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Samson Gideon: Eighteenth-Century Jewish Financier

Miss Lucy Stuart Sutherland

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Samson Gideon: Eighteenth Century Jewish Financier1 By Miss Lucy Stuart Sutherland, C.B.E. SAMSON GIDEON,2 the most noteworthy financier, Jew or Christian, of mid eighteenth century England, was born in 1699, entered business in 1719 and died in 1762. His active career covered the period in which England, freed from internal political turmoil (though still threatened from time to time, as in 1745, by dynastic revolt) and successful in foreign war, was expanding in wealth and enterprise and was lay? ing the groundwork of her nineteenth century predominance. He gained his prominence despite, not because of, the circumstances of his birth and upbringing, and his position when gained was not one to which the age awarded social recognition. It was gained by mastery in a new, and to his contemporaries a somewhat sinster craft, that of a jobber in the rising market in stocks and shares, and by qualities of mind and character that made him supreme in it. In consequence he appears fitfully in the memoirs, letters and pamphlets of the time as a powerful but somewhat equivocal figure, and we should willingly exchange much of the surviving material about respectable but mediocre peers and minor politicians for that which would enable us to reconstruct fully the career of Samson Gideon. For it epitomizes a very important aspect of the rising forces of finance and of that strange, autonomous organisation the London money market, an institution which, as much as anything, enabled England to survive the eighteenth century wars and ensured her nineteenth century hegemony. Unfortunately the main source of such information is sealed to us. At the beginning of the nineteenth century John Eardley Wilmot wrote a short memoir entitled A Memoir of the Life of Samson Gideon Esq. of Spalding Co. Lincoln and Belvedere, Kent, published in J. Nichols Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, 1817-58.3 It was based on papers then in the possession of Gideon's son. Lord Eardley, and makes it clear that a great deal of his correspondence and business papers then survived. But with the extinction of the male line they seem to have disappeared, and all attempts *o trace them have so far failed. The short memoir based on them, a personal letter in private possession4 and some correspondence with ministers and others in various collections5 is all we can call on to support the references in public records, pamphlets,6 and the casual allusions in contemporary Press and memoirs. The main events of his life are, however, known. He was a member of the far flung and distinguished Portuguese Jewish family of Abudiente. His father Rehuel 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 25th April, 1949. 2 He spelt his own name thus ; though others frequently wrote of him as Sampson, the spelling which he favoured for his son. 3 Vol. VI, pp. 277-84. 4 See below p. 88. This letter is among a small number of family papers preserved at Bedwell Park, Hatfield, Herts., where they came by inheritance with Samson Gideon's collection of pictures from Belvedere in 1847 to Sir Culhng Eardley Smith, son of the second daughter of Lord Eardley. Two Kit-Kats of Samson are also preserved there. I am indebted to Col. Fremantle of Bedwell Park for this information and material. 6 There is a good deal of correspondence in the Newcastle MSS., British Museum and in the correspondence of Sir Thomas Drury, preserved in the papers of the Marquess of Lothian (Historical MSS. Commission Vol. 62). 6 There are a number of pamphlets, most of them attacking Gideon's financial activities between 1746 and 1751, and he was not spared by pamphleteer or caricaturist during the agitation against the Jewish Naturalization Bill (see I. Solomons', 'Satirical and Political Prints on the Jews Naturalization Bill.' Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc. of Eng. VI). J 79</page><page sequence="2">80 SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER Abudiente, probably born near Hamburg, came to England from Barbados where the Sephardi Jews had a strong settlement.1 He had already anglicized his name for many purposes to Rowland Gideon and he became a freeman2 of the City of London by redemption in 1698, the year before Samson's birth. His son described him as a West Indian merchant, and he would seem to have been a man of some wealth. He died in 1722. At his death Samson, aged 23, had already been in business for at least three years. In July 1719, the son estimated his own capital (as he was to do annually there? after for forty years) at ?1,500. Twelve months later it had grown to ?7,901.3 There is no sign that on his father's death Samson stepped into a family business. Indeed, though he seems from time to time to have engaged in mercantile ventures, it is clear from the beginning that he turned his attention to operations of a speculative kind, carried out in Change Alley and at Garraway's and Jonathan's coffee houses, in lottery tickets, in government securities, and in the stocks of the only three joint stock companies then commonly dealt in, the Bank, the East India Company and the South Sea Company. The events of the South Sea Bubble year of 1720 and its sequel gave him every opportunity and by 1727 he could provide for his two sisters portions of ?2,000 apiece, those of well-to-do City girls of the period, and by 1729 he estimated his capital at ?25,000. As a fortune of ?50,000 was at that time considered a substantial achievement for a prominent London merchant after a life-time of commercial success, it can be seen that this young man of thirty was doing well and one can understand the suspicion with which jobbers and brokers like him were regarded