Goldwin Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Goldwin Smith
Goldwin Smith.jpg
Born (1823-08-13)13 August 1823
Reading, England
Died 7 June 1910(1910-06-07) (aged 86)
The Grange, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting place St James's Cemetery
Nationality British
Education Eton College
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Occupation Historian
Title Regius Professor of Modern History
Term 1858–1866
Predecessor Henry Halford Vaughan
Successor William Stubbs
Parent(s) Richard Pritchard Smith, Elizabeth Breton
The Signature of Goldwin Smith.jpg

Goldwin Smith (13 August 1823 – 7 June 1910) was a British historian and journalist, active in the United Kingdom and Canada.[1]

Early years[edit]

Smith was born at Reading, Berkshire.[2] He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford, and after a brilliant undergraduate career he was elected to a fellowship at University College, Oxford.[3] He threw his energy into the cause of university reform with another fellow of University College, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. On the Royal Commission of 1850 to inquire into the reform of the university, of which Stanley was secretary, Smith served as assistant-secretary; and he was then secretary to the commissioners appointed by the act of 1854. His position as an authority on educational reform was further recognised by a seat on the Popular Education Commission of 1858.[4] In 1868, when the question of reform at Oxford was again growing acute, he published a pamphlet, entitled The Reorganization of the University of Oxford.

In 1865, he led the University of Oxford opposition to a proposal to develop Cripley Meadow north of Oxford railway station for use as a major site of Great Western Railway (GWR) workshops.[5] His father had been a director of GWR. Instead the workshops were located in Swindon. He was public with his pro-Northern sympathies during the American Civil War, notably in a speech at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester in April 1863 and his Letter to a Whig Member of the Southern Independence Association the following year.[2]

Besides the abolition of (religious) tests, effected by the act of 1871, many of the reforms suggested, such as the revival of the faculties, the reorganisation of the professoriate, the abolition of celibacy as a condition of the tenure of fellowships, and the combination of the colleges for lecturing purposes, were incorporated in the act of 1877, or subsequently adopted by the university. Smith gave the counsel of perfection that "pass" examinations ought to cease;[6] but he recognised that this change "must wait on the reorganization of the educational institutions immediately below the university, at which a passman ought to finish his career." His aspiration that colonists and Americans should be attracted to Oxford was later realised by the will of Cecil Rhodes.[7] On what is perhaps the vital problem of modern education, the question of ancient versus modern languages, he pronounced that the latter "are indispensable accomplishments, but they do not form a high mental training" – an opinion entitled to peculiar respect as coming from a president of the Modern Language Association.

Regius Professor and Cornell[edit]

Portrait of Goldwin Smith, by Sir Edmund Wyly Grier, 1894.

He held the regius professorship of Modern History at Oxford from 1858 to 1866, that "ancient history, besides the still unequalled excellence of the writers, is the 'best instrument for cultivating the historical sense." As a historian, indeed, he left no abiding work; the multiplicity of his interests prevented him from concentrating on any one subject. His chief historical writings – The United Kingdom: a Political History (1899), and The United States: an Outline of Political History (1893) — though based on thorough familiarity with their subject, make no claim to original research, but are remarkable examples of terse and brilliant narrative.

The outbreak of the American Civil War proved a turning point in his life. Unlike most of the ruling classes in England, he championed the cause of the North, and his pamphlets, especially one entitled Does the Bible Sanction American Slavery? (1863), played a prominent part in converting English opinion. Visiting America on a lecture tour in 1864, he received an enthusiastic welcome, and was entertained at a public banquet in New York. Andrew Dickson White, president of Cornell University at Ithaca, N.Y., invited him to take up a teaching post at the newly founded institution. But it was not until a dramatic change in Smith’s personal circumstances that led to his departure from England in 1868, that he took up the post. He had resigned his chair at Oxford in 1866 in order to attend to his father, who had suffered permanent injury in a railway accident. In the autumn of 1867, when Smith was briefly absent, his father took his own life. Possibly blaming himself for the tragedy, and now without an Oxford appointment, he decided to move to North America.[8]

He held the professorship of English and Constitutional History in the Department of History at Cornell University for a number of years. Goldwin Smith Hall, which is located in Cornell's Arts Quad, is named in his honour. In 1871 he moved to Toronto, where he edited the Canadian Monthly, and subsequently founded the Week and the Bystander,[9][10] and where he spent the rest of his life living in The Grange manor.[11][12]

In 1893, Smith was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[13]


He continued to take an active interest in English politics. As a Liberal, he opposed Benjamin Disraeli,[14] and was a strong supporter of Irish Disestablishment, but refused to follow Gladstone in accepting Home Rule.[15] He expressly stated that “if he ever had a political leader, his leader was John Bright, not Mr Gladstone." Speaking in 1886, he referred to his "standing by the side of John Bright against the dismemberment of the great Anglo-Saxon community of the West, as I now stand against the dismemberment of the great Anglo-Saxon community of the East." These words form the key to his views of the future of the British Empire and he was a leading light of the anti-imperialist "Little Englander" movement.

