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Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon: their involvement in immigration in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain

Cecil Bloom

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 39, 2004 Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon: their involvement in immigration in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain CECIL BLOOM Immigration into Britain, particularly that of poor Jews from Eastern Europe, was an important feature of British political life from 1881, the year of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, until 1905 when the Aliens Act became law. This twenty-four-year period saw much controversy and politi? cal action as an anti-immigrant lobby developed which aimed to restrict immigration into Britain. The numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe who settled in Britain were never at the level claimed by the anti-aliens. Many more immigrants of non-Jewish faith were settling in the country, but the political campaign was directed mainly, although not exclusively, at Jews. Official statistics for the years 1893-1902 show the numbers of Jews arriving from Russia, Poland and Romania (the starting point for most Jews) to have been only a third of the total listed as being 'en route'. Most Jews from Eastern Europe were heading for the United States - Britain was but a temporary stop on their journey. Census data for 1901, furthermore, showed the number of residents born in Russia and Poland to be about a quarter of the total foreign-born population.1 In the years under review in this paper, many agitators emerged, but the two men who were seen as the major anti-immigration figures were Arnold White (1848-1925) in the earlier years and Sir William Evans-Gordon (1857-1913) in the later. These two men, who are generally considered to have been anti-Semites, used language that was at times full of dangerous rhetoric; but what is not fully appreciated is that both on occasion expressed what appeared to have been pro-Jewish sympathies. 1 C. Bloom, 'The Politics of Immigration iSSi-igo$\JfetPish Historical Studies XXXIII (1995) I92-3 153</page><page sequence="2">Cecil Bloom Arnold White White fought the 1886 election on the Gladstone Liberal ticket, but soon moved politically to the right and was later on another three occasions unsuccessful in entering Parliament. He was a publicist whose early interest was in ensuring that British labourers settled in the Colonies.2 Later still he turned his energies towards preventing immigration into Britain. His venture into the immigration debate seems to have begun in 1886 when he wrote The Problems of a Great City. In this book he referred to 'pauper foreigners', but it soon became evident that his targets were Jewish immi? grants. Rarely did he comment on immigrants coming from countries other than those in Eastern Europe; the latter were clearly Jews, but many immi? grants of Christian faith in fact settled in Britain from elsewhere. He wrote that he accepted that there were oppressed people in the world who needed help, but he was concerned that it was British workmen and not the wealth? ier classes who were being burdened with the need to help these victims.3 White has been described as the only prominent restrictionist who was a self-confessed and unrepentant anti-Semite.4 But he nevertheless went out of his way to show another side of his disposition while still emphasizing his conviction that immigration must be stopped. In 1887 the St James Gazette, a London newspaper, printed a violent attack on London's Jewish immi? grants who were accused of a number of unpalatable habits and customs. White wrote to the Jewish Chronicle enclosing a letter he had sent to, but which was not apparently published in, the St James Gazette, in which he condemned the attack on Jews. He told the Jewish Chronicle'. T cannot express the pain I feel on reading the articles to which [my] letter . . . refers'.5 His letter to the offending journal read: As one who is endeavouring to bring public opinion to bear upon the question of the immigration of pauper aliens with a view to arresting it without arous? ing anti-Semitic jealousies and hatred, I protest against the two articles of 30 March and 4 April. I oppose the charges in the articles. (1) Vice. (2) Immorality frightfully prevalent of the poor Jews. (3) Heavy charge on rates. (4) There is a colony of 30-40,000 steeped to the lips in every form of moral and physical degrada? tion. (5) The vast majority of these foreign Jews are nihilists and anarchists of the worst type. All these will be hard to sustain. I find on the contrary that the 2 Report of the Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration (Foreigners) House of Commons Order Paper 305 (27 July 1888) (hereafter SC) Minute 1316. 