Jersey under Parliament

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By A C Saunders

After Mont Orgueil Castle was taken by Colonel Heane and his troops, terms were granted to the Lieut-Governor and Philip de Carteret.


It was agreed that Sir George Carteret and his troops should deliver to Colonel Heane, Elizabeth Castle with all the guns, arms, ammunition and warlike stores, and that he should be allowed to march out at the head of his followers, fully armed, with drums beating and flags flying, and that every horse soldier should be allowed to retain his horse, armour and sword, and every foot soldier, his sword.

That all should be indemnified against their former activities against the Parliament up to 12 December 1651, and that each one should be allowed to retain his possessions in land, houses and other goods. That they could either remain in the Island or go elsewhere and provision would be made for their transfer to England or France, or in the case of those who so desired, the Colonies of America. That all the sick and wounded should be properly attended to.

Considering that Sir George's name had always been included among those exempted from pardon, and that he had done so much damage to the Parliamentarian cause, the terms granted prove that, even in those bitter days, there was a spirit of chivalry abroad, which allowed the Parliamentarians to get complete possession of the Island with as little friction as possible.

It must be understood that Sir George was making his last stand and many of his men were sick or wounded. Many had been killed, and it only required a little more effort on the part of the Parliamentarians to break down completely the defences of the Castle with the big guns which had been placed on the Town Hill. Besides, many of his men were anxious to give up the struggle, so all credit is due to the leaders of the Parliament, in their endeavour to settle the matter as easily as possible and thereby avoid further bloodshed. A gallant stand had been made by a few men under a brave leader, against a comparatively large army, and the fall of Elizabeth Castle, the last fortress holding out for the King, is one of the great episodes during the Civil Wars.

Jersey was now in the full possession of the Parliamentarians and the people found that their rule was, if anything, worse than they had been accustomed to under Sir George. There were now a large number of troops to be billeted and the houses were not sufficient for the purpose. But the victors required accommodation and they looked upon the Islanders as a conquered people. So as long as they could get suitable houseroom for themselves, they cared little for the discomfort and hardships which the former inhabitants had to put up with.

Michel Lempriere

Michel Lempriere had returned to Jersey and he was appointed Bailiff of the Island, and Colonel Robert Gibbons was appointed Governor on 15 December 1651 with Captain Yardley as his Lieutenant.

At the surrender of Mont Orgueil Castle on 27 October 1651, Colonel Philip Carteret, Captain Elias Dumaresq and Captain John Le Hardy and those under them, obtained an Act of Oblivion for anything done against the Parliament during the late war, and it was agreed that Carteret, Dumaresq and Le Hardy should enjoy their estates, real and personal, which were properly theirs in the year 1641, as well as anything since acquired by legal descent or lawful purchase ; and all soldiers with their wives and children, then in the Castle, should enjoy their wearing apparel free from plunder of soldiers.

Michael Lempriere appears to have been in great favour with Oliver Cromwell, who appointed him Bailiff, and as Chief of the Militia and later on as a Commissioner for compounding with the delinquents in the Island. In the latter capacity he has left the reputation of being fair and lenient to his enemies, and as a Bailiff, his judgments were always tempered with justice. In "The Lyars Whip", which he published in conjunction with Henry Dumaresq and Abraham Herault, he tried to depict his old enemy Sir Philip de Carteret as a monster of iniquity, but the book is so full of exaggerations that one begins to doubt the accuracy of the accusations made therein, although Sir Philip, by his greed for power, laid himself open to the attacks of his enemies.

We know little from the public records of Jersey of the Acts of the States during the rule of Parliament, for on 22 March 1660 an order was issued from Whitehall :-

" Whereas in the Public Register Bookes of the said Island it is found that many things have been recorded against the person and Government of His Majesties and His Royall Father of ever blessed memory and other particulars inserted in praise and honour of the late usurpers. His Majesty's pleasure is that all such Public Acts or entreyes wherein any such things are mentioned be raised out and cancelled that no memory may be left of them - provided that care be taken that no particular person's interest be prejudiced thereby."

