Nathaniel Isaacs and Natal

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In the annals of Anglo-Jewry across the seas, the name and fame of Nathaniel Isaacs ought to occupy an exemplary place on its roll of honour. Now that a century has passed since the subject of this paper nobly and actively played his role on the fascinating stage of South African history, it is fitting to emphasise and evaluate those salient features of his unusual career which have endeared his adven? turous and pioneering personality to the historically-conscious Jews of England and South Africa. Let this study be our centennial tribute to his memory. Sincerely and impartially he deserves this honour, inasmuch as he is still a somewhat neglected figure among the historians of Anglo-Je wry.1 Even in South Africa where his character should receive further recognition and appraisement, little has been done to promote in critical vein a fuller and effective account of his con? tribution to the advancement of European civilisation in the sub? continent, and he is generally regarded as a " man of lesser note."2

1 Incomplete accounts of his life are to be found in the Jewish Chronicle, July 26, 1895 ; Dr. J. H. Hertz, The Jew in South Africa (Johannesburg, 1905), pp. 14, 15 ; Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. vi. pp. 634-35 and vol. xi. pp. 477-78 ; S. Mendelssohn, " Jewish Pioneers of South Africa " in Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc, viii. 189; Sir George E. Cory, The Eise of South Africa (London, 1913) vol. ii. pp. 353-66 ; Dr. G. McCall Theal, History of South Africa Since 1795 (London, 1915), vol. ii. pp. 321-42 ; C. Graham Botha, " Early Jews of South Africa " in Cape Times, 22 August, 1923 ; Israel Cohen, " Jewish Pioneers of British Dominions " in The Real Jew, edited by H. Newman (London, 1925), p. 254; Clarence I. Freed, " Famous Globe Trotters " in American Hebrew (New York), Feb. 3, 1928, p. 463. See also L. Herrman, The Jews in South Africa (1930), p. 70 sq

2 J. F. Ingram, The Land of Gold, Diamonds and Ivory (London, 1890), p. 50.

A closer study of his career would show that it is otherwise the case, bearing in mind the immensity of his self-imposed tasks and the general conditions of life and public opinion then pertaining in a pratically undeveloped country. Moreover, all his actions and thoughts would serve to suggest how a Jew has been a responsible agent in opening up a large and productive area of land in the con? solidating growth of the British Empire in the 'thirties of the nine? teenth century.

Not only in this wise must Nathaniel Isaacs be considered, but also as a representative of a notable family in Anglo-Jewry, of whose varied activities little has been penned in Jewish literary sources, and whose influences in many a circle of action and thought are still felt to this very day. A nephew of his was Samuel Isaac (1815-86), the projector of the Mersey tunnel, and one of the most prominent European supporters

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