by the established merchants of the City. The same year he improved his status by gaining recognition as one of twelve Jewish brokers officially licensed by the City (out of 100 "sworn brokers" so recognised).4 By 1740, by a combination of broking and jobbing in English, Dutch, and even in French funds, by marine insurance and other activities, he had raised his fortune to ?44,650. In these years of his life Gideon might have stood for an example of his contemporaries' idea of a 'stock-jobber'?a creature "as savage as their Bulls and Bears,"5 who by some sinister process made "barren money breed money," as Aristotle and the mediaeval anti-usury writers would have said. It may be added that much of what he did was, or became, strictly speaking illegal. By the Act of William III by which the "sworn brokers" were established, they were strictly forbidden to appear on Change Alley or to job in stock themselves.6 Neither Gideon nor his contemporaries, Jewish or Christian, paid the slightest attention to this prohibition, nor to the formidable penalties which they were (on paper) risking by ignoring it. Still more, in 1734 the pressure of the lesser merchants, reinforced by the prejudice of the country gentry and memories of the South Sea disaster, pushed through Parliament a bill intended to prevent "the infamous practice of stock-jobbing."7 It prohibited all the dealings in futures on 1 W. S. Samuel, The Jewish Colonists in Barbados in the Year 1680, 1936, pp. 37-8. He had been for some time, first in Boston and then on the Island of St. Nevis. 2 Ibid. He was made free of the Painters-Stainers Company. Mr. Samuel points out that he was in 1702 Gabay (Treasurer) of the new Bevis Marks Synagogue, and that his contributions would appear to be those of a wealthy man. Samson's mother was his second wife, Esther do Porto, whom he married in 1693, and who survived him. 3 The annual figures quoted are from Eardley Wilmot's study. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes VI. 4 Guildhall Records. Brokers Admissions, 1708-1869. 6 T. Mortimer, Every Man His Own Broker, 1761, p. xii. 7 8 and 9 Wm. Ill c. 32. 8 7Geo. II c. 8.</page><page sequence="3">SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER 81 which the speculative activities of Gideon and his like were based. This prohibition was, however, as ineffective as the first. All that resulted from it was that an extra risk was added to the transactions, since no debt so contracted was recoverable at common law,1 and that the more disreputable elements in Change Alley were strengthened, until the rise of the organised Stock Exchange after 1772 gradually established the regulations and sanctions which the law had failed to provide. It was in 1742 that there opened up for Gideon a new and rich field of operations for the skilful jobber. It arose from the needs of the two great wars, that of the Austrian Succession 1742-8 (with the Jacobite rising of 1745 in the middle), and the Seven Years War, 1756-63. About this time too, Gideon had set his foot on the social ladder he meant to chmb. Like so many who achieved wealth in the eighteenth century, he formed the ambition of using it to found a family which could take its place among those of the landed classes. In his case, and in the circumstances of the time, this meant ultimately the cutting himself off from his religion and from the associates of his past. His first step was to marry a Christian wife, one Jane, daughter of Charles Ermell Esq., and to see that each of the children in turn, including his heir, should be, as he boasted, "baptized by the Sub-dean of St. Paul's few days after their birth."2 Three children survived, Elizabeth, Susanna and Sampson. The opportunities provided by war were primarily those resulting from the loans which the Government had to raise to finance it. The eighteenth century system of taxation was highly inelastic and any unusual strain on the Exchequer led to a recourse to public borrowing. In Marlborough's wars the form which this borrowing took became standardized into the two forms of the funded loans, each sanctioned by Act of Parliament, and the short term loans and anticipations of revenue which took the form of such instruments (some of them extensions of ordinary peace-time practice) as Exchequer bills, Ordnance Debentures and Navy tickets. The development of the funded debt was one of England's greatest eighteenth century assets. It enabled the English Government to mobilize the private wealth not only of its own people, but of the capitalists of Europe. The Dutch were particularly prominent among them,3 but by far the greatest source of supply was the City of London. The people from which the subscriptions were raised are of significance for the purpose of this paper. The Government of the day, and in particular the Treasury, always had to keep up a connexion with the City. It had to satisfy its normal need of short term credit through the monied companies, and it always had remittances, contracts and other financial business on hand. For this purpose a contact between Government and the "monied interest" was maintained with profit to both sides, and at a time when 1 E.g. in the crash of East India Stock in 1769 William Waller wrote to his friend Warren Hastings, 21 November 1769 : "I had an opportunity of serving a rascally broker with broker's equity. After he had delivered in my account, he stopt [i.e. stopped payment], the majority of his principals not being able to pay their differences [margins]. He however to entitle himself to go on with his business offered them a composition of ten shillings in the pound which he paid?and then applied to me and one or two more to pay him our differences. You must know in these cases if anyone has a good account he never receives and so it is if the broker die, the Executor never pays?in both which cases the principal who has a bad account is not brought to pay. I pleaded this equity and told Mr. Broker he did not break on my account, but thought I was fool enough to pay..." (Brit. Mus. MS. 29132 f 349 v.). Recov? ery could in some circumstances, however, be obtained at Equity in the Court of Exchequer. 