3 The Times (hereafter T) 30 May 1887, p. 3. 4 B. Gainer, The Alien Invasion (London 1972) 121. 5 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 8 April 1887, p. 5. 154</page><page sequence="3">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon poor Poles are temperate, domestic, do not have recourse to parish relief and are obedient to the law and distinctly conservative [small V] in opinion. What is said about the Judenhetz in East London is only too true. But if this be so, surely it is the part of those who lead and create public opinion to refrain from setting fire to materials that are only too liable to spontaneous ignition and to avoid wounding the great and generous body of citizens following the Jewish faith? It is hard to believe that White really meant these words in view of his subsequent political activities, although he had criticized the way the Russian government harried its Jews 'until they fly [sic] their country in sheer despair'.6 This view is untenable in the light of his well-known state? ments on the subject. Only a few months after his Jewish Chronicle corre? spondence, he was using the term Judenhetz again but this time somewhat differently. In response to a challenge from Sir Samuel Montagu, who was a member of the 1888 Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration, he told him that while he would go as far as he could to prevent a Judenhetz, he 'would rather see that than havfing] the existing state of things go on'.7 And a few months later he was complaining that while political refugees to Britain such as Mazzini, Kossuth and Orsini 'brought with them money in their pockets to pay their hotel bills', Jewish refugee immigrants did not.8 He was clearly already in the restrictionist and anti-alien camp, but on a number of occasions he expressed pro-sentiments. After the 1904 Alien Bill had been abandoned, for example, he proposed that Jewish leaders from Britain, the United States, Canada, Russia and Romania should get together to press for a change in Russian policy. 'Too much human suffering is involved to use the Alien Bill for a political counter and it is to be hoped that politicians will refrain from treating it as such.'9 But was he motivated by the fact that, with the bill's demise, the anti-immigration cause was being lost? And was his attitude to the subject simply that, like many others, he was happy to offer Jews sympathy for the way they were being treated in Russia and to suggest they deal with their problems by leaving Russia as long as their destination was not the United Kingdom? White was a classic case of a Gentile who boasted that some of his best friends were Jews. He once admitted (some years after alienism as a political issue had declined) that some of his closest friends were Jews and that he was proud to have 'a teaspoonful of Jewish blood' in his veins.10 He appears 6 A. White (ed.) The Destitute Alien in Great Britain (London and New York 1894) 3. 7 SC Minute 1826. 8 A. White, 'The Invasion of pauper Aliens', The Nineteenth Century (March 1888) 416. 9 T 24 Dec. 1904, p. 9. 10 JC 17 Jan. 1908, p. 14. i55</page><page sequence="4">Cecil Bloom to have been of at least part-immigrant stock because it is on record that his great-grandfather was a Dutchman called de Witt;11 but there was also another claim that his family had 'quite recently come to Britain from Denmark'.12 Most historians take the view that he was anti-Semitic in his opinions towards both the newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe and the established Jews in England. In 1886 with the Earl of Dunraven he formed and financed the Society for the Suppression of Destitute Aliens,13 which pressed for the exclusion of all pauper aliens. At about this time White wrote a number of letters to the press which purported to show his concerns about anti-Semitism. He claimed to be worried that outbreaks of anti-Semitism would occur if foreign paupers replaced English workers in jobs.14 He questioned why efforts to stem pauper immigration should 'necessarily arouse religious broils, racial jealousy or party strife', but he argued that doing nothing would cause an explosion in anti-Semitic feeling. Initially, the word 'Jew' was not part of his vocabulary - although it was crystal clear that Jewish immigrants were his target - but he used the word in asserting that Jews could not be classed with Huguenots whose silk weaving skills were beneficial to the country, whereas tailoring was not.15 He once used the word 'Jew' when he expressed anxiety that, if the govern? ment did not take action on the matter, 'a few Jews [could