Benjamin Disraeli: Britain’s 1st Jewish Prime Minister.
The 1st Earl of Beaconsfield’s unconventional background wasn’t an impediment to climbing the greasy pole and rising to the very top of British politics.
You think of some of the most iconic phrases and witticisms in the English language that are widely used today, such as: “ There are three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies and statistics”; “change is inevitable, change is constant”; “Never complain, never explain”; “courage is fire and Bullying is smoke’’ all came from one man — Benjamin Disraeli, The first British Prime Minister, thus far, from an immigrant background.
Just exactly who was Benjamin Disraeli?
Benjamin Disraeli was born on the 21st of December 1804 to a Jewish man of letters — Isaac D’israeli, whose father emigrated from to London from the republic of Italy in 1748 and settled in North London as a merchant. His father had three other children and in line with Jewish customs, had all of his sons circumcised.
Following from a dispute with the local synagogue, Isaac D’israeli converted from Judaism to Christianity, in 1817 and had his progeny baptized into their new faith — a decision that would pave the way for his son’s entry into politics.
Our hero went to a working class private school — known disparagingly in the 18th and 19th centuries as ‘dame schools’. Dame schools were the means by which people of humble origin had any education at a time, when there was concerted opposition from the landed gentry and aristocracy to the mass education of the working classes, due to concerns about a possible revolution.
It is against the backdrop of a dame school education and some private tutoring that Benjamin Disraeli set out to test his mettle in the world and things couldn’t have gone any better; Teenage Disraeli was articled as clerk to a solicitor firm, owned by a friend of his father — T.F. Maples.
It was during his time at the solicitor firm, that he made two decisions that would shape the rest of his life: the first was a slight change to his surname from D’Israeli to Disraeli and the next was to pursue a literary career.