Popular History of Jersey Chapter 28

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Rentes

Another riot

Concurrently with this came the perhaps more vital subject of wheat rentes, concerning which the riot of 28 September 1769 took place. From very early times up to this period these had always been paid "in kind", in actual wheat, a mode allowable and useful in a small community and when very little money was in circulation, but which had become oppressive and obsolete in its working; the fact of the matter being that the quantity of wheat then grown upon the Island was not sufficient to pay one twentieth part of the rentes that had been created.

Under these circumstances, as can very easily be conceived, a man might have to pay, for instance, 50 per cent more for the purchase of the actual grain than would have sufficed for the payment of his rentes in cash. This matter in the first instance was modified by paying in coin on an average value of wheat; though here again stepped in the difficulty that the holders of wheat rentes, having an interest in the matter, naturally did their best to keep the average value at a high price; those that had to pay as naturally trying to lower its average value. The whole difficulty was, however, at last solved by an Act of the States, confirmed on 26 April 1797, and to come into force the following Michaelmas, to the effect that such rentes were to be estimated at a fixed rate, which law — the only effective measure that resulted from all the agitation of 1790 and that period — is still followed.

Towards the close of the century the excitement for reform gradually died out, or rather it seems to have received its death blow at the hands of its greatest advocate, for an astonishing change came over the mind of its leader, Jean Dumaresq, who was afterwards elevated to the office of Lieut-Bailiff and was knighted. As a member of the States he seems to have tried his best to extend the powers of the people, as Lieut-Bailiff to deprive the people of a portion of their powers; and as a member of the States, too, he seems to have been the popular leader of all friends of liberal views, whilst as Lieut-Bailiff he turned into the strongest opponent.

Non-Jurat appointed

One or two more items concerning the events of this period may here be added. Until the year 1795, the Lieut-Bailiffs have always been elected from the bench of Jurats — this being considered an absolute rule, though it was broken that year, an a precedent created for other procedure. The Court refused to swear in Thomas Pipon, as Lieut-Bailiff when appointed by Lord Carteret, because he was not a Jurat. His Majesty in Council nevertheless confirmed the appointment on 17 June 1795.

But though the outcome of all this political disquietude so far as concerned the alteration of the law by any Act of States, was confined to the reform in connection with the wheat rentes, the effects of it did not remain there, for the Imperial Government, without, as it would appear, either the co-operation or sanction of the States, and for the prevention in future of much useless work of the like kind, stepped in and enacted sundry regulations on its own account. For instance, it was at this period the Order was enacted that the meeting of the States was not to be adjourned without the consent of the President, and that when so adjourned it was to complete the matter under discussion before proceeding to other things; that the Bailiff was and should thereafter be bound to convene a meeting of the States when called on to do so by the Lieut-Governor and the Jurats.

Fines for absence

On 2 June 1786 came an Order allowing the States to fine absent members, and on the same date came one declaring that the States could not pass Acts for raising money without the previous assent of the Crown, at the same time authorising them to raise money by Rate to defray the expenses of any Agent or Deputy who represented their common concerns; whilst on 1 February 1797 the fees of the Greffier were raised; and an Order was given on 26 April 1797 extending the free exportation of cider to that made of "tithe fruit".

It was ordered also, towards the end of last century, that neither the late Constable of any parish nor the senior Centenier should sit in the States pending an appeal relative to a contested election in the parish in question. The increase in the Greffier's fees, by the way, brings prominently to the fore the fact that the then Viscount enacted a little business on his own account, the truth of the matter being that though the Procureur was in receipt of £100 per annum, and the Advocate-General and the Greffier of £50 per annum, the Viscount had no allowance given him by the Crown.

Against this state of affairs Matthew Gosset, then holding the office, protested, and through an Order in Council, the result of a petition laid before the Court of St. James's by the Marquis of Townshend, obtained (26 June 1799), an allowance of £100 per annum, to be paid to him and his successors until such time as it was His Majesty's will and pleasure to revoke the Order for it.

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