be] done to death in Whitechapel or Mile End'.16 Later he was writing that 'the hour for action has arrived' and that 'England is for the English'.17 Whether this action was to be taken against immigrants already living in Britain or only against those who were trying to come in was not made clear. White also claimed that Deputy Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler had said that Hebrew maidens were no longer chaste, and this worried him because their immorality could spread to English girls,18 as if sexual depravity were unknown in Victorian Britain. Again, these views contradicted his earlier ones expressed in challenging the St James Gazette attack on Jewish immigrants. He was generally careful in his choice of words, but it is clear that Jewish immigrants were his target. He was adamant that England should stop being 'the rubbish heap' for 'discarded elements of Continental society'.19 The 'riff-raff from overseas 11 Ibid, ii May 1888, p. 13. 12 Ibid. 13 Feb. 1925, p. 11. 13 Report of the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration with Minutes of Evidence and Appendix (Cds 1741, 1742 and 1743, 10 August i903)(hereafter RC) Minute 330. 14 719 May 1887, p. 5. 15 Ibid. 30 May 1887, p. 3. 16 Ibid. 27 July 1887, p. 12. 17 Ibid. 30 Nov. 1887, p. 5. 18 Ibid. 30 May 1887, p. 3; JfC 3 Feb. 1888, p. 13. 19 T30 May 1887, p. 3. i56</page><page sequence="5">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon must be prevented from coming to Britain,20 an expression which clearly related to Jews. As a member of a delegation visiting the Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury, he told Salisbury that he used the word 'Jew' in no offensive way. He wanted newspaper reports on Eastern European problems to use 'foreigner' and not 'Jew' because he had 'no wish to cast odium on any race of people',21 but he talked freely about Jews and in fact could not refrain from introducing the word 'Jew' into the immigration debate. White made the most of his opportunities during the sittings of the 1888 Select Committee. With some drama, he produced fifty newly arrived immigrants before the Committee 'in order to produce the effect they had previously had on me',22 and he arranged for four of these actually to give evidence. White himself made four appearances before this Select Committee. He even had the gall to tell the Committee that 'it is a very hard thing to find one word that I have ever said in reflection upon people of the Jewish faith'.23 White was by then the leader of the restrictionist lobby and was recog? nized, at least by the Jewish community, as one with highly dubious views on Jewry in general. So it was surprising when in 1890 Baron Maurice de Hirsch asked him to go to Russia on his behalf. Hirsch was interested in settling Russian Jews in Argentina and wanted someone to assess the suit? ability of poor Jews for agricultural pursuits in that country. Why White was chosen for this purpose is unclear. White did state that Hirsch 'to the day of his death disapproved as strongly as the bulk of his co-religionists of my efforts to rouse public opinion in favour of a measure of restriction'.24 Quite possibly Hirsch considered that White's interest in emigration, colo? nization and Jewish matters made him suitable to talk to the Russians about Hirsch's scheme;25 his well-known views on Jews would have appealed to the Russians. There is a claim that Hirsch gave White a 'munificent salary' for this assignment in order to divert him from his anti-Semitism.26 White visited Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and the Jewish agricultural colonies in south? ern Russia and he saw important Russian ministers. In all, he visited Russia five times and these visits convinced him that he had completely underesti? mated the problems Jews faced in Russia.27 He told Hirsch that 'if courage - moral courage - hope, patience, temperance are fine qualities, then the Jews are a fine people. Such a people under wise direction is destined to 20 j^Feb. 1888, p. 13. 21 Ibid. 22 SC Minute 1349. 23 Ibid. Minute 1810. 24 RC Minute 330. 25 B. Gainer (seen. 4) 125. 26 M.Lowenthal(ed.) 7%* Dianes of Theodor Herd (New York 1956) 4?3 27 RC Minute 330. 