|Vol. IV, No. 6
Elul 5606, September 1846
New Decree Of The Emperor Of Russia.
The subjoined decree we find in the latest papers. Though we hope that Nicholas may mean honestly, we fear that there is a door left open to excuse himself for oppressing yet farther our unfortunate brothers who live under his iron sway. We cannot understand how a population of two millions can be changed in so short a period as three years and a half, so as to adopt new customs and habits, and acquire a taste for agriculture and mechanic arts. Human aid is vain indeed, when on a default of making proper use of this permission a tyrant will base his farther decrees of oppression; but let us trust that in that time new help may spring up for the oppressed from elsewhere, or that the power of the adversary may be broken before then. It looks to us, however, very ominous, that immediately upon the departure of Sir Moses and the promises given him, such a double-faced decree should appear; but we all along feared, that any concession which might be made would be accompanied by a trap to authorize apparently farther violence. We would not be understood as saying that we should regret the Jews in Russia changing their mode of living; only that the time allotted to them is much too short by half a century at least, to effect the same, especially as they are restricted to but a very few governments and these not the most fertile in the vast Russian empire. But let us hope for the best.
“The Prussian Allgemeine Zeitung has the following from Russia. The Russian government has just issued a call to the Jews residing in the empire. After specifying the various measures now to he adopted towards the regulation of the various classes of the inhabitants, they are called upon to enroll themselves before the first of January, 1850, under the following heads:—
In one of the three corporations of merchants.
“In connexion with the foregoing we see a species of manifesto of the Russian government, which appears in the Voice of Jacob, No. 133, which, when carefully scanned, will readily bear the interpretation of being in advance an excuse for rigorous measures to be adopted at the expiration of the term of probation, which to a surety, for the reasons given, must elapse without the proposed change having been accomplished.—The Voice of Jacob endeavours to give the Czar credit for good intentions; we regret that we cannot share the same views.
Important Document By The Russian Government.
“In a late number, we mentioned a Ukase which obliges every Russian Jew, before 1850, to join certain corporations. This Ukase is prefaced by remarks, which are of sufficient importance to deserve the widest dissemination. Our own columns, echoing the press of the civilized world, have denounced the Russian policy pursued towards the Jews; it is therefore but just that we listen to what it has to prefer in its own vindication. The German paper from which we borrow these remarks, calls the document—
“Self-justification of the Russian government.”
“St. Petersburg, 31st of May.—His Majesty the Emperor, in his august solicitude for the welfare of the Jewish population resident in his dominions, has appointed a special committee, in order to investigate the causes of the unsatisfactory state in which this population remains to this day, and to deliberate on the means fittest to be applied as remedies. From the inquiries instituted by the committee, it appears that the Jews resident in the western provinces of the empire have, under the former Polish government, settled there secretly, according as they were banished from the countries of western Europe. As the Polish government neither granted them civil rights, nor permitted them to acquire immoveable property, they necessarily became dependants on the landed proprietors, and were restricted to retail trades, or the sale of spirits. The union of these provinces with Russia, was, for the Jews, a new epoch. The imperial government not only allowed them, like its other subjects, to partake of all civil rights, and granted them the permission to be received into the corporation of the body of town merchants, but also the privilege to take part in the elections, and to be themselves eligible for members of common council and other local authorities. Besides this, they were permitted to acquire immoveable property, and to settle as agriculturists, either on their own estates, or on the lands of the crown; in which latter case government also granted them support, and freedom from all taxes. Further, in order to open to them all ways to civilization, they were allowed to study in all public training institutions, including academies and universities; and lastly, the permission to settle in the above mentioned province, was extended over all the governments of New and Lesser Russia. The Jews—enjoying the right to settle in seventeen governments, (a superficies of 17,000 square miles,) among a population of twenty millions of inhabitants, in countries where, by means of the harbours of the Black Sea, (and in part through those of the Baltic,) a lively commercial intercourse is kept up both with our own and foreign countries—have had all possible means in their hands to turn their activity to useful objects, and to establish their prosperity upon a safe basis. But, unfortunately, they did not wish to make use of the advantages offered to them. By perseveringly avoiding a fusion with the society amidst which they reside, they still support themselves, as formerly, by the labour of their neighbours, and thus justify the incessant complaints of the population among whom they dwell. In order to respond to the benevolent intentions of His Majesty the Emperor, with respect to the social state of the Jews, Government—with the advice of well-intentioned members of that nation—deemed it requisite (in the year 1844), to withdraw the Jews from their dependence on the several Kahals, and to place them under the ordinary public authorities. Further, that nothing should be neglected that might promote the progress of the Jews in civilization, Government has deemed it advisable to extend still further the permission previously given them, to partake in the instruction afforded in public establishments; and, considering that many among them visit only with reluctance the establishments for mixed denominations, Government has founded schools destined exclusively for the use of the Jewish youth; a system which will be still further extended. At the same time, still further alleviations are granted to them in order to induce them to follow useful occupations, especially agriculture. Finally, in order entirely to remove the last badge whereby many Jews feel themselves weighed down, it has been ordained that, from the 1st January, 1850, it shall be prohibited to the Jews to appear in their peculiar national costume. Henceforth, they are at liberty either to continue their costume, or to exchange it for any other. Government, having employed all means which seem suitable for securing the moral and material welfare of the Jews, is justified in the expectation that the Jews will give up every trade injurious to the interests of the rest of the population, and choose a manner of life more conducive to their own welfare, and to that of their fellow-citizens. It is perfectly just, that the rebellious and disobedient be subjected to coercive measures, as idlers who prove a burthen to the society of which they are members. In order, therefore, to be able to institute a just discrimination between such Israelites as have sought to make themselves useful, and such as do not yet carry on a trade or some other legal occupation, Government calls upon the latter to declare for any of the three following categories…..” (Here follows the Ukase, as briefly described above.)