1 October 1885 Passing of Lord Shaftesbury, Social Reformer, Christian Zionist and President of CMJ #otdimjh


Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, (28 April 1801 – 1 October 1885), was an English politician and philanthropist, one of the best-known of the Victorian era, and one of the main proponents of Christian Zionism.


Gidney noted on the deaths of Shaftesbury and Wilberforce:

It is a matter for deep thankfulness that both these great men held high office in our Society, Wilberforce as Vice-President, and Shaftesbury as President.   The Committee, at their meeting on October 9th, 1885, passed the following resolution :

That this Committee record their deep sense of the great loss sustained by the Christian Church in the death of the late Earl of Shaftesbury, of his wide sympathies with every form of Christian work, and especially of the warm interest which he ever took both in the temporal and also spiritual welfare of the Jewish nation, the latter shown in his long connexion with the Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, extending over a period of half a century, first as Vice-Patron, which position he accepted in 1835 ; and secondly, as President of the Society, which office he held from the year 1848 until the time of his lamented death.

This Committee record also their sincere Christian condolence with the family of the late Earl, in the removal from their midst of one who afforded so bright an example of what can be accomplished when work is undertaken for God’s glory, and carried out in His strength.

At the public Memorial Service held in Westminster Abbey on October 8th, Admiral Rodd, Generals Bruce and Crofton, Messrs. W. Ord-Mackenzie, W. Tollemache and W. N. West, and the Revs. J. M. Eppstein and F. Smith, formed the deputation from the Society. The body was interred at Wimborne, St. Giles, Dorset, on the following day.


Lord Shaftesbury’s “Memorandum to Protestant Monarchs of Europe for the restoration of the Jews to Palestine”, published in the Colonial Times, in 1841

Some primary facts

  • Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was born on 28th April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square,London.
  • Until his father’s death in 1851, he was known as Lord Ashley.
  • Lord Ashley didn’t have a very happy childhood. He hardly saw his parents and he had an unpleasnat time at the Manor House School in Chiswick. He did get on well with the housekeeper, Maria Mills. She used to tell him stories from the Bible to cheer him up when he was unhappy.
  • Shaftesbury was a pupil at Harrow School and then he studied classics at Christ Church College, Oxford.


  • In 1826 Shaftesbury became a Tory Member of Parliament. He was a supporter of the Duke of Wellington.
  • Shaftesbury was heavily involved in reforming lunatic asylums in Britain helping to provide better care and treatment of the insane.
  • He was also one of the key individuals responsible for bringing about reform of Britain’s factories, improving working conditions and limiting the length of the workday.
  • Shaftesbury was president of the Ragged School Union, promoting the education of poor children.
  • Lord Shaftesbury was married to Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper. They had ten children.
  • He died on 1st October 1885. He was 84 years old. A funeral service was held in Westminster Abbey. Many people assembled to catch a glimpse of Shaftesbury’s coffin.


  • In 1893 the Shaftesbury Memorial was placed in Piccadilly Circus. The Memorial is topped by a statue of the Greek God, Anteros. The statue is called the The Angel of Christian Charity, but most people (incorrectly) call it the Statue ofEros.
  • Lord Shaftesbury was known as the Reforming Lord Shaftesbury and the Poor Man’s Earl, because many of the reforms he championed helped the poor and the working class of Victorian Britain.


Prayer: Thank you Lord for the life of this outstanding servant of yours, and the impact his social reforms and support for your people had in the 19th century. Raise up today, especially amongst Jewish believers in Yeshua, those who will live out your teaching on holiness, justice and righteousness in ways that will transform our contexts, cultures and societies. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.


Donald M. Lewis. The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical Support for a Jewish Homeland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xiii + 365 pp. $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-51518-4.


In this study of Lord Shaftesbury – Victorian England’s greatest humanitarian and most prominent Christian Zionist – Donald M. Lewis examines why British evangelicals became fascinated with the Jews and how they promoted a ‘teaching of esteem’ that countered a ‘teaching of contempt’. Evangelicals militated for the restoration of Jews to Palestine by lobbying the British cabinet on foreign policy decisions. Professing their love for the Jews, they effectively reshaped the image of the Jew in conversionist literature, gave sacrificially to convert them to Christianity, and worked with German Pietists to create a joint Anglican-Lutheran bishopric in Jerusalem, the center (in their minds) of world Jewry. Evangelical identity evolved during this process and had an impact on Jewish identity, transforming Jewish-Christian relations. It also changed the course of world history by creating a climate of opinion in the United Kingdom in favor of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.



Richard Turnbull, Shaftesbury: The Great Reformer (Lion Hudson, 2010) – a very thorough, detailed account of the many areas of Shaftesbury’s interest and campaigning.

Jenny Robertson, I Stand Alone: The Life of Lord Shaftesbury (Scripture Union, 1985) – written for children, but manages to be both thorough and engaging. Turnbull’s book will give you a clear catalogue of the facts, but Robertson’s adds to that a vibrant sense of the man and his character.