The work was done properly and a very interesting period of Jersey history is more or less lost by the destruction of these records. Therefore, in all history written about this period, we find glowing tributes to the Royalists and sinister attention to the abomination in which the partisans of the other side were held by the people. But little was written on the subject, probably partly in response to the King's order, and also to the intense loyalty of those who were capable of writing about the events which took place during that period when Jersey was under Parliament Rule.

Privy Council orders

On 9 December 1651 the Privy Council issued an order directing that no Jurats should be elected to take the place of those under Sir George, until Parliament had taken order thereon. In the same order they evidently did not want to curb the mercantile activities of the Islanders, for they allowed 200 tods of wool and 10 dickers of leather to be imported into the Island free of duty.

On 12 November 1652 they allowed corn of all kinds, malt, biscuits, bread, beer and other victuals, except butter, to be exported to Jersey, free from Customs duty on good security being given at the Customs House by the exporter, and a certificate of Receipt obtained from the Governor of the Island. In the same order it was decided that 1500 tods of wool, 400 dickers of leather and 60 firkins of butter may be sent yearly to Jersey free of duty, and such other goods as the Commissioners of Customs may find reasonable and give licence for.

At the same time it was decided that all the real and personal estate in the Island belonging to those known to be active enemies of Parliament be secured in order to sequestrate when the members of the House of Commons arrived at the necessary decision.

The foreign trade of the Island had almost ceased, including the trade to Newfoundland, and there were a number of sailors unemployed. Fear was expressed that these valuable men might seek employment in foreign service, so orders were sent down to Jersey to the Governor, to send these men to Portsmouth, so that they could be enrolled in the service of Parliament. But neither Jersey nor Guernsey men liked service under such conditions and we hear of Captain Robert Sansun of HMS ‘’Portsmouth’’ writing to the Admiralty on 11 February 1655, describing the non success of his recruiting journey to the Channel Islands.

When he arrived in Guernsey, he met nothing but opposition, for the Bailiff called a Court and refused to allow his men to impress any sailors from the Island, and some of the Islanders took up arms to rescue their friends who had already been impressed.

The Governor of Guernsey warned Captain Sansun that he had better cease his activities in order to avoid serious trouble, so he took his ship over to Jersey, where he was warmly received by the Governor who promised him his assistance. His men started on their recruiting journey, but the people armed themselves and made the sailors take shelter in a house, and they were only saved from violence by the Governor appearing on the scene with a party of troopers, who charged the mob, killing one and wounding several others.

When Captain Sansun made his report on his return to Spithead he regretted that he had only managed to impress 50 of the inhabitants from the Channel Islands. It is surprising that the Governor of Jersey should have given assistance in the pressing of Jerseymen, for on 1 February 1655 he had written to the Council from Elizabeth Castle that although he had sent out an order to the Constable of each parish "they pretending privilege that they are free from pressing and they refused to attend and that owing to the constables' dullness and the Islanders averseness obstruction everywhere evident."


On 22 October 1652 it was suggested to the Council by Colonel Martin that five Commissioners, natives of the Island, should he entrusted with the administration of Government, and that they should he elected each year, and no longer to he elected for life "as for many years hath been practiced to the great oppression of the people".

The following notorious delinquents against the Commonwealth he disabled to bear any office of trust in the Island : Captain George Carteret, and Philip his brother ; Philip Carteret of St Ouen Parish; Amice de Carteret of Trinity Parish ; and Joshua his brother ; Francis de Carteret of Peter's Parish ; Philip de Carteret of Vinchelez de Haut ; Philip Le Geyt ; Lawrence Hamptone; John Pipon, late Jurat ; Elias de Carteret, late King's Attorney ; John Le Hardy, late King's Advocate ; Edward Hamptonne, late Viscount ; and Elias Hue, Secretary.