Smith thought that Canada was destined by geography to enter the United States. In his view, separated as it is by north-south barriers, into zones communicatin naturally with adjoining portions of the United States, it was an artificial and badly-governed nation.

It would break away from the British Empire, and the Anglo-Saxons of the North American continent would become one nation.[16][17] These views are most fully stated in his Canada and the Canadian Question (1891). Donald Creighton writes that Smith was most ably rebutted by George Monro Grant in the Canadian Magazine.[18]

Bust of Goldwin Smith, by Alexander Munro, 1866.

Though describing himself as "anti-Imperialistic to the core," he was yet deeply penetrated with a sense of the greatness of the British race. Of the British empire in India he said that "it is the noblest the world has seen... Never had there been such an attempt to make conquest the servant of civilization. About keeping India there is no question. England has a real duty there." His fear was that England would become a nation of factory-workers, thinking more of their trade-union than of their country. He was also opposed to Britain granting more representative government to India, expressing fear that this would lead to a "murderous anarchy."[19][20] His opinion of British activity in the Transvaal was well voiced in the Canadian press and in his book In The Court of History: An Apology of Canadians Opposed to the Boer War (1902). This work is a fascinating articulation of pacifist opposition to the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902. It is important because it is amongst the few expressions of opposition toward from the perspective of an Anglo-colonial settler.

Goldwin Smith, photo by Notman & Fraser.

Smith wrote, "The Jewish objective has always been the same, since Roman times. We regard our race as superior to all humanity, and we do not seek our ultimate union with other races, but our final triumph over them."[21][22][23] He had a strong influence on William Lyon Mackenzie King and Henri Bourassa.[24]

He proposed elsewhere that Jews and Arabs were of the same race.[25] He also believed that Islamic oppression of non-Muslims was for economic factors.[26]

His anti-imperialism was intensified and made manifest in his Commonwealth or Empire? (1902), a warning to the United States against the assumption of imperial responsibilities. Other causes that he powerfully attacked were Prohibition, female suffrage[27] and state socialism, as he discussed in his Essays on Questions of the Day (revised edition, 1894). He also published sympathetic monographs on William Cowper and Jane Austen, and attempted verse in Bay Leaves and Specimens of Greek Tragedy. In his Guesses at the Riddle of Existence (1897), he abandoned the faith in Christianity that he had expressed in his lecture of 1861, Historical Progress, in which he forecast the speedy reunion of Christendom on the "basis of free conviction," and wrote in a spirit "not of Agnosticism, if Agnosticism imports despair of spiritual truth, but of free and hopeful inquiry, the way for which it is necessary to clear by removing the wreck of that upon which we can found our faith no more."

Later years[edit]

In his later years he expressed his views in a weekly journal, The Farmer's Sun, and published in 1904 My Memory of Gladstone, while occasional letters to the Spectator showed that he had lost neither his interest in English politics and social questions nor his remarkable gifts of style. He died at his residence in Toronto, The Grange.

Goldwin Smith is credited with the quote "Above all nations is humanity," an inscription that was engraved in a stone bench he offered to Cornell in May 1871. The bench sits in front of Goldwin Smith Hall, named in his honour. This quote is the motto of the University of Hawaii and other institutions around the world (for example, the Cosmopolitan Club at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).[28]

Another stone bench inscribed with the motto, sits on the campus of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. It sits with a clear view down onto the city.

After his death, a plaque in his memory was erected outside his birthplace in the town centre of Reading. This still exists, outside the entrance to the Harris Arcade.[29]

See also[edit]





