February 19, 2015

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 10

Who Was Edgar Speyer?

Q. I was referred to you by a Cambridge academic, Professor Tony Lentin, whose book about Sir Edgar Speyer features Churchill prominently. I helped Tony with a website (http://xrl.us/bpyi32) to promote his book, which is being considered for a BBC documentary.

A. Sir Edgar Speyer (1862-1932) was an American-born British subject (from 1892), a financier and philanthropist, chairman of Speyer Brothers, the British branch of his family’s international finance house. From 1906 to 1915 he was chairman of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, forerunner of the London Underground, which he saved from bankruptcy. He did the same for Henry Wood’s Promenade Concerts in 1902, gave generously to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Poplar Hospital, and supported anti-poverty causes and charities in London’s East End.

On 24 July 1914, Martin Gilbert wrote, Churchill left London for Pear Tree Cottage, Overstrand, Norfolk, to join his pregnant wife and two children on holiday. Once arrived, anxious about the situation in Europe, he tried to telephone the Admiralty, but his instrument didn’t work, so he walked next door to his neighbor, Edgar Speyer, who loaned him his phone. It was not a good line but Churchill made out from his First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, that Serbia had accepted the Austrian ultimatum, which nobody expected she would. “I went to bed with a feeling things might blow over,” Churchill recalled. But the next morning, again with Speyer’s help, he telephoned London and was told that Austria, egged on by Germany, was still not satisfied, and that war was likely.

Poor Speyer was not loved for long, as Tony Lentin revealed in his book, Banker, Traitor, Scape goat, Spy? Speyer’s German-Jewish ancestry made him a target for bigots; former friends denounced him as “notoriously German,” and the popular press drove “the unmasked Hun” into exile. He moved to Boston, which he liked because it reminded him of London.

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Reviewer Stephen Halliday wrote that Speyer should be judged by his friends: Churchill, Edward Elgar, H.H. Asquith, George Bernard Shaw, Edvard Grieg, Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Percy Grainger and Robert Falcon Scott, “whose polar expedition would never have sailed without Speyer’s support.”

King George V, outraged over Speyer’s resignation from the Privy Council, and referring to his own German ancestry, said: “Let them take me first. Let me be interned before Speyer.”

“New World Order”

Q. Can you give me information on a speech Mr. Winston Churchill gave in New York City on 26 January 1930? I believe the title of the speech was something like, “The New World Order and the future of the white man.”

A. Churchill’s theme on his 1931-32 North American lecture tour was the economic outlook, Anglo-American cooperation and “the future of the English-Speaking Peoples.” Many white people do not speak English. The words “New World Order” and “the future of the white man” are not in his recorded remarks.

Martin Gilbert’s Churchill and America notes that Churchill arrived in New York on December 11th, was knocked down and nearly killed by a car two days later, and went to Nassau on the 31st to recover. He returned to New York on January 22nd, was interviewed on January 25th but did not speak on the 26th. His first lecture was in Brooklyn on January 28th.

There are no complete transcripts of these lectures, only excerpts, in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches 1897-1963, 8 vols. (New York: Bowker, 1974). Inerested readers may contact the editor by email to receive a compilation of everything the Complete Speeches contains for this period. It is possible that the words you seek were in some parts not recorded, though “New World Order” is not part of his ordinary language. Transcripts might exist in the archives of newspapers of cities where he spoke.

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