20 January, 1766: against Cockfighting

Cock-fighting in the churchyard after morning service on Easter Day had once been acceptable, because, according to folk-lore expert J. Linwood Pitts, in 1891, it had a religious origin, 'but became in time to be a scandal, and an Act of Court was passed, forbidding any but gentlemen paying tax on fifty quarters of wheat rent to indulge in the same.'

The Chief Pleas of the 20th January, 1766, before Daniel de Lisle, Ecuyer, Lieutenant-Bailiff; [Lieutenant de Samuel Bonamy, Ecuyer]; present &c.


The Crown Officers have informed the Court that various people carrying flaming lamps and torches are taking part in nightly wanderings through the public streets and byways, and in private land and gardens, thereby putting the lives and goods of islanders in great danger. The Court having listened to these representations, and in order to prevent dreadful accidents ensuing, absolutely forbids any such behaviour. The penalty will be a fine of ten livres tournois for each and every offence, the fine payable one quarter to the King, one quarter to the poor, and half to the informer, and over and above to pay any damages that may have ensued.


Joutes de Coqs &c défendues. The Crown Officers, having represented to the Court the barbarous and cruel Customs of a large number of persons of all ages, who show Cocks, Hens, and other Birds to be jousted and killed inhumanely and in addition several great and lamentable accidents, which often happen to persons present at this spectacle. The Court, considering the above as a very serious affair and one which demands an effectual abolition, and on this having taken the conclusion of the Crown Officers, forbids most expressly all persons to produce and show, at any time whatsoever, any Cocks, Hens, or other Birds, to be jousted as has been practised in the past, under a penalty of ten livres tournois of fine, both on each delinquent who may throw them, as on those who may shop them, applicable one quarter to the King, one quarter to the Poor of the Parish in which the misdemeanour shall have been committed, and half to the informer, and in addition to be answerable for any damages which may ensue. And fathers and mothers are responsible for the said fines and damages for their children and all masters and mistresses for their menials who lodge with them.

Batteries de Coqs défendues. The Crown Officers have likewise represented to the Court that Labourers and persons of the lower classes who have difficulty in providing for their families, get together and assemble to hold Mains of Cocks [Batteries de Coqs], from which often happen losses of considerable sums through extravagant bets, as well as by the waste of their time and by the gluttonies and drunkenness which follow, resulting in the utter ruin of their families. The Court prohibits all persons, except gentlemen and those who pay tax in their parish of a minimum of 50 quarters of wheat rente, to carry out in any manner or to help or assist in carrying out a Main of Cocks, or even to be present at such meetings under any pretext whatsoever, under penalty of a fine of 30 livres tournois on each offender applicable as follows; one quarter to the King, one quarter to the poor of the parish in which the offence has been committed and half to the informer.

1 Guernsey was ahead of England here. The paragraphs on cockfighting are taken from Spencer Carey Curtis's translation in The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, 1960, with a couple of alterations. Linwood Pitts' comments are reported in The Guernsey Magazine, December, 1891.

The Favorite Amusements of slaveholders, like the gladiatorial shows of Rome and the Bull Fights of Spain, reveal a public feeling insensible to suffering, and a depth of brutality in the highest degree revolting to every truly noble mind. One of their most common amusements is cock fighting. Mains of cocks, with twenty, thirty, and fifty cocks on each side,are fought for hundreds of dollars aside. The fowls are armed with steel spurs or 'gafts,' about two inches long. These 'gafts' are fastened upon the legs by sawing off the natural 'spur,' leaving only enough of it to answer the purpose of a stock for the tube of the 'gafts,' which are so sharp that at a stroke the fowls thrust them through each other's necks and heads, and tear each other's bodies till one or both dies; then two others are brought forward for the amusement of the multitude assembled, and this barbarous pastime is often kept up for days in succession, hundreds and thousands gathering from a distance to witness it. [From American Slavery, as it is, 1839.]