Nicolas Fiott, as a merchant, was one of Jersey's largest employers in the 18th century, but it is for his long-running dispute with the island's heirarchy that he is better known.
Born in St Saviour in 1704, he was the youngest son of Jean and Catherine Ahier. He went to sea, but settled on dry land as a merchant after marrying Anne Dumaresq, daughter of Edouard and Anne de Carteret, in 1740.
He traded with Newfoundland and opened a large trading station on Ile Percée Bay. By 1764 he was described by the Principals of St Helier as "one of the principal merchants of this island, who employs as many, or more, people in his services by land and sea as any other person in the island".
His extraordinary long struggle with the Lemprieres, Charles, the Lieut-Bailiff and Philippe, the Attorney-General started in 1759 with an action brought against Philippe Mattingley, headmaster of St Mannelier, for caning his young son. He lost the case, and appealed in vain to the Privy Council.
Further disputes arose over his complaint that Philippe Lempriere was starving French prisoners of war to make profits; over a claim that land he bought from Charles Lempriere's wife was smaller than stated; and over a privateer, the Charming Nancy in which he and the Lemprieres were shareholders. It was claimed that the Lemprieres sold the vessel to their brother-in-law Thomas Pipon without consulting Fiott.
Charles Lempriere later had Fiott imprisoned when he objected to the appointment of his former lawyer, Pierre Mauger, as deputy Attorney-General and refused to seek pardon after being fined 300 livres and deprived of his office of Centenier.
Fiott was not without his supporters, particularly the Militia men whose Captain he was, and after receiving a petition on his behalf, the Privy Council ordered his release from prison. He broke his bail terms and went to England, but the Privy Council eventually ruled against him and ordered him to return to Jersey.
He remained a fugitive in England, however, and sold up his property in Jersey to Philip de Gruchy after several court cases went against him in his absence. But the Royal Court refused to register the sale.
The tables were turned in 1769, however, when rioters revolted against Lempriere's rule and demanded that Fiott be allowed to return to the island. He was accused by Lempriere supporters of inciting the revolt, but gradually the tide turned and the UK authorities realised that there were genuine problems with the administration of the island. Fiott received the King's pardon in 1771 and returned in triumph to Jersey. He had to agree to his Militia supporters leaving the Royal Court before Lempriere was forced to reinstate him 'in all his rights and possessions'.
Soon there was a fresh dispute between Fiott and Lempriere, who was Seigneur of Rosel. Fiott had obtained the fief of Meleches following the former seigneur's bankruptcy and claimed that the fief was senior to Rosel, giving him precedence over Charles Lempriere. He failed to obtain the support of the Privy Council, but the dispute lingered on, until in 1782, at the age of 78, Fiott was elected Jurat, joining his former enemies in the Court and States until he died four years later.