Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Seventh Earl of

(1801–85)
   British reformer. Lord Shaftesbury was regarded as the representative Englishman of the early Victorian period, a devout Christian and a social reformer. Like the Puritan leaders in CROMWELL’S time, he believed that the second advent of Christ would be ushered in by two events: the conversion of ‘God’s ancient people’, and their restoration to the Holy Land. Anglican England would be the chosen instrument to fulfil these aims. For many years he headed the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. The ‘Jew’s Society’ had a splendid list of patrons, but at its height averaged some seven converts a year. Shaftesbury’s efforts did bring about the appointment of the first Anglican bishop in Jerusalem - a converted Jew called Alexander, who had been a professor of Hebrew. Shaftesbury formulated a plan for resettling the Jews in Palestine and campaigned with single-minded tenacity for its sponsorship by the British government. He contemplated that the returning Jews would once more become ‘the husbandmen of Judea and Galilee’ and that Great Britain would provide the capital and skill required. He persuaded his kinsman Lord Palmerston, the powerful foreign secretary, that such a project would serve Britain’s imperial interests in the Near East. Palmerston wrote to the ambassador in Constantinople to sound out the sultan, but nothing came of it. At Shaftesbury’s instigation, Palmerston ordered the British vice-consul in Jerusalem to compile a census of the Jews in the country, and to try and take them under his protection. The vice- consul reported back that there were 9,690 Jews, practically all of them poor and oppressed.
   Shaftesbury’s ‘Zionist’ plan was published eighty years before Britain was given a mandate over Palestine, that called for the establishment in it of a Jewish National Home.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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