2 Brit. Mus. Add MS. 33055 f. 219. 3 C. Wilson, Anglo-Dutch Commerce and Finance in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge, 1941, pp. 137 seq. J*</page><page sequence="4">82 SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER politics was dominated by "management" this interest achieved a strongly political flavour. The opportunity to subscribe to Government loans or to obtain Government contracts was much prized, and it was recognized by the leading merchants of the City that they were most likely to get these opportunities if they could be useful to ministers in politics as well as finance. Hence prominent merchants found it worth while to expend considerable sums in buying seats in Parliament, and those to whom contracts went were either such men or the leaders of the great Companies with whom the Treasury wished to keep on terms. Hence under normal conditions the Jewish community of London, despite their considerable liquid capital and their useful continental connexions, were excluded from this profitable form of business, for the prejudice of the time kept them off the boards of the great companies and they were ineligible for Parliament. When the needs of war became compelling, however, the Government had to change its attitude, since it needed all the money it could get, and it is here that Samson Gideon first got his chance. The normal procedure for floating a long-term loan was the "Closed Subscription." The Treasury invited applications from the individuals with whom they were in touch. The terms of the loan were discussed and settled and each individual put in an application on behalf of a number of would-be subscribers known as his "list." Some of them spoke for the foreign and particularly the Dutch subscribers; prominent Government contractors often included a number of M.P's. among the names on their list.1 Private bankers in touch with Government would submit a list of favoured customers. The subscriptions were paid then as now in instalments, and as soon as the receipts had been given out the "scrip" began to be the subject of dealings in the market where it was known as "Light Horse"2 and where the Government followed with anxious eyes the often erratic course of its prices. The importance which Gideon achieved after the outbreak of the war in 1742 was twofold; for the first time he brought together and organized a "list" of Jewish sub? scribers whose application was accepted in 1742, and whose participation continued and became more important as the war went on ; he also became increasingly prominent as an adviser of the Government on the floating of loans and all matters concerning their placing on the market.3 A document submitted to Ministers by Gideon outlines his contributions to the raising of loans in these years. For the ?3,000,000 loan of 1742, after the declaration of war with Spain, he produced a list of more than ?600,000; for that of 1743 his list was for "a much larger sum "; in 1744 ?300,000 was allotted to his list ;4 in 1745, a year of great difficulty, he played a similar role; in 1746, when the financial panic accompanying the Jacobite rising threatened disaster to the loan, he made himself responsible for subscriptions of no less than ?1,070,000 and in 1747 and 1748 he stood behind the nominally "open" subscriptions (i.e. subscriptions open to all who cared to inscribe their names in books laid open for this purpose) sponsored by Sir John Barnard.5 It is not surprising that by 1745 Gideon's capital had risen from the ?44,500 of 1740 to ?82,200. It was the events of 1746 and the succeeding war years, however, which 1 L. B. Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III, 1929, i, 68 n. 2. 2 Mortimer, op. cit. pp. 147-8. When more instalments had been paid up it was known as "heavy horse." 3 I am indebted to Mr. Paul Emden for drawing my attention to the importance of this latter point. 4 Gentleman's Magazine, 1744, p. 225. 5 Taken from a document (Brit. Mus. Add MS. 33055 ff 219 seq.) which I have reproduced in full in 'Samson Gideon and the Reduction of Interest, 1749-50' Econ. Hist. Rev. XVI (1946), pp. 15 seq.</page><page sequence="5">SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER 83 were the making of his fortune and which brought him into close personal touch with those responsible for the country's public finance. In 1742 he had some contact with Sandys,1 then Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it was with Henry Pelham, Sandys' successor and one of the greatest finance ministers of the century, that he had the longest and closest association. In the second half of 1745 the Young Pretender landed in Scotland, confident of French aid if he could bring about a coup d'etat. He was at first successful and advanced as far as Derby before he turned back and was finally defeated. The news of the first reverses caused a panic on the London market?its course can be traced in Gideon's own letters to his client Sir Thomas Drury2?there was real danger of a run on the Bank, and a growing disinclination to accept Bank notes. The attempt of the Bank to aid itself by calling on a species of guarantors who then existed, the holders of the so-called "bank circulation"3 for the circulation of Exchequer Bills merely added to the panic. At this crisis four prominent City men decided to sink their differences and to rally the City. Samson Gideon, Theodore Janssen, later the City's Chamberlain, Sir John Barnard, representative of the lesser merchants and normally a great hater of the great finance interests and of