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The Right Honourable 
The Viscount Samuel
 
GCB OM GBE PC


In office
25 June 1909 – 14 February 1910
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith
Preceded by The Lord Fitzmaurice
Succeeded by Joseph A. Pease
In office
25 November 1915 – 11 February 1916
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith
Preceded by Winston Churchill
Succeeded by Edwin Samuel Montagu

In office
14 February 1910 – 11 February 1914
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith
Preceded by Sydney Buxton
Succeeded by Sir Charles Hobhouse
In office
26 May 1915 – 18 January 1916
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith
Preceded by Sir Charles Hobhouse
Succeeded by Joseph A. Pease

In office
12 January – 7 December 1916
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith
Preceded by Sir John Simon
Succeeded by Sir George Cave
In office
26 August 1931 – 1 October 1932
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by John Robert Clynes
Succeeded by Sir John Gilmour

In office
1 July 1920 – 25 August 1925
Succeeded by Sir Herbert Plumer

Born 6 November 1870(1870-11-06)
Toxteth, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died 2 February 1963 (aged 92)
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Beatrice Franklin
Alma mater University College School, London England
Balliol College, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Religion Judaism

Herbert Louis Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel GCB OM GBE PC (6 November 1870  – 2 February 1963) was a British politician and diplomat.

Contents

Early years

He was born at Claremont No. 11 Belvidere Road, Toxteth, Liverpool in 1870. The building now houses part of The Belvedere Academy. He was the brother of Sir Stuart Samuel. He was educated at University College School in Hampstead, London and Balliol College, Oxford. He had a religious Jewish upbringing but in Oxford his beliefs underwent a radical change and he went to the extreme length of renouncing all religious belief, declaring he would no longer adhere to any outward practice of religion and in 1892 wrote to his mother that he would never be able to attend a synagogue. He remained a member of the Jewish community, and kept kosher and the Sabbath "for hygienic reasons".[1]

Samuel unsuccessfully fought two general elections before being elected a Member of Parliament for the Cleveland constituency in a by-election in 1902, as a member of the Liberal Party. He was appointed to the Cabinet in 1909 by Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, first as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and then later as Postmaster General, President of the Local Government Board, and eventually Home Secretary. He put forward the idea of establishing a British Protectorate over Palestine in 1915 and his ideas influenced the Balfour Declaration. As Home Secretary, Samuel faced a shortage of manpower needed to fight in World War I, and initiated legislation which offered thousands of Russian refugees (many of them young Jews) a choice between conscription into the British Army, or returning to Russia for military service. [2]

The governing Liberal Party lost faith in Asquith in December, 1916, over the conduct and huge losses of the First World War and chose the pro-Zionist Lloyd George to serve as Prime Minister instead. Samuel sided with Asquith over this affair, losing his place in cabinet and then losing his seat in the general election of 1918.

Appointment as High Commissioner

Samuel was a dedicated Zionist. In 1915 he submitted a memorandum suggesting that Palestine become a home for the Jewish people, but at that time it had received little sympathy.[3]

In 1917, Britain occupied Palestine (then part of the Ottoman Empire) during the course of the First World War. Samuel lost his seat in the election of 1918 and became a candidate to represent British interests in the territory. He was appointed to the position of High Commissioner in 1920, before the Council of the League of Nations approved a British mandate for Palestine. Nonetheless, the military government withdrew to Cairo in preparation for the expected British Mandate, which was finally granted 2 years later by the League of Nations. He served as High Commissioner until 1925 [1]. Samuel was the first Jew to govern the historic land of Israel in 2,000 years.[4]. He recognised Hebrew as one of the three official languages of the Mandate territory. He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) on 11 June 1920.

Samuel's appointment to High Commissioner of Palestine was controversial. While the Zionists welcomed the appointment of a Zionist Jew to the post, the military government, headed by Allenby and Bols, called Samuel's appointment "highly dangerous".[5]. Technically, Allenby noted, the appointment was illegal, in that a civil administration that would compel the inhabitants of an occupied country to express their allegiance to it before a formal peace treaty (with Turkey) was signed, was in violation of both military law and the Hague Convention[6]. Bols said the news was received with '(c)onsternation, despondency, and exasperation' by the Moslem [and] Christian population ... They are convinced that he will be a partisan Zionist and that he represents a Jewish and not a British Government.'[7] Allenby said that the Arabs would see it as "as handing country over at once to a permanent Zionist Administration" and predicted numerous degrees of violence. Lord Curzon read this last message to Samuel and asked him to reconsider accepting the post. (Samuel took advice from a delegation representing the Zionists which was in London at the time, who told him that these 'alarmist' reports were not justified. Samuel's memoirs, p.152.) The Muslim-Christian Association had sent a telegram to Bols:

'Sir Herbert Samuel regarded as a Zionist leader, and his appointment as first step in formation of Zionist national home in the midst of Arab people contrary to their wishes. Inhabitants cannot recognise him, and Moslem-Christian Society cannot accept responsibility for riots or other disturbances of peace'.

