Goldsmid - Encyclopedia

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GOLDSMID, the name of a family of Anglo-Jewish bankers sprung from Aaron Goldsmid (d. 1782), a Dutch merchant who settled in England about 1763. Two of his sons, Benjamin Goldsmid (c. 1753-1808) and Abraham Goldsmid (c. 1756-1810), began business together about 1777 as bill-brokers in London, and soon became great powers in the money market, during the Napoleonic war, through their dealings with the government. Abraham Goldsmid was in 1810 joint contractor with the Barings for a government loan, but owing to a depreciation of the scrip he was forced into bankruptcy and committed suicide. His brother, in a fit of depression, had similarly taken his own life two years before. Both were noted for their public and private generosity, and Benjamin had a part in founding the Royal Naval Asylum. Benjamin left four sons, the youngest being Lionel Prager Goldsmid; Abraham a daughter, Isabel.

Their nephew, Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, Bart. (1778-1859), was born in London, and began in business with a firm of bullion brokers to the Bank of England and the East India Company. He amassed a large fortune, and was made Baron da Palmeira by the Portuguese government in 1846 for services rendered in settling a monetary dispute between Portugal and Brazil, but he is chiefly known for his efforts to obtain the emancipation of the Jews in England and for his part in founding University College, London. The Jewish Disabilities Bill, first introduced in Parliament by Sir Robert Grant in 1830, owed its final passage to Goldsmid's energetic work. He helped to establish the University College hospital in 1834, serving as its treasurer for eighteen years, and also aided in the efforts to obtain reform in the English penal code. Moreover he assisted by his capital and his enterprise to build part of the English southern railways and also the London docks. In 1841 he became the first Jewish baronet, the honour being conferred upon him by Lord Melbourne. He had married his cousin Isabel (see above), and their second son was Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid, Bart. (1808-1878), born in London, and called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1833 (the first Jew to become an English barrister; Q.C. 1858). After the passing of the Jewish Disabilities Bill, in which he had aided his father with a number of pamphlets that attracted great attention, he entered Parliament in 1860 (having succeeded to the baronetcy) as member for Reading, and represented that constituency until his death. He was strenuous on behalf of the Jewish religion, and the founder of the great Jews' Free School. He was a munificent contributor to charities and especially to the endowment of University College. He, like his father, married a cousin, and, dying without issue, was succeeded in the baronetcy by his nephew Sir Julian Goldsmid, Bart. (1838-1896), son of Frederick David Goldsmid (1812-1866), long M.P. for Honiton. Sir Julian was for many years in Parliament, and his wealth, ability and influence made him a personage of considerable importance. He was eventually made a privy councillor. He had eight daughters, but no son, and his entailed property passed to his relation, Mr d'Avigdor, his house in Piccadilly being converted into the Isthmian Club.

Another distinguished member of the same family, Sir Frederic John Goldsmid (1818-1908), son of Lionel Prager Goldsmid (see above), was educated at King's College, London, and entering the Madras army in 1839 served in the China War of 1840-41, with the Turkish troops in eastern Crimea in 1855-56, and was given political employment by the Indian government. He received the thanks of the commander-in-chief and of the war office for services during the Egyptian campaign, and was retired a major-general in 1875. Sir Frederic Goldsmid's name is, however, associated less with military service than with much valuable work in exploration and in surveying, for which he repeatedly received the thanks of government. From 1865 to 1870 he was director-general of the Indo-European telegraph, and carried through the telegraph convention with Persia; and between 1870 and 1872, as commissioner, he settled with Persia the difficult questions of the Perso-Baluch and Perso-Afghan boundaries. In the course of his work he had to travel extensively, and he followed this up by various responsible missions connected with emigration questions. In 1881-1882 he was in Egypt, as controller of the Daira Sanieh, and doing other miscellaneous military work; and in 1883 he went to the Congo, on behalf of the king of the Belgians, as one of the organizers of the new state, but had to return on account of illness. From his early years lie had made studies of several Eastern languages, and he ranked among the foremost Orientalists of his day. In 1886 he was president of the geographical section of the British Association meeting held at Birmingham. He had married in 1849, and had two sons and four daughters. In 1871 he was made a K.C.S.I. Besides important contributions to the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and many periodicals, he wrote an excellent and authoritative biography of Sir James Outram (2 vols., 1880).

A sister of the last-named married Henry Edward Goldsmid (1812-1855), an eminent Indian civil servant, son of Edward Goldsmid; his reform of the revenue system in Bombay, and introduction of a new system, established after his death, through his reports in 1840-1847, and his devoted labour in land-surveys, were of the highest importance to western India, and established his memory there as a public benefactor.

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