Friday, 20 November 2015

General Review – Part 1 by A.C. Saunders

17th century map of Jersey

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. It's interesting to notice how different this is from Balleine's almost triumphalist History which followed later.

General Review – Part 1 by A.C. Saunders

In the foregoing chapters I have endeavoured to give some account of Jersey and Jerseymen of the seventeenth century, and how prominent a place it held in the history of that period. Here we have a small island thirteen miles by six, surrounded by dangerous rocks, within twenty miles of the French coast, at the entrance to the English Channel, often threatened with enemy attacks, and yet, during those troublous times, remaining loyal to the English flag. An Island with a population of some 20,000 people, the greater percentage of whom could speak no English, and yet here, three years after the execution of King Charles, the Royal Standard was flying bravely from all the forts and castles in the Island.

We find that all the history of this wonderful period depended upon the activities of few men and of one great man in particular, Sir George Carteret. It was his dominant personality which made Jersey stand out so prominently in the World's history of that period. Times were very troublous, brother fighting against brother, each satisfied that the cause he fought for was the true cause, and with the excess of zeal died all sense of charity towards ones opponent. It was a bitter fight, and might became right, and all opposition was ruthlessly oppressed.

The people of Jersey had for many generations been more or less kept in a state of bondage by those in authority above them. Governors looked after themselves and made use of their power to acquire for their own use what they could lay hand upon. The Seigneurs were careful that their rights were guarded and their dues collected to the utmost farthing ; and the Rectors fully realised the powers they had as the ecclesiastical head of each parish.

The slightest error was punishable by heavy fines and penalties. Even to-day we find when an Act is passed in the States penalties are authorised quite out of keeping with the offence. Wages were so small that those of the lower class could hardly provide sufficient food for them-selves and families. They seemed to have lost all their desire to rise above their normal position, and when from time to time they were roused against some flagrant injustice, they soon settled down again to their ordinary mode of living.

It was difficult for a poor man to leave the Island, and even those in better circumstances had to explain their reasons for leaving home. We find cases of people hiring a small fishing boat to make for the mainland and sailing from Bouley or St. Catherine's Bay on what must have been a voyage of misery and discovery, and we can imagine the well-to-do farmer, speaking his Jersey patois, arriving in London in a state of wonder after a long, dangerous and tiresome journey. He, probably a great man in his home parish, must have felt like the country Squire who was asked by King James why he had left his country village where he was a little king, to be a nobody in the great city of London.

And yet we find during this period certain prominent men crossing the water over and over again. Some, like Sir Philip de Carteret, asked protection on the voyage and that a King's ship might be allowed him to protect him on the journey, but others had to make the best way they could and face the dangers of storm, pirates and other enemies, in small and often open boats.

Such voyages must have been a time of great anxiety to their families and neighbours, and, once across the water, the absence from home often lasted for many months. We sometimes, from Bath or other watering place, read letters from some native taking the waters for his gout and giving some details of the people about him.

But they were all glad to be home again, among the people they knew, where there was no necessity to ruffle it with other people but were recognized as belonging to the position they held. We can see them surrounded by the admiring members of their families, telling the story of their adventures, telling them what they had seen on the other side, showing them the new clothes they had bought so as to be in the fashion, and distributing the several presents they had brought for their friends.

They were glad to be home again and see again the orchards, and narrow roads of their native Isle, and live again in their own houses with the big living room, with the huge fireplace, with the pan held from a hook in the rafters, simmering over a wood fire, and possibly with the old Granny, with bonnet on her head and swathed in many clothes, sitting in a corner, saying little, but no doubt thinking of the good old days of her youth.

Dumaresq in his very interesting manuscript written towards the end of the seventeenth century gives us a very good idea of Jersey as it was in those days.

He says that there were then about 3,069 houses and hovels in the Island but that the people were lazy and occupied themselves more with knitting than with the cultivation of the land which was full of orchards. There were about forty decked vessels belonging to Jersey, quite sufficient to meet the trade of the Island, and in 1685 the trade to Newfoundland had so fallen off that only five vessels ventured so far from the Island.

They used to sail way in the -spring and return late in the autumn, but the French had almost driven the Jerseymen out of the fishing trade, and, as the land was not cultivated in Jersey, there was not sufficient food to feed the people, so that the necessary goods had to be imported to the amount of nearly three thousand pounds each year.

People were poor, rents unpaid, and as Dumaresq says, there was much work for lawyers, thus tending towards the ruin of the Island.

There was a market each Saturday when the farmers and knitters brought in their wares and sold them to merchants, and each Monday there was a market at St. Aubin's where goods brought in to the Island by ships were disposed of.

