Sir Thomas Morgan - a new perspective

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Sir Thomas Morgan


This article by Philip Ahier was first published in the 1969 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Petition to King

The above-named Governor of Jersey was made the subject of a talk to the Quennevais Adult School in November 1968 and also to the Jersey Society in London on 25 January 1969. At the first place, it was based almost entirely from the allegations brought against him (and his successor) in a petition to the King in Council by the States in 1677.

In the meantime, access to the Calendar of State Papers (Domestic) and to the Hatton-Finch correspondence (six volumes) in the British Museum has thrown a good deal of light upon the Governor, more, perhaps to his interest in the Island's welfare during his tenure of ofice than is manifested in the petition sent by the States in 1679.

He was the second son of Robert Morgan of Llanrhymny in Wales. At an early age he sought his fortunes under Prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar in the Thirty Years War.

Morgan married De La Riviere, the daughter and heiress of Matthew Cholmondeley of Brame Hall in Yorkshire, by whom he had at least three sons. He was created a Baronet by the second Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell, on 25 November 1658 and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son, Sir John Morgan.

It is not certain when he joined the Parliamentarian forces, probably in 1645, but he figures conspicuously in the Second Civil War. While in Scotland serving under General Monk, he became converted to the Royalist cause. When Monk approached him to join the Restoration movement in 1660,Morgan said:

“You know I am no statesman. I am sure you are a lover of your country and therefore 1 will join with you in all your wishes and submit to your promise and judgement in the conduct of

Not popular with all

It was this combination of previous Republican ideas and his newly-acquired Royalism which made him popular with certain sections of the Jersey populace during his tenure of office as Governor but apprarently not with all sections of the Jersey States.

He was a most outspoken individual: when a soldier did not perform the duty allocated to him or bungled it, he shouted: "Sirrah, I'll cleave your skull". He once had an altercation with the Constable of St Marti n over the billeting of some soldiers in that parish.

As matters did not move as rapidly as he wished, Morgan came to the Royal Court, where the Constable was exercising his office, held up his cane at him “By God, Sirrah, I shall rub your nose”.

His appointment as Governor of Jersey arose as follows: "During the war with Holland, 1665-1667, the Earl of St Albans who was the Governor could not exercise the office as he was the King's Chamberlain. As it was likely that this war would cause a rupture with France, which it temporarily did, it was highly essential for the defence of the Island to have a soldier of renown. Charles II gave the office to Sir Thomas Morgan".

The King wrote to the Bailiff and Jurats of Jersey on 21 December 1665 from Oxford to this effect:

"Finding it needful to employ great care to preserve our subjects in that Island from foreign attempts, we have chosen Sir Thomas Morgan to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Island Castles, Forts and Forces with the military powers usually exercised by the Governor".

Le Geyt

Le Geyt, in his "Constitution of Jersey" relates:

  • As soon as he arrived in Jersey, he proceeded to St Helier where several (persons) came to him to receive orders. He replied that he had not yet had his Commission examined. Said Morgan "In the meantime, I am nothing".
  • He could not get used to the long speeches made in the States. He would leave the Assembly while it was in session, walk up to the rooms above, smoke his pipe and come down when the meeting was finished.

Before he left England he was given many instructions, of which two are interesting:

  • "You shall fortify the Bowling Green (at Elizabeth Castle) according to directions given and apply and possess yourself of a privy seal for £2000 designed for the expenses thereof."

In a letter to Sir Joseph Williamson, dated 19 September 1666, Morgan said "The Bowling Green fortifications are well advanced and will be defensive against attempts. I have ordered repairs at Mont Orgueil and the forts near St Aubin. I have £1000 for fortifications. I have had to layout my own and borrow and my purse is clean exhausted."

Morgan must not have received the £2000 originally promised if the statement in his letter be accurate.


Another instruction given to Sir Thomas Morgan was:

  • "You shall assemble the Militia when you think fit and see that they are exercised so to be useful for the defence of the Island".

In this connection, Morgan was certainly most successful, as his letters indicate:

"I have appointed a rendezvous (review) of the trained bands of all the forces (except the Guards in the Castle and Forts) for 27 August 1666. I have completed the Militia troop to a 100 horse and my own to 60, all fully armed. If Monsieur (Louis XIV) attacks us, we shall make him a very handsome opposition. I have been on the summit of a high hill near the sea (Montagne de la Ville, later Fort Regent) and we keep the strong guards of trained bands about the Island so that we are ready for any alarm".