157</page><page sequence="6">Cecil Bloom make a success of any well-organised plan for colonisation, whether in Argentina, Siberia or South Africa.'28 In an interview given after a visit to Southern Russia, White said that he was deeply touched by the sufferings of Hebrew children who 'are not yet usurers, pimps, parasites, malingerers nor middlemen' and whose lives were rendered 'most wretched and miser? able'.29 To him the main problem was that harsh and unjust edicts and regu? lations prevented Jews from escaping from the conditions in which they lived. Central and local emigration committees should be set up under special Government supervision for this to happen. White said he had pressed for special concessions to allow Jews to emigrate and thus escape from these edicts and regulations and he claimed the Russian Ministry of the Interior had conceded these points. He challenged the Russian Government view on Jewry and he spoke highly of Jewish life in Russia generally.30 White said that the most important result of his journey was his conclusion that many Russian Jews were capable of being agricultural colonists and producers. This particular visit by White was made specifi? cally to negotiate with the Russian government for permission to organize emigration. Hirsch's plan was to move twenty-five thousand Jews to Argentina in 1892 and to increase these numbers progressively so that, within twenty-five years, three and a quarter million could be taken out of Russia.31 The magnitude of the proposed operation suggests that Hirsch had confidence in White's ability and loyalty, but it is possible that White's professed belief that Jews could become successful agriculturists was on the basis that, if millions went to Argentina, few would migrate to Britain. All this made White anxious about whether Russia would go along with the plan, and he counselled Gladstone to be careful in the way the latter criti? cized the Russian government. He maintained that Jews could be helped only by keeping quiet about Russian policy or by offering to move Jews to South Africa or North America.32 After his Russian visits White tempered his views, at least for a short while. He wrote a critical article entitled 'The Truth about the Russian Jew' which was complimentary to Jews and showed how indebted Russia was to them. The Russian economy, he wrote, would be seriously affected by the loss of the Jews and stated that 'those who will take the trouble to study the foregoing statistics will discover that the popular notion of the evil effects of Jewish influence in Russia is nearly destitute of foundation'.33 If the 28 S. Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland II (Philadelphia 1918) 418. 29 JC 10 July i89i,p. 12. 30 RC Minute 345. 31 S. Dubnow (see n. 28) 419. 32 Ti Sept. i89i,p. 11. 33 A. White, 'The Truth about the Russian Jew', The Contemporary Review 61 (1892) 698-9. i58</page><page sequence="7">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon Russians took heed of his comments in this article, they were not likely to support Hirsch's plan. But he retained his classical anti-Semitism: 'Almost without exception, the Press throughout Europe is in Jewish hands . . . International finance is captive to Jewish energy and skill.'34 White's findings in Russia, however, made not a whit of difference to his views on accepting Jewish immigrants into Britain. Yet he referred to Russian Jewish paupers as being as much the victims of Christian avarice as of Jewish cupidity and he even went as far as to suggest that Christian employers were worse than Jewish ones. To him, anti-Semitic agitation in Britain would be disgraceful, but his cry was made because of his worry that such agitation would be counter-productive and because Parliament would be unlikely to pay heed to it.35 He maintained that the faith of potential immigrants was irrelevant and that it was necessary to maintain British traditions regarding religious toleration. In contradiction to his report to Hirsch, he told the 1902-3 Royal Commission on Alien Immigration that only twenty per cent of adult male Jews in Russia were fit enough to be able to settle successfully in Britain.36 The 'alien menace' became his obsession and in his books The English Democracy (1895) and The Modern Jew (1899) his prejudices showed time and time again, although in the latter he wrote favourably of Eastern European Jewry, as well as portraying Jews in pre-1290 and Elizabethan England in a favourable light. His attack was directed against Jews who settled in England after the Restoration in 1656, and was not only aimed at working-class Jews: 'The influence of the [Jewish] community on our national life is out of all proportion to its numbers or even its wealth',37 and future anti-Semitism would come not from the hatred of the Jewish masses but through the 'rich and powerful Hebrews who really are the rulers of the civilised world by having it in pawn'.38 He adopted the classical anti Semitic stance on moneylenders, but at the same time praised the Jewish influence on English public life, which was 'more than irreproachable' and was 'beneficial, discriminating and munificent'.39 The Jewish Chronicle was not fooled, however, and commented that 'We believe [White] takes a genuine interest in the Russian Jews and one who has seen so much of them would hardly deserve the name of Englishman if he did not sympathise with their distress. But [for] what [White] says to warn us in England against the counter terror [i.e. anti-Semitism] perhaps we ought to thank him and the 34 Ibid. 696. 