There was plenty of fish around the Island and these were brought into town by carts and sold on Saturdays. Conger were plentiful and at very low tides a favourite occupation was to go and seek for ormers. There was always a plentiful supply of wrack, especially about St. Ouen, with the result that in this neighbourhood the land was made very suitable for the growing of corn.

The roads were very narrow and Poingdestre says they were divided into three classes :-" Le Chemin du Roy, the King's Highwaye which is to be of ye breadth of twelve foot besides foure foot on eech side by ye hedges, in all sixteene foot : Le Chemin de huiet pieds, of eight foot in the midle and foure foot on both sides in all twelve foot : and lastly Le Chemin de quatre pieds or foure foot waye, like ye Actus of Civilians, being onely for footmen and carriages on horseback and not for carts."

The mud walls on each side of the roads were planted with white and black thorn and with willows, and the Jurats were very particular in seeing that these hedges did not interfere with the use of the roads, for the Visite des Chemins was a very solemn function. On the Saturday prior to the visitation, the Jurats notified that a visit would be made the following week, without designating the district, and, on the following day, the announcement was made in each Parish Church. Then the Constable was warned that his parish was to be visited, and he was directed to meet the Jurats at a certain place. He was to be accompanied by twelve persons who, having been duly sworn, promised to take the Jurats to all public ways in which the parish is known to be badly kept.

The Jurats and the King's officers on horseback, and the Viscount, carrying his staff of office, an el] long, with one end on the pummel of his saddle and the other upwards, start on their journey, the Constable and his men following on foot. When the Viscount's staff encounters any hedge or bough overlapping the road it is found branchage and the owner is fined, but if the irregularity is below the Viscount's staff then the Road Surveyor is fined.

Then in Poingdestre's time there was the Militia consisting of three "Colonyes in twenty seven Companyes of foot, good freemen well armed and well diciplin'd and a troop of horse. These be the certain Trained Bands obliged to be in readiness on all occasions. But there are above one Thousand besides of fusty fellows, able to serve but unable to provide themselves with arms and musician who might be added to these."

We have seen that when Sir Thomas Morgan was Governor the troops were obliged to provide themselves with a scarlet jacket. By an act of the States, 6th March, 1687, it was directed that all horsemen are to clothe themselves in " Casaques Rouge," as well as the Militia, and they are ordered to provide themselves with the same before the next parade and that those who did not so appear will have these provided and if they object to payment, the Constables are authorized to seize their goods to meet the necessary expense.

We find that the States were very anxious about the poverty in the Island and at their meeting of the 2nd April, 1685, they were of opinion that it was caused principally by the bad prices obtained from the sale of stockings, and cider, and they therefore directed that from the 1st May following, each parish should raise a voluntary subscription. In the case of those in comfortable circumstances, who refused to pay their fair proportion, the Constables were authorized to seize and sell sufficient goods belonging to the unwilling givers so as to provide the necessary quota.

Labour was cheap, and we hear of one La Cloche hiring one Raulin Godel, with the consent of his parents, for three years to help him in his mill and other work. In return La Cloche agreed to provide him with food, clothes and boots and give him one ecu a year, and the father and mother had to give security for his good behaviour.

Then we have a Swedish vessel of about two hundred tons with thirteen guns leaving St. Aubin's roads on a voyage to the West Indies. Before leaving, the master had engaged about one hundred young men, and women, to go with him for periods of three or seven years, on the under-standing that each should have four suits of clothing each year and one hundred livres at the end of four years.

Among those so engaged we find the names of Jacques Perchard, Hugh Besnard, Pierre Dolbel, Pierre Le Commune, Daniel Falle, Noel Pallot, Phyllis Hubert, Clement Any and Phyllis Jean. It would be very interesting to know what became of these enterprising Jersey people, who in their anxiety to find an opportunity to adventure on new fields, were willing to entrust their persons to the custody of a Foreign master.

It was a very cruel age and justice was often tempered by the moods of those in authority. We read in Evelyn's Diary that he had watched a man, who had been accused of robbery, being tortured in prison. As the man refused to confess, the torture was increased until the man lost consciousness, after having refused to confess a crime of which probably he was innocent. We know that Evelyn was one of the most enlightened men of his time, and we get some idea of the trend of mind of those in power in the land. A man who had good friends found many excuses, but those who had none, found speedy justice.

Philip de le Cour of Jersey stole a goose and a sheep but escaped to London, where by the aid of his friends he was enabled to appeal for pardon before the Privy Council. Their Lordships directed, that as he had a poor family to maintain, and had suffered much already, the Bailiff and the Jurats were to grant hint a free pardon, and he returned home a free man.

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