he would thinke of him." They accused him of smuggling great quantities of wines, Aqua Vitx, and Brandy, into the Castles, and they state that in 1677 no fewer than fourteen Hogsheads of Brandy were landed at Elizabeth Castle and disposed of free of duty. They evidently had very just cause of complaint against this autocratic Governor, who appears to have taken every opportunity to defy the regulations which the Bailiff and Jurats had taken so much trouble to pass through the States.

Even in Ecclesiastical matters Sir Thomas had his say, for when a lew'd woman had been condemned, on the report that she had done away with her child, " to Ye whip & then banished for Yt she was originally a stranger, and being under Ye Executioner's hand, four soldiers of Ye garrison in Ye sight of Ye people there assembled assaulted Ye said Executioner with swords drawne, wounded him sore, rescued and caryed away Ye woman, & raised such an uproare by Ye helpe of theire fellowes & of other unruly people, that had it not been for Ye assistance of some gentlemen, they would have killed him outright."

Evidently the soldiers of the garrison did what they liked, and cared little for the laws of the Island. When a soldier named Clarke murdered one of the Islanders, the Governor, ignoring the Royal Court, took charge of the case and sent him prisoner to the Castle where some of his comrades rescued him without any opposition and put him in a boat and sent him out of the Island without being punished in any way. There were many other cases where soldiers helped others to escape from the officers of the Court, and were ever ready to use their swords to overawe those in authority. They also refused to assist the Magistrates in conducting prisoners to prison at Mont Orgueil, although in former days, it was the custom for the Master Porter of the Castle to convey them to the Castle, and keep them in proper custody.

Sir Thomas thought nothing of levying taxes on goods exported from the Island, and we find that the Bailiff and Jurats complained that by a note under his hand, he directed his Customs to levy one penny'*' for every Tobacco roale being above five pounds weight " sent out of the Island. He raised the charge for a passport to Foreign vessels leaving the Island, to fifteen pence, no matter the size of the vessel, and five pence per head on every passenger against all precedent. He charged each person making a voyage to 'Normandy and Brittany, five pence per voyage, although in former days this charge was payable for a passport lasting a year. They accused the Governor of issuing Blank passports to strangers, to the great prejudice of the Jersey people.

Sir Thomas was Governor, and he had the troops under his command, and they were willing to do what they were told, provided their little irregularities were connived at, and they had a certain amount of freedom in their disputes with the inhabitants. These unfortunate people had no one to defend them, and we find that they were compelled to mow the meadows belonging to the Crown, on payment of one penny a day and a cup of small beer, although the laws could compel the inhabitants to work but one clay each year, and that at the regulated pay,

He took charge of the building of the pier, and the inhabitants agreed that all the carts in the Island should be used for two days each year in order to carry the necessary building material. This hardly satisfied Sir Thomas, who demanded that instead of carts, the people should give the equivalent in money. He therefore demanded 1,000 crowns for carrying on the work, which, as the Bailiff and Jurats protested, was hard on the poor husbandmen, who could lend their carts but had little money to spare.

Then there was the billeting of the soldiers ; and here we find that the Governor wished for the best, and was not content with what the Constables of each parish had provided. It was a serious state of affairs, for if the Governor had power to billet soldiers anywhere, then he might use his power to pay off any grudge he had against an opponent.

For instance, six of Captain Wide's troop were sent to St. Martin's parish and the Constable, who was an Advocate of the Court, provided a house for their use, with a man to wait on them. The Governor however was not satisfied, so he ordered two of the troopers to be lodged at the house of a Jurat, and two at the Constable's house, and when the matter was raised in Court, Sir Thomas held up his cane to him " threatening him in these unworthy termes, ' By God, Sirrah, I shall rubb your nose.' "

But we must not allow the petition of the Bailiff and Jurats to prejudice us too much against Sir Thomas. He had been sent to Jersey at a time of danger on account of his great military experience, and notwithstanding his faults, faults which were very common in that age, he saw that the Islanders were prepared to defend themselves against the expected attacks of their near neighbours, and he did everything possible to encourage the trade of the Island. He placed the militia on a proper footing and introduced the scarlet uniform which continued to be in use until the recent war.

He died in April 1679, regretted by many, and on the 16th May 1679, Sir John Lanier was sworn in as Governor.

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