35 7^5 May i89i,p. 8. 36 RC Minute 348. 37 A. White, The English Democracy (London 1895) 152. 38 Ibid. 170. 39 Ibid. 164. i59</page><page sequence="8">Cecil Bloom more so that he exaggerates our power and admits that our appalling doom will be contrary to morality. But his enjoyment of his own prophesies [is] so manifest that we experience difficulty in feeling sufficiently for them.'40 White was saying that the worst of Russian Jewry came to Britain,41 and yet, if he is to be believed, he was happy for them to marry native stock. Time and time again he complained about the Hebrew refusal to assimilate by marriage with its hosts.42 He was vehement in his criticism of this refusal to intermarry, and at one stage his main objection to Jewish immigrants, especially of the capable, energetic and determined ones who had con? tributed to the nation's welfare, seemed to be this refusal to intermarry. Huguenots had successfully settled in Britain because they had intermar? ried, but by not following this lead Jews formed a state within a state.43 In these views he was adamant: 'The [Jewish] influence is an accurate measure of their extraordinary abilities'44 and 'Englishmen of the Jewish race today form one of the most valuable constituent elements . . . and are destined . . . to perform still more valuable services to the Anglo-Saxon people'. But these Jews can 'further benefit the country by intermarriage and Jewish character can supply the points in which British character is most defec? tive'.45 White does not appear to have had any children of his own so he could not have been put to the test of welcoming a Jew into his own family. Under the name 'Vanoc', White used to contribute articles to The Referee, which a Jewish Chronicle correspondent called 'the Esau hand of Arnold White'. In one piece he was scornful about the 'gherkin' and 'coarse fried fish in rank fat' eaten by Jewish immigrants who worked in cheap 'sweating clothing and furniture trades' which were 'ghastly in [their] human aspect'.46 He implied that the consular service was 'under the finan? cial influence of Jews' and he sneered at the Chief Rabbi who was the 'only ecclesiastical authority' who found it necessary to declare that anarchism was opposed to his faith's spirit. 'Vanoc' assured his readers that he was no anti-Semite, but that he held Lord Rothschild responsible for Jewish immi? gration into the United Kingdom, which Rothschild could stop if he so desired. He accused Charles Bradlaugh, the free-thinker and politician, and Lord James of Hereford, chairman of the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration (whose report called for some immigration control), of being in Rothschild's pocket. White's claim was that it had fallen on him to probe 40 JC i^Dec. l897,P- x9 41 RC Minute 345. 42 T24 Dec. 1904, p. 9; A. White, 7%* Modern Jew (London 1899) 274. 43 JCi7jan. 1908, pp. 13-14. 44 A. White (see n. 42) 20-1. 45 A. White (see n. 37) 165. 46 JC2oJan. 1911, p. 7. i6o</page><page sequence="9">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon 'this ghastly question in Russia' not once but many times, and that he knew more of the subject than any other Englishman. Arnold White was the archetype of an anti-Semite. Despite some favourable comments on Jews and professed sympathies for the Eastern European Jewish masses, he was a member of the British Brothers' League, the first quasi-fascist organization in Britain. League meetings generated hysterical scenes of uproar not dissimilar to those aroused by pre-1939 Oswald Mosley or the post-1970 National Front. Jewish immigrants received the brunt of their attacks. At one meeting in January 1902 White 'whipped the audience for a moment in a real frenzy'.47 This had followed publication of his book Efficiency and Empire, written in 1901, which was an attack on the decay, both spiritual and physical, of British society. But he was more at home when attacking the influence of powerful Jews on the Press. '[There is] remorseless control exercised by society and by Jews over the expression of public opinion hostile to them ... In numbers, in wealth, in power and in subtle influence over the whole community [foreign Jews], both poor and rich, are increasing by leaps and bounds.'48 He found it impossible to watch 'without a shudder the union of alien Jewish finance with English bad smart society'.49 Yet he could praise one 'gallant'Jew of an old-established