Draft of Balfour Declaration Up for Bids

By Ariella Cohen

Published May 27, 2005, issue of May 27, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The eight men who gathered in July 1917 to draft the Balfour Declaration, making clear the British government’s intention to create a Jewish state in Palestine, reached agreement on the brief document’s wording. But as they were writing out the text, they decided to change one word.

While the wording had originally stated that the government would “use their best efforts” to advance statehood, the word “efforts” was crossed out with a pen and replaced with “endeavors.” That word remained in the final version of the document, issued that November by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour.

The man responsible for making this late revision was Leon Simon, a Zionist leader whose diaries and correspondences will be auctioned June 16 at New York’s Sotheby’s.

Simon’s draft, handwritten on hotel stationery with his revision, is the centerpiece of Simon’s archive; Sotheby’s calls it the only known surviving autographed draft of the Balfour Declaration.

“Imagine eight men sitting around a table in a hotel in London discussing a declaration they have been discussing for many months, and now it looks like the British government will react favorably and they have to stay put and decide on the final wording,” said David Redden, vice chairman of Sotheby’s.

Redden said that the draft of the Balfour Declaration “is almost like notes taken on the night of July 3, 1776.”

A diary kept by Simon during a 1918 visit to Palestine will also be auctioned in the collection, as will a partially typed transcript of the Balfour Declaration that includes discussion of the establishment of a Jewish charter company that would function as a mercantile body, like the East India Company in Britain’s South Asian colonies.

In addition, the auction includes a signed letter from Chaim Weizmann, which asks his colleagues to review the draft, and carbon copies of telegrams sent between Zionist leaders and British officials in the office of Winston Churchill.

Private collectors and institutions in Israel, Europe and America already have expressed interest, according to the auction house. Sotheby’s expects the archive to sell for $500,000 to $800,000.

In 2002, a pen that President Harry S. Truman used in 1948 to sign off on the document that gave official American recognition of Israel sold for $280,000 in New York.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.