Benjamin Bisson (1601-1647), Parliamentary Commissioner
The second son of Edouard Bisson, Constable of St Lawrence, and Elizabeth, daughter of Jurat Nicolas Lempriere, Benjamin Bisson was born in St Lawrence in 1601. Educated at Cambridge, he matriculated from Trinity in 1618.
On the death of his elder brother in 1621 he became Seigneur of the fief of Luce de Carteret. In 1629 he was elected Constable of St Lawrence, an office which had become almost hereditary in his family.
His father and elder brother had been Constables before him, and two of his sons were Constables later. In 1630 he was one of the Deputies sent by the States to the King to petition that the duty of garrisoning St Aubin's Fort should not fall on the Militia.
In 1631 he was elected Jurat. In 1641, on the eve of the Civil War, he was in London. When the war reached Jersey in 1643 he, like his cousin Michel Lempriere, sided with Parliament, and in February was one of five Jurats appointed Commissioners by Parliament to arrest Sir Philippe De Carteret, who took refuge in Elizabeth Castle, leaving the five and their Committee in control of the island.
Benjamin Bisson took a vigorous part in the early stages of the struggle, and in July was excepted by name from the King's offer of pardon. He was still in the island on 17 August, but his health broke down, and he went to Bath for a cure. He had just returned a little better when, in December, George Carteret regained the island for the King.
Bisson, still a very sick man, was unable to escape with his colleagues He was seized in his house, and interned, first in Elizabeth Castle, then in Mont Orgueil. He remained a prisoner for 18 months, and on 23 August 1645 was brought up with five other Parliamentarians for trial before the Royal Commissioners. The Attorney-General, Helier de Carteret, urged that they were guilty of treason of the gravest kind, and demanded that they should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, and their goods confiscated.
The prisoners then knelt, while their greffier pleaded for pardon. The Presiding Commissioner replied that the King loved mercy, and would pardon them, if they would promise to be loyal in the future. But first they must pay a fine. Bisson’s was 8,000 livres tournois, and he had to find security in 2,000 livres more for future good behaviour. On the following Sunday they received Communion in the Town Church, and took the oath of allegiance three times, on a Bible, on the bread, and on the wine.
To pay his fine Bisson was forced to sell a house and land on the Fief of Noirmont. He died on 18 December 1647, and was buried in St Lawrence Church. He had married Rachel, daughter of Elie Dumaresq, Seigneur of Vinchelez de Bas. Nine years after his death, when the Roundheads again ruled the island, she petitioned Parliament:
- ”He died of diseases got by their cruelty, and left me and five small children (the eldest only nine) to the tyranny of a cruel enemy and merciless creditors".
She stated that her husband’s losses "in fines, expenses, and plundering amounted to £916". The Council granted her £300 from delinquents’ fines and £200 from her own discoveries of concealed lands and moneys not pardoned by the Act of Oblivion. Later she was granted another £500 "out of any discoveries she shall make and bring to effect before the Commissioners"
Bisson left three sons, Edouard (later a Jurat), Abraham, and Benjamin, and two daughters, Sara (who married Jean de la Place, Rector of St Mary) and Rachel (who married Matthieu Le Geyt).
G R Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey