Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

fortuitous causes, but living individuals, distinctly and wonderfully articulated, having a God-given existence. Their soul is incorporated into appropriate organs, called social institutions, one of which-the Church--opens the way to, and connects them with, heaven. Every subject of a state is an integrant member of one of such individuals, as intimately united thereto as a limb to the body. The highest duty of a subject therefore is, to be so entirely a member of the state as not to have a separate existence from it: his happiness in this world depends on this condition. The soul of modern states is free, having been delivered from slavery by Christianity, and this freedom forms the line of demarcation between ancient and modern society. In Greece and Rome, the most important measures were not ultimately decided upon by man's will, but by chance, by all kinds of auguration. Thus the member of a state must not only be united bodily to it, but bis very soul must be merged in it, and he must be absolutely a Christian. Any departure from this rule will produce weakness, sickness, and perhaps the death of a state ; just as a derangement in the body will cause its premature dissolution. It follows, that modern republics, though they be Christian, are more liable to such a contingency; being deprived of the most important organ, namely, the head. It follows further that all the members of a state ought to belong to one established Church, and wherever the contrary is the case it proves a source of weakness to that state, which they ceases to live by its internal vitality, and must seek its support from without. Where, however, the number of Dissenters is small, and the state powerful, the danger is less imminent. Strictly speaking, religious sects can be only tolerated in a state, and the rank they hold in it can be only one degree higher than that held by Jews. The conclusion at which we again arrive is, that no complete emancipation of the Jews, not preceded by their conversion, is possible, or would be safe; and tbat without this condition, toleration alone can be granted to them. This ought not to be refused by any Christian state, as it is expressly commanded by our religion: “ Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab, be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.”—Isaiah, ch. xvi,

We now proceed to consider the practical bearing of the fore going observations in reference to the state of the Polish Jews, and on our way we will also cast a glance at the Jews in France and Germany. It appears that of the two modes proposed for their emancipation, that of accomplishing it without their previous conversion to Christianity is the most popular in both these last

inte hings to do sovereigen, als pee liberties citizen

named countries. It cannot excite wonder, that in France, where the king no longer rules by the grace of God, but by the will or caprice of a sovereign people, and where the state does not profess a distinct religion, all persuasions, and even the Mosaic, enjoying the same privileges and liberties, the Jews are in possession of all the rights belonging to a French citizen. It should be remembered, too, that the number of Jews in France is extremely small, not exceeding fifty thousand upon a population of thirtyfour millions. Their conduct has been of late honourable, and it is said that no less than twelve hundred of them served in the armies of Napoleon.

In Germany they are much more numerous, and so far as outward appearances are concerned they are fast losing the distinctive characteristics of their nationality. Those of Berlin rank above the others by their riches and superior learning, and a greater part of these have renounced the doctrines of the Talmud, contining themselves to a kind of Mosaic rationalism. They even went so far as to establish a public worship in which the German language was substituted for the Hebrew; but the government prohibited this innovation, as evidently indicating a deistical tendency. This occurred some fifteen years ago; but we are at a loss how to explain another measure of the late king of Prussia, by which it was prohibited to apply to them, in official acts, the name of Israelites instead of Jews, which latter carries with it a certain degree of opprobrium. Much illiberal feeling respecting the Jews prevails in Germany, even amongst the respectable classes of society; as may be inferred, for instance, from the following malignant remark of Heine, a converted Jew, who, when taunted with his extraction by his literary opponents, sarcastically replied, “ Why then did I pay five ducats for my baptism :** The Jews of Hamburg and of Frankfort follow in one respect the example of their Berlin brethren, namely, of endeavouring to do away with all outward distinctions of their nationality, in order that they inay obtain access to the quarters inbabited by the Christians. They usually occupy a separate quarter in towns, which in most cases they cannot exchange for another, except on condition of assuming the dress and external habits of Christians. Many writers belonging to the school of young Germany consider this superficial reform as sufficient to entitle the Jews to an equality of rights with the Germans. The following passage, characteristic of the flimsiness of the modern German school, contains the sub

* No fee is charged in any church for baptism, or for the other sacrament. The sum commonly paid at baptism is simply for registration; in many countries purely a civil and legal act, in England of blent character, civil and religious. Heine confounds some civil demand with the ecclesiastical.

stance of what is now going on in Germany with regard to this subject:

" Among the many isolated and petty questions which, during the silence that prevails on great leading questions, bave been thrust forward into notice, that of the emancipation of the Jews plays an important part. Numerous pamphlets have been written on both sides in almost every German state. Riesser of Altona has used the most energetic and talented language. What be, himself a Jew, has said in favour of the rights of Jews, ranks among the master-pieces of political eloquence. Yet the children of Israel suffer even to this day from the petty regulations of Germany, and they have been granted such poor rights as they do now possess only in a very few places. In one city attempts are made to educate them; and we see the most ancient nation in the world treated like a little child which cannot stand on its own feet-(they cannot in fact, but neither can the author perceive this). In another it is wished to convert them, with all possible forbearance. They are not compelled certainly to become Christians; but they cannot claim the rights of citizens-nay scarcely those of men-so long as they are not Christians. Here they are openly bated as a foreign people, upon whom, as we are ashamed to kill them, we vent our barbarian courage in another way. There men play the masters over them, the gracious protectors; but take care not to emancipate them, lest by so doing they should lose the pleasure of playing the part of patron. Even some liberals are found wbo oppose the emancipation of the Jews, merely on the ground that Cbristians are not yet wholly free. Everywhere we find that petty pride which ridicules the Jews, tormenting them at one time with refusals, at another with half-concessions, or with obtrusive offers of instruction. We can scarcely be surprised that men of talent and education, such as bave of late years arisen in considerable numbers amongst this race, should become exasperated at this despicable ill treatment. But the wrath of a Börne, the sarcasm of a Heine, will not aid the Jewish cause, because they keep up petty antipathies, and because, under their protecting shield, a brood of common-place Jewish youths is fostered, who load with open scorn everything which is holy in the eyes of the Christian and the German."*

