Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Act of Oblivion

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

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act 1660 was an Act of the Parliament of England (12 Cha. II c. 11), the long title of which is "An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion". This act asked King Charles II to pardon everyone involved in the regicide of his father, Charles I, except those who had officiated in his execution. It also said that no action was to be taken against those involved at any later time, and that the Interregnum was to be legally forgotten.

The lands of the Crown and the established Church were automatically restored, but lands of Royalists and other dissenters confiscated and sold during the Civil War and interregnum were left for private negotiation or litigation, meaning that the government would not help the Loyalists in regaining their property. Disappointed Royalists commented that the Act meant "indemnity for [Charles'] enemies and oblivion for his friends.

In fact, while the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion (against any redress for any acts committed by Republicans short of regicide) expressly named Jersey,  Jersey Jurats tried to plead that it did not apply in Jersey, and only after English Law Officers had twice ruled otherwise, was on the third occasion registered in the Court Books to remove all doubt that it applied locally.

The Act of Oblivion
By A.C. Saunders

King Charles had passed an Act of Oblivion and it was decreed that those who had been deprived of their estates during the Civil Wars, should have them returned. It was very difficult to arrange this satisfactorily, as since the date when some estates were confiscated, they had changed hands. Many people had acquired property of which others had been deprived of, owing to the side they had followed during those troublous times.

So that it is no wonder, that on the eighth October 1664, at the Privy Council at Whitehall, a petition was considered from those who were anxiously awaiting the decision of the Bailiff and Jurats upon so important a question. The Council directed that the Bailiff and Jurats should report fully what they had done in the matter. They were certainly in a very difficult position.

The Royalists were now in power and until the Restoration their property had been heavily taxed for their loyalty to the King. Now it seemed only fair that they should have reimbursed all those fines and penalties, which they had paid under the Commonwealth. Then there were the Parliamentarians who had acquired property, formerly in Royalist hands, and probably spent considerable sums in improving the same.

The Jurats had been carefully selected for their Royalist sympathies, and probably the claims by those who had suffered between the years 1651 and 1660 were not under-estimated.

Then there was the complaint of those, who in 1645 and 1616 had been deprived of their property for their seeming compliance with the two Houses of Parliament. They had in 1651 re-entered their estates which they had peaceably enjoyed until the happy return of His Majesty when they were again deprived of their property, which, under the Act of Oblivion, they claimed was not justified.

The matter was referred to Mr. Sergeant Glynne, H.M. Attorney General and Mr. Sergeant Maynard, H.M. Solicitor General, and these gentlemen having pointed out that Jersey was particularly named in the Act of Oblivion, the Lords of the Council directed that the petitioners should be restored to their estates under the Act of Oblivion and Pardon.

But matters moved slowly in Jersey, and it was one thing for the Privy Council to issue an order, and another for it to be carried out. On the 27th August 1669, the matter again came before their Lordships and having been referred to the Earl of Craven and Sir George Carteret, it was unanimously decided that the reason by which their estates were forfeited was cancelled by the Act of Oblivion and Pardon, and their Lordships were satisfied that the petitioner's estates in Jersey ought fully to be restored to them, and further that the pretended sales of the petitioners lands and estates in Jersey made by Dr. Jansen, John Poley and John Nicholas Vaughan, or any of them, were of no validity in law,

The Bailiff and Jurats, were therefore directed to see that the Petitioners should be fully restored to their estates but that no arrears should be claimed. The Order in Council is dated 27th August 1669. It must have been a very trying time to settle the many disputes, but probably the six Advocates of the Royal Court tool, time to see that the orders of the Privy Council were properly carried out. They had many difficult and complicated problems to solve, as, during the period from 1643 to 1660, properties had changed often after the original owner had been deprived of his tenure by those in power for the time being.

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