Charles Brisbane Ewart

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Lieut-General Ewart
General Ewart and his first wife

Charles Brisbane Ewart, Lieut-Governor of Jersey 1887-1892

Lieut-General Charles Ewart was responsible for one of the most difficult incidents in the relationship between Jersey and the Privy Council when he was Lieut-Governor of the island between 1887 and 1892.

Family

Charles Brisbane Ewart was born on 15 May 1827 at Coventry in Warwickshire, the fourth and youngest son of Lieut-General John Frederick Ewart and his wife Lavinia Isabella, née Brisbane.

At the age of 33 he married his second cousin, Emily Jane Ewart, the youngest daughter of Rev Peter Ewart, Rector of Kirklington, and Maria Margaret Lister née Salisbury. They had three daughters and two sons.

Ewart appears in the 1891 census living at La Villette in Gorey, with a new wife, Harriet, so his first wife almost certainly predeceased him. The second Mrs Ewart was born at St Helier, so the two probably met and married when Ewart came to the island.

Military career

From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

"After passing with credit through the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Ewart was commissioned second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 18 June 1845. Promoted lieutenant on 1 April 1846, he served in England, Ireland, and Gibraltar. In January 1854 he accompanied General Sir John Fox Burgoyne on a mission to examine the defences of the Dardanelles. After surveying the ground at Gallipoli, Ewart went to Varna, and acted as brigade major while assisting in the preparations for the arrival of the allied army. He served in the Crimea, including at the battles of the Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman, was promoted captain on 13 December 1854, and was acting adjutant throughout the siege of Sevastopol. Mentioned in dispatches, he was promoted brevet major on 2 November 1855, and acted as major of brigade to the Royal Engineers until the troops left the Crimea in June 1856.
"From 1856 to 1884 Ewart held various posts in England and overseas, including deputy director of works for barracks, 1872–7. He was steadily promoted, being made CB and, in April 1884, a member of the ordnance committee … Promoted major-general on 27 January 1885, Ewart was sent with the Sudan expedition under Sir Gerald Graham as a brigadier-general in command of the base and line of communications, including the general supervision of the railway construction from Suakin to Berber, and was mentioned in dispatches. He was lieutenant-governor of Jersey from November 1887 until November 1892. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 20 July 1888, retired on 15 February 1894, and was made a colonel-commandant of his corps on 30 March 1902.’

Prison Board case

A major conflict with the Crown had already occurred in 1852, when the Privy Council ordered the establishment of a lower criminal court, a Petty Debts Court and a new police system, claiming the right to legislate for the island. The States challenged the orders, which were revoked at the end of the following year on the ground that serious doubts existed whether such legislation without the assent of the States was consistent with the constitutional rights of the island.

It might have been thought that by now the Privy Council and the Island had resolved their differences and worked out what the relationship was between them, and also that Lieut-Governors knew where they stood in relation to island affairs. But that was far from the case, and a complicated legal action brought everything to a head again.

In the early 19th century, conditions in Jersey's prison were much criticised, and it was decided to erect a new building and form a Prison Board, to oversee its running. The importance of this body can be judged from the fact that the Order in Council of 11 December 1837, which constituted the board, provided that it should consist of three members chosen from the States, one of whom should be the Bailiff, and the Lieutenant Governor, Viscount, and Receiver General.

Walk-out

The Bailiff had presided from the inception of the Board but in his absence one day the Lieut-Governor insisted that he should take the chair, not the Lieut-Bailiff, and ended up walking out with the Crown Officers and the minute book. The dispute went to the Privy Council, which ordered on 23 June 1891 that the Lieut-Governor should preside at any meeting of the board at which he was present. This flew in the face of previous rulings about the relative positions of the Bailiff and Lieut-Governor, particularly in relation to civil affairs, and the Royal Court refused to register the order and referred it to the States. The States petitioned the Crown, seeking to have the order overturned.

At the eventual hearing before a very distinguished body of Privy Councillors including the Lord Chancellor, both English Law Officers and the Attorney-General for Jersey, W H Venables Vernon, represented the Crown. Robert Haldane QC appeared for the States. Haldane’s brilliant career at the Bar and in politics was crowned by his appointment as Lord Chancellor in 1912.

On 23 May 1894 the hearing began. After some time Haldane was interrupted by the Lord Chancellor and asked to deal first with the question whether the 1891 Order constituted a substantial departure from the arrangement constituted consensually by the 1837 Order and ought on that ground not to be sustained. The following day the English Solicitor-General addressed the Council. Haldane was not called upon to reply, and the councillors subsequently advised Queen Victoria that the 1891 Order should be withdrawn. On 27 June 1894 an Order-in-Council was issued recalling the 1891 Order. Argument was thus never heard on some of the interesting points which arose from the mass of material collected in the pleadings.

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