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!
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • 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.