« PreviousContinue »
had a fair chance of moral and political improvements for some generations, That for ten years noone Jew hadever appeared before : the Court for either a misdemeanour or crime, (Délit ou Crime ;) 6 and that as to the accusation of usury, so freely brought against ' them, only two Jews were prosecuted for this offence in the • whole of the south of France, and those upon slight grounds; • while a thousand Frenchmen had been cited and punished as • usurers. This was the natural fruit of the comparative confidence that had been placed in the banished Hebrews of Portugal; and the criminal tables in this country show a smaller proportion of Jews brought to justice than of most Christian denominations.
The repeal of the Jewish Naturalisation Act by the Pelhams, in 1754, the year after its enactment, is one of the most painful incidents in our constitutional history. It had been passed by considerable majorities in both Houses, and with the full acquiescence of the bishops ; and it was abrogated under the most shameless avowals of popular compulsion. In vain Lord Temple pronounced the clamour to be dissaffection clothed with supersti
tion,' and declared that the persecution of the Jews must lead to that of the Dissenters. Mr Pelham said he voted for it, because unreasoning religious excitement might lead to some fatal event ! (such as his own retirement,) and that the poor people,' having been misled into riots, deserved our compassion; and Mr Pitt himself, in a later debate, when the tide of persecution was checked at last, spoke of the clamour that produced the repeal as "a little election art which has been judiciously humoured.' The old hostility of the common law towards the Jews was carried into the argument which was maintained for eighteen days before Lord Eldon, as late as 1818, in the case of the Bedford Charity. Indeed, much more than that hostility, if we can suppose that any countenance was intended to be given on that occasion to the savage language of Sir Edward Coke, who could seldom make mention of the Jews, but as if he were attorney-general prosecuting for the murder of Christ. With him Jews are infidels, and all infidels are perpetui inimici (for the law presumes not that they will be converted, that being potentia remota,) and • between them, as with the devil, whose subjects they be, and the Christian, there is perpetual hostility, and can be no peace.' Let us, however, hope that these matters will ere long be purely historical; and that we shall shortly hail the day that abolishes the last sign of political disparity between the Jewish inhabitants of this country and their fellow-citizens. We feel assured that a short experience will convince the good sense of this nation of the fallacy of all arguments of exclusion and separation founded
on religious and national prejudices on one side, and on an extravagant national pride on the other. It is a good sign, that the persecution of the Jews, even in Russia, is taking the character of amalgamation rather than of distinction; and that the violence of that unscrupulous government is now exercised to assimilate the Jews in costume and political duties to the rest of the population; while the journals have mentioned that the Jews of Offenbach and Königsberg have decided, by a large majority, to transfer their Sabbath to the first day of the week, to facilitate their communications with Christians.
Mr D'Israeli beautifully expresses the deep obligations under which the daily spiritual life of the English people lies to Jewish writers and Jewish history; but he should observe that our interest and sympathy are nearly confined to such portions of the history and writings of the Jews as are not of Jewish but of universal application. The lawgivers, heroes, and rulers of Israel, are dear to the imagination of the English people, not as the chiefs of a single exclusive race, but as the fathers and guides of our common humanity. The law of Mount Sinai is not felt as
• Tradidit arcano quodcunque volumine Moses ; ' but as the enunciation to all mankind of the foundations of their moral and social being ; and the regal individuality of David and the other Psalmists of his age, are lost in those earnest outpourings of the general human heart, so entirely without parallel in the whole range of Eastern poetry:
The wisdom of Solomon is not with us, as with the East, exhibited in the feats of a great Hebrew magician, but in the expression of a great practical intelligence—the common sense of the old world; and
' the attempt of Mr D’Israeli to give the characteristic of a narrow nationality to the Being who enclosed all mankind in his outstretched arms on the Cross, has something about it more painful than a mere paradox. Yet we are most willing to allow, that in the high appreciation of the value of the Old Testament by the English people, there is a good foundation for a better moral relation between themselves and their Jewish brethren, when the last political stigma shall have been once removed. James I. said, on the publication of Sir Henry Finch's · Calling
of the Jews,' that he was so auld that he could not tell how to do his homage at Jerusalem ;' and now the intellectual world is indeed too old to do so at Mr D’Israeli's bidding; but we can do what James never thought of doing—we can obliterate the political distinction between Jew and Gentile, and raise the one without humiliating the other.
We wish that our space allowed us to balance the censure we
have been compelled to express, by some examples of the great literary merit of “Tancred. It is full of charming effects of style and fine delineations, when living characters are no longer the subjects. The descriptions of Oriental life are only to be compared with those of Anastasius or Eöthen. Fakredeen, a sort of prurient graft of eastern subtlety on western politics, is quite original, and very amusing. There is occasionally too much of that sharp contrast which surprises rather than pleases ; for we do not feel Jerusalem more real by its comparison with Wapping-we do not understand better the antiquity of Damascus by being reminded of the newness of Birkenhead. But this, with other defects, arises from Mr D’Israeli's desire to accommodate himself to all readers-to be comprehended in his deepest sentiments by every body who can enjoy his clever sketches--a practice which generally succeeds no better than that of the orator who talks down to the level of his audience, and of which Mr D'Israeli, in his speeches, is rarely guilty.
