Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gideon, Sampson

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GIDEON, SAMPSON (1699–1762), capitalist and financier, was of Jewish race. His father, Rowland Gideon (d. 1720), a West India merchant, who was a freeman of the city of London and on the court of the Painter Stainers' Company (admitted 17 Feb. 1697), had changed his name from the Portuguese name of Abudiente on settling in England. Sampson Gideon was born in London in 1699, and began business when only twenty years old with a capital of 1,500l., which in less than two years had increased to 7,900l. He was admitted a sworn broker in 1729, with a capital of 25,000l. His fortune mounted up rapidly, and was invested mainly in landed estates, which at his death in 1762 were valued at 580,000l. Gideon became, writes a contemporary, 'the great oracle and leader of Jonathan's Coffee House in Exchange Alley,' afterwards the Stock Exchange in Threadneedle Street (Nichols, Anecdotes, ix. 642). He began to be consulted by the government in 1742, when Walpole desired his advice in raising a loan for the Spanish war. His aid became still more important to Pelham in 1743 and 1744, when the French fleet held the Channel and the funds were falling. In 1745, when the advance of Charles Edward to Derby threw the city into a panic, he freely lent his property and his credit to the government, and raised a loan of 1,700,000l. In 1749 he advised and carried through the consolidation of the national debt and the reduction of its interest, and in 1750 is said to have raised a million, three per cent., at par. He also, in 1753, raised a loan for the citizens at Danzig. At the beginning of the seven years' war in 1756, he paid a bounty from his estates for the recruiting of the army; and in the great years of the war, 1758-9 (as is shown by letters from the Dukes of Newcastle and Devonshire), he was almost wholly relied on by the government for the raising of loans. He added little to his forr tune from this time till his death, and even sold parts of his estates, owing to his preoccupation with government finance.

He built a fine house at Belvedere, near Erith (which is now used for a merchant sailors' asylum), and collected a remarkable gallery of pictures by the old masters, which is now at Bedwell Park, Hertfordshire, the seat of his descendant, Mrs. Culling Hanbury. According to Horace Walpole, Gideon purchased, in 1751, many paintings that had belonged to Sir Robert Walpole. Though so closely connected with the government, he took no part in support of the measure introduced by the Pelhams in 1750 for the naturalisation of the Jews. It was his ambition to be made a baronet; but, this being considered impossible on account of his religion, a baronetcy was conferred in 1759 on his son Sampson, then a boy of fifteen under education as a Christian at Eton. He possessed, besides his mansion at Belvedere, large estates at Salden in Buckinghamshire, at Spalding and Caistor in Lincolnshire, and at Borough Fen, near Peterborough. As lord of the manor of Spalding he was elected in member of the well-known antiquarian 'Gentlemen's Society at Spalding' (Nichols, Anecdotes, vi. 85).

Gideon married Elizabeth Erwell, a member of the church of England. He ceased all open connection with the Portuguese synagogue at Bevis Marks in 1753, yet he never himself joined the Christian church. 'He breeds his children Christians,' Horace Walpole wrote correctly in 1753. Gideon's youngest daughter, Elizabeth, married (1757) William Hall Gage, second viscount Gage. All his estates descended to his only son, Sampson (1744-1824), who married (6 Dec. 1766) the daughter of Chief-justice Sir John Eardley Wilmot, assumed the surname of Eardley in July 1789, and was in October 1789 created Lord Eardley in the Irish peerage. The peerage became extinct at his death in 1824, his two sons, Sampson Eardley, a detenu after the peace of Amiens, and Colonel Eardley of the guards, having died before him. LordEardley's three daughters married respectively Lord Saye and Sele, Sir Culling Smith (father of Sir Culling Eardley Eardley [q. v.]), and J. W. Childers, esq., of Cantley, near Doncaster, among whom his estates were divided.

Gideon was a man of remarkable amiability and generosity, 'of strong natural understanding, and of some fun and humour.' At his death, which took place at Belvedere on 17 Oct. 1762, it was found that he had continued to pay his contribution to the synagogue under the name of Peloni Almoni,. and he was buried with much ceremony in the Jewish cemetery at Mile End. He left legacies by will, dated 17 April 1760, to many charities, both Jewish and Christian, including the Portuguese synagogue and the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy, to which he had been an annual subscriber of 100l. during his lifetime. To the Duke of Devonshire, one of his executors, he left the reversion of his estates if his children died without issue. Much of Gideon's correspondence with the Duke of Newcastle (1756–1762) and others is among the Addit. MSS. at the British Museum.

[Private information; J. Picciotto's Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, 1875, pp. 60sq.; Nichols's Illustrations, vi. 277-84 (by J. Eardley Wilmot); Horace Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, ii. 260, 395; Nichols's Anecdotes, ix. 642-3.]

W. H. F.