Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jersey political heroes - more dead than alive...?

Abraham Jones Le Cras – where are you now? Your Island needs you!

Like so many born outside Jersey, Abraham Le Cras believed in and campaigned for political and social reform in the Bailiwick over many years during the 19th century.

He was probably a spin-off from the very wealthy merchant and naval family (such as Noah Le Cras) which had Jersey links but lived mostly in England in the 18th century - but Abraham personally often struggled to scrape a living.

Abraham was born in Salisbury (Hants) during1798 and died in Jersey in 1869.
The short video above records an attempt to identify for certain his grave in Green Street cemetery this week.
It is somewhat ironic that he lies amongst the graves of many political campaigners and refugees from all over Europe that came to rest in Jersey during the reign of Victoria – but that is another tale that somebody should research and publish on…especially if the proposed new Police HQ is likely to bury any of the evidence…

That there is some uncertainty over his final resting place is typical of the official Jersey attitude towards reformers and we have just passed by 28 September – the anniversary of Jersey’s revolution in 1769 – yet again with no official acknowledgement of its importance.

We know that the official entry for 28 September was officially scribbled out of the official court records in 1769 and this simple act is typical of the controlling of the record and our memory of the history of the Island that continues to this day.

There is still an Island attitude that favours an “official” view of events whether this might be the Occupation or the image of the modern finance industry.
As in 1769 or during Abraham Le Cras’ lifetime, to speak out or to offer a different or challenging point of view is still likely to invite official condemnation or ridicule.

Thus many years after Le Cras had died it was just too painful for Jersey’s celebrated “historian“ (and man of God) the Reverend Balleine to put aside his own prejudices in order to assess Abraham for his volume on “Jersey Bibliographies”  wherein Le Cras was dismissed as an AGITATOR.

He was physically attacked on several occasions in the Streets of St Helier and is still dismissed today as a political crank by “the establishment” for his views that rubbished the status of “King John’s Charter” (still the foundation of Jersey’s Constitution according to the Senator Sir Philip Bailhache) or the powers of the States’ claim to be an independent “government”.

During his busy life, Abraham carried out the most extensive research into the history and constitution of Jersey and the other Channel Islands. How he gained access to many of the original documents is a mystery (bearing in mind that even the States was closed to the public). But some of his original writing survives in Le Societé and Public libraries along with examples of the several newspapers that he published from the appropriately named Hope Street in St Helier.

Now, there is a great deal posted about him and his career on the Internet – just Google Abraham Le Cras to enter a different world where the bravery of this man during a life-long campaign can be glimpsed.

Don’t expect such information to be offered in oven-ready, easy to swallow format here.
If YOU are interested to discover it is now possible to read on-line his 1839 book on “The Laws, Customs and Privileges and their Administration in the Island of Jersey”. This contains his 52 Articles Petition to the UK Parliament seeking REFORM and be amazed how so much of  this is bang-on relevant for Jersey TODAY.

It is even possible to purchase on-line a facsimile “print to order” copy of this book (he published others too) which is still a valuable source of relevant information about Jersey and its institutions. Then he wrote that the purpose of his 1839 petition and book was to expose;
“…the scandalous laws of Jersey and the wretched way in which they are administered in the fervent hope that it will provoke enquiry and be the means of causing such abuses as shall be proved to exist, to be forthwith reformed…”

The States of Jersey he decided  then "has become a useless body"so just what would he have made of today's shower?

So, don’t just sit there doing nothing in 2012 or wishing for somebody else to complain on YOUR behalf.
If you believe that Jersey government, the courts, legal system and their administration need REFORM it is still possible to petition the Privy Council, or the UK Parliament or have an input in the Jersey Electoral Commission or to lobby States’ Members or join a political or campaigning group….Abraham Le Cras would be amazed at the ease with which we can access information today and the failure of so many to put such a facility to good use.

Just because Abraham is now sleeping is no excuse for YOU to do nothing….


  1. I have just ordered the Laws and Customs on Amazon, last one in stock.Many thanks for this info,I had followed Balleine's view on him before your blog and as you say well worth a Google search

  2. haha, very interesting posting Tom and so relevant, cheers.

  3. Jersey courts trumping up false charges and disobeying International Human Rights Laws. Time to take a good look at our JUDICIARY