Sunday, 8 January 2012

1781 and all that

Which side would you have been on during the American Revolution (War of Independence) and why? This was the question that no one was asking when on Saturday there was a commemoration in the Royal Square of the Battle of Jersey. The 6th January used to be the Jersey national day until it was replaced by Liberation Day in the post second world war era. Once again there were red coats in the square and a montage of Copley’s painting of the death of Major Peirson.

Channel Islanders merchants fought on both sides during the American War, some from conviction and others as a lucrative business. Certain families made sure they had relatives on the other side to minimise losses.

The victory was made much of by the British government at a time when the war against the American colonists and their French allies was not going well.

The one date that remains forgotten is 28th September 1769 ("the Jersey Revolution") when islanders made their own history and laid the foundations for a democratic government. To this event there are no monuments to participants nor official ceremonies. Popular revolt and its consequences is still something about which modern rulers remain uncertain.

Here Geraint Jennings and I talk to Tom Gruchy junior about war and memory.

Vive le Roi!

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