Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

The Future.

 

Events are now transpiring in Europe, which for their astounding suddenness and generality are unparalleled in history. The fabrics of statesmen, monarchs, and philosophers, are brushed away as the broom of the housewife sweeps away the cobwebs which were formed over night, and thrones are tottering which seemed built upon the firmest foundation, and dynasties are chased away by the aroused people, as highway robbers are driven from their concealment by the excited peasantry of a long-afflicted neighbourhood. Nationalities too, long numbered among “the things that have been,” are awakened from the slumber of ages; and Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and Italy, and Ireland, speak of resuming their ancient ranks as especial people, independent and united to govern themselves with laws proceeding from themselves, and enacted for their benefit and individual prosperity. The “So I will, so I command” of tyrants has for the present lost its charm, and civilized men have undertaken to judge for themselves whether to obey or to refuse obedience. The progress from craven submission to the dictates of priests and princes has been gradual indeed; but the long habitual deference, which was exacted on the one part as a divine right, inherent in the government and the church, and yielded on the other because the means of resistance were very slight, has at length found its end, in the diffusion of knowledge and the better acquaintance with the Scriptures, and men have awakened to their individual strength and responsibility, and have willed to be left in the undisturbed enjoyment of their individual rights, and the exercise of their conscientious convictions, without allowing the state to punish them for their free exercise <<62>>of whatever is the inalienable right of every one, in whatever interferes not with another’s rights, and not granting the church the least power to inquire into their conformity to one or the other dogma or purely religious observance which stands not in connexion with the rights and privileges of any other portion of the community.

Those who are natives or long residents of the United States, who have either never known the force of state and church oppressions, or have long since escaped from their trammels, may well look upon the sublime spectacle with pleasure, but hardly with the interest which those who are immediately concerned must feel; the people of this country may applaud the daring actors, who discard all thoughts of personal safety, and strike a blow for the freedom of their native land; but they cannot share the intensity of pent up feeling which the self-emancipated experience in now bidding defiance to those who had kept them so long enchained, and would fain rivet the bonds yet closer to the end of time. The people had indeed complained, and had unwillingly submitted to the yoke which was fastened on their necks; but all attempts hitherto to achieve their liberty ended only in a greater strength of the governing powers, and the greater weakness of the governed. Add to which the patronage of the sovereigns, numerous armies and united councils, opposed, as they were, to the absolute isolation and distracted views of their domestic opponents, not to mention the alliances of the rulers for mutual protection and suppression of all tendencies to change: and you have some grounds to estimate the intoxication with which the various once oppressed nations must naturally now view their just acquired new liberty, and how they must madly exult over the prostrate forms of their former arbitrary rulers, who to obtain a mere nominal ascendency have to yield, in fact, all the popular demands, the least of which would formerly have astonished the royal presence by its boldness and audacity. They, however, who have from their birth been reared in freedom; whose very cradle was rocked with songs of liberty, chaunted by their earliest nurses; who have ever pursued whatever calling seemed most congenial to their interests; who have never had to enlist in armies merely to flatter the pride of the ruler, and to guard the bed-chamber of one who did not consider <<63>>himself subject to the will of the people over whom he ruled; who have never had to obtain the permission of the police before they could depart from their domicil on a journey ever so short, of pleasure or business, unless they preferred to become acquainted with the comforts of a prison-house: can never realize what the nations of Europe have to glory over, that they at length see some hope of terminating the arbitrary enactments which have weighed down on their minds, enterprise, and industry, with all the deadening influence which misrule must ever engender. Immense wealth, widely extended domains, and splendour outstripping the teeming imagination of the orient, were brought in too close a contact and comparison with squalid poverty, famine disease, and absolute destitution, of which but few examples can happily be found in America, either on the one side or the other; sinecure offices, rewarded with exorbitant salaries, for the sons of noble houses, whilst the children of the poor had to toil for a bare subsistence day and night, in a labour which hardly knew the intermission of rest, compelled the masses to reflect on the unequal distribution of the property of the state, which all who labour contributed to build up to the height which it had attained; and when, therefore, the people acquired the strength to claim a remodeling of all this abuse of the gifts of God, it is no wonder that they were willing to risk much to obtain their desire, and having obtained it that they should exult in a manner which the men of this land may admire, but of which they cannot fully comprehend either the depth or intensity.

