« PreviousContinue »
tinguish it from all others ? that Palestine is like Normandy or Yorkshire, or even Athens or Rome?'
Strange expressions these for a citizen of those British Isles of which Solomon never heard, and which the Roman regarded as we may do New Zealand. The most superstitious venerator of Christian holy places has never ventured to limit the Divine influence to their circumference; the meanest Hadjee will tell you that Allah is every where, as well as in Arabia ;* and the religious philosopher shrinks with disgust from the notion, that God has selected some miserable miles on the surface of this rolling planet, as the exclusive space where man can be instructed in the realities of his being and inspired with the feelings that can elevate and purify his nature. We want no German reasoner to impress upon us, that men, who really believed and acted on such a principle as this, could only misinterpret the dealings of God with mankind, and are nearer the most monstrous fetischism than the great truths of liberty, morality, and religion.
But we conceive that a very short investigation of the real facts of the relations between the Jews and other nations would establish the error, both of such an advocacy and such an opposition. It seems to us to have been too often assumed that their dispersion has the character of an especial Divine judgment, without regard to the circumstance of the early emigrations that spread this enterprising people over the whole of the then discovered world. The traces of the Ten Tribes have been lost merely on account of the wideness and variety of their dispersion ; for attached as the people were to their religious centre, their innate energy drove them forth over East and West quite as much either as persecution or war. They appear, indeed, to have gone out rather as busy colonists than as querulous exiles; and no race, of which we know anything, ever fixed itself so easily and firmly in strange countries. It left a colony and a temple in Egypt; it occupied the Crimea many years before Christ with the Caraites, who remain separate and distinctive to this day, and are remarkable for the honesty of the men and the beauty of the women; and in the earlier ages of the Christian era, Jews were
* Among the sayings of Rabia,'a holy woman of the second century of the Hegira, which have been preserved by Arabic devotional writers, is one describing her feelings on arriving at Mekkeh
O heart! weak follower of the weak,
Palm Leuves, p. 67.
to be found established in Illyria, Spain, Gaul, and the Rhenish provinces-possessing land, holding military and civil functions, and enjoying most of the privileges of Roman citizenship. With the extension of Christianity, indeed, a darker era for them began. The Christian faith so rapidly absorbed both the mythologic forms and the philosophic ideas of the Western world, while towards the East it made little or no progress, that it became identified with the old occidental spirit, which, whatever be its ethnological origin, from the earliest development of Grecian civilisation had raised itself in open animosity to the great stable institutions and organised nations of the oriental world. By the time of St Augustin, as we learn from his scornful address, the Jews had lost the privilege of joining in the civil or military service, and were even forbidden to sit at the tables of distinguished menbut, adds the Father significantly, ' Jews pay the taxes.' * The ,
' code of Justinian compelled them to bring all disputed cases between themselves and Christians before Christian tribunals, but, if both parties agreed, allowed disputes among themselves to be referred to Jewish arbiters--thus showing that they must already have had a recognised system of jurisprudence. Their rights of property being no longer secure, we find them driven to trade and commerce; and most successfully active were they in these occupations. Marseilles, according to Gregory of Tours, acquired the epithet of the Hebrew,' and Narbonne, Lyons, and Toulouse, were full of Jewish merchants. The whole trade of the Levant fell into their hands, and their eastern habits permitted them the traffic in slaves, which, even in those days, began to be repugnant to Christian feelings. The wealth and importance they thus acquired, were no doubt the cause of their persecution and attempted expulsion by Clotaire II. in 615, and by Dagobert II. sixteen years after. The practical ability of the Jews found them favour in the eyes of several of the rulers, though it excited the jealousy of the Church ; and thus we find Charlemagne according them commercial privileges, and Louis-le-Debonnaire permitting them to hold real property and to live freely according to their law; and even extending his care of their feelings to the extent of forbidding markets to be held on Saturday, in districts in which they happened to be numerous. But the Church, which then, as a successful and powerful church must always do, represented the popular feeling, rose against this toleration : councils were summoned to pronounce edicts of exaction and persecution, and tumults were aroused to confirm them. Nor was there any peace for the Jew in the new form into which
Augustini Epist. v. 23.
society was now moulded. He had no place in the feudal system; lord he was forbidden to be, whatever might be his wealth ; serf he could not fairly be, because he had no hold on the soil. Was he then merely a stranger, an aubain? This question assumed considerable importance when the royal power claimed the profit of the droit d'aubaine, inasmuch as it involved the point whether it was by the king or by the seigneur that the Jew was 'taillable
à merci. This difficulty was practically resolved by both getting as much as they could out of him; although the formal right generally was taken to rest with the king, and in England the common law left no doubt upon the subject. Henry III. (by a singular inversion of the modern process,) assigned and delivered to his brother, Richard Earl of Cornwall, all the Jews in England, as security for a debt; and in the base debate of 1754 we find John Duke of Bedford (!) objecting to a proposed clause, on the plea that it would interfere with the principle of the common law, which rendered the Jews the property of the King. In the old time, however, the English Jews probably gained some protection from this understanding.