All was changed and new officers were appointed to the various posts in the Island. It was thought advisable to avoid the election of Jurats by the ordinary way. Jersey had now to deal with a masterful man who cared little for ancient rights and customs. His actions towards Parliament had shown the people that when he wanted anything, he took the shortest way to get it and therefore it is not surprising that on 28 February 1654 he issued an order to the Governor and Bailiff of the Island:

Oliver P:

”Trustie and well beloved, we greete you well. Having understood that (at present) there is a great faile of Justice in our Isle of Jersey, for want of the usual number of able and faithful Jurats. And for preventing any inconveniences which may arise in case disaffected persons should get into that trust. We therefore recommend you the following gentlemen that they may be sworn in as Jurats of our said Isle."

Jurats elected

As his recommendation was an order to be obeyed, the vacant posts were filled by the election of Abraham Herault, Aaron Gurdon, Philip Carteret of La Hague, Nicholas Lempriere, Denis Gordon, Philip Messervy of Bagot, Philip Le Febvre, James Lempriere of the Towne, Thomas Le Marinel, Simon Lebirel, John de Rue, and Simon Esnouf.

The Court had now a full complement of Jurats and the question then arose as to what steps to take against the delinquents. The people were willing to accept the new conditions, and even before the fall of Elizabeth Castle, it was simply the strong and stern hand of Sir George which had prevented many people from expressing themselves.

We hear of a certain parish, during the last year of his rule, when rumours were reaching the Island of the preparations made by the Parliamentarians, refusing to obey his orders and therefore there were many people in the Island who were ready to settle down peacefully under any rule. It was said that the new Bailiff, Michael Lempriere, was on the side of leniency, and we know that Oliver Cromwell had a very good opinion of his judgment, and so he appointed Colonel Gibbons, Michael Lempriere, Edward Horsman, John Brun, and Guillaume Harding to be his Commissioners to examine and judge what was to be done to the property of the delinquents. During the Lieut-Governorship of Sir George very little mercy had been shown to those who had treated his uncle, Sir Philip, with such bitterness, and the property of the refugees had been sold to provide funds to carry on the war against Parliament. Parliament however was now in full power and were able without much difficulty to quell any Royalist risings which took place from time to time, and the tendency was to bring peace to the country.

After considerable discussion, the Council of State decided on 14 September 1655 that the whole Island should be treated as traitors and rebels. It was directed that those who had assisted the enemy by sending forth frigates, helped with money, bought prizes, persecuted the well affected, served in a military capacity, or done any act against Parliament should be compelled to compound for the estates, and only then after making due submission.

The Commissioners were authorised to hold courts, and take evidence, and especially against any who still kept up correspondence with the partisans of Charles Stuart. The Commissioners decided that all malignants should pay two years value of their estates, and one-tenth of their personality, except those whose estates were not worth more than seven pounds a year, or their personality under one hundred pounds, and these were to go free.

Anyone speaking adversely against the actions of Parliament, was liable to he considered a malignant, and all moneys were to be paid by 1 February 1656, otherwise the estate would be seized and sold. The amount raised by this court amounted to £11,730, a very considerable sum when we consider the value of money at that period, the smallness of the Island, and the poverty of the people.

The Act of Parliament, as carried out by the Commissioners, caused considerable resentment among those who had been compelled to adopt the Royalist cause during the rule of Sir George Carteret. Possibly some were willing to adopt any side provided it was in authority, either for peace sake, or to protect their private interests, and therefore it is not surprising that on 30 April 1655 the following petition was sent to the Protector:

"In the beginning of the War, though we had a malignant Governor, most of us adhered to Parliament, till deserted by its forces, then we lived under the yoke of the adverse party longer than any other place. We were forced to pay contributions, keep watches, and like engagements, yet many of us gave intelligence whereby Guernsey was preserved, and when forces landed to reduce the Island, most of us joined them, the enemy having only Irish, Swiss and a few Islanders who returned to the Castle and went beyond the seas."

Possibly when Sir George was in power, the signatures of this petition might have been unjustly suspected of being ardent Royalists.

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