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English News

London, January 7, 1848

The Jewish Emancipation question has already, since I last addressed you, been advanced one stage by the passing of the following resolution in the House of Commons, on Friday evening, the 22d December, after a most animated debate, which occupied ten successive nights:—“That this house do resolve itself into a committee on the subject of the removal of the civil and political disabilities affecting Her Majesty’s Jewish subjects.”

To give you an adequate report of the discussion, which was in the highest degree interesting, I might easily supply you with matter enough for your entire number. It must suffice, however, to furnish you with a condensed history of the proceedings. Lord John Russell, who had charge of the measure, introduced the above preliminary resolution in an argumentative and statesmanlike manner worthy of his great intelligence and high debating powers. He was followed by Sir Robert Harry Inglis, the well-known and avowed opponent of all encroachments on the power and influence of the Protestant church, which he conscientiously believes should be subscribed to by all those who shall be entrusted with any office in the state, be it civil or political; his speech was respectful towards the body whom he desired to exclude, temperate, but not so argumentative as might have been expected from a man of his high attainments. Lord Ashly, although he opposed the treasure likewise, on religious grounds, in a most brilliant speech, nevertheless eulogized the Jewish people, both as regards their pre-eminent talents and their exemplary virtues. These encomiums were the more acceptable to the Jews, as coming from this nobleman, who is a distinguished philanthropist and a highly intellectual and eloquent man; in mistaken benevolence, he is a zealous supporter of the “Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews,” and occasionally presides at their annual Exeter Hall “exhibitions.” Mr. Gladstone, another high church man, member for one of the universities, and a statesman of considerable ability, and an ex-minister of the Tory Administration, supported the measure in an admirable speech. Among the other supporters worthy of note may be mentioned that amiable and accomplished nobleman, (member of the present government,) Viscount Morpeth, whose speeches are always replete with intelligence, liberality, and humanity. The Earl of Arundel and Surrey, (son of the Duke of Norfolk,) another sample of nature’s own nobility, in a very neat and touching address, appealed for the same privileges to be conceded to those with whom his ancestors, who were Roman Catholics, had been <<612>>fellow-sufferers. Lord George Bentinck, the leader of what are termed the protectionist party, supported the measure very earnestly, and in citing instances of the charity and benevolence of the Jews, quoted Sir Isaac Goldsmid’s public liberality, which had been alluded to once before by Lord Holland in the upper house. Amongst the most remarkable speeches was, perhaps, that of the distinguished writer and orator, Mr. D’Israeli, himself the descendant of the Jewish race; he argued the question in a manner the most acceptable to the Jews, and demanded their admission into the legislature, to take a share in the national council, because they were Jews and not despite thereof; he made a most solemn and eloquent appeal in a brilliant peroration to one of the best speeches which was delivered on the subject.

The following was the division on the second night: for, 253; against, 186; which made a majority in favour of the resolution of 67; a number much under what was anticipated, which makes it feared that unless there be some converts made between then and the re-opening of Parliament, (after the Christmas recess,) the bill will have but small chance of passing the Lords. Since these memorable proceedings, and, indeed, during their occurrence, the public journals and the periodicals teemed with letters and articles for and against. A day before the question was brought forward, a pamphlet appeared under the title of, “Ought the Baron de Rothschild to sit in Parliament? an Imaginary Conversation between Judaeus and Amicus Nobilis,” frorn the pen of Dr. Van Oven, a Jewish physician of some standing in the community; it is ably written, but has called forth much comment, on account of the definition given to the term “Jewish nation,” which “Amicus Nobilis” suggests as one of his objections. Dr. Van Oven endeavours to prove that the expression has no purpose or value whatever at the present time, and gives a strained definition, in order to prove his case. Some avow that it compromises the community, as the doctor declared that his opinions were those of the whole of his co-religionists. A Colonel Gauler, late governor of New South Wales, has also issued a pamphlet on the same subject, which consists of a correspondence between himself and some one opposed to Jewish emancipation, which was partly contained in the Morning Herald. This colonel is the same who, some time ago, wrote a pamphlet on the emigration of the Jews to Palestine; he is a steady, warm, and consistent friend to the Jewish cause.

There appear to be some conflicting opinions amongst the Jews themselves, as to what is their most proper course in the matter; some are for getting up petitions from the Jews themselves, as well as encouraging them among other sects who sympathise with our cause; others think the matter is much better left to the Christian public themselves, <<613>>and the city of London constituency, whose cause, as the fact stands, they think it more properly is, they urge, that such course would not only be more dignified, on the part of the Jews, but more likely to lead to a successful result. An active petition movement on the one side would provoke a still more active one on the other, where they believe there is so much reason for apprehension and alarm; and, therefore, if petitions will be of any weighty value, those opposed to the emancipation question will take care to outnumber the friends of the measure in their petitions. The Board of Deputies are looked to in this emergency, but they appear not to have been able to make up their own minds, as yet, on the question; and instead of either giving us their advice or seeking ours, they are holding their mysterious meetings, and deliberating upon the subject without, as far as I know, letting their constituents be any the wiser for their proceedings, who might very easily run counter to them, without the desire to do so. There is no doubt but that the present is a crisis, when a body like the Board of Deputies should be up and doing. To whom else ought we to look than to our natural leaders in such an emergency? Dr. Adler is certainly not the man for that purpose, his vocation is higher; he can only advise and assist, as I am persuaded he is disposed to do; indeed, I am aware that he has some very intelligent and clear views on the subject. So much for this all-absorbing subject of the Jewish emancipation.

A great sensation and much excitement has been created by a matter which has in a measure reopened the unhappy affair of the secession body and the ecclesiastical authorities. A much-respected, worthy, and influential member of the Burton Street Congregation, Mr. Benjamin Elkin, died a few days ago, after a long and tedious illness. Although he was a member of the secession body, and a very staunch one, too, yet he had never discontinued to subscribe to the old congregation to which he had formerly belonged,—the Duke’s Place, I believe, for the purpose, as it appears, of securing his burial next to the grave of his late wife. On application, therefore, being made by his family for permission to carry out the wish of the deceased, the ecclesiastical authority met and deliberated on how the application was to be treated, they having been appealed to for instructions. It was decided there that the deceased might be buried according to his will, but the ceremony could not be performed by the usual functionary, nor could any of the officers of the secession congregation take part therein, for the reason that the deceased was one of a body whom the present Rabbi has found to be under ecclesiastical censure, which, since it has never been removed, <<614>>nor sought to be so, left him and his advisers no other alternative than to make the distinction which I have described. The family and friends would not concede to this, and the greatest possible pains were taken to move the Rabbi to change his decision; but to no purpose. Deputation on deputation, as I am credibly informed, waited upon him, but he continued firm. The very highest and most influential members of the orthodox community, formed one of the deputations; but the Rabbi could not change his convictions as to what was his solemn duty, and he therefore remained fixed in his decision. As nothing would move him, therefore, rather than concede to what the family and friends of the deceased, I suppose, considered humiliating conditions, his remains were deposited in the ground belonging to the Burton Street Congregation. The affair has led to much bitter feeling; but, in the eyes of a dispassionate judge, it will perhaps be considered an unhappy and severe sentence on the part of the Rabbi, but, probably, a just one.

As my communication has run to so great a length already, I must postpone, till a future occasion, the allusion to some other subjects which I might have been induced to refer to.


Note.—We do not agree with our correspondent in his appreciation of Mr. D’Israeli’s speech, as it is in the papers.