Jean Hammond - Bailiff of Jersey 1858-1880
Jean (John) Hammond was Bailiff at the time of enormous political unrest in the 19th century. The population of Jersey had more than doubled in the 50 years before he took office and the thousands of English newcomers did not care much for the idiosyncracies of the island's legal system. Their unease was inflamed by political agitator Abraham Le Cras, who was to be a thorn in the side of Hammond and his colleagues in the States of Jersey and Royal Court for many years.
The third son of Jacques Lempriere Hammond and Rachel Durell, daughter of the Viscount, Thomas Durell, Jean Hammond was born on 9 March 1801 and took the law course at Caen University before being admitted to the Jersey Bar in 1821.
He married Jane Penrose Le Breton, sister of Dean Le Breton and aunt of Lillie Langtry, and they had four sons, John William, James Lempriere, Lawrence Nicholas Dyer and Vavasor Fitz Hammond, and four daughters, Penrose Durell, Emily Jane, Louisa Anne Charlotte and Eleanor Gertrude.
Hammond became Colonel of the East Battery of the Militia in 1843 and was appointed Solicitor-General in 1848. He was preferred to Attorney-General John William Dupre to succeed Sir Thomas Le Breton as Bailiff because Dupre was believed in England to have been too friendly with Victor Hugo and his friends. Hammond was sworn in on 27 February 1858 and immediately faced a constitutional crisis. A Royal Commission sent to investigate Le Cras' complaints had called two years earlier for the abolition of the Royal Court and the appointment of three paid judges, but nothing had been done.
Le Cras sought support from Members of Parliament and another Royal Commission was sent. The States again ignored its recommendations and eventually called a referendum on the proposal to replace the Jurats with paid judges. There were only 180 votes in favour and the British Government exerted pressure on Private Members' Bills in the Commons calling for changes to Jersey's judicial system.
Hammond worked hard to restore the reputation of the Royal Court and reduce the large number of cases awaiting judgment. By the time he retired he had cleared the backlog and left his successor Robert Pipon Marett with a clean sheet.
He was involved in a variety of activities outside the Court and States, visiting prisoners, helping found the Jersey General Dispensary and becoming a renowned gardener and giving his name to the apple Hammond's Seedling.
His popularity waned when he refused to allow a public lottery to take place towards the relief fund for the victims of the collapse of the Mercantile Bank in 1873, having identified that the prospect of selling half a million tickets in England and France was remote. His stance received the support of the Privy Council.
He died suddenly, in the middle of a court case. Jurat William Lawrence de Gruchy, who was in Court, wrote:
- "He was presiding over a contentious case, and the Court had retired to consider its judgment. He took his seat in his accustomed chair; but before he could use his invariable formula, 'Well gentlemen, what do you say?' he fell back dead."