  1. ^ Underhill, Frank Hawkins (1960). "Goldwin Smith." In: In Search of Canadian Liberalism. Toronto: Macmillan & Co., pp. 85–103.
  2. ^ a b Kent, Christopher A. (2004). "Smith, Goldwin (1823–1910)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Grant, W.L. (1910). "Goldwin Smith at Oxford," The Canadian Magazine, Vol. XXXV, pp. 304–314.
  4. ^ Waldron, Gordon (1912). "Goldwin Smith," University Monthly 12, p. 214.
  5. ^ Brock, M. G.; Curthoys, M.C., eds. (1998). The History of the University of Oxford. Volume VI: Nineteenth-Century Oxford. Oxford University Press. p. 459. ISBN 978-0199510160. 
  6. ^ "Tests in the English Universities," The North British Review, Vol. III, New Series, March/June 1865, pp. 107–136.
  7. ^ "Cecil Rhodes's Bequests," The New York Times, 13 April 1902, p. 10.
  8. ^ Dictionary of Canadian Biography, on-line, Retrieved 12.02.2017
  9. ^ Adam, G. Mercer (1904). "Professor Goldwin Smith," The Canadian Magazine, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, p. 113.
  10. ^ Wallace, W.S. (1910). "'The Bystander' and Canadian Journalism," The Canadian Magazine, Vol. XXXV, pp. 553–558.
  11. ^ Plummer, Kevin (2008). "Historicist: An English Estate in the Heart of the City," Torontoist, 19 July.
  12. ^ Yeigh, Frank (1899). "Goldwin Smith at Home," The Book Buyer 18, April, pp. 195–199.
  13. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  14. ^ Lindemann, Albert (1997). Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews. Cambridge University Press, pp. 249–250.
  15. ^ Ross, Malcolm (1959). "Goldwin Smith." In: Our Living Tradition: Seven Canadians. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 29–47.
  16. ^ Grant, George M. (1896). "Canada and the Empire: A Rejoinder to Dr. Goldwin Smith," Canadian Magazine 8, pp. 73–78.
  17. ^ Colquhoun, A.H.U. (1910). "Goldwin Smith in Canada," The Canadian Magazine, Vol. XXXV, pp. 318–321.
  18. ^ Creighton 1970, p. 77
  19. ^ Dhar, Bishan Narayan (1892). Eminent Indians on Indian Politics. Bombay: Printed at the Education Society's Steam Press, p. 493.
  20. ^ Majumdar, B. B. (1965). Indian Political Associations and Reform of Legislature 1818–1917. Calcutta, India: Firma K. L. Mukopadhyay, p. 343.
  21. ^ Smith, Goldwin (1881). "The Jewish Question." In: Essays on Questions of the Day. London: Macmillan & Co., pp. 221–260.
  22. ^ Anti-Semitism in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  23. ^ Hutzler, Charles (1898). "The Jews of Germany and the Anti-Semitic Question," The Jewish South, Vol. IX, No. 17, pp. 4–6.
  24. ^ Tulchinsky, Gerald (2008). Canada's Jews: A People's Journey. University of Toronto Press, p. 135.
  25. ^ Goitein, S.D. (1974). Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the Ages. New York: Schocken Books.
  26. ^ Ye'or, Bat (1985). The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, p. 324.
  27. ^ Smith, Goldwin (1883). "Woman Suffrage." In: Essays on Questions of the Day. London: Macmillan & Co., pp. 183–218.
  28. ^ Cosmopolitan Club at the University of Illinois Archived 23 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine. at
  29. ^ "Remind Me: Who Was Goldwin Smith?". Reading Forum. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  30. ^ Stevenson, J.F. (1881). "Mr. Goldwin Smith's Lectures and Essays," Canadian Monthly and National Review, Vol. VII, pp. 429–433.
  31. ^ Lucas, D. V. (1885). The Twins: A Reply to the Anti-Scott Act Address of Mr. Goldwin Smith. Montreal: "Witness" Printing.
  32. ^ "Goldwin Smith and the Riddle of Existence," The Living Age, Vol. 213, 1897, pp. 488–491.
  33. ^ Fenton, W.J. (1898). The Riddle of Existence Solved: or, An Antidote to Infidelity. Toronto: Henderson & Co.
  34. ^ "Review: The United Kingdom: a Political History by Goldwin Smith". The Athenæum (3767): 5–6. 6 January 1900. 
  35. ^ Spargo, John (1907). Capitalist and Laborer; An Open Letter to Professor Goldwin Smith, D.C.L., in Reply to his Capital and Labor[permanent dead link]. Chicago: C.H. Kerr & Company.
  36. ^ Rep. in Canadian Monthly and National Review, Vol. II, July/December 1872.
  37. ^ Cairnes, J. C. (1874). "Woman Suffrage: A Reply to Mr. Goldwin Smith," The New York Times, 23 September, p. 3.
  38. ^ Adler, Rabbi Hermann (1878). "Can Jews be Patriots?," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. III, pp. 637–646.
  39. ^ Schwab, Isaac (1878). Can Jews be Patriots? A Historical Study. New York: Industrial School of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.
  40. ^ Adler, Rabbi Hermann (1878). "Jews and Judaism: A Rejoinder," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. IV, pp. 133–150.
  41. ^ Rep. in Eclectic Magazine, Vol. XXVIII, July/December 1878.
  42. ^ Rep. in Rose-Belford's Canadian Monthly and National Review, Vol. III, 1879.
  43. ^ "Mr. Goldwin Smiths The Atlantic Monthly Article," Canadian Monthly and National Review, Vol. III, 1879.
  44. ^ Adler, Rabbi Hermann (1881). "Recent Phases of Judæphobia," The Nineteenth Century, Vol. X, pp. 813–829.
  45. ^ Bendavid, Isaac Besht (1891). "Goldwin Smith and the Jews," The North American Review, Vol. 153, No. 418, pp. 257–271.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Smith, Goldwin". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]