A considerable part of the third volume is taken up with an episode of the visit of Tancred to a people dwelling in a remote and mountainous part of Syria, who are governed by a Queen of wonderful beauty and wisdom, and retain the old worship of the deities of Olympus. Tancred is conducted into a temple where those forms
• Not yet dead,
But in old marbles ever beautiful,' stand before him and are still adored. We would not wish to be over-critical of incidents like these, which may fairly be intended to have more of a poetical than an historical character; but the whole subject of the religions of Syria is so interesting and important, that we would not have the readers of Tancred rely on the accuracy even of the foundation of this story of the · Ansary.' The Anzairies (or Nassarians) are really a very different people from anything here represented. Their religious peculiarities date only from the year 890, and are remarkable from their mixture, not of Paganism, but of Christianity with the Shiite section of Mahommedanism. Their prophet was a native of Nasr, a village in Koufa, who declared that he had seen Christ, who is the • Kelimet Allah (Word of God),' but whom he made out also to be related to Mahommed; he called himself the Spirit, and
John the son of Zachariah,' and preached that men in prayer should turn their faces towards Khads (Jerusalem), should fast only twice a-year and keep the Christian festival of Easter. He selected twelve disciples from among the most intelligent of his countrymen to propagate his doctrine, and after some persecution he sought an asylum in the wild country above Latachia, where his followers still exist. One of his tenets was, that
Hussein, the twelfth Imaun, had been taken up to heaven, whence he would again descend as Moohdi (Saviour) to earth, and establish an universal religion. As late as 1843, a man from Koufa announced to the Mahommedans of Irak (Babylonia) that he was this Messiah, and was in consequence arrested and condemned to death ; but the extreme sentence was commuted at Constantinople.
The only fact which we know to bear any relation to Mr D'Israeli's fiction, consists in the observance of rites, that may well have belonged to the ancient worship of the Syrian Venus, among a portion of those singular tribes who were established in Syria before the Saracen conquest, and who claim to be the lineal descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham. They outwardly practise Mahommedanism, and make a deep mystery of those traditional ceremonies, in which the idolatries of Baal and Astarte are still preserved; and although it is frequently asserted that they retain the ancient images, none have been seen or found in their houses by their enemies and invaders. Owing to their belief in the metempsychosis, they avoid the destruction of the smallest animals, and thus their persons and habitations swarm with vermin; and a large branch of them, who inhabit Djebail Sandjar, not far from Nineveh, are called · Yèzedies,' from their doctrine of antagonist principles of Good and Evil, and from the practical conclusion which they draw, that the Evil one is to be sedulously propitiated, while the other may be safely neglected, from his inability to do them any harm. If Mr D'Israeli had inferred a connexion between any of the Syrian religions and the mysticisms of Persia and India, he would have been much nearer the truth than in investing them with the forms of Grecian art and thought. The translation of the Greek philosophers by the enlightened khalif El Meimoun only added some new subtleties and fancies to the accumulated store of Eastern notions and traditions ; and neither then, nor now, nor at any time was, or is, the Oriental mind capable of those æsthetic perceptions, out of which the finer Hellenic organisation produced its immortal mythology:
One word in conclusion, in vindication of this our own age, which Mr D'Israeli so delights to depreciate and contemn. Thrice, or oftener, he asks, whence and whither is the progress' of which we boast ? And his rhetoric of course flows on contentedly unanswered. Yet this is surely no hard question to encounter. Mr D’Israeli has fixed his imagination and his affections on a state of things which he believes to have existed of old, and in which some rare men acted as Prophets and Heroes, possessing more immediate communication with Divine powers than the rest of mankind, and holding the wills of other men in submission by
reverence or fear. Now what we mean by progress' is simply the gradual extension to a larger number of the human race of those excellencies, those capabilities, those responsibilities, which Mr D'Israeli admires and deplores when limited to the few. We have now learnt that the master of slaves must himself be a slave, and that he who rules by will alone can never himself be free. Our progress' is the extension of heroic virtues beyond the noted men who make history, to the humble multitudes for whom history is made; our progress' is a more generous and conscientious cultivation of the intellectual gifts which raised select individuals into the estimation of prophets and sages, and the diffusion of them over a far wider field of humanity than those favourites of former ages ever conceived or thought of; our “progress' is the slow but certain substitution of a sense of individual responsibility, of individual duties, and individual rights, in the place of feelings of physical and moral dependence on one side, and of physical and moral authority on the other.a progress, if not towards a system of theocratic equality,' at least towards a recognition of the worth of man as Man, and of that universal duty of mutual self-sacrifice and world-embracing charity which may lead on the human race to destinies, of whose excellence we can now have no clearer perception than of the nature and the
purposes of the most distant stars.
Art. VII.-1. Die Staatsmänner Preusseus, Stein und Hardenberg. -(Prussian Statesmen, Stein and Hardenberg.) Leipsic: 1842. 2. Uber die Agrarische Gesetzgebung in Preussen. Von K. L.
Hering.–On the Agrarian Legislation of Prussia.) By K.
L. HERING. Berlin : 1837. 3. Gesetz Sammlung für die Königlich-Preussische Staaten.
(Collected Edicts of Prussia.) Berlin. The names of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus are not more
indissolubly linked together, or more intimately associated with all that is perilous in the history of agrarian reforms, tban are those of the modern Prussian statesmen, Stein and Hardenberg. And as the projects of the former resulted in the erection of the Roman monarchy on the ruins of an effete republic,* so the measures of the latter may be said to have created
(The Gracchi period.)— The characters and events and their final issue, in establishing monarchy as the government of the civilised world, may possibly have exercised some influence on the fate of Europe, which we feel even at this day.'-Arnold's Roman Commonwealth, p. 59, vol. i.