In a letter dated August 15th, 1666, the writer says:

They are very ready there to meet any opposition ... Thomas Morgan, the Governor, has lain in the field these six weeks."

This letter indicates that Morgan was not afraid to share the same hardships as his soldiers.

Another extract from the State Papers of 17 September 1666 recites: "Two vessels come from Jersey for coals report that Sir Thomas Morgan, Governor, has put the place in so good a posture of offence and defence, that they are secure from any attempts of the enemy if they have to look at them in the face." Sir Thomas Morgan, in a letter to Col. Walter Slingsby, dated 5 May 1667 wrote:

"The French fleet have put to sea and have several land forces on board. I have doubled the guards here and we shall draw to our tents when the weather is warmer. On May Day, I rendezvoused (reviewed) all the forces in the Island, 4,000 foot and 200 horse, very well equipped: 1,200 or 1,500 of the trained bands were in red coats and all the officers. They promise to engage freely if they are assaulted."

Militia uniform

From this it would seem that Morgan was the first Governor to introduce a military uniform to the Militia, thus following in the footsteps of Oliver Cromwell.

On 11 May Col Slingsby reported that

"Sir Thomas Morgan has a rendezvous of the Jersey Militia 4,000 foot, 200 horse, well equipped, he has doubled the guards and is encamping in the fields and resolved to live or die in its defence."

The deputy Governor was one Captain Roger Manley, appointed on 2 November 1667. This officer wrote a letter to his cousin Robert Francis on 25 March 1668, wherein he says:

"The inhabitants are forward in their own defence; we had an alarm through a fleet of 34 vessels from St Malo but they were merchantmen with three orfour convoy. We took arms and waited, they got clear of the Island. Our Militia was very forward in this encounter”.

These extracts demonstrate the high degree of efficiency which then obtained in the Jersey Militia as a military force.

While in England from February 1668-April 1668, Morgan received a letter from Charles II which reads:

"As we require your presence for some time, you are to repair hither with all diligence taking care that you leave the Government of the Island in the best condition you can, that it may not suffer by your absence."

King's letter

Whatever conversations took place between Charles II and Sir Thomas Morgan have not been recorded but the Merry Monarch sent the following letter to "the Bailiff and Jurats of Jersey" on 7 April 1668:

"From our gracious regard for the safety of Our Island, we have ordered the return thither of Sir Thomas Morgan, Governor, confiding in his abilities and diligence. We inform you to hold a strict hand with him for keeping the trained bands in good form, particularly the Militia troops and to assist him in whatever else he thinks to the advantage of the Island."

Sir Thomas Morgan's abiding contribution to the Island was his construction of the Pier from St Aubin's Fort.

Charles II had promised 500 pistoles (roughly £400) towards the building of a pier at the town but he hadn't the money at the time to fulfil his obligation. In 1669 he sent a letter to the Bailiff and Jurats that a part of the Impot duties which were going to be levied on wines and spirits should be devoted "to erect and build a pier in St Aubin ... for the better security of merchants and others that shall repair thither to trade and commerce with the inhabitants thereof."

One Nicolas Bailhache offered to build one at his own expense, but by 1672 he had done nothing except to obtain money from the Parish of St Brelade. The Acte of 27 July 1672 recites how his indebtedness to that Parish and to the States was settled.

In 1673, Charles II sent a second letter to the States in which he confirmed the agreement made by the Governor and the States for the building of a pier, the relevant words of which were:

"That Sir Thomas Morgan at his own charge will erect a pier under the Tower at St Aubin at the NE point capable of at least 60 good ships secure in all kinds of weather, of length, breadth and height not determined, but such as shall be sufficient to make it safe and durable, and that he or his heirs or executors shall keep it in good reparation ten years after it is built, that in case he should die or leave the Island before it is finished, he or his executors shall be bound to restore the monies he shall have received towards the work, etc."

Lord Hatton

Sir Thomas Morgan's statement of the work contemplated is expressed in his letter to Lord Hatton, Governor of Guernsey, at the time:

"I have undertaken a rugged piece of work here to build a secure pier or harbour at the fort near St Aubin if the fra( =frais =cost) be not too strong for me. I, however, mean to wrestle hard for it."

Unfortunately, Sir Thomas Morgan died before the work was completed and the States asked his widow and his attorneys to fulfil the contract.

