Pierre Carey is under pressure at a States meeting, 1649

Pierre Carey in 1644, Priaulx Library Collection

A report from The Guernsey and Jersey Magazine of 1837. Historical Notices of the Channel Islands, 8, taken from Pierre Carey's private papers. This Pierre [Peter] Carey is the Parliamentary Commissioner who later made a daring escape from imprisonment in Castle Cornet. A transcription of his letter book is in the Library.

On the 2nd of February, 1649, when Peter Carey was in court, discharging his judicial duties as lieutenant bailiff, Henry De La Marche made his appearance, bearing a paper in his hand, which he delivered to Mr. Carey. It proved to be an order from the governor, Colonel Coxe, commanding the lieutenant bailiff to convene a meeting of the States. The following is a copy:

Whereas divers of the inhabitants of this isle have desired an assembly of the States, upon several businesses of concernment for the good of this island, I therefore desire you to give notice thereof, and to send billets to the constables of the several parishes, that that assembly be held in the town church, at ten of the clock in the morning, on Monday next.

Alban Coxe, governor. Addressed to Mr. Peter Carey, lieutenant-bailiff of the island of Guernsey. Dated, 2nd February, 1649.

Mr. Carey immediately prepared the notices of convocation, and forwarded them to the constables. Brooding over the affront he had received on the 28th of January, the day of Chief Pleas, when Dobrée and De La Marche impeached him, as stated in our last number, he deemed it expedient and necessary for the vindication of his character and his honour, to avail himself of the opportunity afforded by the convention of the States to prove his innocence; though, indeed, his reply to the impeachment must have satisfied every impartial man, living at that time, of his straightforward rectitude, as it satisfies the writer of these notices, who cannot have any bias or prejudice as to the local politics of Guernsey nearly two centuries agone. Impressed with this feeling, Mr. Carey drew up ten statements, and distributed one of them in each of the parishes, requesting them to be read on Sunday, the 3rd of February, after divine service, in the presence of the respective congregations; and he also directed that, after this public announcement by the rector, the documents should be posted on the church doors during the whole of the day, both of which notifications were carried into effect. The following is a verbatim translation of these declarations:

Peter Carey, lieutenant-bailiff, and one of the jurats of the Royal Court, having been on Monday last, at the meeting of the Chief Pleas, grossly calumniated and vilified before the whole audience by a certain document presented by Thomas Dobrée and Henry De La Marche, which was read in the presence of the governor, and the whole assembly. Knowing with what integrity and clear conscience he has discharged the official duties of the several public situations to which he has been lawfully appointed, during a period of more than twenty years, as receiver, sheriff, seneschal, jurat, and lieutenant-bailiff, he is obliged, in his own justification, uninfluenced by presumption or vanity, to summon, and by these presents he does summon, all the inhabitants of the island, who have any knowledge of his conduct, to declare if they have any complaint to prefer against him, either in reference to his public or private life, whether it relates to any act by him done within the bailiwick, or in his missions to the lords and commons of parliament, not excepting even the slightest pretexts for an accusation. If any such person exists, he will be pleased to attend, on next Monday, at the meeting of the States, in this town, and bring forward his complaints, for which the said Carey holds himself responsible to make out a justification satisfactory to the parliament, or forfeit his honour and his life.

Peter Carey.

Besides the publication of this challenge, which was read in the town church, where the States meetings were at that time held, Mr. Carey caused his printed statement to remain posted on the walls of the church during the whole of Monday till night-fall, so that every person, who was drawn to that quarter, in consequence of the convocation of the legislative assembly, might take a copy of its contents. As soon as the members had arrived, and prayers had been read, Mr. Carey called on his accusers to prefer their charges; on which, Mr. Henry De La Marche rose, and presented a paper to the governor, which contained a repetition of the articles of impeachment, signed by himself and Mr. Thomas Dobrée. It contained also a new charge, to wit, that Carey had presented a letter, which he intended to forward to parliament, for the signature of the jurats alone, proposing to make the parliament believe that it was the signature of the States. Finally, De La Marche desired that the meeting would deliberate upon certain propositions which he had to submit, tending to promote the public welfare. The paper having been read, it turned out, on examination, that it was not sealed; on which Mr. Carey observed, that the person who had presented it, ought to affix his seal, in evidence of its being his own act; which De La Marche immediately did. Carey then demanded that the public challenge he had given to his accusers should be read, both in French and English, in a clear and distinct voice, so that it might be well understood by the whole of the audience. This being done, he asked for a patient hearing, and the same uninterrupted attention, as that which De La Marche had received in presenting his accusation. But, it appears, that he did not receive fair play, the strength of his opponents' lungs being brought into collision with the strength of his arguments. Nevertheless, some intervals of silence were obtained in the general clamour, and Carey took advantage of them to read his defence to the public. He commenced by expressing the gratification he felt in having such an opportunity of proving his innocence, and rebutting the false calumnies by which he had been assailed, more especially as he now appeared before persons to whom he had been personally known for upwards of twenty years. He then entered into the details of his justification, beginning with the first article of the impeachment, which related to the number of his relations on the bench. He went through the whole triumphantly, and not a voice was heard in condemnation. The governor, however, proposed the following question, to which the majority of those present answered in the affirmative:

Would it not be advisable to petition parliament to order that, for the future, a father and son, two brothers, or an uncle and nephew, should be ineligible to sit together on the judicial bench?

