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The Struggle For Political Freedom.


We need not draw the attention of our readers to the fact, that at the present moment the English Jews are engaged in an endeavour to obtain freedom from the distinctive laws, under which they have so long laboured; since the subject is one in which a general interest is felt, especially here, where similarity of language and institutions renders whatever occurs in Great Britain a matter of more interest, than if it happened elsewhere. Perhaps many of our friends are not aware that in 1753, a bill passed both houses of Parliament, the House of Lords unanimously, and received the royal assent, whereby any person professing the Jewish religion was permitted to apply to Parliament to be naturalized, without first receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But so great was the public clamour against doing justice to the Israelites, that the next session the bill was regularly repealed, upon the recommendation of the prime minister, the Duke of Newcastle, and we were placed back again as we were before that act of grace and justice. We some time ago obtained an old pamphlet, under the title, “Considerations of the Bill to permit persons professing the Jewish Religion, to be naturalized by Parliament, in several letters, (but the pamphlet itself contains but one,) from a merchant in Town, to his friend in the Country, wherein the motives of all parties interested therein are examined; the principles of Christianity with regard to the admission of the Jews, are fully discussed; and their utility in trade clearly proved. ‘Even so have these also not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy.’—Rom. 11:31. ‘Aliud alios movet: ac plerunque parvae res maximas trahunt. Varia suet hominum judicia, variae voluntates: inde qui eandem <<518>>causam simul audierunt saepe diversum, interdum idem, sed ex diversis animi motibus sentiunt.’”—Plin. London, 1753. pp. 60.

As the subject is so very curious, and comparing, as it does, so singularly with the present agitation, we hope the readers of our periodical will feel sufficient curiosity and interest in the matter, to excuse our devoting a few pages to the transaction of a century ago. The first thing that will strike every one, is the smallness of the boon asked and conceded, and the great astonishment hence resulting, that so trifling a thing should have created so great a sensation in all England, that as Parliament was about to undergo the ordeal of a new election, one vied with another to secure popular favour, by blotting out the obnoxious law of mere justice from the statute-book, and that both ministers and opposition should succeed in repealing before the end of a year a law, by a vote in the Commons, nemine contradicente, which had passed the Lords unanimously, though from the opposition to a certain amendment proposed in the preamble on the part of the elder William Pitt, and Mr. Henry Pelham, both ministers, and the latter the brother of the Duke of Newcastle, they must have felt that they yielded the right of the Jews to a senseless public clamour. No doubt many who have beard of this bill, must have thought that some great rights were conceded to the English Israelites thereby; how much must they then be astonished, when they are informed that they absolutely gained nothing, not even the right of holding any land or the most insignificant office in the gift of the crown and the people. We will insert here an extract from the pamphlet, containing the principle of the bill.


This bill recites that an act, made in the seventh year of James the I., (a time when the Protestant religion was but newly established, and no Jews were in this country,) enacts that all who were to be naturalized, should first receive the Sacrament, and the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; and particularly, that none should be permitted to apply for a bill for such naturalization, unless they had taken the Sacrament within one month before the exhibition of the bill. As persons who have not been first christened cannot, without impiety, receive the Sacrament, (they not being prepared for it,) many of considerable substance who profess the Jewish religion, (not being in a capacity to receive the Sacrament, though they could, and are, according to the act, to take the oaths to the government,) were thereby rendered incapable of petitioning that a private bill might be passed in their favour in Parliament.

<<519>>It further recites, that Jews may acquire that right by other methods, and particularizes an act, whereby, on their residing seven years in our American colonies, they are naturalized in Great Britain; which, though not the only method, is that where there are undoubted proofs of their being capable of naturalization. It then enacts, that persons professing the Jewish religion may apply for a bill to be passed in their favour, and may be naturalized in pursuance thereof by Parliament, without receiving the Sacrament.

And in order that no persons whatsoever, so naturalized, may pretend to any post or place of trust under the government, there is a clause to be inserted, that all such persons shall be liable to the disabilities expressed in an act made in the first year of King George the I., the substance of which follows in the extract of a private naturalization bill.

