Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

Dr. Meigs, Rev. Dr. Ludlow, and Professor Wines.

It is not long since that it was customary to look upon our people as below the level of humanity, and every opprobrious epithet was employed to mark the dislike with which the public viewed us. Even now, in most countries of Europe, we are merely tolerated, and in many the most ordinary civil rights are denied us, of which fact we mean to give ample proofs, by spreading before our readers extracts from European publications in our possession. It has been gravely debated in Germany and England, whether it would be safe to grant us the privileges which are the birthright of every man; and in most instances the answer and the practice have been on the side where ancient ignorance, vulgar superstition, and malevolent prejudice had placed them centuries ago; and our emancipation from civil disabilities has not been granted. Whilst here, in this country of equal rights, our enjoyment of equality has practically proved that the participation of Jews in the civil government cannot work injury to the rest of the citizens; and this one fact should have been enough to disarm all our opponents of the strength of their fears, were it not that the desire for making converts by the allurements of office had made it their interest to oppose us yet longer.

It is therefore the more highly gratifying that the three gentlemen at the head of our article have each chosen our nation, our history, our law, and our literature as the subject for public lectures before that enlightened body of merchants, the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia, who have had, for several winters past, regular courses of lectures once every week, delivered by some of the most eloquent men of the country. It is now three years since Dr. Charles D. Meigs, one of the professors of the Jefferson Medical College, of this city, delivered a lecture of considerable length on Jerusalem, its history and its terrible downfall, and in it he did ample justice to the bravery of its heroic defenders, who yielded only when they had no longer a country to defend, when their soil was occupied by the Roman conqueror, and their temple had been given a prey to the. devouring flames. If our space were not preoccupied, we would make liberal extracts from this admirable lecture, which has been printed, we think, for private circulation only. But we hope to do so at a day not far distant.

At the commencement of this winter, Rev. Dr. John Ludlow, provost of the University of Pennsylvania, delivered a series of four lectures on Palestine before the same institution, the last of which only we attended. But this made us regret our absence from those which had preceded, as we cannot doubt that they must all have been of high interest, especially to a descendant of Abraham. His subject, when we heard him, was the poetry of Palestine, or, in other words, the poetry of the Bible: and seldom indeed can this sublime topic have been handled more instructively and more lucidly than it was by Dr. Ludlow. Of course here and there were some few allusions which as a Christian divine he could hardly have avoided; for instance, applying the splendid commencement of the sixty-third of Isaiah, in which the God of glory foretells his overpowering triumph over those who opposed themselves to his faith and oppressed his people, to the triumph of the Messiah of the Christians over his spiritual enemies. Nevertheless, we listened to the entire lecture with heartfelt delight; we admired the beautiful versions, not those of the ordinary English Bible, which he gave, and the striking manner in which he read them. But more than all his conclusion delighted us for it showed that the reverend doctor is not one of those little spirits who, whilst reveling on the patrimony of Israel, despise the people who are its possessors. For he said, that in many countries the descendants of the people of Palestine were treated as though they had no share in the rights of man; but, he felt happy that never in this country had persecution troubled them in the peaceful retirement of their homes, nor had exclusion for opinion's sake been practised towards them; and he hoped that when the Lord will judge the nations, he would in mercy remember that land which had offered a home and a refuge to the sons of Abraham. We responded an Amen; and felt assured that if all Christian divines were to feel and to speak as Dr. Ludlow, that we should have no cause to complain of vulgar prejudice and unfounded distrust on the part of our fellow-countrymen.

Professor Wines, the principal of a classical school in this city, is delivering, whilst these pages are going through the press, a series of lectures on the civil government of the Hebrews. He commenced by proving from the constitutions of Babylon, Persia, Sparta, Athens, and Rome, that civil liberty as now understood was not known among the ancient heathen, and that the first impulse to the elevation of the individual was given by the Mosaic legislation; by which all the persons composing the state were placed upon the same level of equality, inasmuch as the law, on which the existence of the state rested, was careful in guarding alike the rights of each individual, no matter what his station or birth might be. We would gladly give a synopsis of these interesting lectures as far as they have gone; but we understand that it is the intention of Mr. Wines to repeat them in other cities, at which no doubt many of our friends will be present, and we will therefore not enter into them more at length, and content ourself merely with the brief outline of the first lecture we have just given.

But we cannot avoid expressing our entire approbation of the beautiful parallel Mr. Wines drew between the military character of Moses and Washington; both were men whom the affairs of their compatriots placed in the highest position, and both managed their authority so as to produce the greatest good of the greatest number. Mr. Wines also spoke with high praise of Moses as a legislator, as a poet, and as an orator; in all of which acquirements he excelled, and remains unequalled at the present day; for his laws have become those of civilization; his poetry is the highest outpouring of sublimity, and his appeals to the people are full of pathos, truth and fervour, and will for ever command the admiration of mankind, what ever may be their creed or doctrines. Mr. Wines enriched his lectures by ample quotations and reference to the classics of Greece and Rome, sources not generally accessible to the ordinary inquirer; and those who seek for information, therefore, would do well not to lose the opportunity of profiting by his instruction. One thing we can safely aver, that Mr. Wines has truly followed in the footsteps of Mr. Ludlow, that is, he speaks of the Israelites as a nation possessed of admirable laws, and a consistent philosophy of life, and therefore entitled to be looked upon with the kindness which one neighbour owes to the other; and we doubt not, that such views frequently held out to the admiration and approval of the enlightened portion of the community will dispel, by degrees, more so than anything else, the remains of religious prejudice which yet linger in this country, and which are greatly owing to the fact that whilst our faults are all known and commented on, our peculiar virtues are unknown, and the public are not informed that a debt of gratitude is due to our forefathers from the friends of civil and religious liberty all over the world.