« PreviousContinue »
human justice, that I am here to-day. I can also declare that nothing can be further from my intention, as I am confident nothing can be further from yours, than to do that which would be a violation of the laws of mutual peace and order, and the respect which binds nations together, or to attempt to interfere or dictate in the domestic legislation of Russia. I am also bound to say that I share heartily in the words of veneration used by the noble earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury, who moved the first resolution: “That, in the opinion of this meeting, the persecution and the outrages which the Jews in many parts of the Russian dominion have for several months past suffered, are an offense to civilization to be deeply deplored.”] towards his Imperial Majesty of Russia. No man can have watched the last year of the imperial family, no man can know the condition in which the Emperor stands now without a profound sympathy which would at once bind every disposition to use a single expression which would convey a wound to the mind of the Czar. Therefore, I disclaim absolutely and altogether that anything that passes from my lips-and I believe I can speak for all-should assume a character inconsistent with veneration for a person charged with a responsibility so great. Further, I may say that while we do not pretend to touch upon any question in the internal legislation of Russia, there are laws larger than any Russian legislation—the laws of humanity and of God, which are the foundation of all other laws, and if in any legislation they be violated, all the nations of Christian Europe, the whole commonwealth of civilized and Christian men would instantly acquire a right to speak out aloud.
And now I must touch upon one point, which I acknowledge has been very painful to me. We have all watched for the last twelve months the anti-Semitic movement in Germany. I look upon it with a twofold feeling-in the first place with horror as tending to disintegrate the foundations of social life, and, secondly, with great fear lest it may light up an animosity, which has already taken flame in Russia and may spread elsewhere. I have read with great regret an elaborate article, full, no doubt, of minute observations, written from Prussia and published in “The Nineteenth Century,” giving a description of the class ani
mosities, jealousies, and rivalries which are at present so rife in that country. When I read that article, my first feeling was one of infinite sorrow that the power and energy of the Old Testament should be so much greater in Brandenburg than those of the New. I am sorry to see that a society penetrated with rationalism has not so much Christian knowledge, Christian power, Christian character, and Christian virtue as to render it impossible that, cultivated, refined, industrious, and energetic as they are, they should endanger the Christian society of that great kingdom. I have also read with pain accounts of the condition of the Russian Jews, bringing against them accusations which, if I touch upon them, I must ask my Jewish friends near me to believe I reject with incredulity and horror. Nevertheless, I have read that the cause of what has happened in Russia is that the Jews have been pliers of infamous trades—usurers, immoral, demoralizing, and I know not what. When I read these accusations, I ask, Will they be cured by crime, murder, outrage, abominations of every sort? Are they not learning the lesson from those wlio ought to teach a higher ?
Again, if it be true, which I do not believe, that they are in the condition described, are they not under penal laws? Is there anything that can degrade men more than to close against intelligence, energy, and industry all the honorable careers of public life? Is there anything that can debase and irritate the soul of man more than to be told, “You must not pass beyond that boundary; you must not go within eighteen miles of that frontier; you must not dwell in that town; you must live only in that province?” I do not know how any one can believe that the whole population can fail to be affected in its inmost soul by such laws; and if it be possible to make it worse, this is the mode and the discipline to make it so.
They bring these accusations against the Russian Jews; why do they not bring them against the Jews of Germany? By the acknowledgment of the anti-Semitic movement, the Jews in Germany rise head and shoulders above their fellows. Why do they not bring these accusations against the Jews of France? Is there any career of public utility, any path of honor, civil or military, in which the Jews have not stood side by side with their countrymen? If
the charge is brought against the Jews of Russia, who will bring it against the Jews of England? For uprightness, for refinement, for generosity, for charity, for all the graces and virtues that adorn humanity, where will be found examples brighter or more true of human excellence than in this Hebrew race? And when we are told that the accounts of those atrocities are not to be trusted, I ask if there were to appear in the newspapers long and minute narratives of murder, rapine, and other atrocities round about the Egyptian hall, in Old Jewry, in Houndsditch, in Shoreditch, if it were alleged that the Lord Mayor was looking on, that the metropolitan police did nothing, that the guards at the Tower were seen mingled with the mob, I believe you would thank any man who gave you an opportunity of exposing and contradicting the statement.