Gideon in particular, and another4 combined to call a meeting to restore credit. Gideon later claimed that he proposed the Subscription for circulating of Bank notes and restoring their credit, and was one of the four persons that carried on that Association, and there is now in Mr. Gideon's hands the original papers and the signatures of above thirteen hundred merchants and others who signed in little more than one day which had that good effect that should be remembered.5 When the danger to the Bank was over, moreover, the crisis still continued. In the first place the Bank who usually advanced the Government money in anticipation of the Land Tax was quite unable to do so, and here once again Gideon took the lead and organized a list of subscribers to fill the gap, though in this he was only partly successful.6 In the second place at the end of 1745 and beginning of 1746 Pelham was struggling to raise a loan, and the ?1,070,000 which Gideon provided was a tribute to the courage as well as the foresight of those who followed his lead. Both were re? warded. When news arrived of the defeat of the rebels near Stirling it was realized that they would clear a very handsome profit, a fact which aroused an uproar in the City, and even led to a demand that the terms of the loan should be altered. Pelham very properly stood out against this demand, but for the loan of the following year (1747) he came to terms with his city critics by agreeing to an "open" subscription under the general management of Sit John Barnard, Gideon's enemy. It was characteristic of Pelham's skill as a negotiator, however, that he succeeded in maintaining the services of Gideon and the rest of the financial interest at the same time, and the combination of these forces brought the loan of 1747 to success, though even their combined efforts could not prevent heavy strain on the weaker subscribers in the loan of 1748, the last year of the war.7 Besides his subscriptions to the loans of these years Gideon had performed other 1 Ibid. 2 Hist. MSS. Comm. Rept. MSS. of Marquess of Lothian. Correspondence of Sir Thomas Drury pp. 148-52. 3 Cf. J. Clapham, The Bank of England, A History, Cambridge, 1944, pp. 68 seq. 4 I have been unable to identify the fourth. 5 Quoted "Samson Gideon and the Reduction of Interest" loc. cit. p. 16. 6 Ibid. loc. cit. p. 22. 7 Ibid. p. 24.</page><page sequence="6">84 SAMPSON GIDEON .* EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER services. He had signed the loyal address got up by the City in 1745 and served actively on a voluntary committee to supply the soldiers in Scotland with equipment and comforts.1 He had also put at the Treasury's disposal his financial ingenuity in proposals for making the loans attractive to subscribers, and at least in 1744 he had played a part in the awkward business of floating the loan by the purchase on the market at a critical moment of a number of the lottery tickets which formed part of the loan, to keep up their price.2 Equally important was the steadying effect if his personality on Change Alley. It is from the crisis of 1745-6 that the well authenticated story arises, that when a private banker, Thomas Snow, affected by the prevailing nervousness, asked him for the repayment of a considerable loan, he sent the sum by return in bank notes wrapped round a bottle of hartshorn.3 By the end of the war Gideon, the interloper into the ranks of the Government's monied friends, had become one of its chief financial advisers. When Pelham came to undertake his famous Conversion Scheme of 1749-50, Gideon was one of his most active coadjutors.4 His private wealth had increased notably as a result of his public services. Between 1745 and 1750 his capital more than doubled, standing at ?180,000 in the latter year, and he now began in earnest to establish himself as a country gentieman. In 1747 he obtained a grant of arms.5 When Belvedere House, Erith, Kent, came on the market after the death of Lord Baltimore he purchased it as his country house (his town house for many years was in Lincoln's Inn Fields), choosing, as merchants were wont, one within easy reach of the City. It was a fine house with superb views over the Thames and one which he improved still further.6 About the same time he purchased the Manor of Spalding in Lincolnshire, a purchase preceded or accompanied by private Acts necessitated, it would seem, by default of title,?the land formed part of the estate of the Duke of Monmouth, forfeited for high treason.7 These Acts seem to be the basis of the unfounded tradition that, despite legislation to the contrary, there was still un? certainty about the right of Jews to own land, and that Gideon used his ministerial connexions to obtain special protection.8 In his will in 1760 he speaks of property in the county of Buckinghamshire as well as in Lincoln9 and it seems likely he had properties in other counties too.10 It was at this time too that he began to pay his first tribute to 1 With Theodore Janssen who originated the Committee jointly with him (Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32862 f. 72). 2 Hist. MSS. Comm. Rept. loc. cit. p. 152. Gideon, writing on 23 November 1745, of the low price to which lottery tickets had fallen remarked "The same would have happened last year had I not taken care to prevent it, which might have been done this year by buying about 2,000 tickets, the want of which I wish may not be of fatal consequence in raising the next supplies." It became customary in succeeding years for the Ministry to make arrangements for purchases of tickets and "scrip" in this way by private bankers. 3 The story often quoted, was told in a letter to Gideon's grandson by Robert the grandson of Thomas Snow on 9 December 1821 and is preserved at Bedwell Park. 4 "Samson Gideon and the Conversion of Interest" loc. cit. 5 Anglo-Jewish Notabilities, their Arms and Testamentary Dispositions, Jew. Hist. Soc. of Eng. 1949, p. 94. 