Simon, John (1818-1897) (DNB00)

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SIMON, Sir JOHN (1818–1897), serjeant-at-law, born at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 9 Dec. 1818, was the only son of Isaac Simon, a Jewish merchant, by Rebecca, only daughter of Jacob Orobio Furtado. The latter was descended from Balthasar Orobio, who, on account of his adherence to the Jewish faith, spent three years (1655 to 1658) in the prison of the Spanish inquisition, and whose father, Cæsar Orobio, was burned at the stake. Simon studied at University College, London, and graduated LL.B. in 1841 at London University. In the following year he was called to the bar of the Middle Temple, being, after Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid [q. v.], the first Jew to be admitted to the bar. After practising for two years in Jamaica he returned to England in 1845, and became a leader on the common-law side on the northern circuit. In April 1858 he successfully defended Simon Bernard from the accusation of complicity with Orsini in the attempt to assassinate Napoleon III. In February 1864 he was appointed a serjeant-at-law, and in February 1868 he received a patent of precedence, which gave him the privileges of queen's counsel, with the right of holding briefs against the crown (London Gazette, 9 Feb. 1864, and 21 Feb. 1868). On 27 Nov. 1868 he was returned to parliament in the liberal interest for the borough of Dewsbury in Yorkshire. In the House of Commons he soon commanded attention as an authority on legal questions. He made weighty speeches on the Oaths Bill (1880–3), and on the government of Jamaica in 1884.

In parliament and outside Simon was an untiring advocate of Jewish interests. Besides organising the Mansion House meeting in 1870 to protest against the persecution of the Jews in Roumania and Servia, he entered a vigorous protest in parliament against their ill-treatment in Russia in 1882. He was one of the founders of the Anglo-Jewish Association in 1871. On 24 Aug. 1886 he received the honour of knighthood. Two years later he retired from parliament. He died at Tavistock Square, London, on 24 June 1897, and was buried at Golder's Green cemetery, Hendon. On 12 July 1843 Simon married Rachel, fifth daughter of Simeon Kensington Salaman of Portman Square, London, and sister of Charles Kensington Salaman, the musical composer. By her he had five surviving children—two sons, Charles Moncrieffe Simon and Oswald John Simon, and three daughters.

A portrait, by Mr. S. J. Solomon, R.A., is the property of Lady Simon at 63 Tavistock Square. Simon also figures in Walter Goodman's picture of Bernard's trial, which is likewise at Tavistock Square.

[Jewish Chronicle, 2 July 1897; Dewsbury Reporter, 3 July 1897; Ann. Reg. 1858, Chron. p. 310; Walford's County Families, 1897; Burke's Peerage, 1897, p. 1679.]

E. I. C.