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SIR SAUL SAMUEL, NEW SOUTH WALES POLITICIAN AND MERCHANT

The cover has a blue N.S.W. diadem ‘TWO PENCE’ as well as the orange and prussian blue 6d ‘REGISTERED’ stamp of New South Wales, the latter canceled by an indistinct ‘Rays’ postmark. There is a manuscript ‘Registered letter’ at the top, as well as ‘Registered’ at bottom left and the ‘263' refers to the registration number. It is addressed to Messrs L. & S. Samuels (sic), Sydney. [The correct spelling of the surname is 'Samuel] The reverse had an indistinct unframed oval postmark of Molong, N.S.W.. The vendor provided a date of December 1858 for the cover (Figure 1).

 

Sir Saul Samuel, merchant and politician, was born on 2 November 1820 in London, the son of Sampson Samuel and his wife Lydia. In 1832 his mother decided to join her brother Samuel Lyons and her eldest son Lewis in New South Wales and arrived with Saul in The Brothers on 25 August. He was educated at W.T. Cape’s school and at Cape’s Sydney College. In 1837 he joined the Sydney counting-house of his uncles A. and S. Lyons. With his brother Lewis he later formed the mercantile firm of L. and S. Samuel in Sydney with a branch at Bathurst. By 1841 he had taken up 190,000 acres on the Macquarie River, N.S.W. He was the first Jew to become a magistrate, in 1846. Although successful, he abandoned pastoral pursuits after the discovery of gold in 1851 and became a director of several companies operating in Bathurst, N.S.W.. On 16 December 1857 he married Henrietta Matilda Goldsmith-Levien (d.1864).

Favouring full representative government, in 1854-56 Samuel represented the Counties of Roxburgh and Wellington N.S.W. in the Legislative Council, and Orange in 1859-60 in the new Legislative Assembly. He was the first Jewish legislator in New South Wales. Described as a practical, independent and liberal politician, from 27 October to 8 March 1860 he was colonial treasurer under William Foster and the first Jew to become a minister of the Crown. In 1862-69 he represented Wellington and in 1869-72 Orange. In 1872 he held East Sydney until June when he was again appointed to the Legislative Council where he sat until 1880.

In 1865 Samuel had become colonial treasurer under Charles Cowper but resigned in 1866 after his budget proposals for trade licences and increased duties on tea and sugar had been defeated. In 1868 Samuel became treasurer under John Robertson and continued under Cowper in 1870. In 1870 he attended the Intercolonial Conference in Melbourne and proposed intercolonial free trade to settle the border customs dispute. Samuel hoped to abolish ad valorem duties but his plans for a tax on incomes of over £200 were bitterly contested and led to the downfall of the government in December.

In 1872-75 Samuel was postmaster-general and vice-president of the Executive Council and Henry Parkes’ government representative in the Legislative Council; he also acted as treasurer in 1872. He was again postmaster-general and government representative under Parkes in 1877-1880. In 1873 he visited New Zealand, the United States and England and negotiated a subsidized mail service from England to Australia via San Francisco. In 1874 as postmaster-general he opened the new General Post Office in Sydney. In the 1860s and 70s Samuel was a director of multiple companies, particularly mining ones.

He was active in the Jewish community, and he was a trustee of the Jewish section of the Devonshire Street cemetery and from 1871 chairman of the Sydney Hebrew Certified Denominational School Board. On 26 January 1875 he laid the foundation stone for the Great Synagogue, Elizabeth Street, and was later its president. With his second wife Sarah Louisa, whom he had married on 31 October 1877, he was a founder and committee member of the Hospital for Sick Children.

On 10 August 1880 Samuel was appointed agent-general for New South Wales in London. An energetic, shrewd and efficient representative, he helped negotiate government loans and by 1885 claimed that he had raised £30 million. He was a commissioner for New South Wales at the 1883 Amsterdam Exhibition and represented the colony at the 1887 Colonial Conference in London. A picture of Sir Saul Samuel is seen in Figure 2.

He was appointed C.M.G. in 1874, K.C.M.G. in 1882, C.B. in 1886 and created a baronet in 1898. He visited Sydney in 1888 and retired as agent-general in 1897. He died in South Kensington, London, on 29 August 1900. Survived by two sons and two daughters of his first wife and by his second wife and their son, he was succeeded by his second son, Edward Levien Samuel. His older brother and former partner Lewis, who had returned to England, died on 17 February 1867.

The information on the Samuel brothers was mainly derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 

 
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