Page images
PDF
EPUB

That officer hesitated, and wished to consult his superior. The general immediately commanded the fort-major to bring down troops and force the jail; to avoid which catastrophe, the turnkey complied with the order. The whole island took the alarm at these unequivocal indications of military despotism. The governor was not a man to halt in his purpose. He bade the law officers prosecute the turnkey on a charge of disobedience. He was tried on the third of March, and unanimously acquitted.

The excitement continued, and was again fanned, when, on the 30th of March, the governor, without provocation, taxed by letter, one of the jurats, Sir William Collings, with having, as a judge on the bench, been guilty towards him, her Majesty's representative, of infamy, falsehood, dishonour, and the breach of his word as a gentleman: which monstrous attack induced Sir William, on the 2nd of April, to appeal to the Lord President of the Privy Council.

These various causes of difference remaining unsettled, on the 20th of May, there arrived her Majesty's steamer Dee, with a Queen's Messenger, and her Majesty's steamer Blazer, with the depôt companies of the 23rd, 42nd, and 97th Regiments, from the Isle of Wight. They were followed, on the 21st and 22nd, by other bodies of soldiers. On the 23rd orders were issued that the island militia should not turn out on the 24th, to celebrate the Queen's birth-day, as they had been wont to do.

The landing of the soldiers took the natives by surprise. Every one was at his wits' end to know for what possible purpose they had been sent: some supposed a war was about to break out with France; others, that O'Connell was about to be imprisoned in Castle Cornet, a Guernsey fortress; a few, that General Napier had sent for the troops, --which, however, he denied. The truth soon leaked out: the six hundred soldiers had been despatched to quell a conspiracy against the life of the governor! A conception more absolutely ridiculous was never entertained. That there might be a wicked man, or a few wicked men, in Guernsey, who would be guilty of such a plot, was a possibility none could deny; but that there should be any general conspiracy, requiring a body of troops to put it down, will appear to everyone acquainted with the people, quite incredible. General Napier would not commit a more laughable blunder, if he were to charge such a plot on the Maternal Society. If the natives had been told that they were angels and had wings, or demons and had tails, they could scarcely have been more astounded than when they heard they were conspirators. In due time the whole affair came to trial, and underwent a very searching and lengthened scrutiny; fifteen days being, in whole or in part, devoted to it. The General attended the sittings of the court and frequently questioned the witnesses.

Strange to say, though an army had been sent for the governor's defence, the persons accused were only five. Two of these five had sought, some months before, to resign their commissions in the militia, on the ground of some dissatisfaction with the promotion of another officer. The General would not allow them to resign. A friend interposed : the affair was settled amicably : the letters on the subject were burnt, the General himself having given them up for that purpose, and with the understanding and promise that there should be no further question of their contents.”* Will it be credited that copies of these letters were produced on the trial? We do not profess to be very conversant with the soldier's code of honour, but should have expected that the author of the History of the Peninsular War would rather have been shot than allow these copies of letters to see the light, especially as they were in no way connected with the alleged conspiracy.

Of the five accused persons two were set at liberty, after an examination answering to that of a grand jury in England. The remaining three were brought to trial. The witnesses were in number eight, but three of them only gave testimony bearing on any of the accused. These were the Rev. Daniel Dobrée, and Mr. and Mrs. Waterman. Of these three, the first made himself notorious a few months ago by a letter in the Times,' the object of which was to prove himself of sound mind : of which sanity he gave rather strange evidence on the 13th of March. The parishioners being assembled on that day for a public purpose in the churchyard, the reverend gentleman took up his post in the church, fastened the windows with nails and gimblets, placed the union-jack over the pulpit, clothed himself in a surplice, and in that array stood at one of the windows making grimaces at his assembled neighbours.t As to his testimony on the trial, it is sufficient to say, that the counsel for the prosecution abandoned it as worthless. I Waterman and his wife deposed that two of the accused had talked in their shop about shooting General Napier, and that they had done this in the presence and hearing of a man of the name of Smith; who being called, declared he had never heard any such words, either there or anywhere else.

A more disgraceful cause never came before a court of justice. The whole affair is a romance, and nothing is wanting to make it complete but the production of the correspondence between General Napier and Sir James Graham, for which we trust some member will move in the present session of parliament. * Authentic Report, p. 61. † Authentic Report, pp. 40,43. † Ibid, p. 77.

The various items which have been explained make up the case at issue between General Napier and the people of Guernsey. That case has been heard before the Privy Council. Notwithstanding the efforts made to repress enquiry by technical objections, the decision is, on the whole, favourable to the people.*

The Jersey cause is still undecided; and grievous is it to observe the ignorance and prejudice with which it has been discussed in the public journals of this country. We have no love for Jersey: it is plagued by party spirit to an extent of which, even in England, we can hardly form a conception; the moral tone of the island is far lower than in Guernsey, and it lacks the exquisite cottage-homes of the sister island. Yet there are signs of improvement, among which may be mentioned the establishment, on the 3rd of January last, of a new English newspaper, free from the low-lived asperities which have been an utter disgrace to the community tolerating them.

In May last an Englishman, Mr Charles Carus Wilson, published an insulting letter to the lieutenant-governor of Jersey, Major-General Sir Edward Gibbs.

