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Jabez Balfour: Wikis

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Jabez Spencer Balfour (4 September 1843 – 23 February 1916) was a businessman, British Liberal Party politician and fraudster.

He was Member of Parliament for Tamworth from 1880 to 1885, and for Burnley from 1889 to 1893. Balfour was also interested in local politics in his home town of Croydon, Surrey where he regularly topped the poll for the school board[1]. When Croydon got borough status in 1883 he was selected as charter mayor and re-elected for a second term. In 1885 he stood as Liberal candidate in Croydon at the general election but lost to the Conservatives. He also stood unsuccessfully for the Liberals at Walworth in 1886.

In 1892, he was at the centre of a scandal when the Liberator Building Society, which he set up and controlled, failed, leaving thousands of investors penniless. Instead of advancing money to home buyers, the Society had advanced money to property companies to buy properties owned by him, at a high price.[2] After the swindle was discovered, Balfour fled the country. He was arrested in Argentina by Inspector Frank Froest of Scotland Yard in 1895; with extradition proceedings held up by legal wrangling, Froest simply bundled Balfour into a train and then a boat sailing for England.[3] Balfour was tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 14 years penal servitude, most of which was served in harsh conditions in Portland prison.[4]

When he was released from prison in 1906, his memoirs were serialised by Lord Northcliffe's Weekly Despatch newspaper. He died in 1916, on a train from London to Wales, heading for a job as a mining consultant.

Amusingly present day South Norwood, which is in the borough of Croydon, has a road called Balfour Road which is named after Jabez Balfour. One of the roads it intersects with is Portland Road. Even though the latter road is not named after the prison it is amusing that long after his death Balfour is still connected to Portland.

Tamworth Road in central Croydon and the Tamworth Arms pub commemorate his time as an MP.

References

  • Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Scoundrel by David McKie (Atlantic Books, 2004) ISBN 1-84354-130-0
  1. ^ David McKie, 'A Sincere, Thorough & Hearty Liberal' Journal of Liberal History, Issue 52, Autumn 2006
  2. ^ Youssef Cassis, City Bankers, 1890-1914, Cambridge University Press (1994), page 164.
  3. ^ Ethan Avram Nadelmann, Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement, Penn State Press (1993), page 59.
  4. ^ John Briggs, Crime and Punishment in England: An Introductory History, Routledge (1996), page 227.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Robert Peel and
Hamar Bass
Member of Parliament for Tamworth
18801885
With: Hamar Bass
Succeeded by
Philip Albert Muntz
Preceded by
John Slagg
Member of Parliament for Burnley
1889 – 1893
Succeeded by
Philip Stanhope
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