Donald M. Lewis. The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical Support for a Jewish Homeland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xiii + 365 pp. $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-51518-4.

Reviewed by Shalom Goldman (Emory University)
Published on H-Judaic (August, 2010)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Protecting God’s Ancient People

Since the mid-1950s the most influential study of British Christian Zionism has been Barbara Tuchman’s Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour, first published in 1956. Often cited approvingly by historians of Zionism and writers on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Tuchman’s work has been criticized by historians on the left generally, and by advocates of the Palestinian cause specifically.[1]

Readers in search of a thorough and considered history of British Christian support for “the restoration of the Jews to their land” now have Donald Lewis’s The Origins of Christian Zionism to turn to. Lewis situates Christian Zionism within the context of Protestant theology and evangelical philosemitism, and that philosemitism is further contextualized by Lewis in this manner: “Central to the argument of this book is the thesis that British evangelical interest in the Jews was part and parcel of a wider process of evangelical identity construction that took a decisive turn in the early nineteenth century” (p. 12). Why then did these British thinkers identify with and seek to protect Jews in England and elsewhere? Lewis links this sense of identification to two related ideals: first, that Britain needed to live up to its sense of self as a biblical, elect nation; second, that the Jews of the time provided a “visible historic link” to the biblical past (p. 13).

Lewis’s objective is clearly stated in the book’s opening sentence: “If we are to understand the phenomena of Christian Zionism and evangelical philosemitism we have to understand where the idea of Jewish restoration to Palestine fits in the history of Jewish and Christian thinking” (p. 25). Lewis’s mention of Jewish thinking is very telling. Unlike Tuchman, who assumes a self-evident Jewish consensus about political Zionism, Lewis points out that the various and somewhat contradictory statements of Christians about Zionism are “paralleled by Judaism’s own ambivalence about the place of a Jewish homeland in its theology” (p. 25).

In the last decade there has been a spate of books about Christian Zionism in the United States. Some of them are quite polemical (e.g., Stephen R. Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon? [2005]). Others are more scholarly and objective in content and tone (see Shalom Goldman, Zeal for Zion [2010]). These works on American Christian Zionism all acknowledge the movement’s British background, but up to now there has been no one authoritative source on that subject to turn to. Lewis’s new book provides us with it. His historical sources are the publications, personal records, diaries, and archives of the people and institutions that supported Jewish return to Palestine.

Since the publication of Tuchman’s Bible and Sword scholars have tended to rely on her account of British evangelical support for Jewish restoration. Lewis takes us back to the sources and corrects some of Tuchman’s misreadings. While Tuchman’s 1956 book ranged over a very wide historical period (“From the Bronze Age to Balfour”), Lewis’s book is sharply focused on the nineteenth century. Chapter 1, “The Rise of British Evangelical Interest in the Jews,” covers developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Lewis emphasizes the importance of the French Revolution as a “key turning point in prophetic speculation” (p. 38). This was because “the events of the 1790s combined to cause profound fear and dismay in English evangelical circles” (p. 37). A key figure in prophetic speculation was James Bicheno, whose widely read book The Signs of the Times (1791) predicted the end of the papacy, the restoration of the Jews to their land, and their “fulfillment as Jewish Christians” (p. 43). As observers of today’s American Zionism will notice, these ideas are still current in some American evangelical circles.

Chapter 2, “Shaftesbury and the Jews,” focuses on Lord Ashley, the Earl of Shaftesbury, “best remembered as Britain’s most prominent social reformer as well as its quintessential evangelical lay leader.” Lewis’s contribution to Lord Ashley’s story, a story already  told by many historians of nineteenth-century British political life, is to show us how he became “the leading proponent of Christian Zionism in the nineteenth century and the first politician of stature to attempt to prepare the way for Jews to establish a homeland in Palestine” (p. 107). Lewis reminds us that Shaftesbury’s Zionism sprang from evangelical philosemitism. He and his fellow evangelicals aimed “to establish as part of British national identity a unique responsibility toward ‘God’s chosen people’” (p. 188). A Tory member of Parliament for decades and later a member of the House of Lords, Shaftesbury was not a cabinet member and did not directly influence British foreign policy. But he was closely linked, by family and friendship, with an English statesman who had great influence in domestic and foreign affairs. This was Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, foreign secretary from 1830 to 1841 and prime minister from 1855 to 1865. For political reasons more than for religious reasons, Palmerston too became an advocate for Jewish restoration. Among other factors that came into play in his deliberations about British support for Jewish return was “the view that the Jews could be useful in buttressing the collapsing Ottoman Empire, thus helping to accomplish the key object of British foreign policy in the area” (p. 185).

