Popular History of Jersey Chapter 34

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General Don 2

New chapel

Amongst other important matters and events that took placing during the office of this noted Governor (who, it is stated, was appointed to the command of the army in Walcheren in October 1809, though he continued his Lieut-Governorship till 1814, and in the intermediate time again resided on the Island), showing in some respects the rapid progress made under him towards modern ideas of thought or of requirement, in others the falling into desuetude of old customs or connected with events that naturally occur, the most prominent are perhaps the building of a chapel in Don Street for the combined use of the French and English Wesleyans in 1807, this being the first Dissenting place of worship erected on the Island (afterwards, however, on the separation of the two bodies, who then respectively moved to more commodious edifices in Wesley Street and Grove Place, converted into, and for many years known as, the Hotel de Ville); the abolition of the customary public rejoicing held in remembrance of the Restoration of Charles II, the last fete in connection with which was celebrated, with Lieut-General Don for its leader, on 29 May in the same year as above; the appearance on the scene, for a short time, in 1808, of another celebrity, in the person of Philip D'Auvergne, owner of Prince's Tower, known then as Admiral the Duke of Bouillon, who, with his flagship Ulysses, came to take command of the Jersey naval station, and to whom, in recognition of his services to the Island in the protection of its ships during that warlike time between England and France, a valuable piece of plate was presented by the merchants of Jersey.

Oyster trade

Meanwhile, other events were happening. A vigorous, though not very long-lived, trade in oysters, had, at this time, been established with England, and the first cargo was sent across the water from Gorey the same year (1810) that saw the road from St Helier to St Aubin opened. In this year, too, Sunday drill amongst the Militia was finally done away with amidst the rejoicing of all concerned. And the chief thing that occurred to mar the good-will and general peaceful condition, so far as the internal interests of the Island were concerned — which it must be remembered was, during Lieut-General Don's term of office, passing through untold anxiety connected with the disputes between the Mother Country and Napoleon — arose the following year over the election of one Messervy to the office of Jurat; the Royal Court desiring that such should be suspended pending the decision of the majority concerning the mode of election then in vogue.

Royal Commission

Against this a petition was forwarded to His Majesty George III, signed by 1,942 inhabitants, which on being returned to the Royal Court for explanation, was replied to by that body with the answer that the then existing mode of election was directly opposed to the best interests of the people. A Royal Commission was therefore issued to Messrs Osgoode, Swabey and Hobhouse, of England, to inquire into the matter. These gentlemen, after some little delay, arrived in Jersey, 14 December, and finally, the next year, on 5 March, recommended the adoption of the mode which, according to their opinion, had been prescribed in King John's Charter, per Ministros Domini Regis et optimes Patriae. In other words, that the election for Jurats should rest entirely with the Bailiff, the Procureur, the Viscount, the Advocate, and the States of Jersey.

Considering that the election of Jurats had always, and is still, held to be one of the highest privileges of the Jersey voter, it is little to be wondered at that it was with satisfaction they heard that the Commissioners' recommendations were not to be adopted by the Privy Council, but that matters were to proceed in this connection as before.

Prison demolished

Whilst this was going on, and during the visit of Messrs Osgoode and company to the Island, at the latter end of the December of their visit, the old prison at Charing Cross was taken down; and a more frequent communication established between the Island and England, by the institution of a bi-weekly despatch of small vessels, cutter rigged, between the two places, which desirable result was inaugurated by a new vessel christened the Francis Freeling, afterwards wrecked in a notable storm, 6 April 1826.

Then, during the last six months of Lieut-General Don's office, on 1 January 1814, the Chronique de Jersey was established (it having no rival until the starting of the British Press the following year, the first issue of which contained an account of the battle of Waterloo); the February of the year being particularly noticed in Durell's edition of Falle's History of Jersey for the fact that the Duc du Barri, nephew of Louis XVIII of France, took refuge on the Island during that month, remaining there until the intelligence arrived of the first downfall of Napoleon and the reinstating of the Bourbon family on the French throne.

Commercial Buildings

On 11 May of the same year the foundation stone of the New Quay, now comprising Commercial Buildings, was laid, and on Tuesday, 12 July the "first treaty of Paris " having been signed, the peace with France was solemnly proclaimed at both St Helier and St Aubin, both of which towns the same evening were generally illuminated in honour of the auspicious event, no one dreaming that in less than a year the Battle of Waterloo would have to be fought, and a final victory gained, ere a lasting peace ensued.

The following Thursday, 14 July, we read, held as a general day of solemn thanksgiving, in connection with which it is interesting to note that an advertisement in the Chronique de Jersey for the preceding Saturday announces that the lottery (presumably for paving of the Royal Square) which was to have been on that day was ordered to be postponed until the 18th of the month "on account of the public thanksgiving". Lieut-General Don finally left Jersey on 19 July immediately following the rejoicings, regretted and respected by all whom ho had been brought into contact; he being followed in office by Lieut-General Sir Hilgrove Turner, who was sworn in on 8 October 1814.

To bring matters to the end of the Waterloo it may be added that besides the establishment of the British Press it was chiefly remarkable for the fact that during it was built the present prison in Gloucester Street, whilst towards its close the garrison, until then stationed at Mont Orgueil Castle, was removed from that stronghold to take up its quarters in the newly-erected Fort Regent.

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