Each member of the States gave his opinion individually on this proposition, and it was decided, by a plurality of votes, to petition parliament to pass a law providing and enacting, that no two persons, in the above-named degree of relationship, should be capable of holding the office of jurat at the same time, without prejudice to the rights of those actually in office. Several, however, contended that no alteration was required, and wished to preserve the ancient forms of election, arguing, and certainly with reason, that since the electors had the right of choosing whom they pleased, it would be their own fault if they nominated two jurats within the objectionable degrees of relationship. Some few desired that the petition should be so worded, as to affect the rights of the sitting members. The question, however, being settled by the majority of votes, and the morning being nearly spent in this discussion, Mr. Carey could not proceed to other points of his justification, in reference to the articles of impeachment. He, therefore, brought up the additional charge preferred against him by De La Marche at the opening of the meeting, and insisted on being allowed to answer it immediately. This permission was granted, when he produced the letter alluded to by De La Marche, of which the following is an exact copy:

Right honourables. Your lordships having eminently favoured this island in divers late gracious dispensations, we acknowledge them with great thankfulness; but such is our condition towards your honours, that, with the same breath wherewith we gjve you thanks for the former, we must crave new benefits; and this in particular, that your lordships may please to present our humble desires of being thankful to the high court of parliament, for their fatherly affection, incessant care, and gracious providence towards us; whereof we are so truly sensible, that we account our lives and estates less than our obligations. Especially, we [Vol. III.—No. 4] most humbly thank their honours for the appointment and mission of so worthy a governor, as is the honourable Colonel Coxe unto us, a gentleman of whose wisdom, fidelity, and diligence, we are so well assured of from what we have already found in him, that we have cause to bless God, and devote ourselves more and more to the parliament. And indeed we labour in that devotion, every one of us, bailiff and jurats, yea, every one of your people in this island, who is able, having newly, at the instance of the governor, signed the engagement he prepared; and we are resolved to observe it inviolately to our utmost power. And in all other particulars, our work will be to see their honours' commands punctually obeyed, justice duly administered, and our honourable governor encouraged in all his proceedings, the ends of which are to the safety and welfare of this island, the importance of which place is best known to your lordships. But our poverty has forced us, with all humility, to pray your honours to mediate, in our behalf, with the parliament and council of state, that they may be graciously pleased to provide for the payment of the soldiers sent hither, as they have heretofore done, that the island, which is not able to sustain this burthen, may not be charged with it; and further, as we continue loyal and submissive under their authority, our bumble suit is to be maintained by them in the fruition of our just privileges and liberties, in regard to the administration of justice, and the exercise of our several charges, as also in regard to our franchises and immunities, whereof we shall humbly desire, (as well as endeavour to deserve,) the preservation and enlargement, by our dutiful obedience.

Let the evidences we have already enjoyed of your favours, plead our excuse for this great interruption, and your lordships' condescending to our humble desires in the premises will oblige us to a perpetual thankfulness.

The reading of this letter was followed by the loud applause of the assembly, and completely unmasked the baseness of the calumny uttered by De La Marche. He vainly attempted to put his own construction on the letter, but none were the dupes of the sophism. The blackness of his character was now known, and not one of his partisans stood forward in his defence. Thomas Dobrée, however, began an attack on James Le Marchant, jurat, who cut him short by accusing Dobrée of treason, in having plotted to give up the island to the royalists. After these broils had ceased, Mr. Carey proposed to the meeting to elect a receiver or treasurer for the States, empowered to collect the public rates, which was approved of, and carried into effect. The persons nominated on this occasion were John Le Mesurier, for the town parish; Nicolas de Garis, of St. Martin, Monsieur des Eperons, and Nicolas Guille, of St. Martin, for the country parishes. They were elected by a majority of votes. The meeting then broke up, and the people retired, Mr. Carey remaining the last, to answer any complaint that might be brought against him; but no man accused him. On this trying event, and his complete exculpation, he makes the following remarks, which we shall give in the words of his own manuscript, now before us:

Ce que je ne dis pas par vanterie; car, comme dit St. Paul, pour tout cela, je ne me suis point justifié, mais j'ai au ciel Celui qui me justifie. Je laisse ceci a ma postérité, afin que si Dieu les appellent en charges publiques, qu'ils prennent soin de s'en acquitter, comme en la présence de Dieu, gardant toujours bonne conscience devant lui, et les hommes. Ce que je prie Dieu de nous faire la grace. Ainsi soit il.

