Petition of Jersey people to His Majesty after the events of 28 September 1769
To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty
The humble petition of your most faithful and most loyal subjects, the inhabitants of the town and parish of St Helier, of the parishes of St Ouen, St Peter, Trinity, St John, St Laurens, Grouville and St Mary, in the Island of Jersey, (formerly part of the dutchy of Normandy) which has always remained under the true and lawful sway of your sacred majesty, and you most illustrious predecessors, who in reward of the approved and distinguished loyalty of the inhabitants, have not only allowed them the free enjoyment of their ancient laws and liberties, but have added other great and invaluable privileges, as appears by their different charters, etc. But as ever since the unnatural revolt of the greatest part of the said dutchy, your liege subjects of this Island can in no wise participate or be subject to such laws and ordinances as have been and are from time to time made for the Government of the province since the said defection, many abuses have therefore crept into their laws and privileges, from the length and corruption of the times and manners, which it is become necessary to reform and redress.
Your petitioners most humbly beseech your majesty to take this their petition into your royal consideration, and that you would be pleased graciously to order, that the articles which it contains may for ever have the force of law, humbly conceiving this to be the surest and most effectual method of re-establishing, on a solid foundation, the public tranquillity, and of restoring a mutual confidence between the magistrates and the people of this Island.
Most humbly prayeth,
- 1. That as the produce of the Island in the most plentiful harvest is not sufficient to afford subsistence for more than six or eight months to the inhabitants, the exportation of corn, bread, flour, meal, peas and beans, be absolutely prohibited.
- 2. That the free importation of all kind of victuals and provisions be allowed, agreeable to our privileges as in indemnification, and a reward for the great expense, fatigue and danger, to which in time of war the inhabitants are by their situation exposed, that they may enjoy, by plenty and low prices, the sweets of peace.
- 3. That the importation of cattle and hog-meat fromFrance, be under such restrictions as will seem proper, so that the farmer may not be discouraged from breeding, and that the poor may not be distressed.
- 4. That the exportation of cattle and every kind ofprovision be prohibited, except such as are necessary for victualling ships,bound from this island to foreign parts, except also cows, which may be sent to Great Britain, under such restrictions as will seem meet.
- 5. That the support and repair of the high roads be effected by a general rate on the whole island, and regulated in such manner, that the poor and the rich, without exemption of rank and office, may contribute to it according to their circumstances.
- 6. That there shall be no other fine for boughs affected the roads, but such as is inflicted at the visit of inspection, according to ancient usage.
- 7. That every one who owes tithes to the revenue, and to lords of manors, shall have the preference of such tithes due by him, on paying the price for which they might let to others.
- 8. That when it is expedient to make or alter local laws or ordinances, to raise rates or subsidies, the constables shall decide nothing thereon until they have consulted their constituents, as they are by oath bound to do.
- 9. That when any constable has served three years there shall be a new election, as well as of his officers, and that the parish accounts shall be settled every year.
- 10. To obviate and remedy the many inconveniencies which may arise to the publick, and those who are obliged to exercise the office of Jurat, from the perpetuity of it, there be such a duration prescribed as will seem meet to your majesty, on the expiration of which the Jurat shall be discharged, and a new election ensue wherein he may if he does not refuse it, be re-elected by the people, that all elections be absolutely free, and every civil and military officer strictly forbidden to interfere, directly or indirectly.
- 11. That when the price of corn has, through the course of any year, exceeded a certain rate, the court may have power of reducing the rentes to what will appear just and reasonable, in order to relieve the poor, and those overburthened with rentes.
- 12. That your majesty be graciously pleased to appoint an avocat du roi, with the same authority and power as of old, by which you petitioners hope to see the constitution restored, and the many hardships removed, under which they have laboured through the too absolute power of the procureur du roi.
- 13. That the regulations for the market, and particularly those contained in the act of the states of the 11th November, 1709, be renewed, and put into due execution, to prevent monopolies, and that the market be duly provided with corn, and finally, that all abuses on this article, and on all provisions, be removed, and that the assize of bread, which has been for many years negliected, be again put in practice.
- 14. That no strangers be permitted to settle in the island to the prejudice of any inhabitant, except refugees, for the sake of the protestant religion, who are permitted and encouraged in all your majesty’s dominions.