And in order that no person, whose utility is not previously known, should be able to apply for such a favour, it is provided, that no one shall be naturalized who has not resided in his Majesty’s dominions three years, without having been absent longer than three months at any one time. And in order that no papist, or evil-disposed person, may avail themselves of this method, by professing Judaism for some short time, it is further provided, that only such persons who shall have professed Judaism for three years shall be naturalized in the method prescribed by this bill, as foreign Protestants may be naturalized, in the common method, by private bills.

And as by this bill Jews are deprived of all emoluments in the state, so likewise all Jews, whether born here, or naturalized, are rendered incapable of possessing any power on a church benefice, whereby any offence to religion is obviated, they having no power by this bill, either in church or state.

The common form of private naturalization bills (which must necessarily pass before any one can be naturalized, in pursuance of this act) recites, that the person so naturalized has given testimony of his loyalty, and fidelity to his Majesty, and the good of these realms. It then enacts, that the said person shall be adjudged, to all intents and purposes, to be naturalized, and, as a free born subject of this realm, that he may inherit and be inheritable, and retain, and sue for, and enjoy, any real or personal estates whatsoever. It is then provided, that the said person be disabled from being of the privy council, or a member of either House of Parliament, or from taking any office or place of trust, either civil or military, or from having any grant of lands, tenements, or hereditaments from the crown.

A bill so harmless in its details, so perfectly excluding Jews <<520>>from all participation of the rights of freemen, met with its most bitter opposition from the corporation of the City of London; that very body which has now returned along with the prime minister, Lord John Russell, the first Jew to Parliament, in the person of Lionel Rothschild, and elected as a member of its own court of aldermen, another Jew in the person of David Salomons. Strange e mutations these, but more owing to a better knowledge of our character, than even to the progress of free opinions in so many parts of the world. Thanks are also due in this respect, to men like the author of the pamphlet before us, who under the name of Philo-Patriae, so well espouses the claim of the Jews to be regarded with affection by their Christian fellow-subjects, although to judge from the tenor of his defence, one might be apt to think that he too would have opposed the admission of our people to all the franchises which they have lately sought, and partially obtained. We regret that the author’s name is not known to us, as we would gladly ask honour for one by name, who so early broke a lance, although not successfully, in the defence of the natural rights of all men to be treated with kindness by the state, in the defence of which they spend their wealth, and are ready to shed their blood if need be, as was the case with the English Jews during the rebellion of 1746, as will be shown by proper extracts from the pamphlet. From the following, it will be seen on what grounds the City of London opposed the Jew Bill:

The extraordinary petition of the corporation of the city of London, presented to the House of Commons upon the third reading of the bill, (after it had unanimously passed the House of Lords,) has confirmed people in their jealousies; and the clamour raised to vindicate the said petition, has prejudiced the minds of many so strongly against the bill, that it will be difficult to undeceive them; while a party, always fond of inveighing against all public measures, will endeavour to keep up that spirit, raised by a false rumour, in order to serve their private purposes.

Your conjectures were right, and I am sure you will be heartily pleased, when I demonstrate to you that there is not the least truth in all that has been advanced against the bill; the Jews are not preferred, nay not put upon an equality with Protestant dissenters; not one Jew is naturalized, not one privilege is given them more than they had, (nay a very unnecessary and improper one is restrained,*) and the whole <<521>>tenor of the act is to settle a method, whereby any one of their foreign brethren, who shall reside here three years, and can prove his utility to this country, may, if the legislature think proper, enjoy the same liberties and immunities as those born here now enjoy, and, if not a proper object, may, and will, no doubt, be rejected.

* The power of possessing or presenting to ecclesiastical livings.

This, sir, is the whole scope of the bill, which has so alarmed the unthinking part of mankind, and given a pretence to load the government with such scandal and detraction, as if they were giving up our all to a set of Jews, and destroying the liberties and religion of this country for a fugitive people.

When you consider the nice examination that every bill presented to Parliament undergoes, and that the only purport of this bill is to dispense with a Jew’s taking the Sacrament, (an act that in him would be a sacrilege, according to the Christian faith, he not being previously baptized;) that this is the only difference in the method of a bill brought in to naturalize a foreign Protestant or a Jew; that one, as well as the other, must take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; that the conduct of every person is carefully examined into, and they themselves known to several members of Parliament before a private bill is passed in their favour; and when you also consider, that any one that is so admitted is incapable of any employment, either in church or state, you then will plainly see that there can be no danger to the Constitution in any shape, since every individual must stand the judgment of, and be approved by, a British Parliament, before he can receive the least benefit from the bill; therefore the only thing on which it is possible to found even a shadow of reason against the bill, must be the impropriety of Jews being received as subjects at all. What reasons were urged against it may be seen in the petitions of the corporation of the city and of some merchants who thought themselves interested in the event.