The sympathies of the public were now warmly enlisted in favour of Carey, and the following declarations were drawn up and attested in vindication of his innocence:

We, the undersigned, members of the States of this island of Guernsey, and others the inhabitants of the same, were present at the meeting of the States, held in the town of St. Peter-Port, on the 4th of February, 1649. We certify and attest for truth, that Mr. Peter Carey published, in all the parishes of the island, as we have been informed, on Sunday, the 3rd day of this current month, after the close of divine worship, the following declaration. (We have already given the declaration here alluded to.) In the meeting of the States, we certify and attest the said Carey was present, from the beginning to the close of the sitting, and that no one supported Dobrée or De La Marche in justifying the articles of their impeachment; and that no person preferred any complaint against, or imputed any blame to, the said Carey. And we, moreover, certify and attest, that the said declaration was posted outside the town church of St. Peter-Port, in which the States meetings are held, in the sight of every person, during the whole of Sunday and Monday, till the evening, so that every one who pleased, might make himself acquainted with the contents. Done this 11th day of February, 1649. (Here follow the signatures.)

JURATS. James Guille, Michel De Sausmarez, John Blondel, John Fautrart, Thomas Carey, John Brehaut. John Perchard, Daniel Fautrart, Arthur Morehead, Nicholas Noe, Thomas Carey, Seigneur de Blanchelande, douzainier. Eléazar Le Marchant, Isaac Gibaut, contrôle, Thomas Tramaillier, advocate, Thomas De Rozel, douzainier, John Fautrart, du Bosq. John Hallouvris, douzainier, Peter Painsec, advocate, Thomas De Jersey, constable, John Briart, Thomas Le Marchant, John Bouillon, Daniel Perchard, Jacob de l'Epine, James Guille, jun. John Perchard, jun. John Du Port, douzainier, John Ozanne, jun. Thormas Naftel, douzainier, James Ollivier, Nicholas De Garis, douzainier, Colas Corbin, douzainier, Peter Jouanne, douzainier, Francis Robin, constable, Abraham Quertier, constable, David Naftel, douzainier. Richard Robin, constable.

The next document was evidently drawn up to prove, that the notice of Mr. Carey had been read in all the country churches, and posted on the doors.

We, the undersigned, certify and attest for truth that, on Sunday, the 3rd day of this current month of February, 1649, we read, after the termination of divine service, each of us before our respective congregations, the statement of Mr. Peter Carey, in which be summoned all the inhabitants to answer, if any one had any charge to prefer against him, as to the mode in which he had discharged his duty, as an officer of the Royal Court, and also as a magistrate, in whatever concerned his proceedings before parliament. Carey called on any one who complained of 'him to find himself at the meeting of the States; and there bring forward his charges and his proofs, when Carey would be present, and prepared to answer, as is more amply set forth in his public declaration. After having read the same, we affixed it to the doors of our respective churches, so that every one might know its tenour and contents. Done this 12th day of February, 1649. (Signed,)

John Tupper, for the Town; John Hallouvris, for St. Sampson; Peter Bougourd, for the Vale; John Allez, for the Câtel; Stephen Gavet, for St. Saviour; John Brehaut, for St. Peter; Colas Jehan, for Torteval; John Robert, for the Forest; Helier Robert, for St. Martin; Thomas Naftel, for St. Andrew.

The next certificate leads us to conclude that some rumours had been circulated, reflecting on Mr. Carey's conduct in pecuniary matters, though we do not find among his papers any allusion to a charge of this kind; still we can assign no other motive for the publication of the following:

I the undersigned, James Bouillon, of the town of St. Peter-Port, Guernsey, certify to all persons that, in the mercantile transactions which have passed between Mr Peter Carey and myself, at present a jurat of this island, and lieutenant to the bailiff in which matters of business I have frequently had occasion to employ his services, both when he was sheriff, and sheriff substitute, I have always found him an honest man, virtuous, upright, and diligent, faithfully discharging the duties of his office, whenever I have employed him, and in all other matters of which I have any knowledge; and, so far as my knowledge goes, he has most honourably discharged the duties of his respective offices, those of seneschal of the court of the Vale, and those of jurat and lieutenant-bailiff in the superior court; and this is all that I know, or that I have to say on the subject, in reference to the document published by the said Peter Carey, in which he challenges any one to impeach the rectitude of his conduct, whether in public or private life.