6 E. Hasted, History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent 1. 198. 7 Private Acts 22 Geo. II c. 19 (1749) and 23 Geo. II c. 5 (1750). 8 E.g. J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History C1875), p. 62. 9 Somerset House, Caesar 59. 10 A well-written and charmingly illuminated manuscript survives (Brit. Mus. Add MS. 35172 a and b) entitled "Surveys and Particulars of the Estates of Sir Sampson Gideon, baronet, in the Counties of Cambridge, Lincoln, Huntingdon and Northampton, 1782" by George Maxwell Gravely, Herts., 2 vols. Though there is nothing specifically stated, the introduction would seem to suggest that these properties (some of them reclaimed fenland) had been in the same estate for a period long enough to bring them back to Samson's date. By 1782 the estate had fallen into very bad condition.</page><page sequence="7">SAMPSON GIDEON I EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER 85 the visual arts (as a young man he had shown some literary interests for he was one of the contributors to Daniel Lopez Laguna's poetical translations of the Psalms)1 and he proceeded to lay the foundations of his collection of pictures which was described as "though not numerous, yet . . . very valuable; containing none but pieces which are original of the greatest masters, and some of them very capital.2" The time was now coming when he might think of seeking some relief from the unremitting strain of his business. Sometime before 1755 he had decided to withdraw from it altogether.3 This decision may have been precipitated by his final breach with his co-religionists. In 1753 he formally withdrew from membership of the Portu? guese Jewish Synagogue. The immediate cause of the breach was the fiasco of the Jew's Naturalization Bill of that year, which the Government had to withdraw in consequence of violent and factious political agitation. Gideon was no supporter of the bill. As he wrote at the time:? The affair you mention does not in the least concern me, having always declared my sentiments against any innovation; but contrary to my wishes and opinion it was solicited in folly and want of knowledge, granted in levity and good nature as a matter of no consequence, and now prosecuted with malice to serve a political purpose. It would give me concern as an Englishman if I apprehended any danger to my country, but as I look upon it in a trifling light, I am perfectly easy and shall not choose to meddle either way.4 He was therefore the more indignant when, as the result of an indiscretion of the Jewish authorities, he became the centre of vituperative public attack,5 and he retaliated by withdrawing from the Community.6 This withdrawal was, however, but the culmin? ation of a long process. How complete the breach was can be guessed from the will he drew up later, in which, among a variety of executors and trustees, there is not one Jewish name.7 Gideon's intention to retire from business by the comparatively early age of 55 was thwarted by political events and his own ambitions. His old patron, Henry Pelham, of whom he always spoke with respect and affection, had died in 1754, but his 'connexion' remained in power and the Duke of Newcastie and the Duke of Devonshire continued to welcome Gideon's support and advice. In 1755, looking at the ominous international situation, he let the Secretary of the Treasury know that if the Government were obliged to raise a loan for the war which was looming he would be ready, despite his retirement, to assist by "offering any proposition or supporting any one that shall be advised by others."8 This offer opened up to him a scene of public activity almost as strenuous as that of his earlier war experiences. His new role was, however, rather different. His fortune once again gained greatiy from his exertions. By 1759 (the last year in which we have an estimate) it seems to have been about ?350,000?but he was no longer struggling to increase it; he often represented as much the point of view of the holders 1 A. M. Hyamson. The Sephardim of England (1951), p. 129. 2 Hasted op. cit. He bought a number from Robert Walpole's collection at Houghton which Horace Walpole was selling (H. Walpole Letters ed. P. Toynbee iii, 60. H. Walpole to H. Mann 18 June, 1751). 3 See Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32859 f. 9v. J. West to Newcastle 6 September 1755. 4 Quoted Eardley Wilmot op. cit. p. 283. 6 I. Solomons, "Satirical and Political Prints on the Jews' Naturalization Bill 1753," Trans Jew. Hist. Soc. of Eng. Vol. VI. 6 For this see A. M. Hyamson, op. cit. (1951). p. 128 seq. 7 His executors were Beeston Long, West India merchant, Sir Francis Gosling Kt., Alderman and banker, Robert Gosling his partner, and the widow Jane Gideon. 8 Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32859 f. 9v. J. West to Newcastle, 6 September 1755.</page><page sequence="8">86 SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER of existing government securities as that of the subscribers to new ones,1 and he was moreover bent on using his financial power for non-financial ends. He saw his way to bringing to a triumphant conclusion his struggle for position among the landed classes for his family and himself, by obtaining a peerage or baronetcy in exchange for his services. The Seven Years War was far the most expensive that had yet been fought and imposed heavy strains on the immature fiscal system of the country. Moreover, since the death of Pelham, there was no strong finance minister in control and the unhappy Duke of Newcastle, on whom the main responsibility fell, was constitutionally unfit for the firm and clear-sighted actions necessary in the war's recurrent crises. Each year a loan had to be raised, and in steadily mounting sums. Each year