Georgian Society for East Yorkshire

The Hammonds: Diplomats of East Yorkshire

George Hammond, ambassador to the U.S.A. 1791-1795

George Hammond, ambassador to the U.S.A. 1791-1795

East Yorkshire was the home of an interesting family of diplomats during the Georgian Period. William Hammond was a Hull merchant and supporter of the abolitionist MP David Hartley, who went on to become involved in diplomatic missions during the American Revolution. His son George was born in Kirk Ella, and followed in his father's footsteps, having a diplomatic career at one time with the emerging United States.

The elder Hammond was a powerful member of the Hull community. He was at one time chairman of the new Dock Company. He was one of the Elder Brethren of Hull Trinity House and also occupied the office of Warden. He was a successful sea captain, ship owner and merchant owing properties across the old town. In 1771 Hammond had negotiations with Captain Cook which resulted in the sale of two of his ships to the admiralty for Cook's second and third voyages. The ships the Marquis of Granby and the Marquis of Rockingham became the Adventure and the Resolution, the latter being Cook's favourite ship, preferred even to the Endeavour on which he had made his first voyage.

In 1778 Hammond joined David Hartley on an unofficial diplomatic visit to Paris, to meet with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. The mission was kept quiet because the Americans were regarded as rebels by the British government. Adams suspected both may have been spies, and while he distrusted David Hartley, he regarded Hammond as "a plain honest man."

George Hammond became even more involved in American diplomacy, accompanying Hartley on another visit to Paris in 1782. This visit was official, and again involved Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, along with other US representatives. The aim was peace talks, and the meeting resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. An unfinished painting of the event has space left for the Hull participants, but they declined to be included.

The younger Hammond, having been only twenty when he visited Paris, returned to university, and on graduation resumed his diplomatic career. After serving in Vienna, Copenhagen and Madrid, he was recalled in 1791 and sent to America to become the first British Ambassador to the United States. He occupied this role till 1795. His diplomatic experience continued to make him useful in office and on special missions for many years further, and he lived to about the age of ninety.

Diplomacy continued in the family into a third generation. Edmund Hammond was born to George in 1802, later becoming Baron Hammond of Kirkella. He and Lady Hammond had three daughters, but the barony and the family's association with the diplomatic career died with him in the Victorian period.

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