edgar speyer

THE TRIAL OF SIR EDGAR SPEYER

The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1918 was the product of political, press and public agitation throughout the war. It authorised the Home Secretary to revoke the citizenship of naturalised British subjects for `disloyalty or disaffection’. Under the Act a tribunal was appointed (the Certificates of Naturalisation (Revocation) Committee) under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Salter to consider such cases.  In 1918 it was instructed to investigate Sir Edgar’s wartime activities, but the authorities had insufficient evidence to mount the case before late 1921. The proceedings had the attributes of a state trial. The case for the Crown was argued by the Law Officers of the Crown.  Sir Edgar was represented by Sir John Simon, KC and John Roskill, KC. The trial lasted 11 days. The Committee’s Report was published in 1922 as a parliamentary White Paper.   

 

Sir John Simon Attorney-General Sir Gordon Hewart Mr Justice Salter,
Sir John Simon, KC for Sir Edgar Speyer Attorney-General Sir Gordon Hewart for The Crown Mr Justice Salter, Chiarman of the Tribunal and author of its report

 

THE TRIBUNAL FOUND:

1. that Sir Edgar Speyer has shown himself by act and speech to be disaffected and disloyal to His Majesty;

 

2. that Sir Edgar Speyer, during a war in which His Majesty was engaged, unlawfully communicated with subjects of an enemy State and associated with business, which was to his knowledge carried on in such manner as to assist the enemy in such war;

 

3. that the continuance of Sir Edgar Speyer’s certificate is not conducive to the public good’.   

 

The Home Secretary, Edward Shortt, immediately directed that Edgar, Leonora and their three British-born daughters be divested of their British nationality. Edgar’s name was struck from the roll of the Privy Council.

 

The right-wing press gloated at Edgar’s downfall. The Times commented that had he not been stripped of British nationality he might have faced charges of treason.  

 

USEFUL LINKS

Aliens Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1914/17/pdfs/ukpga_19140017_en.pdf

 

Mr Justice Salter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Salter_%28judge%29

 

Gordon Hewart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Hewart,_1st_Viscount_Hewart

 

Edward Shortt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Shortt

 

certificate of naturalisation

Edgar Speyer’s certificate of naturalisation marked `revoked 1 Dec 1921’