“The corporation’s petition expresses their apprehensions that, should the bill be passed into a law, the same will tend greatly to the dishonour of the Christian religion, endanger our excellent constitution, and be highly prejudicial to the interest and trade of the kingdom in general, and the said city in particular.”

It will be seen, that the same clamour as that now raised in Prussia and by the illiberals in England, about the “Christian State,” was also raised in London, at the first appearance of an intention to relax of the illiberality which weighed heavily on our people, and each step in advance which has been taken since, it <<522>>has always been the same. “The church will be endangered by the influence of the Jews;” “the state cannot stand with such natural enemies to its institution nursed in its own bosom!”

And still, point by point has been gained since then in many countries, though often wrung from the most unwilling concessors; and where has been the least danger to the popular institutions? what injury has befallen the state? Let the experience of the last eighty years tell, and put to silence and shame for ever, all the calumniators of the Jews. It is true, Christianity has lost much of its absolute control over the minds of mankind; both the church of Rome and that of England have had to succumb to a liberalizing process which they could not resist; and other Protestant denominations have divided and subdivided in ever so many fractions. Unitarianism has lifted up its head, and now boldly speaks out in the face of day what it feels, what it thinks, and its advocate sits in the House of Commons along with the representative of the university of Oxford; Catholic France is catholic no longer, farther than that the majority profess to belong to the church of Rome; Austria and the Pope have partially opened their ghettos, and Jews have more liberty of motion, whilst liberty knocks loudly at the gates of the Vatican, and approaches surely the Prader of Vienna.

But this is not the direct work of the Jews, but is a gradual change of opinion which has been elaborated during the past century, and must advance and triumph, despite of the petty opposition which the boy-monarchs place in its way, just as the boys of less growth labour in vain, were they to endeavour to dam up a mountain torrent, by checking its course by handfuls of earth which they pile up to stay its headlong fury. The elements of discord were in the constitution of society, and no rights accorded to us have contributed in the least to the changes which we have witnessed. Our author, to return to him, combats manfully the grounds taken by the London Corporation, and controverts the positions taken that the residence of the Jews, and their holding property, would be dishonourable to the Christian religion; 2. Dangerous to the constitution; 3. Highly prejudicial to the interest and trade of the kingdom in general; and 4, of the city in particular. He contends that Christianity never did regard the presence of the Jews as dishonourable, since all countries did always receive them, as he says:

<<523>>These kingdoms have received the Jews at all times, excepting when the most violent persecutions were exercised against those that in the least dissented from bigotry and Popery; they have been always patronized, even by the Popes themselves, and received by every Christian country; and though Spain and Portugal have driven them out, it was not from a principle of religion, but policy to get rid of the Moors, whose numbers in Spain were dangerous, as they could be continually fomented and supported by the African States. The capitulations made by that crown, on the conquest of Granada, left them no other method than a religious pretence, to clear their country of the Moors, and break their faith; the pretext being religion, the Jews were necessarily involved in the fate of the Moors.

The latter view is rather curious, since Spain and Portugal actually did endeavour to exterminate the Jews, not because the Moors were too numerous, but because the church of Rome wanted to destroy all opposition to its power, and because state policy taught Ferdinand and Isabella that, to confiscate the immense estates belonging to the Jewish nobles, would fill their exhausted coffers, whilst it gratified the dark bigotry of the Queen of Castile. The King of Portugal only followed in the track of Spain, and France, and England, and thus disgraced Christianity, in common with the others, by the rivers of blood which he shed in the vain attempt to destroy Judaism, which is now again openly professed at Lisbon, by resident Jews.—It would appear that in 1753, the Jews enjoyed greater privileges at Leghorn, France, Holland, and many parts of Germany, than in England, and that in parts where they were not generally admitted, persons of wealth and talents were intrusted with posts of honour and profit. The following extract is rather curious:

One of the great glories of the Christian faith, is the endeavouring to convert others to their belief; no just means are left untried to forward this pious work. Missionaries are sent all round the globe to perfect it, nay princes of the barbarous nations have been brought here and converted; will it then be contrary to faith to bring Jews here in such manner and on such terms as that they cannot hurt the state, in order to attempt their conversion? Were we to judge by former success, we need not despair, as there are many Jew families of note in this kingdom from which converts have been made. Will it not be a better method, in order to convert them, to introduce them by degrees, few at a time, with a continual restraint in the power of Parliament, that they <<524>>may never be too numerous, than to drive them from the light of the gospel, and hinder them from hearing its doctrines?