Again, during the years 1677-1678, there were rumours that Jersey might be the first to be attacked in the event of war between England and France. Morgan wrote to Sir Joseph Williamson that the French were preparing for War and that all the English merchants at St Malo were hurrying to ship their concerns to England."

Letter after letter was sent by Morgan to that effect; he had intelligence from someone in Brittany as to the warlike preparations being made at St Malo.

Morgan had a unique plan of anticipating or stopping any possible invasion; writing to Williamson, he said:

"I have informed myself as much as I can of the condition of St Malo, and have written in my former letters that 'with a little hazard, we might, with two frigates, burn all their shipping in their harbour. I could propose more, which I dare not commit to paper'.

It looked as if he was going to repeat all the methods which led to the defeat of the Armada in 1588.


He also mobilised the Jersey Militia. He wanted 100 tents "as I intend to camp on the hills near the seaside to attend to their motions (=movements)".

He said later that the trained bands of the Island were indifferent good firemen (=shooters). But the war did not break out.

It is curious to note that the last directive he received from Charles II was a warrant dated 31 March 31 1679 to demolish Mont Orgueil “as being of no use for the defence of the Island, the wood, iron and lead of the same to be carefully preserved from embezzlement and the disposal of, according to the directions by Captain William Wynd".

But Mont Orgueil still remains.

The old warrior was approaching his end. He suffered terribly from gout; concerning this trouble he wrote two letters to Lord Hatton:

  • 22 March 1672: "Within three days after my arrival here, I fell into a violent fever and nobody expected that I could have lived. I was prayed for in all the churches in the Island, I think I do not feel any better for it. I did spill clots of blood for three days and three nights and an abundance of phlegm after it. So that I have now cleared a very foul stomach and taken a new lease of my life so long as God pleases and I am reasonably well".
  • 31 October 1678: "I am now half a cripple for my malignant disease, the gout, hath so far seized upon my bones that I am now in much pain". (From Castle Elizabeth).


ir Thomas Morgan died on 13 April 13 about 11 pm at Elizabeth Castle so the Registers of St. John and of Holy Trinity Parish Churches record. The curious fact concerning his mortal remains was that his bowels were interred in the Parish Church of St Helier but the rest was transported to England for burial there. A year or so after his death, the States saw fit to make many accusations against his regime.

He had previously given his version of some of these charges, but in 1680 he had no opportunity of defending himself.

Thus passed away one of Jersey's most maligned Governors, a man who had the interest of the Island at heart and who, was "determined to live or die in its defence".

The words of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii, spoken by Mark Antony, can well be said of him:

"The evil that men do, lives after them
The good is oft interred in their bones."

The Brooks affair

States petition

It is notoriously known how one Brooke, an Ostender, having piratically taken the goods of some of your Majesty's subjects, some part whereof having brought hither and being discovered and known for the goods of your said subjects, and thereupon being sequestered and his person put in safe custody till order came from your Majesty to keep him prisoner till he had made restitution of the whole; he, thereupon, was detained in Mont Orgueil Castle, much to the said late Governor's dislike, who often did justify him and condemned his detention as causeless and pitied his case, so long till at length the said Brooke being by a storekeeper secretly furnished with Pistols and a cord he made his escape, at which the Governor expressed much joy.

And the said storekeeper was so far from being punished, that he was not so much questioned for the fact. And to make the suspicion of the Governor's being privy to that escape the stronger, when a 'Prise de Corps' had been decreed by the Court supposing him to be still hidden in the Island, he, the said Governor, laughed at them for losing their pains. And not so long after came a letter from the said Brooke to the said Governor full of thanks and acknowledgements of favours, for which many of us have seen.

Morgan’s account

Sir Thomas Morgan’s account to Sir Josepb Williamson, 8 December 1677 Brooks, the Privateer of Ostend, has made his escape by a rope over the walls of Mont Orgueil Castle. The Court of Justice has made a strict search in hopes of catching him but I believe he was provided with a (boat) to make his escape. He endured imprisonment near a year and a half and was brought to no trial,

It is very certain that it was not he who took the Bristol ship but one Pell of Flushing and that he was five or six leagues off when Pell took her, but Brooks, being in consort with Pell for eight days, they divided the goods he had to the Bristol Merchants factors at St Malo.

I conceive, seeing Brooks has thus made his escape, his vessel (belongs) to the King. She is but small about 8 tons burden.

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