- 15. That the revenue arising from the imposts be applied to compleat the harbours of St. Helier’s and St. Aubin’s and to build stores and warehouses where it will be thought necessary for the good of trade, and to keep the harbour, stores, and warehouses in due repair, all which being accomplished, that the residue may form a capital, the interest of which be appropriated to the use of the poor and in the general hospital.
- 16. That the introduction of all goods, ware and merchandize, not prohibited by royal authority, be allowed; that every privilege whatsoever granted to the inhabitants of this island, as a reward for the consummate loyalty they have at all times demonstrated towards their august sovereigns, and for their military and other services, be maintained and preserved without any reduction or change, but such as your majesty has or may order.
- 17. That in all criminal process, one of the best lawyers be allowed the prisoner to assist him in his defence, agreeable to the maxim, that it is better for a hundred criminals to escape punishment, than for one innocent man to suffer; and that in all other causes whatsoever, after the plaintiff has fixed upon one lawyer, the defendant be allowed and other, in conformity to the law on that head.
- 18. That in future no ignominious fine (commonly called amende qualifiée) be inflicted, but for crimes and very high misdemeanours, and that the sum of all fines be fixed at the time when sentence is passed, and in the presence of the parties.
- 19. That the orders of the royal commissioners be revised, amended, and such corrections made as may render them intelligible to everybody, and prevent any undue and partial explanation thereof.
- 20. That after the expiration of forty years no junior be allowed to claim of his senior a new division of estate, and that no guarantee shall extend beyond that term.
- 21. That as it appears to be the intention of the royal commissioners, the price of the rentes due to your majesty be duly taxed, and not left to the option of the receiver, your majesty’s income being by far more than sufficient to discharge the sum which the receiver pays the governor in chief, without setting the rentes at the exorbitant price which they have borne for many years, and which has greatly contributed to raise the price of bread.
- 22. That all ordinances and decisions of the States be registered and enrolled, and that no one be refused an act of what has been put to the opinion of the members of the royal court.
- 23. That no one dare to prevent the clerk or the register from admitting any one to inspect the books of the record, on proper application, and on paying the fees according to the intention of the royal commissioners.
- 24. That in collateral successions the lords of the manors be obliged to name an arbitrator, and the tenants another, and that these two arbitrators so named, be allowed to call a third, and these three do decide the clear income of such succession, the value of which shall be paid to the lords of manors, which will prevent many great abuses.
- 25. That there be a book of the land measurement of each parish made out at the parish expence, and lodged in the respective constable’s possession, that the royal, clerical, and common tythes may be clearly distinguished.
- 26. That no member or office of the court be appointed receiver, or become under-farmer of your royal revenue.
- 27. That no person, on any plea or consideration whatsoever, be exempted from performing any service due to your majesty, or any lord of manor, as such exemption falls very heavy on the poorer tenants.
We beseech your majesty to order the bailly, or his lieutenant, to attend once a week to pass contracts, etc. (as the predecessor of the present lieutenant-bailly voluntarily did) that the people may not lose their time in going to town for three or four successive weeks, without being able to do their business. That all laws and political ordinances be collected in a proper book, of which every constable shall have a copy drawn, which on his discharge shall be delivered to his successor, that the people may not every instant be subject to fines, for unknowingly contravening old laws and ordinances, which are renewed every session, in general terms, without any distinction, and that all local laws and ordinances be in future made by the States alone.
And lastly, as direct contradictions about in the laws, practice, ordinances, and precedents, the multitude of which creates many doubts, differences, and troubles, it is highly expedient to have a code of laws: we humbly beseech your majesty to grant us in this respect, the same favour as the late queen Elizabeth, of glorious memory, conferred on the inhabitants of the Island of Guernsey.
That Almighty God may pour his choicest blessings on your sacred majesty, and on your august family, and that your posterity may fill the throne of these realms, until time shall be no more, is the fervent prayer of your ancient and every loyal subjects of the Island of Jersey, who are every one ready, by imitating the example of their ancestors, to sacrifice their lives and fortunes in support of a government, under which they have for many ages enjoyed the paternal protection of your royal predecessors.