Goldsmid, Abraham (DNB00)

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GOLDSMID, ABRAHAM (1756?–1810), Jewish financier, was born in Holland about 1756. His father, Aaron Goldsmid, a merchant by profession, married Catherine, daughter of Abraham de Vries, M.D., of Amsterdam, 6 March 1740, settled in England about 1763, and died 3 June 1782. Goldsmid and his elder brother, Benjamin (1753?–1808), started in business as bill brokers about 1777. Their financial connections were gradually extended, and after 1792 their wealth rapidly increased through their dealings with the British government. It was regarded as an important event upon the Stock Exchange that men, till then nearly unknown, managed to wrest the floating of government loans from the hands of the banking clique. The brothers Goldsmid during the last fifteen years of their lives were somewhat prominent figures in English social life. Benjamin had a fine country-house at Roehampton. They not only came to exercise a kind of monopoly of influence upon the Stock Exchange, but their wide and genial benevolence secured them general respect. Benjamin Goldsmid was, according to his biographer, the real founder of the Royal Naval Asylum some years before the institution was taken over by government and established at Paddington Green, London. He married Jessie Solomons, the daughter of a wealthy East India merchant, and had many children. Four sons, John Louis, Henry, Albert, and Lionel Prager, survived. His grandson (son of Lionel Prager) is the well-known orientalist and traveller, Sir Frederic John Goldsmid, K.C.S.I. Benjamin Goldsmid was subject in the latter years of his life to fits of melancholia, and committed suicide on 11 April 1808.

Abraham Goldsmid was a joint contractor, together with the firm of Baring, for the ministerial loan of fourteen millions in 1810. The death of Sir Francis Baring on 11 Sept. added greatly to the heavy burden upon his shoulders. Goldsmid's commanding and exceptional position upon the Stock Exchange had secured him many enemies and rivals. The scrip of the new loan kept gradually falling, and Goldsmid's difficulties were still further increased owing to the failure of certain transactions relating to exchequer bills which he had to negotiate for the East India Company. When it became clear that he could not meet his liabilities, Goldsmid's courage failed him and he committed suicide. This was on 28 Sept. 1810. The news of his death caused consols to fall the same day from 65½ to 63½, and they left off at 64½. Scrip or ‘omnium,’ which began on 29 Sept. at 7 discount, fell to 10 and closed at 9. ‘We question,’ said the ‘Courier’ and the ‘Morning Post’ of that date, ‘whether peace or war suddenly made ever created such a bustle as the death of Mr. Goldsmid.’ The newspapers contained many panegyrics of Goldsmid's benevolence, of which a large number of curious stories have been preserved. It is said that I O U's to the amount of 100,000l. were found in his drawers after his death and torn up as waste paper; they had doubtless been given and received as a mere form to veil the fact that the loans were really gifts. The somewhat effusive praises of the newspapers provoked the anger of Cobbett, who devoted a number of his ‘Weekly Political Register’ to an attack upon Goldsmid. Goldsmid's firm made great efforts to discharge their liabilities. By 1816 they had paid a full 15s. in the pound, and in 1820 parliament, on the petition of the creditors (another 1s. 6d. in the pound having been paid), annulled the remaining portion of the debts, whether due to government or to private individuals. Goldsmid married Ann Eliason, of Amsterdam. His daughter Isabel married her cousin, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid [q. v.]

[Gent. Mag. 1808, i. 373, 457, 1810, ii. 381; European Mag. 1810, lviii. 244 (with portrait of Abraham Goldsmid); Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, 3 Oct. 1810, vol. xviii. No. 16, p. 313; Times, 12 and 13 April 1808; Independent Whig (a hostile notice of Benjamin Goldsmid), 17 April 1808; Morning Post, 29 Sept., 1, 2, 3, 10, and 18 Oct. 1810; Courier, 28 and 29 Sept., 3 and 4 Oct. 1810; Morning Chronicle, 29 Sept. and 1, 2, and 3 Oct. 1810; Times, 29 Sept. 1810; House of Commons' Journals, 1820; Memoirs of the Life of the late Benjamin Goldsmid of Roehampton, by Levy Alexander (a curious specimen of gossiping and eulogistic biography); Francis' Chronicles and Characters of the Stock Exchange, 1855, new ed. pp. 180–6; Thornbury's Old and New London, i. 485; James Picciotto's Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History.]

C. G. M.