family who died for England in the Boer War.50 The most charitable description of White is that he was a man with confused and inconsistent opinions. But the evidence is there to show his deep hatred of Jewish immigration into Britain from Eastern Europe and his intense dislike of Jews, rich or poor. He was in reality a dangerous agita? tor. The comments made by the St James Gazette, of which he powerfully complained, were vehement in their opposition to Jewish immigration, but White was regularly using the same language. Within twelve months of his St James Gazette criticism, he was vigorous in his objections to immigration when he appeared before the Select Committee. Then, three years later, he claimed to admit that his work for Baron de Hirsch convinced him that he had underestimated the problems Jews faced in Russia. But this had little subsequent effect on his opinions. Furthermore, how can one suggest Jewish immigration could improve the British character on the one hand and then criticize the powerful influence exerted by Jews on the other? He tried to mask anti-Jewish prejudice by making some pro-Jewish and pro immigrant remarks. But he was shrewd enough to realize that an alternative to emigration to Britain had to be found for Russian Jews, in order to make his policy more credible, and he suggested a way out. 'No other alternative 47 B. Gainer (see n. 4) 71. 48 A. White, Efficiency and Empire (London 1901) 80. 49 Ibid. 81. 50 Ibid. 78. i6i</page><page sequence="10">Cecil Bloom is possible than to discover some territory which should be Oriental at no great distance from Europe and associated, if possible directly or indirectly, with Palestine.' He suggested Armenia 'between the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates' which was the 'cradle of the race'.51 And yet, despite these senti? ments, he could complain that the presence of some seventy-nine Zionist societies in Britain was bad because it offered an attraction to immigrants from Eastern Europe.52 The role of Arnold White as a publicist, pure and simple, in the immigration debate was anti-Semitic, but his obituary in The Times accurately stated that 'it is to be doubted whether his influence was in the long run as great as might have been imagined from the number of his readers'.53 As such, White did not influence events significantly - unlike Sir William Evans-Gordon. Sir William Evans-Gordon In 1900 Evans-Gordon became prominent in the alien debate and, as the immigration issue came to a climax with the 1905 Act, he was the leading anti-alien figure. Major Sir William Eden Evans-Gordon (1857-1913) was a retired Indian civil servant. He stood as Conservative candidate for the Stepney division of London at the 1900 general election in which alienism was the major issue and he won the seat from the Liberals. Among his supporters were Lord Rothschild and Lionel Alexander of the Jewish Board of Guardians. At one election meeting Evans-Gordon said that he was not in favour of restricting alien immigration by legislation, remarks which received the 'cordial approval of a crowded audience'.54 If he believed in what he then said, he quickly changed his mind and soon became one of the leading restrictionists. By May 1901, only a few months after his election to Parliament, Evans Gordon was the leading light of the newly-formed British Brothers' League. He was even accused of hiring bullies to remove dissenters from a League meeting in 1902 at which violent harangues were delivered attack? ing immigrants.55 It was at this meeting that the League denied it was an anti-Semitic body. On the contrary, it claimed to be 'anti anti-Semitic'.56 Yet the League even had some Jewish supporters. That same year, 1901, Evans-Gordon was appointed to sit on the crucial Royal Commission on Alien Immigration which, within three years, led to 51 A. White (see n. 42) 274. 52 RC Minute 370. 53 T 6 Feb. 1925, p. 14. 54 JC28 Sept. 1900, p. 10. 55 I. Harris (ed.) Jewish Year Book for 5663 (London 1902) 410. 56 JC 24 Jan. 1902, p. 9. I?2</page><page sequence="11">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon the end of unfettered immigration into Britain. He was not the only member of the Commission to have radical opinions on immigration controls, even before the Commission deliberated on the subject. But he took a leading role in its workings and claimed to have asked a large majority of its thirty-thousand questions.57 While a member of the Commission, he visited Russia, Poland, Galicia and Romania and reported back on his find? ings there. He accepted that the 1881 'May Laws' had led to much Jewish suffering and poverty, but he was critical of Jewish merchants who differed little from their Russian counterparts.58 Overall, however, he had a favourable opinion of the Jews of Eastern Europe. In his book The Alien Immigrant (1903), Evans-Gordon sympathized with the persecuted Jews of Russia but, like White, his views on London immigrant Jews were widely different. 