Friday, 18 September 2015

Trade and Smuggling by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”. I have kept the spellings of quoted text as it stands in Saunders. Saunders quotes from documents as they stand and does not render them into contemporary English, and the spelling is variable and probably largely phonetic.

Despite research, I have been unable to find more on the Lieutenant-Governor Harrys or his successor Colonel Johnson. They do not appear in any online lists which appear, at any rate to be incomplete, nor in any Bulletin of the Societe Jersiaise.

Trade and Smuggling
By A.C. Saunders

In a previous chapter, we have seen how the Bailiff and Jurats had complained that the Governor had employed common soldiers to collect his dues, and that when their efforts were not satisfactory, they were replaced by others who had fewer scruples in carrying out the Governor's wishes. When the Lords of the Privy Council considered the petition, they saw a chance of introducing a check on ingoing and outgoing vessels, and the cargoes.

When granting the Bailiff's request, they decided to appoint a Registrar of Customs for the Island, who would be sworn at the Royal Court to do his duty faithfully and well, and who could claim assistance from the Justices in protecting the interests of the Crown and the Islanders. This may not have been what the Jersey Justices wanted, for they did not want it to be a Crown nomination. They would rather have retained the appointment in their own hands.

But rumours were reaching London that much smuggling was being carried on from the Channel Islands and that all were more or less interested in their endeavour to seize every opportunity to make money. Thereupon we are not surprised to find that, on the 19th March, 1690, Lord Shrewsbury writes to the Governor of Jersey, warning him that the merchants of Jersey were carrying on an illicit trade with France and were sending ammunition from Jersey to St. Malo, notwithstanding that England was then at war with France.

In carrying on this contraband trade the merchants made use of the Ecrehous, where the Jersey and French Agents met to exchange goods for money. It was stated that lead could be bought in Jersey for twopence or threepence a pound, but that it cost two shillings and sixpence a pound in St. Malo.

By an arrangement of signals by means of fires lighted on the Ecrehous, French and Jersey vessels met there and did good trade in lead, powder and other goods prohibited to be exported from the Island.

The Governor was therefore directed to keep a very careful watch on the trade of the Island. Matters evidently went from bad to worse, and an enquiry was held at Whitehall on the 10 to 17 August, 1691, dealing with the accusations made against the merchants by Major Charles Le Hardy.

From his deposition it would appear that this trade was carried on by the Lt. Governor Harrys, Customer Hely, the King's Advocate of the Island, several Jurats of the Royal Court and the Viscount of the Island. He stated that James Corbet, the Viscount, Moses Corbet a Jurat, and George Dumaresq are the principal traders with the enemy, and that by means of this intercourse between masters and merchants, the French are enabled to acquire intelligence of what goes on in the Island. He accused the Lt. Governor of issuing the necessary passes and Customer Hely of clearing the vessels.

The Lt. Governor in reply stated he had orders to allow this trade, and his statement was confirmed by the King's Advocate, and Jurat Moses Corbet declared that he would trade with France in spite of anybody. Possibly they were justifying themselves on the old plea of the Neutrality of the Channel Islands, a condition which had not been utilized for a very long period.

However Captain Snow of the British Navy captured a French boat going to the Ecrehous, with one Le Prerier on board with all his papers. On arrival at Jersey the Lt. Governor released the vessel, and the statement was made that the Sheriff James Corbet and Lt. Governor Harrys received one hundred and three hundred crowns respectively, for setting free Le Prerier and returning his papers.

Then the accusation was made that when Aaron Cabott, evidently an official, stopped a boat with cargo going to the Ecrehous, he was ordered by the Court to beg the pardon of the Lt. Governor, on his knees. George Dumaresq said it was lawful, notwithstanding an order in council to the contrary, to send goods to the Ecrehous and he and the Lt. Governor told Cabott that he had not English enough to know what the order in council meant.

Major Charles Le Hardy was a Constable, and in that capacity he stated, that, when he stopped a boat with two passports on board, he was called a rogue by the Lt. Governor and his commission as Major of the militia taken from him.

It was stated that the Lt. Governor received as presents, casks of French wines, in return that all vessels provided with a passport from the Governor should not be searched. Evidently the case dragged on, for in December, 1693, we find that in a review of the State of Jersey, it was reported that Captain Harrys, the Lt. Governor was almost always in bed and therefore incapable of serving King and State; that he maintains a public service with France which always arrives and departs at night; that he is very poor and might be tempted by the French King who is anxious to get possession of the Island. He has said that if the French attacked the Island he would retire to Elizabeth Castle; That only partisans of his can obtain licences; That experienced Militia officers are deprived of their commissions to make room for raw youths who pay for their commissions; That Hely, Collector of Customs, is one of the greatest traitors in the Kingdom and whilst the French prisoners are allowed to walk about freely, ours at St. Malo are kept close in prison. Hely is also accused of conniving at the smuggling of brandy and white wines into Portsmouth.

No wonder the Channel Islands acquired a very bad reputation for smuggling, when officials and merchants were ready to seize every opportunity to carry on the illicit trade. The defence of the neutrality was not justified, and, even if the Ecrehous were part of Jersey, it was the Governor's duty to see that goods from these islands complied with the regulations for the exportation of goods.

Lt. Governor Harrys did not enjoy his position long for on the 12th December, 1691, he left the Island and was succeeded by Colonel Johnson. William Hely had been appointed Registrar of Certificates by the Commissioners of Custom on the 24th February, 1686, and he had to keep an account of all vessels arriving and departing from the Island, with their cargoes. The Bailiff and Jurats were directed to give him every assistance.

