William Evans-Gordon

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Major Sir William Eden Evans-Gordon (8 August 1857 – 31 October 1913[1]) was a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament (MP). As a soldier he had served on the North-West Frontier. He was originally commissioned into the 67th Foot, but later transferred to the Madras Staff Corps and was attached to the Indian Government.

As MP for Stepney Evans-Gordon represented a constituency that saw a lot of immigration during the late 19th century and early 20th century and as a result he became known as one of the most vocal critics at the time, commenting that 'a storm is brewing which, if it is allowed to burst, will have deplorable results'.[2] First elected to Parliament in the 1900 general election, Evans-Gordon had campaigned on a platform of limiting immigration from Eastern Europe, notably that of Jews, many of whom had moved to his constituency.[3] His campaign proved a success as he won the seat by overturning what had previously been a Liberal majority. Once elected he continued his theme of anti-immigrant rhetoric, claiming in 1902 that 'not a day passes but English families are ruthlessly turned out to make room for foreign invaders. The rates are burdened with the education of thousands of foreign children.'[4]

Evans-Gordon, with the support of the British Brothers League with which he co-operated closely, was instrumental in setting up a Royal Commission on immigration to which he was appointed chairman. He had travelled extensively in Eastern Europe and had recorded evidence of Jewish settlements that he presented to the Commission, claiming that the hardships the immigrants had told of were exaggerated.[5] His book on the subject, The Alien Immigrant (1903), which included extensive maps of his travels and reports of his findings, was used as a central piece of evidence in the inquiry. This resulted in the Aliens Act 1905, which placed restrictions on Eastern European immigration.

Evans-Gordon continued to campaign for further anti-immigration legislation, seeking re-election in 1906 with the slogan 'England for the English and Major Gordon for Stepney', borrowing the slogan of the BBL. Despite this Evans-Gordon's anti-Semitism has been questioned as he was a supporter of Zionism and kept up regular correspondence with Chaim Weizmann who would later write of him:

Sir William Evans-Gordon had no particular anti-Jewish prejudices...he was sincerely ready to encourage any settlement of Jews almost anywhere in the British Empire but he failed to see why the ghettoes of London or Leeds should be made into a branch of the ghettoes of Warsaw and Pinsk[6]

On 1 May 1907 Evans-Gordon resigned from the Commons and retired from politics.

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Charles Steadman
Member of Parliament for Stepney
19001907
Succeeded by
Frederick Leverton Harris