17 NOVEMBER 1855, Page 13


ON one point we agree with those who are agitating "the Jersey question"—that it were a question well settled. We do not in- deed think that there is very great room for doubt as to the right of the Jersey Government in exercising the power which it has put in force with the authority of the Supreme Government, but perhaps there is some uncertainty in the public mind as to what has really been done : there is an idea that some species of alien act has been put in force, and cases are advanced for the purpose of show- big 07 t"there was no precedent to support the recent proceeding. One of* precedents advanced is the Guernsey case of 1844, in which lilikier-lieneral Napier, Lieutenant-Governor of the island, sum- marily meted Isidore Comte, a domiciled French subject, with- out—the advice of the Bailiffs and Jurats of the Supreme Court. There, however, the only question was, whether or not the Go- vernor had power to act without the Bailiffs and Yurats ; and the Lords of the Judicial Committee decided that the concurrence of those funtionaries was not necessary. This decision, it is said, is not binding, first, because it was not a decision on the main question ; and secondly, because it applied to Guern- sey and not to Jersey. Sentences of expulsion have been commuted, and one case is particularly cited—that of seve- ral Frenchmen who were condemned to be taken back to France, in 1795, for having carried on a commerce contrary to the laws. But this case, again, as little tells on the side of the ob- jectors as it does on that of the defenders in the present question. It only proves to us that doubts of some kind not fully explained have checked the local Government in compelling the return of Frenchmen to France ; not that the Government of Jersey is with- out the power to expel residents from the island. Now, the prac- tice of the island unquestionably has been to exercise a power of expulsion. We handle the question in this country with a diffi- culty not felt elsewhere, since we have so long discontinued the practice of banishment; but in Jersey it is habitual. We have had the same power in Scotland, only under judicial procedure. There can, however, be no great difficulty in ascertaining whether or not the power of expulsion resides in any authorities of the island of Jersey without judicial procedure. This appears to us to be the whole and sole practical question as it relates to Jersey. It would be perhaps as well to get all the points at issue formally settled. Other cases may arise; and if there has been a mistake in the recent case, it should not be repeated ; but the necessary alter- ation of the law should be procured which would enable the Government to direct or prohibit the residence of foreigners dan- gerous to the interests or safety of this country. We have already said that no alien act has been enforced. Certain foreign residents have been expelled from Jersey; but they have been admitted into England. They are not expelled, therefore, from the United Kingdom, but only prevented from residing in a particular part of the British dominions. Many circumstances concur to render Jersey the worst residence that we could allot to them. The island is close to France ; and its proximity has frequently given rise to contraband kinds of trade. Residing in a place where the language of France is indigenous, refugees can thus use British ground as a locus standi for the purpose of disturbing settled or- der, without incurring the responsibilities of insurrectionaries. We should be as reluctant as any to break the rule of this country which offers a free asylum for all political fugitives. We sympa- thize so much with freedom, that we would shelter even those who have been extravagant and erring while they claimed to exercise freedom in word and act. Political questions, especially those between peoples and governments, can be brought before no com- petent and calm tribunal for a judicial decision ; and it is this con- sideration, above all others, which makes us feel that though the political refugee be a vanquished man, he is not necessarily a con- demned man by any established or respectable law. Political questions are open questions. The refugee of the day may have been the patriot of yesterday, or may be the emperor of the morrow; and by keeping free asylum for all who may seek it in good faith, England maintains a protest against any final de- cisions upon those grave litigations in the absence of a competent tribunal. But the asylum must be attended by its conditions. Those who seek it of us as neutrals must not filch from us a com- plicity in their quarrel which we are not prepared to give advised- ly. Our own honourable position and safety must be consulted. We cannot consent to render the asylum a battle-ground for the enemies of our ally. Instances may be found of holy plaoes with- in fortified lines, and in the fiercest days the right of sanctuary was respected ; but no military commander would have been ex- pected to keep open gate in the face of the enemy in order that the fugitive might have access to the sanctuary. We are told that the question is to be settled at law. It can scarcely be raised, we presume, by writ of Habeas Corpus, since none of the refugees are in custody, and it would be difficult to obtain a writ for the purpose of compelling any one of them to show why he is at liberty. If any persons who look upon the re- fugees as wronged men can find the means of challenging the au- thorities in Jersey before a higher tribunal, they may perform a service for their country by enabling us to define the actual state of the law. If, as we suspect, a judicial decision would pronounce that the Executive possesses the power of altering the residence of refugees if necessary, or even of removing them if their presence here should be dangerous, the matter would end there. To exercise such a control, would not in the popular sense of the words be to revivify the Alien Act; for there is no question at present of dis- turbing the large numbers of residents who abide here in peace and quietness with a due sense of the return they are bound to make. It is the noisy partisans of these Jersey residents alone who raise any question dangerous to the great number of refugees. If we cannot discriminate between the Jersey class and the more numerous class, foreign states with whom we are in amity may not unreasonably call upon us to exercise a somewhat indiscriminate coercion. We believe that the power of discrimination exists ; if it does not, in the very interests of the refugees as well as of our own safety, Parliament will see the necessity of supplying the omission.