. The wisdom of appointing Samuel was debated in the House of Lords a day before he arrived in Palestine. Lord Curzon said that no 'disparaging' remarks had been made during the debate, but that 'very grave doubts have been expressed as to the wisdom of sending a Jewish Administrator to the country at this moment'. Questions in the House of Commons of the period also show much concern about the choice of Samuel, asking amongst other things 'what action has been taken to placate the Arab population ... and thereby put an end to racial tension'. Three months after his arrival, The Morning Post wrote that 'Sir Herbert Samuel's appointment as High Commissioner was regarded by everyone, except Jews, as a serious mistake.'

Historic plaque on King George Street, Jerusalem, affixed in 1924 by Herbert Samuel during his term as High Commissioner of Palestine
Col. T. E. Lawrence, Emir Abdullah, Air Marshal Sir Geoffrey Salmond, Sir Herbert Samuel and Sir Wyndham Deedes and others in Palestine

High Commissioner of Palestine

As High Commissioner, Samuel was at pains to demonstrate his neutrality and attempted to mediate between Zionist and Arab interests acting to slow Jewish immigration and win the confidence of the Arab population. He hoped to gain Arab participation in mandate affairs and to guard their civil and economic rights, while at the same time refusing them any authority that could be used to stop Jewish immigration and land purchase.[8] According to Wasserstein his policy was "subtly designed to reconcile Arabs to the [...] pro-Zionist policy" of the British.[9] Islamic custom at the time was that the chief Islamic spiritual leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was to be chosen by the temporal ruler, the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople, from a group of clerics that were nominated by the indigenous clerics. After the British conquered Palestine, the Sultan was no longer the secular ruler. Herbert Samuel was to appoint the Islamic leader. He chose Hajj Amin Al Husseini, who later proved a thorn in the side of the British administration in Palestine.

During Samuel’s administration the White Paper of 1922 was published, supporting Jewish immigration within the absorptive capacity of the country and defining the Jewish national homeland as “not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, a interest and a pride.”[10]

Return to Britain

On his return to Britain in 1925, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin asked Samuel to look into the problems of the mining industry. The Samuel Commission published its report in March 1926 recommending that the industry be reorganised but rejecting the suggestion of nationalisation. The report also recommended that the Government subsidy should be withdrawn and the miners' wages should be reduced. The report was one of the leading factors that led to the 1926 General Strike.

Samuel returned to the House of Commons following the 1929 General Election. Two years later he became deputy leader of the Liberal Party and acted as leader in the summer of 1931 when Lloyd George was ill. Under Samuel the party served in the first National Government of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald formed in August 1931, with Samuel himself serving as Home Secretary. However the government's willingness to consider the introduction of protectionist tariffs and to call a general election to seek a mandate led to the Liberal Party fragmenting into three distinct groups. After the general election and with Lloyd George now detached at the head of a group of Independent Liberals, Samuel became the official leader of the Liberals (the first practising Jew to lead a major British political party) but faced a party predominantly divided with over half the MPs in the Liberal National faction of Sir John Simon. The government's moves to introduce tariffs caused further friction for the Liberals and Samuel withdrew the party from the government in stages, first obtaining the suspension of cabinet collective responsibility on the matter to allow Liberal members of the government to oppose tariffs, then in October 1932 the Liberal ministers resigned their ministerial posts but continued to support the National Government in Parliament, and finally in November 1933 Samuel and the bulk of the Liberal MPs crossed the floor of the House of Commons to now oppose the government outright. He remained leader of the Liberal Party until he again lost his seat in 1935.

In 1937 he was granted the title Viscount Samuel; later that year Samuel, although Jewish, aligned himself with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy towards Adolf Hitler, urging that Germany be cleared of its 1914 war guilt and recommending that Germany's former colonies be returned to her. He declined a later offer by Chamberlain to return to government. In 1938 he supported the Kindertransport movement for refugee children from Europe with an appeal for homes for them.