the Duke's nerves threatened indecision in bargaining and weakness in the actual flotation of the loan. Gideon each year made proposals to the Treasury on the terms of the loan, subscribed to it, and, above all, came to the Government's rescue when it ran into difficulties by negotiating with the Bank on its behalf (as in 1756 and 1759).2 by filling up the sub? scription (as in 1756)3 and by steadying the nerve of the Ministers and City alike. The greatest test of his services was in 1759 when the Government was trying to raise what was then the unprecedented sum of ?6,600,000.4 All went well at first in obtaining subscriptions for a loan for the terms of which Gideon was largely responsible ;5 but to attract the large amount required the Treasury had given in to demands that the sub? scription be an 'open' one,6 and an unduly high proportion of the subscribers were entirely dependent on credit for the payment of their instalments. An unfortunate coincidence of a heavy drain on specie to meet requirements abroad with demands on the banks for accommodation to meet the third instalment of payments led in March and April to a sudden and alarming credit crisis which threatened both the capacity of the Bank of England to meet demands on it in gold7 and the receipt of the funds necessary for the prosecution of the war.8 The Bank was forced to cease discounting bills and to threaten a call on "bank circulation." The Duke of Newcastle was at his wits' end; he asked advice from all sides, in including the Bank of England, and received for the most part panicky or impracticable suggestions. That shrewd observer Henry Fox instructed his broker to sell his holding as he had "no opinion of the Subscription : I don't think it will grow much better. 1 Ibid. Add MSS. 32859-32938, passim especially Add MS. 32890. 2 The loans passed in 29 Geo. II c. 7 and 32 Geo. II c. 10. With regard to the first Gideon mentions that on 26th January "I waited upon the Governors and Directors of the Bank by orders from the Duke of Newcastle, to assure them and desire they would declare in his Grace's name that no more than two million shd be raised by way of funding, or any other Lottery allowed of" (Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32864 f. 44, S. Gideon to J. West 28 March 1756). 3 On 3 February 1756, Gideon wrote that he would come to town and see Newcastle about the loan, subscriptions for which were coming in slowly; on 5 February he wrote, "Permit me to acquaint Your Grace that I have subscribed ?? more and filled the subscription." (Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32862 f. 362). The total of his list for this 2?m loan was ?107,960 (Ibid. Add MS. 32864 f. 45). 4 In 1757 ?3,000,000 was raised; in 1758 ?5,000,000. The sums raised increased to ?8,000,000 in 1760 and ?12,000,000 in 1761 and 1762. 5 Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32886-7 passim. 6 Ibid. 32890 f. 227. Newcastle to W. Legge 21 April 1759. "To be sure the fatality of giving in to an open subscription has hurt us." 7 Ibid. f. 37v. 12 April 1759, Notes of meeting between Newcastle and representatives of the Bank. "They fear they may be obliged to pay silver; which would be destruction to them." 8 Ibid. f. 288v. Sir John Barnard 23 April 1759, proposing extreme measures concludes that in this way "it may be possible to go on this year with the War."</page><page sequence="9">SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER 87 the Duke of Newcastle consults too many people about it."1 Gideon's help was very different. He came up from Belvedere to find out the cause of the fall of Stock prices which he thought must be due to bad war news, discovered that a major cause was the fear of a call on "bank circulation," wrote a firm letter to the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank reminding them that they were "the very vitals of credit," pointing out the dangers of such a step and suggesting alternative measures,2 and he kept in close touch with the Secretary of the Treasury.3 The immediate results were highly satisfactory. His letter to the bank, as he boasted, proved an immediate stiptick to the fall of Stocks, they presently rose near three per cent, and the Bank Circulation fifty shillings, as I was credibly informed, for although there might not be a call upon the latter intended, it was courantly so reported upon the Exchange and everywhere for five days without being contradicted till after the receipt of my letter; perhaps that might apprize and give them an opportunity to declare there was no foundation for such report, which indeed has had an extreem good effect . . .4 Equally salutary was his bracing influence upon Newcastle. He strongly deplored any suggestion of improving the terms offered the subscribers. "Should not be surprized" he wrote sardonically, "if some of them should expect a clause, that Parliament will make good to us our losings (if any be) and secure to us a profit at all events."5 He had already said that, should they lose by this venture, he for one would "eat my pudding and hold my toung (sic)."6 By the end of the month the crisis was over and the third payment was assured.7 No-one reading the Duke of Newcastle's correspondence could fail to conclude that the crisis was surmounted largely through Gideon's courage and skill. This crowning service also brought him the crowning award for his social ambition. In 1757 he had married his daughter Elizabeth to Viscount Gage with a portion of ?40,000. In 1758, after winning the royal thanks for his part in raising a loan for the King in his capacity of Elector of Hanover,8 he approached the Duke of Devonshire with the suggestion that he be given a baronetcy as a reward for his services. It was in support of this demand that he drew up the list of financial services already referred to,9 and he prefaced it with a statement of what precedents he could find. Antonio Lopez Suasso native of Holland professing the Jewish religion was in a Catholic country created a Baron by the King of Spain and the Patent sets forth that the title shall descend to male or female, not withstanding their professing themselves to be Jews. The Emperor of Germany confirmed the above and granted him a new Patent by the title of Antonio Lopez Suasso Baron de Avernes le Gross.10 1 Ibid. f. 343. Extract of letter from Henry Fox to his broker, 25 April 1759?sent in to New? castle by Carrington. ? 