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David Salomons (1797-1873)

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Alderman Sir David Salomons (1797-1873)

1873 Died in Marylebone[1]

1874 Obituary [2]

ALDERMAN SIR DAVID SALOMONS, BART. M.P., descended from a family of Jewish merchants long resident in London, was born on the 22nd of November, 1797. He was the second son of the late Mr. Levy Salomons, an underwriter of Lloyd's.

On starting in life his chief ambition was to remove all disabilities attaching to the Jews, and to advocate religious equality generally. Inheriting the associations of his father and grandfather, David Salomons chose at first to enter on the path which led to municipal honours ; but in those days the Jews were not allowed to exercise municipal or parliamentary rights, and a long and arduous struggle was in store for him before he could gratify his ambition. He connected himself with a band of men whose education and spirit placed them in a high position amongst the Jewish community of that epoch, and whose whole aim in life was the prosecution of the rights of Jewish Englishmen. Among them the names of Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, Barnard Van Oven, S. J. Waley, and Louis Lucas were prominent.

In 1835 Mr. Salomons boldly attempted admission into the municipality of London. His popularity, ability, and courage succeeded, and he became the first Jewish Sheriff of London and Middlesex. A few years later he was appointed High Sheriff of Kent, in which county his estates were situate. Here again he was the first Jewish high sheriff in the country.

In 1835 he was elected Alderman for the ward of Dowgate ; but in this case he received a check, not being permitted to take his seat in Guildhall. Nothing daunted, he in 1844 again became candidate for a vacant aldermanic gown, and the electors of Portsoken Ward chose him as their representative. But now, as on the previous occasion, he was obliged to resign the post which the laws of his country did not permit him to fill though his fellow-citizens called him to it.

It was not until 1847 that Mr. Salomons again offered himself for election, but in the interval Sir Robert Peel had carried a bill securing municipal privileges to his fellow-subjects, and he was returned for the ancient ward of Cordwainers, this time taking his seat in the Guildhall.

In due course he became Lord Mayor of London, on which occasion 'The Times' congratulated its readers that they had at last got a chief magistrate who could speak the Queen’s English. The mayoralty of Alderman Salomons was a series of triumphs. His gracious demeanour and pleasant presence, his great hospitality and affable bearing, rendered his career at the Mansion House one of exceptional brilliancy and popularity. He had the honour of receiving as a civic guest King Victor Emmanuel, the ally of Great Britain in the contest raging between England, France, and Turkey, on the one side, and Russia on the other. It was also during his mayoralty that peace was proclaimed, and it was expected that he would have had a baronetcy conferred upon him. But for some unknown reason this was not done, and the omission caused some notice at the time, the more so that the Lord Mayors who had received the Sultan and the French Emperor had been made baronets. It was said that a knighthood had been offered him, but he refused it.

Lord Mayor Salomons’ decisions on the judicial bench gave satisfaction. He had previously, with a view perhaps to performing his duties with greater propriety, entered himself as a barrister at the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar in the year l849.

The first step he took in parliamentary life was to refuse a seat for a borough belonging to the Lowther family, which was offered to him for a time only. He subsequently contested unsuccessfully Old Shoreham in 1837, Maidstone in 1841, and Greenwich in 1847.

In 1851 he was successful at Greenwich ; and it was his bold attempt to take his seat in the House of Commons which drew the attention of the whole community to the disabilities of the Jews, which had been eloquently denounced by Macaulay. At that time the oath taken by members of parliament contained the words 'on the true faith of a Christian.' In taking the oath Alderman Salomons followed the example of Baron Lionel de Rothschild, who was sworn on the Old Testament, omitting the words above referred to. Baron Rothschild withdrew, when requested to do so by the Speaker; but Alderman Salomons, acting under legal advice, and with the support of the leaders among his co- religionists, sat down on one of the benches on the right of the chair. He afterwards retired, but returned by arrangement on another day, and took his seat below the gangway on the ministerial side. A hurricane of cheers and denunciations followed the entry of the member for Greenwich, and the state of the law was thereupon discussed, the supporters of Mr. Salomons proposing to admit him by resolution, without the concurrence of the House of Lords. Acting on the precedent of Pease, the Quaker, who had been excused from taking the oaths, Mr. Salomons voted upon several questions, one to the effect that he should be requested to withdraw. Mr. Salomons himself addressed the House, and his courtly and deferential manner made a most favourable impression ; but the motion was carried against him.

On the 21st of July, 1851, he again attempted to take his seat in the House. The Speaker requested him to withdraw. Mr. Osborne moved as an amendment that Mr. Salomons be entitled to take his seat, but on a division was defeated by 229 to 81. The Speaker then directed the sergeant-at-arms to remove Mr. Salomons, who had previously declared his readiness to leave the House provided enough were done to make it appear that he acted under coercion. The sergeant-at- arms accordingly touched him on the shoulder, and he immediately rose and retired.

Subsequently the electors of Greenwich were unsuccessful in their endeavours to be heard by petition at the bar of the House, and on the 19th of April, 1852, Baron Alderson delivered judgment in the case of Miller v. Salomons an action involving a penalty of £500 for unlawful voting under the Acts of George I. and George 111. In this decision the Lord Chief Baron and Baron Parke concurred, but Baron Martin was of opinion that the defendant had lawfully taken the oath. The seat he unlawfully sat upon in the House of Commons was bought by him when the House moved into its new buildings; and it was always pointed to by him with delight at his country house at Tunbridge Wells.

After the passing of the Act for the removal of Jewish disabilities, Alderman Salomons was again elected for Greenwich, which he represented up to the day of his death. At the general election of 1865 Mr. Gladstone became his colleague, and soon after the accession to office of the right hon. gentleman as First Lord of the Treasury, Mr. Salomons was made a baronet of the United Kingdom, with special remainder to his nephew, now Sir David Lionel Salomons. Sir David was looked upon in the House as an authority on financial maths, and acted as chairman of parliamentary committees on Australian coinage, and Metropolitan bridges. In connection with the latter subject he was up to his last illness preparing to denounce the London coal dues.

He took a prominent part in the management of the London and Westminster Bank, of which great institution he was one of the founders, and was chairman up to the day of his death. He was also a trustee of the London Life Assurance Society, and regularly attended at the offices of these two large concerns to transact business on his appointed days throughout the year.

In the country, he was a magistrate for Middlesex, Kent, and Sussex, and Deputy Lieutenant for Kent and Middlesex, and took a leading part on the bench.

He was the author of pamphlets on 'English and Foreign Railways,' 'Banking,' 'The Corn Laws,' &C., which attracted considerable attention in their day. Sir David Salomons was a discerning patron of art, possessing at his seat, Broom Hill, Tunbridge Wells, a fine collection of modern paintings. He was also a member of several learned societies, and joined The Institution of Civil Engineers as an Associate on the 4th of February, 1862.

Sir David had been for a long time in precarious health, but seemed to rally, and it was hoped that he might be spared for a few years longer, though his great age scarcely justified such a hope. A relapse having occurred, he gradually sank, and breathed his last on the 18th of July, 1873. The news of his death caused sincere grief among the members of the Jewish persuasion in England. He belonged not only to his family and to his friends, but to the whole religious community of which he was a distinguished ornament, and to the country of which he was a patriotic and useful servant.

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