In 1942 George Allen & Unwin Ltd published Samuel's fantastical account of how he had discovered the fabled land of Bensalem. This Island was described as a land of incredibly advanced technology written about by Francis Bacon in The New Atlantis. Samuel believed the story to be true and financed his own expedition on becoming viscount. His story describes how Bensalem was discovered when a violent storm shipwrecked the expedition on the Utopian island. What follows is a rather incredible description of the history, sociology, technology and economy of the Bensal. Included are charts of the Islands and two appendices: one on head binding and the other on their discovery of light's physical properties.

Samuel later became the leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords (1944-55). During the 1951 general election, on 15 October 1951, Samuel became the first British politician to deliver a party political broadcast on television[11].

His son Edwin Herbert Samuel, 2nd Viscount Samuel served in the Jewish Legion.

Literary endeavours

In his later years he remained concerned over the future of humanity and of science, writing three remarkable books: "Essays in Physics" (1951), "In Search of Reality" (1957) and a collaborative work, "A Threefold Cord: Philosophy, Science, Religion" (1961). The three works tended to conflict with the beliefs of the scientific establishment, especially as his collaborator and friend in the last work was Herbert Dingle.

References

  1. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard, "Herbert Samuel: A Political Life" 1992, p.9. Cited by Huneidi, Sahar "A Broken Trust, Herbert Samuel, Zionism and the Palestinians", 2001. p.80
  2. ^ Modern British Jewry, Geoffrey Alderman, Oxford University Press p.237-238
  3. ^ C.D. Smith, 2001, 'Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict', 4th ed., ISBN 0-312-20828-6, p. 60,112
  4. ^ Jewish Virtual Library Herbert Louis Samuel (1870 - 1963)
  5. ^ Vital, Zionism, p. 83. Also Knox, The Making of a New Eastern Question, p. 153, and Ingrams, Palestine Papers, p. 105.
  6. ^ Henry Laurens, La Question de Palestine, Fayard, Paris 1999 vol.1 p.523
  7. ^ Ingrams, Palestine Papers, p. 106.
  8. ^ C.D. Smith, 2001, 'Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict', 4th ed., ISBN 0-312-20828-6, p. 110-112
  9. ^ B. Wasserstein, 1978, 'British in Palestine', p.92
  10. ^ The Palestine White Paper of 1922 (Cmd. 1700)
  11. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard, "Herbert Samuel: A Political Life" 1992,p.396

Further reading

  • John Edward Bowle, Viscount Samuel: A Biography (Victor Gollancz, 1957)
  • Viscount Samuel, Memoirs 1945
  • Bernard Wasserstein, Herbert Samuel: A Political Life (Clarendon Press, 1992)
  • Huneidi, Sahar "A Broken Trust, Herbert Samuel, Zionism and the Palestinians" 2001.
  • Tom Segev, One Palestine, complete: Jews and Arabs under the British mandate, London, Little, Brown (2000) ISBN 0316648590

External links

See also

External links

Succession

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred E. Pease
Member of Parliament for Cleveland
1902–1918
Succeeded by
Sir Park Goff
Preceded by
Sir Frank Sanderson
Member of Parliament for Darwen
19291935
Succeeded by
Stuart Hugh Minto Russell
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord FitzMaurice
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1909–1910
Succeeded by
Joseph Albert Pease
Preceded by
Sydney Buxton
Postmaster General
1910–1914
Succeeded by
Charles Hobhouse
Preceded by
John Burns
President of the Local Government Board
1914–1915
Succeeded by
Walter Hume Long
Preceded by
Charles Hobhouse
Postmaster General
1915–1916
Succeeded by
Joseph Albert Pease
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1915–1916
Succeeded by
Edwin Samuel Montagu
Preceded by
Sir John Simon
Home Secretary
1916
Succeeded by
Sir George Cave
New office High Commissioner of Palestine
1920–1925
Succeeded by
Herbert Onslow Plumer
Preceded by
John Robert Clynes
Home Secretary
1931–1932
Succeeded by
Sir John Gilmour
Party political offices
Preceded by
?
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
1929–1931
Succeeded by
Archibald Sinclair
Preceded by
David Lloyd George
Leader of the British Liberal Party
1931–1935
Succeeded by
Sir Archibald Sinclair
Preceded by
Robert Crewe-Milnes
Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords
1944–1955
Succeeded by
Philip Rea
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Samuel
1937–1963
Succeeded by
Edwin Samuel
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