'East of Aldgate one walks into a foreign town ... It is an excep? tion to hear the English language spoken',59 and he compared the East End to the Jewish Pale of Settlement. The book contained an Appendix listing some unsavoury court cases dealing with prostitution which claimed that 'certain noxious activities' had been transferred to England'.60 Also like White, Evans-Gordon seems to have been happy to have Jews marry into British stock, for he similarly was critical of the Jewish unwillingness to intermarry.61 Again like White, he seems to have had no children so did not have to face the possibility of the mingling of his own blood. Evans-Gordon was the brains and driving force of the British Brothers' League, although he made sure that it was fronted by a nonentity - a City clerk. To some extent, however, he was a moderating influence. At a meeting in November 1903, held to urge the government to legislate following the Royal Commission's findings, a resolution was passed thanking him for his work on the Commission and congratulating him on the victory which 'he had won for the British people in the East of London'. This meeting was anxious to ensure that immigrants who were 'purveyors of ill-disposed bacilli' would no longer 'inflict cholera and influenza, smallpox and plague' on the British public,62 but Evans-Gordon's reply made it clear that he had some sympathy for Eastern European immigrants, 'none of whom are responsible for the accident of their birth'. He said he was saddened by the pogroms in Kishinev and elsewhere and went out of his way to repudiate charges of anti-Semitism made against him. The Jewish Chronicle noted his speech with the words 'the demonstration . . . was a more restrained and 57 JC15 July 1904, p. 20. 58 RC Minutes 13343-13349. 59 W. Evans-Gordon, The Alien Immigrant (London 1903) 10. 60 Ibid. 296-302. 61 Ibid. 7. 62 JfC 13 Nov. 1903, pp. 27-8. 163</page><page sequence="12">Cecil Bloom sober performance . . . For much of the moderation of the language, thanks are due to Major Evans-Gordon whose speech . . . was studiously sane.'63 Evans-Gordon did seem to have some understanding for Jews against whom many atrocities had been heaped in Russia. He deplored the spilling of Jewish blood, but he did not believe it was possible to expect any change in Russian policy.64 At one particular protest meeting, he seconded a resolu? tion denouncing atrocities in Russia, condemning the 'barbarous, inhuman, almost unspeakable atrocities' being organized and engineered by the Russian authorities.65 It was usual, he added, for Jews in Russia immedi? ately to be made the 'scapegoats for the passions and wrongs of other people'. But whereas he believed all in Britain sympathized with Russian Jewry in its plight, he had no remedies. Fortunately for him, the Aliens Act was now on the statute books. On a number of occasions he also attacked the Romanian government's policy of suppression, expulsion and political extermination of the Jews and he was bitter about broken pledges given to the British government before Romanian independence had been recog? nized.66 Like White, however, Evans-Gordon's sympathy hardly extended to the Jews of the British ghettos. He said he admired the 'industry and capability of the better class of immigrant'67 and did not favour complete exclusion. But in the debate on the 1904 Aliens Bill, like White, he was happy to refer to immigrants as 'riff-raff and the scum of all nations' who had infested and infected the East End of London.68 Yet he realized, as had White, that something had to be done for the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe, and that criticism of the Russian and Romanian governments was insufficient because, as he rapidly understood, from his standpoint a solution could be available within British control. With the offer of Uganda to the Zionist movement, he became a strong supporter of Israel Zangwill and his Jewish Territorial Organization. Once the Aliens Act was in force, he pleaded with Jewish leaders to support ZangwilPs plan69 and later urged Jews to 'strengthen the hands . . . [of] the admirable policy of Israel Zangwill. . . whose object is to found at once an autonomous Jewish colony where the Hebrew race can work out its own salvation under the British flag en atten? dant the re-occupation of Palestine'.70 He defended Zangwill from attacks 63 Ibid. 19. 64 T1 Dec. 1905, p. 12. 65 yC29Dec. 1905, p. 16 66 T 22 March 1904, p. 10 "? ^?2?,7i?-? 