Popular History of Jersey Chapter 30

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Never on a Sunday

Religious objections

With respect to the persecution of the Militia, we shall have to turn back to about the year 1794, when a number of men, about 52 of whose names are still registered as sufferers in the cause, belonging to either the Methodist or Calvinistic bodies, the former of which, in the face of the strongest opposition, was first introduced into Jersey in the year 1774, refused to do service on the Sabbath day. They strongly appealed against it and opposing it to the uttermost on conscientious principles, begged to be allowed in lieu thereof to do extra work on the week day, offering, if necessary, to pay for extra drill, and to give faithful and diligent service any and every day in the week, Sundays included, should actual necessity arise.

This request was treated as an act of direct insubordination, and a first arrest was made in connection with the affair (1784) in the case of one Charles Blampied, who, after imprisonment, listening to the pleadings of his family, was liberated on promising to attend Sunday parade. He was rearrested, subsequently charged with appearing minus his accoutrements, and at different epochs was condemned to solitary confinement, twice for eight days, and once for a month.

Court petitioned

A petition respecting the matter was presented to the Royal Court by the venerable Francis Le Breton, grandfather of the late Dean, but to no purpose. Numbers were fined or imprisoned in connection with the so-called rebellion, amongst whom may be mentioned Dr Jeune, grandfather of the late Bishop of Peterborough, and direct ancestor of Sir Francis Jeune, the present President of the English Divorce Court; the elder Dr Jeune and his father emigrating from the Island in consequence of the persecution they received.

Colonel Messervy, of the Militia, and a magistrate of the Royal Court, together with Dean Le Breton and many principal inhabitants, it may be added, were on the side of the so-called refractories; the military authorities and the States generally, on the other hand, passing an Act to the effect that "every man refusing to serve personally in the Island Militia in accordance with its military establishment, and persisting in such refusal, should be condemned to banishment by the Royal Court".

After the adoption of this Bill by the States, Philip Vivian and Peter Le Sueur, two residents of St Helier, started for London. Vivian, though, for some reason or other, went no further than Guernsey. Peter Le Sueur was presented to George III by the great liberator, Wilberforce, through whose influence an Order in Council was obtained, registered in the States records, 28 January 1799, stating that His Majesty, with the advice of the Privy Council, disapproved of the Act in question, declaring the same "to be void and of none effect". For some little time afterwards, and notwithstanding this distinct Order, Sunday Militia drills seem to have been continued, and even when the eventual weekday Order was finally put into exclusive practice, the discipline appears to have been such as was severe if not humiliating.

Then add to the whole of what has gone before, the following summary of interesting and important matter, for which opportunity has afforded no chance of setting it forth in strictly chronological order, and the record is complete to the end of the 18th century.

Newspapers

Printing was introduced into the Island in 1784, and, so far as can be gleaned, in the October of that year, by Mr Mathieu Alexandre; one of its first public appearances being in the form of Le Magasin de L’Ile de Jersey, a monthly periodical of great interest and full of local information, though short-lived. Again in the matter of newspapers, each only lasting for a brief space, the first local one, Gazette de Jersey, was brought out 5 August 1786, followed by Le Soleil de Jersey during the year 1792.

Reverting to 1787 we find that it was during a visit of General Conway to the Island that the erection was commenced of the Martello Towers round about the coast; the following year being chiefly remarkable for having on Christmas Eve — on which date the town of St Helier appears to have been flooded by a tremendous downpour of rain — seen the advent of the first vehicle in the form of an omnibus, which ran its maiden trips along the sands, between the town and St Aubin; and also for the opening for the first time in Jersey of free Sunday Schools.

Post Office

In 1790 was commenced the building of the old North Pier, whilst two Post Office "packets", the Rover and the Chesterfield, commenced their first weekly runnings from England via the Weymouth route — each boat starting from Jersey on alternate Saturdays — in 1794, during which year, and simultaneously with their service, a Post Office was for the first time established on the Island, though the first Government packet employed between the Channel Isles and England actually made its primary journey some sixteen years previously, it having been removed for the purpose from the Calais-Dover station in 1778 on account of the war with France, and plying as often as possible betwixt Southampton and Jersey.

It resumed its old station, however, in 1783, previously and subsequently to which, until the establishment of the weekly service, letters for Jersey were addressed to the care of agents in Southampton, who paid the postage and forwarded them by ordinary traders as they had opportunity. Again, it appears that in 1794 Philip d'Auvergne, a native of Jersey, whose adoption by the Duke d'Auvergne of France, chiefly on account of the similarity of their names, led to his becoming the titular Prince de Bouillon (he being afterwards (1805) made a British Rear-Admiral), having acquired the property known as La Hougue Bie — which takes its name from being built on one of the tumuli or mounds (Houques), that occur in different parts of the Island, and the chapel or crypt of which had as far back as 1533 been made over by Dean Mahon for religious purposes — built there the Tour d'Auvergne, now known as the Prince's Tower, partly for casual residence and a naval look out.

History translated

In 1798 Francis Jeune published in parts a translation of Falle's History of Jersey (originally brought out by its respected author, the Rev Philippe Falle, in 1694 — a second edition being called for in the year 1734); and the fact that some 4,000 Russian troops, which had-been taking part with England in matters concerning the Prince of Orange, landed in Jersey for about a six months' sojourn in the autumn of 1799 makes the record of the 18th century complete.

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