In the eleventh century the persecution became more systematic, and by the beginning of the sixteenth, western Europe was nearly emptied of its Jewish population. We have read that not twelve Jews were left in England. Wherever they remained, they were segregated from the rest of mankind by enforced peculiarities of costume, and in the south confined to ghetti in the cities. In the Iberian peninsula, where a common theism had associated them with the power and with the expulsion of the Moors, they had so far mixed with the Spanish people as, according to Le Maistre, to have tainted their character and their blood;
and to have rendered the austerity of the Inquisition necessary to save the very nationality of Spain; while in Portugal, even
, religious fanaticism did not prevent them from attaining a certain social credit, which insured them, when at last expelled, a comparatively favourable reception in other countries. Thus the Portuguese Jews who settled in the south of France, obtained privileges denied even to their brethren, who, in Alsace and Lorraine, were the subject of special legislation; and many Portuguese names of Jewish blood, belonging to men who took refuge in England from the Autos da Fe aud from the living graves of the Inquisition, are still recognisable among us in the most diverse ranks of society, from the peerage to Monmouth Street.
* The distinction of Christianos Novos,' and · Christianos Velhos,' was abolished in Portugal in 1773, hy an edict which enunciates that the blood of the Hebrews is the blood of our apostles, our deans, our presbyters, and our bishops.'
The Reformation, which widely diffused the study, and the abuse, of the Jewish records, through Christian Europe, did not produce any notable change in the feeling towards the Jews. The English Puritans might have been expected to look with diminished horror on those, whose religious passions, and even whose ceremonial observances, they so closely imitated: but Cromwell seems to have been nearly alone in his statesmanlike toleration. Sir Paul Rycaut has recorded the conference in the long gallery at Whitehall when he consulted the men of God' as to whether the Jews from Holland should be permitted to build a synagogue in London, and adds—“I never heard a man speak so well in my life. He asked the clergy where the Jews had a better chance of being converted than in England? and the merchants whether they were really afraid that this mean and despised people should triumph over them? What was really done for them is doubtful; Cromwell apparently gave them some indulgence, and is said to have received L.60,000 for it; but Young, in his “Anglia Judaica,' is of opinion that they failed at that time, and established themselves in England only in the following reign.* Under Queen Anne the Jews offered Lord Godolphin L.500,000 to be allowed to purchase the town of Brentford, with full license of trade; but when Lord Molesworth pressed him to accede to the proposal, he refused, on the ground that he could not so affront the clergy and the mercantile interest. In Germany, the animosity has only been softened by the inevitable habits of civilisation; and the efforts of Lessing, Mendelssohn, and Dohm, have but now begun to bear fruit. One of the first improvements proposed to be effected by the new representative government of Prussia, is the extension to the Jews of a portion of the privileges of citizenship; while in Italy, the new Pontiff, on whose wise and practical reforms the attention of Europe is now fixed, has announced his intention of abolishing the ' Ghetto,' and of admitting the Jews to all municipal rights.
Through the whole of this mournful history, forming, as it does, a black and bloody episode in the annals of every European nation, and the worst in those of the most free, this fact stands clearly prominent—that the exclusion, the separation, and the alienation, have not been on the side of the Jews themselves. Whenever the chance has been given them, their nationality has
* The story of the project to make Ireland a new Palestine is un. certain-as is the mission of the Jews to determine whether or not Cromwell was the Messiah. The Irish settlement was a favourite fancy
a of Harrington's; but probably more out of dislike of the Irish than love for the Jews,
never opposed to the institutions and habits of the civilised world any thing of that unmalleable nature which characterises the other oriental race, so long also wanderers over Europe, and known as Römi or Zingari. In all countries the Jews have advanced the arts of peace; and affronted the national vanities only by the success of their undertakings. Their persevering labour, when converted into money, has given them a superiority which has at once aroused the envy and the cupidity of the natives, so that their sufferings have been in proportion to their social excellence. It is impossible to say how much the active habits of English trade owe to the example and competition of this people, since they have been allowed to settle freely among us. Nor does there seem to be any just historical ground for the supposition, that the Jew will not attach himself by acquisition of real property to the country in which he is settled. It was not the Jew that refused to hold land, but it was the state which forbade him, and thence drove bis energy into other channels. In the same way, it was not the Jews that declined to compete in the higher branches of commerce, but the jealousy of the Christians which forced them to content themselves with retail trades and monetary profits; even in tolerant Venice, Shylock could not have been its Merchant.
The only public opportunity in recent times which we know to have been given to the Jews formally to promulgate their opinions as to their duties and relations with other men, was the declaration of the Jewish Deputies in Paris, in 1806, followed by the decisions of the Grand Sanhedrim in 1807. There all the chief points of discrepancy between themselves and the western nations were fully discussed, and authoritative decisions arrived at. In marriage, and other family relations, they agreed to conform to the customs of the several countries in which they were placed, with the exception of some restrictions on mixed marriages--a difficulty not yet quite cleared up between different Christian bodies. Absolute obedience to the laws, fraternity with their fellow-citizens as fellowcreatures of the same God, readiness to submit to all the necessary regulations of civil and military service, useful occupation in all honest labour, and lastly, the duty of lending pecuniary assistance to all other men on the same moderate terms which their law requires them to impose on their co religionists—all these points were declared to be the recognised religious and moral obligations of the Jews in France ; and we believe that generally they have been faithfully adhered to, up to the present day. A singular tribute to the worth of the Jews as citizens, was paid in January 1827 at Nismes, by the public testimony of the Court of Justice, in that only portion of France in which they had