4th Series, House of Commons (hereafter ? CXXXIII Column 1087, 69 T1 Dec. 1905, p. 12. 70 T 22 June 1906, p. 4. 164</page><page sequence="13">Arnold White and Sir William Evans-Gordon by Rothschild and others. 'The sooner the Jewish Territorial Organisation begins the great work of founding [sic] a Jewish land for Jewish people, the sooner will that land become a refuge for industrious families; to delay it is to make the difficulty of pioneer work the occasion for thwarting the one and only practical solution of the Jewish people.'71 He seemed, though, to understand that Uganda was only a temporary solution, because he wrote that Zangwill's work should be supported so that 'Jews may be ready for Palestine when Palestine at last is ready for them'.72 It is, of course, easy to understand Evans-Gordon's interest in Zionism - it was his way of seeing an end to Jewish immigration into Britain. But at least it put him in a differ? ent category from most of the politicians not particularly enamoured of a Jewish presence. Most anti-Semites would have denied Jews a home anywhere. Evans-Gordon retired from the House of Commons shortly afterwards in 1907 through ill-health and appears not to have taken any role in supporting Zangwill's organization or that of the official Zionist move? ment. Chaim Weizmann was of the opinion that Jews were rather hard on Evans-Gordon. Weizmann had first met him in Pinsk in 1902 and saw him again in London in 1903 during the Uganda controversy. He believed that Evans-Gordon had no especial anti-Jewish prejudices. 'The determining factor', he wrote, in regard to the acceptability of the Jew to any host nation, is the 'solvent power of the country. England had reached the point [in 1903] when she could or would absorb so many Jews and no more . . . The reaction against this [absorption] cannot be looked upon as anti-Semitism in the ordinary or vulgar sense of that word; it is a universal, social and economic concomitant of Jewish immigration and we cannot shake it off.'73 But despite these words of Weizmann, Evans-Gordon showed his bigotry and anti-Jewish prejudices on many occasions. Once during a House of Commons debate on the 1904 Bill, in which Winston Churchill, Charles D?ke and others spoke forcibly in support of immigrants, he accused Churchill of being under Rothschild's instructions or of those of other 'powerful Jewish supporters of the Government'.74 Nevertheless, Evans Gordon's approach to Jewish immigration into Britain was clearly more temperate than White's. Although one of the principal founders of the British Brothers' League, which did have many unsavoury supporters, he was a moderating influence, speaking sympathetically of Jews when it would have been simpler to have gone along with the general sentiments of the 71 T12 Dec. 1905, p. 4. 72 W. Evans-Gordon, 'The Attack on the Aliens Act', National Review XLVIII (Sept. 1906-Feb. 1907)471. 73 C. Weizmann, Trial and Error (London 1949) 119. 74 B. Gainer (see n. 4) 189. i65</page><page sequence="14">Cecil Bloom crowd. He was certainly anxious to distance himself from the exuberances of some of the League's unruly and extreme elements. The Jewish Year Book\ article on alien immigration for 1901-2 (Year Books of the period annually reviewed immigration) considered Evans-Gordon to be a moder? ating influence even though he vigorously presented the case for controls.75 He may have been motivated to support ZangwilPs proposals because he saw this as a way of diverting Jews from coming to Britain, but there seems to have been some honesty in this support. Unlike White, Evans-Gordon was a politician and his campaign for immigration control met with some success. Rothschild called both White and Evans-Gordon 'jackasses',76 but there is no doubt that Evans-Gordon, albeit a relatively minor political figure, was largely responsible for the 1905 Aliens Act. Evans-Gordon's agitation on immigration did not cease with the intro? duction of the Aliens Act. He complained that large numbers of immigrants were still coming into Britain because the Act was being administered 'in a manner erring, if anything, on the side of leniency rather than on the side of severity',77 and he was critical of the Home Secretary for not properly enforcing the Act.78 Nevertheless, the verdict on Evans-Gordon must be that he was more moderate and controlled than White, his main predecessor in the great anti-immigration campaign. Some of the sympathy he showed towards Jewish immigration was not completely hypocritical. Weizmann was moved to write about him in his autobiography and Weizmann's view cannot easily be discounted. 75 I. Harris (see n. 55) 410. 76 M. Lowenthal (see n. 26) 364. 77 Hansard CLIII Column 139. 78 W. Evans-Gordon (see n. 72) 467. i66</page></plain_text>