Crossing the frontiers of Poland on the side of Germany, we are struck by the sight of a curious race, distinct in every respect from the rest of the population. The flowing beards and long robes with hanging sleeves of the men, and their sharply marked features; the raven black locks and eyes of the women, their

* This passage is taken from the History of German Literature, by Wolfgang Menzel, translated from the German, with notes, by Thomas Gordon, Oxford. The work is, however, neither a history of German literature, nor is Herr Menzel likely ever to write one. He may be called the Jules Janin of young Germany, and his merit consists in agreeably expressing commonplace good sense and often nonsense. The cardinal sin of the writers of his school is a striving to dismiss great questions, which they are incompetent to fathom, with a jest, designed for wit. We do not speak of the merits of the translator, for there can be none in the translation of such a work; we only regret that he did not make a better choice in order to do justice to his talents both to the German and English public.

towering head-dresses and strange necklaces and arm-bands, present to us a picture which, like a solitary monument of Gothic architecture in some modern city, carries our memory many, very many centuries back. These are the world-famed Polish Jews. They are the best-preserved mummies of the remotest time. The dirty appearance of the quarters which they inhabit, and the eagerness with which they are seen flocking wherever an occasion of gain without labour presents itself, if associated with the late disasters of Poland will add another dark feature to her gloomy aspect. The Polish Jews may be likened to a black veil hung all over the country, if we forego the other rather illiberal similethat of leeches sucking the life blood of the country.

This external contrast increases as we enter an inn tenanted by a Polish Jew, which now happily is becoming scarce. The house consists of a large room destined for the visitors, and of a smaller one appropriated to the family. The latter is usually crowded to excess; piles of feather-beds are the most conspicuous objects there, but they present so uninviting an aspect, that a traveller, however weary, will feel but little inclination to rest upon them. The design of this display is to disgust intruders, and to screen riches under the cover of apparent wretchedness. Usually several families crowd into this little hovel, which is divided into as many compartments, not by partitions, but simply by lines drawn with chalk on the floor : the society is generally increased by the presence of a calf resting close to the fire-place, and of geese cackling in baskets under benches, the representatives of sofas and chairs. The kind of churivari produced by these singular inmates, in unison with the crying of children and scolding of women, need not be described; but we must not overlook those rough cupboards, loaded with silver plate, rich female ornaments, glittering with pearls and jewels, and above all with bonds for large sums of money lent at the most usurious interest. The contrast which the Polish Jew exhibits in his external appearance with the rest of the population will be yet heightened if we take a view of the state of his mind.

After having consumed the day in serving his customers with wine, brandy or beer, calculating all the time what may be his gains from some drunken peasant, upon corn, hay and wood, or the sale or purchase of old clothes, the Polish Jew will shut him. self up at night in his narrow closet, which does not even offer him the benefit of quiet, and refresh himself by studying for hours the treasures of Rabbinical lore. He will first plunge into the voluminous Talmud, and endeavour to silence his consciencefor he has still a conscience-by its subtleties; then he will take a flight in Cabala, and review the most important questions on

the nature of soul and body, their connection, the mystery of creation, &c. Nor does he omit to sharpen his talent for disputation by the metaphysics of Aristotle as expounded by Maimonides, or by the Hebrew version of Euclid. Such is still the ordinary Polish Jew, and such he was a thousand years back. An exile of twenty centuries, whole generations have grown up and died away under the rod of persecution; but he does not act up to the Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco, of Virgil, for he has neither sympathy nor pity, though a whole Jerusalem of sorrow has risen around him. It would appear that there is a zenith for man's feelings, which, once passed, his heart will be but hardened by misfortunes, which Schiller truly says "nur härten seinen härten sinn.

To complete the peculiarities which distinguish the Polish Jew, not only from the rest of the Polish population, but also from the other branches of his race, it is necessary to mention the strange idiom-a kind of corrupt German-which he generally speaks. It is supposed that this jargon was brought from Germany when the Jews, persecuted by the first crusaders, took refuge in Poland, where they were well received. By this, however, must be understood, that at that time the greatest number of them migrated into Poland, as the Polish historians bear sufficient testimony to Jews having settled in that country prior to the first crusade. Of the six millions of Israelites who, according to Gregoire, are now scattered over the earth, two millions live in Poland, forming one-tenth of the population of that country. By the absolute estrangement in which they live they are doubtless a source of weakness to their adopted country. Now the fact we wish to impress on the minds of our readers is, that this estrangement is not the result of any want of efforts on the part of the government to amalgamate them with the nation at large, but chiefly to the exclusive egotistical soul inherent in the Jewish people.

According to the testimony of the Polish historian Dlugosz, the Jews early enjoyed privileges and liberties which placed them decidedly above the inhabitants of towns and the peasantry. To mention one instance. Saint Judith, a queen of Poland (1079— 1102), expended large sums of money in order to redeem from prison Christian debtors insolvent to the Jews; a right which at that epoch belonged to the nobility alone besides. But the greatest favour was shown to them by Casimir the Great, who put them in possession of all the rights enjoyed by Polish subjects. In his statute of Wislica (1334) Casimir calls them his able and faithful subjects (“ idonei et fideles”). These privileges were so high as to draw ipon Casimir the censure of partiality, arising, as it was said, from his affection for a Jewess; but this accusation has been

« AnteriorContinuar »