It is pleasant to leave Lt. Governor Harrys and his friends, and hear that a petition was sent to the Privy Council by George Dumaresq, Philip d'Auvergne of Jersey, and Samuel Dobre and James Mill of Guernsey, to be allowed to form a Joint Stock Company to carry on linen and paper manufacture in the Island. The petition is dated 30th July, 1691, and the applicants stated, that, if granted, the Company would be able to employ a large number of men, women and children and that the soil of the Island was very suitable for sowing and raising hemp.

The Council granted the petition, and a Warrant was issued on the 7th August, 1691, authorizing the incorporation of the said Company which was to be called “Governor and Company, of the Royal Corporation of London, to carry on the linen and paper manufacture within the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey."

Old people have some recollections of hearing their fathers talk about some paper mills in St. Peter's Valley but what success was meted out to the company there is no trace.

During the century our shipping trade was principally with America, Newfoundland, and the Mediterranean, but the want of proper accommodation and the dangers attending the many wars prevented these trades from developing to any great extent.

Jersey cider had also a good reputation, and there was a great demand for it both at home and abroad. With the number of orchards in the Island, the States, in order to encourage this Island industry, passed an Act on the 20th June 1681, " Seeing the quantity of apples and other fruits which it has pleased God to bless the Island with, so abundantly that it is forbidden from St. Michael's day next to sell from any shops or house any foreign wine or spirits on pain of confiscation ".. The Acts of the States were not always complied with, and, on the 1st March 1683, it was reported to the Jurats that Taverners, and others, were selling wines and spirits on the quiet, and they directed the Constables of each parish to make careful enquiry, and strictly bring the Act of 1681 into force.

Apparently 1681 was a very dry, and hot year, and most of the root crops were seriously affected. The States directed that, as the root crops afforded poor people their food in times of scarcity, the importation of pigs from Normandy and Brittany was prohibited.

There was always the stocking trade, the mainstay of Jersey people, but there was very little incentive for enterprise and the wages of the lower class did not allow them any margin after they had satisfied themselves and their families with the bare necessities of life. Labourers being paid at the rate of six shillings a week, a. carpenter nine shillings, a plumber ten shillings, a mason nine shillings and a bricklayer ten shillings. Foreigners were forbidden to open shops in the Island.

There is a very interesting letter among the papers at the Société Jersiaise dealing with life in Jersey about the end of the seventeenth century. Mr. Pipon, the writer, had cordially been asked for advice from one who wished to settle in the Island and make a living " to lett lodgings, keep a Coffee House and teach children."

But Mr. Pipon is cautious and says "What incouragement I can give you to come for Jersey is a very difficult thing for me to give since it is but the tyme that can discover tether youll doe well or not and upon such an uncertainty if your coming over proved not to yr: satisfaction I might justly be blamed." But he goes on to tell his correspondent that in Jersey he could hire two good rooms for £5 a year, “one for yor bed chamber and the other to keep yor school and other yr business ; that beef is 3 pence a pound ; that mutton is a groate a pound ; syder 5/- a hozshead, wheet 6/- a bushel and you may guess by that what boarding will come to."

The States evidently were endeavouring to look after the interests of the Islanders, especially in connection with their morality, and good conduct, in the position which it had pleased God to call them. Evidently the people were spending the Sunday as a holiday and turning it into a day of " debaucheries and profanities." Possibly the Rectors were finding that their congregations were falling off.

The influence of these twelve members of the States may be seen in the Act passed on the 7th November, 1681, which compelled all heads of families, their children., and servants, no matter of what rank, to attend public worship. The Constable of each parish, and his officers, were directed to watch those who attended at Divine Service, and take the names of those who waited outside the church, sat gossiping outside their houses, and walked in public roads during church service, so that the offenders could be fined for their bad behaviour. It was also directed that no mills should grind on the Sabbath and no Taverner sell drink, and any person found under the influence of drink on the Sabbath day shall be very heavily punished. The Constable had the power to seize sufficient goods belonging to the offenders to cover the penalty.

Sunday in Jersey in the 17th century was very different from the way it is kept at the present time, and was much more strictly observed than in England, where the "Book of Sports and Pastimes" allowed people to enjoy themselves in dancing and other pleasures, after attending Divine Service. Towards the end of the century, a change took place in England, and strict regulations were issued that on the Sabbath all persons were directed to “plublickly and privately apply themselves by exercising themselves in the duties of piety and true religion ; that no tradesmen, artificer, workman or labourer or any other person shall do any work, except works of charity on that day on a penalty of five shillings. No wares shall be exhibited for sale on the penalty of forfiture of such wares ; no tradesman shall travel on that day on a penalty of twenty shillings and no person shall travel on a Sunday except in a case of emergency, certified by the Justice of the Peace, on the penalty of five shillings, and that any person committing any offence against such Acts shall be seized and set publicly in the stocks for two hours, and the fines and penalties are to go to the poor of the parish”.

And there was one special clause in the Act which directed that any person travelling on the Lord's day who shall be robbed shall be debarred from bringing an action against the said robber.

And then we have the Act of William, dated the 24th February, 1697, against Immorality and Profaneness.

“We do expect that all persons of honour or in place of authority will, to their utmost, contribute to the discountenancing men of dissolute and debauched lives, that they being reduced to shame and contempt may be enforced the sooner to reform their idle habits and practices."

This Act was directed to be read from all pulpits four times each year.

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