Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Salomons, David
SALOMONS, Sir DAVID (1797–1873), lord mayor of London, second son of Levy Salomons, merchant and underwriter of London and Frant, Sussex, and Matilda de Mitz of Leyden, was born on 22 Nov. 1797. He was a member of a Jewish family long resident in London and engaged in commercial pursuits. He was brought up to a commercial life, and in 1832 was one of the founders of the London and Westminster Bank, of which at the time of his death he was the last surviving governor. He commenced business as an underwriter in March 1834. In 1831 Lord Denman advised the corporation of London that they could admit Jews to certain municipal offices by administering to them such an oath as would be binding on their conscience; and in 1835 Salomons, having distinguished himself by his charitable contributions and benevolent efforts in the city, and being a liveryman of the Coopers' Company, was chosen one of the sheriffs for London and Middlesex. To set at rest any doubts which might exist as to the legality of the election, a special act of parliament was passed. A testimonial was presented to him in September 1836, at the close of his shrievalty, by his co-religionists ‘as an acknowledgment of his exertions in the cause of religious liberty.’ It consisted of a massive silver group, emblematical of the overthrow of ignorance and oppression and the establishment of religious equality. This is now preserved, in accordance with a provision in Salomons's will, in the Guildhall Museum.
He was also elected in 1835 alderman for the ward of Aldgate; but as he declined on conscientious grounds to take the necessary oaths, the court of aldermen took proceedings in the court of queen's bench to test the validity of his election. The verdict was in favour of Salomons, but was reversed on appeal, the higher court considering that the oath required by the act of George IV could not be evaded. He was appointed high sheriff of Kent in 1839–40, without being obliged to subscribe to the usual declaration, and was also a magistrate and deputy lieutenant for Kent, Sussex, and Middlesex, receiving his commission for Kent in 1838 as the first Jewish magistrate. He was again elected alderman, this time for Portsoken ward, in 1844; but, the oath being still compulsory, he was not admitted to the office by the court of aldermen. In the following year, mainly through the exertions of Salomons, an act of parliament was passed to enable Jews to accept and hold municipal offices, and in 1847 he was accordingly elected and admitted alderman of Cordwainer ward. In celebration of his triumph Salomons founded a perpetual scholarship of 50l. per annum in the City of London School. He was admitted a member of the Middle Temple in 1849.
His political career began at Shoreham, which he unsuccessfully contested in the liberal interest in August 1837. He was also defeated at Maidstone in June 1841, and at Greenwich in August 1847, but was returned as a liberal for the last-mentioned borough in June 1851. He declined to take the oath ‘on the true faith of a Christian,’ but nevertheless insisted on voting three times without having been sworn in the statutory way. Prolonged legal proceedings followed in the court of exchequer, and he was fined 500l. Upon the alteration of the parliamentary oath in 1858 [see Rothschild, Lionel Nathan de] he was again elected for Greenwich as a liberal, and took his seat in 1859, continuing to represent that constituency until his death. Salomons had great weight with the house in commercial and financial questions.
His civic career was crowned by his election as lord mayor on Michaelmas day 1855; and on leaving office he received the unique distinction of an address of congratulation signed by the leading merchants and bankers of the city. He was created a baronet on 26 Oct. 1869, with limitation, in default of male issue, to his nephew, David Lionel Salomons (the present baronet). He died on 18 July 1873 at his house in Great Cumberland Place, Hyde Park.
Salomons was twice married, first, to Jeanette, daughter of Solomon Cohen; and secondly, in 1872, to Cecilia, widow of P. J. Salomons. There were no children by either marriage. By his will he left a legacy of 1,000l. to the Guildhall Library, which was applied in part to augment the collection of Hebrew and Jewish works presented by his brother Philip, and in part to the purchase of books on commerce and art.
He was author of:
- ‘A Defence of the Joint-stock Banks,’ 1837.
- ‘The Monetary Difficulties of America,’ 1837.
- ‘An Account of the Persecution of the Jews at Damascus,’ 1840.
- ‘Reflections on the Recent Pressure on the Money Market,’ 1840.
- ‘The Case of David Salomons, being his Address to the Court of Aldermen,’ 1844.
- ‘Parliamentary Oaths,’ 1850.
- ‘Alteration of Oaths,’ 1853.
[Times, 13 July 1835 p. 5, 1 Oct. 1835 p. 3, 1 Oct. 1855 p. 10, 10 Nov. 1855 p. 7, 10 Nov. 1856 p. 10, 23 July 1873 p. 5; City Press, 26 July 1873, p. 3; Burke's Peerage; Men of the Time; Dod's Parliamentary Companion; Guildhall Library Catalogue.]