But it is alleged, they are stubborn unbelievers, and no way proper objects on which we should turn our thoughts to endeavour their conversion. I must differ in that sentiment, as I fear those hardest to be drawn over, are such who give no credit to any revelation at all. Now the Jews do all believe  in revelation, therefore are much nearer Christianity- than such unbelievers. It will be hard to have any doubt of the Jews’ belief in revelation, as no man that did not believe it would adhere to a sect reviled by so great a part of mankind, and incapable of any emolument whatsoever. Credit being given to revelation, must greatly tend towards Christianity.

So then even our liberal author wanted the Jews to be admitted into England in order that they might become converted, and he refers likewise to several conversions from resident families having taken place. But is it not a striking feature in all arguments to benefit the Jews, that their conversion from Judaism is always held up as an object to be thereby obtained? And is it not equally curious that the potentates of Germany have in many cases withheld offices, in order to induce qualified Jews to obtain them through the water of baptism, without a single idea of a change of opinion on their part?—We cannot, of course, in this article give all our author advances in defence of the Jews, but we must copy the following, for his just comprehension of our character:

A danger is apprehended that I have not touched on: the Jews may endeavour to make converts; but this, all who are conversant with them know is merely ideal, for they do not attempt it. This at first sight may seem extraordinary, but proceeds from a quite different reason than is generally imagined. They acknowledge that the Protestants have a right notion of the Deity, and moral virtues; therefore are objects of salvation. To what end would it serve to convert, as they think none bound to their ceremonies for salvation but themselves? If this be true, are they not much nearer to us in faith than we think and may it not be doubted whether many of them have any enmity to the doctrines of Christianity, as they own salvation possible in the Christian faith? Do we not carry our assertions too far, when we insist that the present race of Jews are enemies to Protestantism? And, if they are not, let us see how far God in his commandments carries his resentment, “visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, <<525>>unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me.” Shall God’s punishments extend only to that space, even when aggravated by continued misconduct, and shall man extend his vengeance to the hundredth generation? Nothing but bigotry, ill-nature, and ignorance can suppose it.

He next combats the idea of their being dangerous to the excellent constitution of England, and among errors he confutes the notion of their raising a false Messiah in England! So then it must have been urged that our people could be silly enough to attempt such a folly; and he justly urges that our Messiah will appear in the Holy Land, and not in a corner of Europe. Concerning the danger to the state he says accordingly:

It is, then, the subversion of the state that we must fear. Was ever such a chimera? The whole number of the Jews at present in England are about eight thousand, which is not the one thousandth part of the inhabitants; sure these cannot be the objects of our fears! No, it is they that are to come. Can they come but by leave of Parliament? by private acts? And, even granting they could come otherwise, can any number come that can hurt this nation? Our soldiery, who have so lately quelled so considerable a number of disobedient subjects, although assisted by foreign powers, must treat with the greatest contempt the thought of a disarmed, unsupported crew’s giving us the least uneasiness. Permit me, sir, to say, Baye’s army is not near so ridiculous as such a notion.

It has been urged that their tenets are repugnant to ours or any other constitution. Their religion instructs them that government is divine; their own form, instituted by Moses and authorized by God, consisted of a head, with a council of the principal men. Their chiefs first had the title of judges, then of kings, and were all subject to the laws: is not this nearly our blessed constitution?

Their prophets have ordered them obedience to the states they live under (Jer. 29:7): “Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

I am informed their Rabbins say the laws of any state are as binding on them as their own. They have no thought of having an independent state in any country but the Holy Land. What possibly can ever make them desire to leave our obedience, while we let them enjoy their private liberties?

(To be continued.)