2 Ibid. ff. 164-5. Gideon to Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank, [17 April 1759]. 5 Ibid. f. 162, J. West to Newcastle, 18 April 1759. 4 Ibid. f. 233, S. Gideon to Newcastle, 21 April 1759. 5 Ibid. f. 233v. 6 Ibid. 32888 f. 295, S. Gideon to J. West [2 March 1759]. 7 Ibid. 32890 f. 361. Memorandum by Newcastle for the King 27 April 1759. 8 Ibid. 32884 f. 160. Newcastle to S. Gideon, 26 September 1758. Correspondence about this loan may be found throughout the volume. Gideon refers to it in his list of services (*Samson Gideon and the Reduction of Interest* p. 17). 8 P. 82, n. 5. above. 10 In 1676. The title was d'Avernas le Gras, Jewish Encyclopedia.</page><page sequence="10">88 SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER Mr. Diego Pereira de Agular [Aguilar] a merchant and native of Portugal and free denizen in England, professing the Jewish religion and educating all his children in the faith he em? braced some years since, was made very lately a Baron of the Empire.1 Whereas Samson the son of Rowland Gideon (a West India merchant and a free and livery man of London) was born in England, married an English Protestant, his sons and daughters were all baptized by the Sub-Dean of St. Paul's few days after their birth, were strictly educated and so many of them that are living continue to profess Christianity. Creations of peerages and baronetcies were still at that time comparatively rare, and were strictly in the King's hands. The award of a tide to a notorious stock jobber would have caused comment in itself, his being also a Jew was held to make it quite impossible. The Duke of Devonshire replied with a civil refusal, acknowledging Gideon's services and reporting that the King seemed extremely well disposed, spoke very handsomely of you and said he should have no objection himself to oblige you, but as you was not bred up in the religion of the country he was afraid it would make a noise and that in a time of confusion and public distress as the present is, he was afraid they would make an ill use of it and therefore desired that I would inform you in the civilest manner that it was not convenient for him to comply with your request.2 Gideon accepted the rebuff, but was not diverted from his aim. By December of the same year, while arranging with the Duke of Newcastle for the loan of 1759 he had made a new proposal, that the baronetcy should be bestowed upon his son, and on that date he forwarded a certificate of the latter's baptism.3 As the negotiations for the loan continued and as Newcastle's fears of failure rose he pressed harder. In January he urged the Minister to press his claims on the King "one word at this crisis will do, which, if neglected, may not be ever recovered, his father has it at heart and dreads being disappointed, be the object of his desire great or small."4 In April when Gideon came to town to the rescue of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Treasury tells Newcastle that he "is very thankful to your Grace for the continuance of your goodness to him."5 In May 1759 his son, an thirteen year old boy at Eton, was created a baronet. His father's letter to him on this occasion has been preserved and illustrates clearly and comprehensively the ambitions actuating him. Belvedere May [1759] Dear Sampson, The King as been pleased to order his Letters Patents to promote you to the dignity of a baronet. It is the lowest hereditary honor, but the first step. I have hope that by your own merit you will go higher, shall otherwise wish his Majesty had not been so gracious. I have always recommended to you the practice and title of an honest man. That only will render you honorable with the wise and good, reconcile your conduct to yourself, and be most acceptable to God. You are allowed to charge your coat with the arms of Ulster which are in a field argent a hand gules. Let them be a constant warning before your eyes that if ever you sign a bond, paper, or instrument derogating from truth, your duty to the King, or destructive to your estate, that very moment you commit a crime as much to be detested as a hand in blood. 1 In 1747. Ibid and A. M. Hyamson op. cit. pp. 101-2. 2 Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32886 f. 243-243v, 13 June 1758. 3 Ibid. f. 241. 9 December 1758. 4 Ibid. 32887 f. 276, 21 January 1759. 5 Ibid. 32890 f. 162. J. West to Newcastle, 18 April 1759.</page><page sequence="11">SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER S9 Behave, my dear boy, as you have hitherto towards your Master, school fellows and everybody. Remember the Proverb "When Pride cometh then cometh Shame, but with the lowly is Wisdom."1 Johnson in his farce points at the vice strongly. "Pride is an adder's egg, laid in the breast of every man, but hatched by none but fools."2 Mama, Lord and Lady Gage, and Sister Sukey join in joy and love to you. Your affectionate Father Samson Gideon.3 GideoQ had now achieved his ambitions and, though he was only sixty, he was an old man. He continued to assist the Government in its financial measures until a few months before his death of dropsy in October 1762.4 but his life was drawing to a close. In 1760 he drew up a will5 which is, from the personal point of view, one of the, most interesting things we know of him. Much of