Well, then, I say we are rendering a public service to the public departments and Ministry of Russia by what we are doing now, and I believe it will carry consolation to the heart of the great prince who reigns over that vast empire. But let me suppose for a moment that these things are true—and I do not found my belief in their truth from what has appeared either in “The Times" newspaper or in the "Pall Mall Gazette,” which has confirmed the statements. I hold the proofs in my own hand. And from whom do they come? From official documents, from the Minister of the Interior, General Ignatieff. The resolution speaks of the laws of Russia as regards its Jewish subjects. I do not assume to be an old jurist in English law, much less to say what the laws of Russia are in this respect. I should not know what to say on the resolution if I did not hold in my hand a rescript of much importance. I hope I shall not be told that, like the ukase, it is a forgery. These horrible atrocities had continued throughout May, June, and July, and in the month of August this document was issued. The first point in it is that it laments and deplores—what? The atrocities on the Jewish subjects of the Czar? By no means, but the sad condition of the Christian inhabitants of the southern provinces. The next point is that the main cause of these move inents and riots," as they are called, to which the Russian nation had been a stranger, is
but a commercial one. The third point is that this conduct of the Jews has called forth “protests” on the part of the people, as manifested by acts—of what do you think? Of violence and robbery. Fourthly, we are told by the Minister of the Interior that the country is subject to malpractices, which were, it is known, the cause of the agitation.
My Lord Mayor, if the logic of this document be calm, the rhetoric and insinuation of it are most inflammatory, and I can hardly conceive how, with that rescript in their hands, the Russian population could not have felt that they were encouraged to go on. The document then goes on to say, “We have appointed a Commission to inquire”-into what? “First, what are the trades of the Jews which are injurious to the inhabitants of the place; and, secondly, what makes it impracticable to put into force the already existing laws limiting the rights of the Jews in the matter of buying and farming land and trading in intoxicants and usury. Thirdly, how shall these laws be altered so that the Jews can no longer evade them, and what new laws may be passed to prevent their evasion."
Besides answering the foregoing questions, the following additional information was sought--first, on usury; secondly, on the number of public houses; thirdly, on the number of persons in the service of the Jews; fourthly, on the extent and acreage of the land; and, lastly, on the number of Jewish agriculturists. We have in our hands the Russian laws affecting the Jewish subjects of the Empire. I would ask what is the remedy for a population in this state? Is it more penal laws? Is it to disqualify them from holding land? Is it to forbid them to send their children to higher places of education ? No, my Lord Mayor; I believe that the remedy for this state of things is twofold--first, the vital supremacy of Christian law in all its amplitude. It was not by laws like these that the Christians won the world and won the Imperial power to execute justice among men. It will not be by laws other than these that the great Imperial power of Russia will blend with the population of the Empire their Jewish subjects.
The other remedy I believe to be this: a stern and merci
ful execution of justice upon evil-doers, coupled with a stern and rigorous concession of all that is right in the law of nature and of God to every man.
All that is necessary for the protection of life and limb, and liberty and property-all that constitutes human freedom-this, and nothing less than this, will be the remedy for the evil of which the Minister of the Interior complains.
I look very hopefully to what may be the effect of this meeting. Do not let us overrate it. If we believe that this meeting will have done the work, and that we may cease to speak, its effect will not be what we desire. Let us not underrate it either. I believe that all through the United Kingdom there will be a response to this meeting. Manchester and Birmingham have begun; and wheresoever the English tongue is spoken throughout the world, that which your lordship has said so eloquently and so powerfully will be known. I believe at the very moment we are assembled here, a meeting of the same kind is assembled in New York; and what passes here will be translated into every language of Europe, and will pass even the frontiers of Russia. Like the light and the air, it cannot be excluded, and wheresoever there is human sympathy, the declarations that are made here and elsewhere will meet with a response that will tend to put an end to these horrible atrocities.
There is a book, my lord, which is common to the race of Israel and to us Christians. That book is a bond between us, and in that book I read that the people of Israel are the eldest people upon the earth. Russia, and Austria, and England are of yesterday compared with the imperishable people which, with an inextinguishable life and immutable traditions, and faith in God and in the laws of God, scattered as it is all over the world, passing through the fires unscathed, trampled into the dust, and yet never combining with the dust into which it is trampled, lives still a witness and a warning to us. We are in the bonds of brotherhood with it. The New Testament rests upon the Old. They believe in half of that for which we would give our lives. Let us then acknowledge that we unite in a common sympathy. I read in that book these words, "I am angry with a great anger with the wealthy nations that are at ease, because I was a little angry with Israel,