Chapter 3, “Evangelicals and Piestists Together: The Mission to Jews and Palestine,” tells a story less well known than that of Shaftesbury and Palmerston. Here Lewis breaks new ground. While previous scholarship on Christian Zionism focused solely on English religions and political concerns, Lewis’s work makes explicit the connection to movements within German Protestant life. “What has generally not been appreciated by historians of the Near East is the close links that the British evangelical and German Pietist movements had with each other” (p. 213). This German-English cooperation prepared the way for events in the late 1830s/early 1840s. In chapter 3 Lewis chronicles the very concrete results of British-German cooperation in mid nineteenth-century Palestine. While these results are known to the students of the period, no one has documented the links between the events. They are: 1) the establishment of the British Consulate in Jerusalem in 1838, where the first counsels saw themselves as protectors of the Jews of Palestine; 2) the inauguration of the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem, in 1841 with the appointment of Michael Solomon Alexander, a convert from Judaism; and 3) the opening near Jaffa Gate of Christ Church, the first Anglican church in Jerusalem, in 1843. Lewis makes the case that these accomplishments–each of them envisioned by Lord Shaftesbury–would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Prussian religious and political authorities.

Chapter 4, “Shaftesbury’s Final Years,” actually takes us beyond Shaftesbury’s final year (1885) to 1917, the year that the British government issued the Balfour Declaration. That document described itself as a “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations.” Lewis demonstrates that in Shaftesbury’s last decade “other important voices were joining Shaftesbury in promoting Jewish restoration” (p. 319). Among these were other influential “Christian Zionist” members of parliament and government.

Against this background, Lewis makes the case that “both the religious and ethnic backgrounds of the British War Cabinet (of World War One) deserve far more attention than historians have hither to given” (p. 332). Lewis demonstrates that this cabinet, dominated by non-English members from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cape Colony (South Africa), was deeply influenced by evangelicism: “The influence of the religious culture that had nurtured them disposed to think of the Jews as a ‘people’ a ‘race’ and ‘a nation’ and inclined towards the idea of a Jewish homeland.” More so, these cabinet members were influenced by the idea that “Britain had a special role in enabling this to happen” (p. 334). Against this background, the decision to issue the Balfour Declaration and later to assume the Palestine mandate, seem as firmly linked to religious history as to diplomatic history.

Lewis’s book is a very important contribution to the study of British Christian Zionism. One suspects that it will remain the authoritative text on that subject for many years to come.


[1]. See  N. Mattar, “Protestantism, Palestine and Partisan Scholarship,” The Journal of Palestinian Studies (Summer 1989): 52-70; and for Donald Lewis’s critiques of Tuchman’s book see Lewis, 148 and 171.

In January 1839, Shaftesbury published an article in the Quarterly Review, which although initially commenting on the 1838 Letters on Egypt, Edom and the Holy Land (1838) by Lord Lindsay, provided the first proposal by a major politician to resettle Jews in Palestine:[35] [36]

The soil and climate of Palestine are singularly adapted to the growth of produce required for the exigencies of Great Britain; the finest cotton may be obtained in almost unlimited abundance; silk and madder are the staple of the country, and olive oil is now, as it ever was, the very fatness of the land. Capital and skill are alone required: the presence of a British officer, and the increased security of property which his presence will confer, may invite them from these islands to the cultivation of Palestine; and the Jews’, who will betake themselves to agriculture in no other land, having found, in the English consul, a mediator between their people and the Pacha, will probably return in yet greater numbers, and become once more the husbandmen of Judaea and Galilee.

[…] Napoleon knew well the value of an Hebrew alliance; and endeavoured to reproduce, in the capital of France, the spectacle of the ancient Sanhedrin, which, basking in the sunshine of imperial favour, might give laws to the whole body of the Jews throughout the habitable world, and aid him, no doubt, in his audacious plans against Poland and the East. His scheme, it is true, proved abortive; for the mass of the Israelites were by no means inclined to merge their hopes in the destinies of the Empire—exchange Zion for Montmartre, and Jerusalem for Paris. The few liberal unbelievers whom he attracted to his views ruined his projects with the people by their impious flattery; and averted the whole body of the nation by blending, on 15 August, the cipher of Napoleon and Josephine with the unutterable name of Jehovah, and elevating the imperial eagle above the representation of the Ark of the Covenant. A misconception, in fact of the character of the people has vitiated all the attempts of various Sovereigns to better their condition ; they have sought to amalgamate them with the body of their subjects, not knowing, or not regarding the temper of the Hebrews, and the plain language of Scripture, that ‘ the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.’ That which Napoleon designed in his violence and ambition, thinking ‘ to destroy nations not a few,’ we may wisely and legitimately undertake for the maintenance of our Empire.

Later in 1839 he published an article in the Times under the title «The State and the rebirth of the Jews». In it he urged the Jews to return to Palestine in order, according to him, to seize the lands of Galilee and Judea.

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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1 Response to 1 October 1885 Passing of Lord Shaftesbury, Social Reformer, Christian Zionist and President of CMJ #otdimjh

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