Howdenshire History

A German sympathiser in Goole?: Henry Charles Ferdinand Hartmann

Goole History > Goole People & Families > Accusations against H C Ferdinand Hartmann


The following appeared as an editorial piece in the Goole Times, Friday, November 13th 1915:



We have heretofore treated the base rumours and uncharitable suggestions which have been circulated at Goole during the past few weeks concerning the position of Mr H.C.F. Hartmann, the chairman of the Goole Bench of Magistrates, with the silent contempt which they have deserved, regarding them as but a passing phase of the excitements produced by the war. That the stupid suggestions have no shred or shadow of justification is readily admitted by everyone whose opinion is worth anything. Even those most affected with the hysteria which has attacked a portion of the population, and which has manifested itself in a desire to persecute indiscriminately all persons of German origin, however innocent, have been unable, when challenged, to submit the slightest evidence against Mr Hartmann's loyalty and honourable conduct as a naturalised Englishman.

Mr Hartmann himself, we know, regarded the occasional abuse with which he has been assailed as but the vulgar vapourings of a low type of humanity whose disgraceful threats and expressions he would scorn to acknowledge by the slightest deflection from duty and business.

Such were the circumstances a week ago, when Mr T. Smith, who aspires to be a leader of men in Goole, but whose proffered services on the local Council the ratepayers have steadfastly declined to accept, chose to deliver a public speech which contained little else than a cowardly and untruthful attack upon Mr Hartmann, and a malicious attempt to incite feeling and prejudice against him. That Mr Smith, by pointed insinuation and innuendo, rather than by direct accusation, should have stooped to utilise an occasion intended to stimulate recruiting for the purpose of making a series of monstrous and envenomed suggestions against a gentleman who has half a century's record of honourable citizenship at Goole, was one of the most despicable and disgraceful episodes of public life in this town which it has been our lot to witness. That his fulminations should have been received with cheers from the unthinking is perhaps not to be wondered at, for cheap applause is ever to be won in that way.

Mr Hartmann happens to be one of the proprietors of this paper, and prefers to allow his record to speak for itself. Yet, notwithstanding his personal reluctance to publicity in such a matter, we feel that, difficult as it is to write with patience of such a splenetic and shameful exhibition, we should be neglectful of a public duty if we allowed it to pass without protest or reply. For it is in times like the present that puny and unworthy meddlers sometimes get their own way, though the bulk of the populace is against them, and it is only necessary to state a few plain facts to defeat Mr Smith's attempted exploitation of the vulgarest of fears and passions, and perhaps to save the town from a humiliation which, if it occurred, would be regretted by every honest and clean-minded resident.


It is the misfortune of some men to have been born in a country whose government they detest. Mr Hartmann certainly has no reason to love the Germany of these modern days. He is a native of the independent Duchy of Nassau, and it was many years after he had come to England that that happy and contented State was annexed, along with Hanover, by Prussia. The Duke of Nassau afterwards became the ruler of Luxemburg, the little defenceless neighbour of Belgium, whose independence has now been violated by the German soldiers. Therefore Mr Hartmann never was a subject of the Kaiser, nor a citizen of the German Empire, nor has he ever had any attachment thereto. Whilst he came to England, his brothers migrated to the United States of America. All his near relatives in Nassau have long since passed away, and he has absolutely no connection with Germany. All his property and all his interests are in this country and his sympathies are whole-heartedly with England in the present struggle with Prussian militarism and all its works.

With the exception of his early youth, Mr Hartmann has spent all his life in England, and he has been a resident in Goole itself for more than fifty years. His career is one to be proud of. He has been one of the pioneers in the development of the trade of this port, first as an importer of provisions from the Continent, and, later, for a number of years, as an importer of dye-woods from the West Indies and South and Central America. He has never shirked the duties and responsibilities of English citizenship, but, on the contrary, has taken a prominent part in the educational and social life in Goole, and in religious and philanthropic work. Naturalised in the early years of his residence here, he married an English lady, and since the present war started he has encouraged two of his nephews to join the newly-formed Army raised by Lord Kitchener, one of them being his chief assistant in business. Honoured more than twenty years ago by the enrolment of his name on the Commission of the Peace, he has discharged the duties of a magistrate with punctilious faithfulness to his oath. Against his honourable conduct there has never been the least suggestion of a complaint. The town would be graceless indeed if it allowed a local worthy, distinguished as Mr Hartmann is, to be insulted by a man of the type of Mr T. Smith without protest and indignant repudiation of his cowardly attack.

As for Mr Smith's ridiculous talk about naturalisation, anyone but an ignoramus knows that thousands of Englishmen are naturalised in other countries. Indeed, it has often been a matter of national boasting that Englishmen are to be found settled in all countries and climes of the world. And, on the other hand, as Sir Joseph Compton-Rickett [the then Member for Osgoldcross and Paymaster General] showed in his Market Hall speech last Monday, England owes a good deal of her progress to her mixed blood and to her reception and liberal treatment of aliens. It is a pertinent question: Why do we naturalise foreigners if we do not intend to treat them as British subjects? We fix all the antecedent conditions of the process.

In the speeches about the causes of this war there have been, very properly, some eloquent declamations on the theme that England's word is her bond. It appears, however, when it is a question of a certificate of naturalisation, that Mr Smith is prepared to revise that motto. In ordinary times, Mr Smith's dishonourable standards would be of small moment to anyone but himself; and even in the excitements of these days they will ultimately redound to his own discredit and disgrace. Mr Hartmann's character and career are proof against all attack, and his long record as an upright and loyal subject of the Crown make him secure against barbaric suggestions which have already earned for their authors the contumely and reprobation of all decent and honest citizens.

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