Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goldsmid, Isaac Lyon

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GOLDSMID, Sir ISAAC LYON (1778–1859), financier and philanthropist, of Jewish race and religion, was born in London on 13 Jan. 1778. His father, Asher Goldsmid, a bullion broker, was brother of Abraham Goldsmid [q. v.] Isaac Goldsmid, after a careful education, entered the firm of Mocatta & Goldsmid, bullion brokers to the Bank of England and to the East India Company. As bullion broker he was then, ipso facto, a member of the Stock Exchange, where up till 1828 only twelve Jewish brokers were admitted. He married, on 29 April 1804, Isabel, daughter of Abraham Goldsmid, his father's brother. As a financier Goldsmid gradually rose to considerable eminence and ultimately amassed a large fortune. His most extensive financial operations were connected with Portugal, Brazil, and Turkey, and for his services in settling an intricate monetary dispute between Portugal and Brazil he was created by the Portuguese government Baron da Palmeira in 1846. Goldsmid was, however, much more than a mere financier. The main effort of his life was spent in the cause of Jewish emancipation; he was also a prominent worker for unsectarian education and social reforms. ‘He was closely allied,’ says Mr. Hyde Clarke, ‘with the utilitarian and, at that time, radical school.’ He took a prominent part in the foundation, in 1825, of University College, then called the University of London. While success was still doubtful, Goldsmid gave the necessary impetus by a prompt acquisition of the desired site in Gower Street ‘at his own risk and that of two colleagues, Mr. John Smith and Mr. Benjamin Shaw, whom he persuaded to join in the responsibility’ (University College Report for 1859). In 1834 he gave energetic help in the establishment of the University College or North London Hospital, and served as its treasurer from 1839 till 1857. With Mrs. Elizabeth Fry and Peter Bedford, Goldsmid was a zealous fellow-worker for the reform of the penal code and the improvement of prisons. Robert Owen, the socialist, in his autobiography, speaks of his long intimacy with Goldsmid and the interest he displayed in the system of New Lanark (Life of Robert Owen, 1857, i. 150).

The cause of Jewish emancipation had Goldsmid's entire devotion. Through his unflagging energy the Jewish Disabilities Bill was introduced by Sir (then Mr.) Robert Grant [q. v.] in 1830. The bill was thrown out in the House of Commons on its second reading, but was reintroduced in the reformed parliament in 1833, when it was passed by large majorities. For many subsequent years the bill was rejected in the upper house. Nevertheless it was Goldsmid's exertions in the early years of the struggle, whereby many prominent liberal members of both houses and a few conservatives were induced to take a warm interest in the question, that ultimately secured its success. In 1833 the bill was so closely connected with his name that Sir Robert Inglis declared that ‘the title of the bill ought to be “a bill to enable an hon. gentleman to come from the lobby into the body of the house”’ (Hansard, Parl. Debates, July 1833, p. 1079). Goldsmid's public services and his labours for the Jews Disabilities Bill brought him into relations with several liberal statesmen. Besides the original mover of the bill, Sir R. Grant, there was no more zealous friend of Goldsmid and his cause than the third Lord Holland. When, in 1841, Goldsmid's name was included among the baronets created by Lord Melbourne's outgoing ministry, the distinction, then for the first time conferred upon a Jew, was greatly due to the well-known wish of Lord Holland, who had died in the previous year. Goldsmid died on 27 April 1859. His son Francis Henry [q. v.] succeeded to the baronetcy. His eldest daughter, Anna Maria Goldsmid (1805–1889), philanthropist, was educated under Thomas Campbell, the poet; was the friend of Lord Brougham, Robert Owen, Mendelssohn, and Sir Moses Montefiore; gave large sums to charity, and was deeply interested in educational questions. She died 8 Feb. 1889, aged 84, leaving some of Campbell's manuscripts to the British Museum. She published the following translations: 1. ‘Twelve Sermons,’ by Salomon Gotthold (1839). 2. ‘Developments of the Religious Idea in Judaism,’ by Philippsohn (1855). 3. ‘The Deicides. Analysis of the Life of Jesus by J. Cohen of Marseilles’ (1872). 4. ‘Educational Code of Prussia,’ 1872 (Times, 19 Feb. 1889; Brit. Mus. Cat.)

[Memoir of Sir Isaac Goldsmid, by Mr. Hyde Clarke, in Banker's Mag. June 1859, pp. 375–82, July 1859, pp. 449–57, April 1860, pp. 220–4; Jewish Chronicle, 6 May and 17 June 1859; private information.]

C. G. M.