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FIRST RUMBLINGS OF OPPOSITION

The feeling in favour of the system was not however entirely unanimous. In 1826 we find the first trace of opposition which gradually grew and grew until, as we shall see later, it was decided in 1837 that the States should not issue any more Notes.

Whether the opposition was entirely due to this financial system as such is open to question. Errors of judgment with reference to the Fountain Street improvement may have been made. Self-interest on the part of some may have been one of the factors. Into these questions the writer cannot enter here. All that he wishes to point out is that it seems to him from studying the records that there were various currents of opposition which centred round the issue of Paper Money by the States.

In September, 1826, three members of the States, Josias Marchant, James Carey and Jean Marchant, the two latter being members of the Finance Committee, thought that the King’s consent should be obtained for works to be undertaken in Fountain Street. They considered that the anticipations of future revenues were “not only fatal to their credit but contrary to the order of His Majesty in Council, 19th June, 1819, viz., ’that the States of the said Island do not exceed in any case the amount of their annual income without the consent previously obtained of His Royal Highness in Council.’”

Daniel de Lisle Brock, after consulting La Cour Royale (the Supreme Court of Judicature), writes his views in a Billet d’Etat, and summons the States to meet 22nd November, 1826. In his words, which we quote at some length, are seen both his enthusiasm and his caution.

“It was not possible, as every one must admit, to do without anticipations; but these differ from a debt in that a certain clear and definite income is appropriated for meeting them, at certain fixed times. They are only assignations on assured funds ear-marked for their payment. Watch must be kept, it is true, that they are paid from these same funds. For by letting the period during which they should end pass, and by spending on anything else the income appropriated to them, they would become a permanent debt. The experience of several years has shown us that these assignations may be used without danger, and that they have been fully paid off as they fell due.

“The advantage which has resulted is manifest. If we had had to wait till funds were in hand to set to work at Fountain Street, who could have foreseen when, if ever, this moment would arrive. Is it nothing, in the midst of this short life, when it is a question of an object of the first necessity among the wants of the community, to have anticipated by sixteen or seventeen years the enjoyment of this object? Doubtless evil is close to good: the abuse of the best things is always possible. Is this a reason for forbidding the use of what is good and profitable? Is it not better to procure it as soon as possible whilst availing ourselves of the means at our disposal to avoid its abuse? Whilst these means are employed, and so long as the income is sufficient, there is only one possible danger that of allowing the time for meeting these anticipations to pass without paying them, and thus of seeing the debt increased by the amount of the non-cancelled obligations. This danger is seen to vanish when we consider the precaution taken by the States, the watchfulness of all their Members, the Committee which they have appointed specially for this purpose, when we think of the publicity, of the exact acquaintance from year to year which all the inhabitants have of the liabilities, the receipts and expenditure of the States. All this watchfulness and all this publicity are the strongest safeguard that could be given against any danger in this respect.”

The Resolution to refer the matter to the King was lost, only five voting for it; and a resolution was carried expressing confidence in the present method.

In the following year, 1827, the Guernsey Banking Company, now known as the Old Bank, was founded from the firm of Priaulx, Le Marchant, Rougier & Company. Jean Marchant was Vice-President of this Bank. It is said that at the States Meeting on 15th November, when objections were raised lest the States’ Notes should suffer, the Bailiff seemed to foresee no danger. “Good Bills are better than bad coin.”

Notwithstanding the decision of the States in 1826, the three Jurats, Josias Marchant, James Carey and Jean Marchant were still uneasy, and on 10th April, 1829, complained direct to Whitehall that “the States had exceeded their annual revenues for works of public utility without the express sanction of the superior authority, and had for these same works contracted liabilities which exceeded the means of the States.”

The Privy Council on the 19th June forwarded the complaint to the States and asked for an explanation.

The States, at their meeting, 27th August, 1829, instructed a Committee to examine the charges, draw up a report and answer, and submit the same to the States. The Committee selected was the Finance Committee, which was revised at this time, the chief change being the omission of the two complainants, James Carey and Jean Marchant.

A guess may be hazarded that this Committee appointed Daniel de Lisle Brock to draft the reply.

This interesting document fortunately exists not only in French but in English (doubtless for the benefit of the Privy Council). In characteristic language, enthusiastic and patriotic, while clear and matter of fact, it sets out the present situation and sketches the history of the Island since the close of the War. The greater part of it appears in the next chapter.