18th November 1802
France opens controversial Jersey consul
During the 1700s and 1800s, Britain and France were frequently at odds. In the American War of Independence, France sided with those fighting to break free from Britain which, due to the Channel Islands’ proximity to France, put them on the front line. Just three months before France established its consul in the island, Napoleon had laid into Jersey in the French press, and a little over twenty years earlier French troops had staged an invasion in the Battle of Jersey.
So, France’s decision to set up a consul was understandably controversial. A chief consul was appointed to oversee French affairs not only in Jersey but also Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, and had already taken up residence in Jersey with a salary of £500 per annum. As reported in the Gloucester Journal of 15 November 1802, “our letters add that the people of Jersey do not much like, or approve of, this appointment, or of the promised residence among them of this French Gentleman.”
A controversial move
The move was so controversial because, at the time, France viewed Jersey as a place where plots against French territory and its government were being fomented by exiles. Indeed, so unfavourable was its view of Jersey that, when anti-French sentiments were being expressed by exiles in Switzerland, the Moniteur, which was the official French journal, likened Switzerland to “a second Jersey for the purpose of there fabricating plots, hiring traitors, propagating libels and receiving all the enemies of France and doing on the east what, by means of the position of Jersey, they are constantly doing on the west.”
By 18 November, things were getting official, and a notice posted in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal stated, “the idea of a French consul residing in this Island does not accord with the wishes of the loyal Islanders. The Islands are too small to admit a personage of that consideration, and such a thing has not been known here since the days of William the Conqueror. Remonstrances, it is said, are to be presented against the plan from the Islands and from the States.”
Whatever the official position, unless the States of Jersey was to expel the appointed consul it would be stuck with a French representative on the island as, in the absence of formal recognition, it was France’s intention to keep its man in place and to designate the consulate a private, rather than official address.
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