A public meeting of the native and English inhabitants of St. Helier's was convened to express indignation at this wanton attack. The chief magistrate of the town, Mr. Le Sueur, presided. Mr. Wilson sent a written apology to the government-house, and then published a libel on Mr. Le Sueur, who brought an action against him. On the trial, Wilson insulted and bullied the court; he shook his fist at the judges, brandished a brandy bottle, poured out a glass and tossed it off with an insulting gesture to the bench, told the court it was corrupt, boasted that he would galvanize the judges, &c. After long forbearance, he was sentenced to pay a fine of ten pounds to the Queen, and to apologize to the bench. He refused to do either, and was imprisoned. In prison his treatment has been as lenient as possible. He has applied in England for a writ of Habeas Corpus, which would remove the cause to Westminster. The writ has been granted. Is it legal ? That is the sole question at issue; and it will soon be decided before the proper tribunal. All the eloquence, therefore, of the newspapers about a monstrous anomaly,' and 'the sovereignty of the Queen,' &c., is mere waste of words.

* In taking leave of Guernsey, we may mention the possible existence of a document which might, just now, be of no small interest, could it be discovered. The following is from Bridges's History of Northampton. shire, published in 1791 : In the library at Kirby, the seat of Lord Hatton, is a MS. account of the islaud Guernsey, written by the first Lord Hatton, said to be admirably well done, and ready for the press.'-rol ii.

The first Lord Hatton died in 1670. We have made inquiry after this MS., but without success.

[ocr errors]

p. 315.

In order that an act of the imperial parliament may become law in the Channel Islands, two things are said to be requisite : the islands must be named in the act, and the act must be registered in the islands, having been transmitted for that purpose by the Privy Council. The Habeas Corpus Act has the first of these requisites, but lacks the second. Nor could it be made to run into those parts of the Queen's possessions, without infringing the constitution there enjoyed. Its effect, moreover, would be to render justice complicated, expensive, and tardy. The right of the inhabitants to be tried in their own local courts is one of their most ancient and vital privileges.'*

In the year 1831 some paupers—children of soldiers-were sent to Guernsey, from St. Pancras, London. The island authorities denied that the paupers were chargeable on the island, and refused to allow Capes, the beadle of St. Pancras, to leave without them. Some months after, Capes and the paupers being still on the island, the parish of St. Pancras obtained from Lord Tenterden a writ of Habeas Corpus for the beadle. When his lordship's tipstaff appeared in Guernsey, the Royal Court immediately refused to make any return to the writ. Lord Tenterden then issued a warrant for the apprehension of the deputy sheriff, by whom Capes was detained. The tipstaff, who served this warrant on the 7th of May, was himself forthwith given into custody, taken before the court, and told that he had no authority in Guernsey. The Government now interfered, and an order of the Privy Council was sent, bearing date June 11, 1832, requiring the Habeas Corpus Act to be registered in the islands. The authorities in both Jersey and Guernsey, resolved to suspend such registry till they had remonstrated. Deputies repaired to London, Mr. Brock being one. The Order in Council was abandoned, the act was not registered, the beadle and paupers returned to London.

The institutions of the Channel Islands are not indeed perfect, but they are such as the people venerate for their antiquity and love for their fruits. Why should they be deprived of them? We trust that the good sense of the British public will prevent such a catastrophe. Let the institutions in question be amended where they need reform ; but let them not be dealt with in ignorance or prejudice.

The Jersey anthorities have admitted the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench. They should have declined it, and the whole case would then have been argued before the Privy Council.

556

A Tale. By Eugene

Art. III.-Le Juif Errant, the Wandering Jew.

Sue.

The Eclectic is not in the habit of devoting its pages to works of fiction of a questionable character, which, whatever mental stimulus they may minister to people who read nothing else, are too frequently but the evaporations of disordered brains, and calculated only to derange the brains of others. Such is, in general, the character of French novels; and yet it is for a French novel that we depart from our rule. This renders an explanation necessary.

The minister for public instruction, the Grand Maître' of the French university, Villemain, has lately been declared raving mad.

Those who have long known this unprincipled and heartless sophist, may wonder that a man so utterly devoid of all kinds of affection should have been subject to such a visitation, but the fact is officially notified, and there can therefore be no doubt about it. The cause of this sudden attack of insanity is differently reported. The first version which was obtained from parties, whose means of information and accuracy are well ascertained, gives a striking exemplification of the working of constitutional government in France.

The administrative tyranny, which is the only thing secured by the constitution of the country, has, during the last fourteen years, gradually reduced to a most abject state of subserviency and helplessness all classes of the people but one, the catholic clergy, the sole organized body now left in France, in some sort independent of the governmental centralisation. It is in the nature of the catholic clergy, and indeed of every state priesthood, to aspire to absolute authority, to place the divine power, with which they pretend to be invested, above all civil power; and they only limit their pretensions to forming an independent state in the state, when circumstances will not allow them to domineer over the state.

Such is at present the condition of the clergy of France, all the members of which are besides disaffected to the government established by a revolution made against them, much more than against a dynasty ; and are longing for another restoration from which they anticipate the return of the glorious days of Charles X.* All the efforts made by the citizen king and

* During an excursion recently made in the northern departments of France, we had abundant proofs of the existence of such feelings. There is not a curate who has not the portrait and autograph of Henry V. in his room.

« PreviousContinue »