GIDEON (afterwards EARDLEY), Sir Sampson, 1st Bt. (1745-1824), of Spalding, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Oct. 1745, o.s. of Sampson Gideon, the Jewish financier, of Stepney by Jane, da. of Charles Ermell, an English Protestant. educ. Tonbridge 1752-60; Eton 1761-3; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1763; L. Inn 1762. m. 6 Dec. 1766, Maria, da. of Sir John Eardley Wilmot, c.j. of the common pleas, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. cr. Bt. 21 May 1759, suc. fa. 17 Oct. 1762; took name of Eardley instead of Gideon 17 July 1789; cr. Baron Eardley [I] 24 Sept. 1789.
Gideon’s father was one of the chief financial advisers of the Pelhams, very active in connexion with Government loans to which he heavily subscribed.1 Because of his religion his application for a baronetcy in 1757 was refused by George II—‘therefore’, wrote Charles Frederick to Lord George Sackville, ‘his son is to be one, who eats pork and is a Protestant.’2 Sampson Gideon junior, who thus became a baronet at the age of thirteen, inherited his father’s fortune, estimated at about half a million pounds, while still under age. He does not appear to have entered business himself though he was a heavy subscriber to Government loans, and by 1789 held £200,000 of stock.3 He early embarked on a political career. On 7 Jan. 1768 Lord Bessborough wrote to the Duke of Bedford: ‘He wants a seat, he has a great deal of money’;4 and suggested that Gideon might be a suitable purchaser of the Duke’s Hampshire estates. In February 1768 Gideon’s brother-in-law, Lord Gage, recommended him to Newcastle for a seat at Seaford, but the Duke refused to accept him because he ‘was disposed to be with Administration’.5 In the end he did not stand in 1768.
In 1770 a vacancy occurred in the county representation of Cambridgeshire where Gideon’s father, shortly before his death, had purchased Lord Lincoln’s estates. When neither the Yorkes nor the Manners produced a candidate, Gideon offered himself, and was nominated with Lord Hardwicke’s support in opposition to Thomas Brand. After an expensive canvass Brand agreed to withdraw, receiving £1,000 compensation from Gideon, whose expenses were said to have been ‘not less than £5,000’.6 In Parliament Gideon faithfully supported Administration till the fall of North. His only reported speech during this Parliament was in support of the motion that the printer be ordered to attend in the Horne libel case, 11 Feb. 1774. At the general election of 1774 Gideon was re-elected without a contest.
Early in 1780 a county meeting was called to consider a petition to the House for economical and parliamentary reform. Gideon and his fellow Member, Sir John Hynde Cotton, attended, but, since neither was enthusiastic, the meeting voted that Crisp Molineux, M.P. for King’s Lynn, should present the county petition to Parliament.7 Gideon, in his one reported speech during this Parliament,8 told the House, 6 Apr. 1780, that
he had attended the meeting with an intention of supporting the petition to the House, recommending a faithful and economical expenditure of public money; but that he was much surprised and disappointed to find so necessary and salutary measure was accompanied with other matters, which he could by no means assent to ... when associations and committees purposely established to control and direct the proceedings and judgment of that House, formed a part of it, he thought it his duty to express dissent.
In 1780 Gideon again stood for Cambridgeshire, but at this election the Duke of Rutland’s brother and Lord Hardwicke’s nephew, both recently come of age, were candidates. Gideon’s property in the county was not equal to theirs, nor had he made a particularly favourable impression in the county while its representative. Some years later Hardwicke referred to Gideon’s ‘indolence and showing no capacity for common business’ as a warning to his nephew Philip Yorke. Yorke himself wrote on 30 Apr. 1780:
It is rather remarkable to see how violently the common freeholders are prejudiced against Sir Sampson Gideon. I went to pay my compliments to a room full of them ... and they all declared they would choose their countrymen for their Members, and not a Jew. Besides, said one, he is so great a fool, so weak a man, he is always asleep and never did any business in his life.
And on 5 May:
I wish Sir Sampson would give up, it would save an enormous deal of money, and his will be thrown away, as he stands no chance whatever of succeeding, and will in all probability meet with an unpleasant reception at the nomination meeting.
But Gideon persisted and, according to Yorke (writing to Hardwicke, 6 May), angered by rumours of a junction between his opponents,
made rather an imprudent declaration ... to the printer of the Cambridge paper, that he had an hundred thousand pounds ready to spend upon this election. That was very imprudent and will do him infinitely more harm than good.9
Gideon’s former colleague, Sir John Hynde Cotton, also believed that opinion was against him: ‘Indeed I much wish he would give up, for these enormous sums of money spending in every town and almost village through the county have and will have a most shocking effect among us.’10 It was even rumoured that Gideon left ‘commissions with tailors ... to make suits of clothes for freeholders, and that he lends money to indigent farmers upon their own notes of hand at two per cent’.11 Gideon’s extravagant canvass continued till polling started, and he only withdrew when at the end of the first day’s poll he was far behind the other two candidates.
In November 1780 Gideon was returned unopposed for Midhurst as an Administration candidate. After the fall of North he continued to adhere to Administration; voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. In January 1784 he was classed by Robinson as ‘very hopeful’. At the general election he stood for Coventry on the corporation interest and was returned after an expensive contest. His only reported speech during this Parliament was in support of the Address, 24 May 1784; and he faithfully adhered to Pitt. When in July 1786 Pitt suggested to the Irish Administration that ‘two or three’ Englishmen should be included in the next creation of Irish peers, Gideon’s name was mentioned. Thomas Orde commented to the Duke of Rutland that it was objectionable, ‘but being asserted to be as good and generous a Christian as any, the best friend of his Government, Mr. Pitt is extremely anxious to gratify him’. When Pitt was informed of Rutland’s ‘objections and apprehensions about Sir Sampson’, he expressed concern, but he had ‘absolutely promised’ to recommend him. ‘I am afraid that Judaism will not be admitted as an obstacle to his success’, wrote Orde, 12 Aug. 1786,
for Mr. Pitt observed that he had never been a Jew, and that he had been a Member for a county, and of course a good candidate for the peerage. Sir Sampson has taken a ridiculous step to remove some part of the prejudice against him. He has applied for leave to change his name to Eardley, but has made it but a half measure, for the cloven foot is sadly exposed by the preservation of Sampson.12
In fact Gideon did not change his name for another three years, and had to wait the same length of time for his peerage. Wraxall writes of him:13
Sir Sampson ... if he was one of the richest, was likewise one of the most benevolent men who has appeared in our time. His hand was never shut to distress or closed against human suffering.
He died 25 Dec. 1824.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Mary M. Drummond
- 1. L. S. Sutherland, ‘Sampson Gideon and the Reduction of Interest, 1749-50’, Econ. Hist. Rev., 1946.
- 2. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 55.
- 3. Bank of England recs.
- 4. Bedford mss 57, f. 4.
- 5. Add. 32988, ff. 154-6.
- 6. Add. 35680, f. 286.
- 7. Add. 35626, f. 130.
- 8. Almon, xvii. 445.
- 9. Add. 35381, f. 202; 35379, ff. 70, 87, 91.
- 10. Add. 35681, f. 269.
- 11. P. Yorke to Hardwicke, 9 June 1780, Add. 35379, f. 120.
- 12. HMC Rutland, iii. 323, 333.
- 13. Mems. v. 121.