it was concerned with making such pro? vision as he could for the foundation of his family. His lands were preserved from the possibility of dispersal by dissolute heirs by the strictest of strict settlements.6 Dignified provision was made for his wife, his daughter Lady Gage and her husband and heirs, if any, and for his unmarried daughter. If all other heirs failed the estate was to go (rather surprisingly to our views but less so to his contemporaries)7 to the Duke of Devonshire. He left legacies to the hospitals on whose boards he sat, to more distant relatives, servants and to charities?characteristically they included both the Sons of the Clergy and a Jewish orphanage. Then came the point of real interest. He left ?1,000 to the Portuguese Synagogue of Bevis Marks with a request that he be buried with full and specified rites in the "Jews burial ground of Mile End." If this were refused him he wished for Christian burial at Spalding, and in this event made bequests for the poor of that parish and of Erith. When his request was considered, a member of the community came forward and announced that ever since Gideon's withdrawal, he had made on the latter's behalf an anonymous annual gift equivalent to the dues he would have paid had he remained a member.8 The intricacies of the human mind are strange; the hard man with his ruthless and worldly ambitions had not succeeded in driving from him some craving for the religion of his fathers nor the desire to rest among them. His desire was fulfilled. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1762 describes his funeral:? His remains were brought in a hearse and six horses from his seat called Belvedere, in Kent, to Pewterer's Hall in Lyme St., where that Company that was to attend the funeral 1 Prov. ii. 2. 2 Probably Charles Johnson. I have not been able to trace the reference. 3 In the possession of Colonel Fremantle of Bedwell Park, Herts., to whom I am indebted for a transcript of the letter and permission to print it. It is indorsed "My Father's Letter: Dated May 1759." The son heeded his father's precepts and was raised to the peerage as Lord Eardley in 1789. 4 His last letter to the Duke of Newcastle is on 16 May 1762. Add MS. 32938 f. 300. In this he congratulates the Government on their "punctuality" with their creditors and adjures them to respect "the sacredness with which the several funds ought at all times to be main? tained." 5 Somerset House Caesar 59. 6 The trustees were the Earl of As hburnham, Earl Gower and the Earl of Bessborough. Trustees for the legacies to the other relatives were the Earl of Bessborough, Beeston Long (West Indian merchant and one of the Executors) and Robert Cliffe (banker). 7 Horace Walpole, however, seems to have thought it presumptuous (Letters op. cit. V. 269-70). 8 J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, 1875, p. 63. Hyamson. op. cit, p. 133,</page><page sequence="12">00 SAMPSON GIDEON : EIGHTEENTH CENTURY JEWISH FINANCIER met; from whence the corps was carried in another hearse, drawn by six horses, and followed by 12 mourning coaches and six to the Jews' burying-ground near Mile End, where the body was interred near noon, agreeable to the rites of the Jewish religion, as directed by his will. Summing up the evidence of this striking career one can see Samson Gideon as a man of great force and ab?ity, absorbed by a passion for wealth and what wealth can bring. All the tales about him show a forceful and even violent personality?an unhappy official complains that he was "after him... like a madman."1 for his share in the lottery of 1753-4, and his correspondence bears the imprint of an almost savage vigour and contempt of weakness or cowardice. He was uncouth in dress, sardonic in his humour, outwardly a cynic about religion.2 On the other hand he was clearly an affectionate family man, respected for his honesty in business among a class of dealers where his quafifications was then far from common,3 charitable and capable of that kindness to business associates in misfortune4 that has always characterized the City. He had also some real, if simple, patriotism and that appreciation of the visual arts which is often the unexpected attribute of successful men of affairs. Nor, though he longed for the aggrandisement of his family, was he subservient to those from whom he sought it. Supreme in his command of a highly-specialized craft and aware of its value to the statesmen he served, he wrote and spoke to them with a blunt outspokenness and assurance oddly at variance with the normal tone of political correspondence of the day. And even when he asked favours, he demanded them, choosing his time to do so with good hopes of success, and did not beg for them. As a public figure he is significant for what he stood for and for the assurance with which he moved in the financial field before him. His advice was always bold but never rash and, though it was not his way to theorize or introduce generalizations that were not relevant to his immediate purpose, there shines through everything he wrote a clear grasp of the rising credit structure, a grasp of the functions both of the Bank and the money market in this structure, and a consummate mastery of all the day-to-day minutiae of the financial world in which he moved. 1 Brit Mus. Add MS. 32855 f. 468, P. Leheup to Newcastle, 11 June 1755. 2 A number of these tales are included in an otherwise valueless account of him in J. Francis, Chronicles and Characters of the Stock Exchange, 1849, pp. 88 seq. 3 This did not prevent his participation in practices which would not be accepted by later periods, e.g. his implication in the British Museum Lottery scandal of 1753-4. J. Ashton, The History of English Lotteries, 1893, p. 70. For this see also Brit. Mus. Add MS. 32855, ff. 467 seq. 4 See Eardley Wilmot op. cit. pp. 281-2.</page></plain_text>