But it is not the province of our magazine to discuss political movements, deeply as we are interested in the struggle from being born in one of the lands where the agitation for reform has taken deep root, and where the people have taught the sovereign to respect their will by their bold resistance to his trained soldiers, though the blow struck was entirely unforeseen, for the moment at least, on their part. As an ardent friend of freedom, both political and religious, we rejoice that our countrymen appear so well to appreciate the dearest rights of men, and now claim in the authoritative voice of a nation asking for what is right, the fulfillment of the promise of the sovereign made in the moment of danger, when he called on his people to aid him to expel from his soil the hated legions of his Gallic oppressor, <<64>>when our Jewish brothers too rushed to arms, a profession for hundreds of years interdicted to them, when they demonstrated by their bravery and fidelity on many a bloody field, the last of which was the memorable Waterloo, or La Belle Alliance, as called by Blücher, that in love of country and devotion to their native soil they are inferior to none of their fellow-citizens, though all the country had hitherto given them was merely the privilege of living within its borders, in a limited number of districts and towns, merely allowed to procure a living under many restrictions, and excluded from all honourable employments in the service of the state, or the teaching of sciences in public schools, or the pursuit of any learned profession, with the sole exception of being medical practitioners.

But this very feeling which induced so many Prussian Jews to fly to their country’s standard in its hour of need, when it threw off the yoke of Napoleon Bonaparte, though many of his laws had been favourable to the Jews, forgetting their individual benefactor in the enemy and oppressor of their country, and the hope they justly entertained that when the sword was sheathed and the thunder of the artillery would be hushed, they would not be forgotten by their grateful fellow-citizens, induce us now to allude to the political state of Europe, inasmuch as it must have an important bearing upon the present and future condition of Israelites, and affect them happily or unhappily, as events may hereafter determine. What the result will be it is of course out of our power to determine; but it is surely permitted to us to speculate on it, and to trace, if nothing more, at least our hopes for the future, though it is possible enough that bitter disappointment may again be our lot, as it was thirty-three years ago [1815], when the fruition of so many brilliant hopes was dashed to the ground by the faithlessness of a sovereign, who certainly was one whose rule bore with but little weight on the people, though he governed from his own will, and could not trust the nation at large with that portion of self-government which he had promised in the time of his tribulation. The Israelites who had cheerfully borne their share in the struggle for independence, had fondly hoped that when the tumult of war was over their grateful country would recollect the sacrifices they so gladly had brought on the altar of patriotism; but when the peace of Europe was restored, they <<65>>were met by sovereigns and people with the objection of the Christian State, or in other words, that the fundamental principles of society were those of Christianity, that the Jews were aliens to the state because they were opposed to its religion: and hence, though they had so well borne their part in the contribution of money and standing up boldly for their country’s rights in the front ranks of the battle, they could not justly expect to be received in the bosom of a Christian society without embracing Christianity in outward appearance, a sincere believing not being expected or demanded. And when the old king of Prussia, him they call Frederick William III, was asked, (as it is said,) Why induce the Jews to embrace Christianity when it is evident that such conversions are not sincere, and merely a base profession of a religion which the heart disbelieves? he answered, that he was well convinced that it is useless to pretend that old Jews were converted by such means, but that the children would be good Christians, and Judaism would lose as many families among its followers as the parents who forswore their faith to become the servants of the state. Besides this, when a person had once embraced Christianity under such a delusion of self-interest, either received or in prospect, his return to Judaism was absolutely prohibited; there was no hope for the apostate, and he became an enemy to his people, though perhaps inwardly his heart was torn with anguish at the enormity of his guilt; the fatal words were spoken, and like the hell of the Italian poet, the Jewish sinner might fancy to see inscribed over the doors of the Christian church which he entered, “Leave all hope behind, ye who enter here.”

No doubt the baseness of many eminent men in sciences, and of some renowned for their wealth and position, who fled from the society of Israelites “to taste of the fleshpots of Egypt,” has been the cause of continuing the oppression to which we have been subjected; potentates and bigots among the people may have argued: “Let us but deny them the rights of citizenship when Jews, and offer them an alliance when they quit the Synagogue, and we shall succeed in rooting out Judaism; behold the large number who could honour their people who have embraced the doctrines of Christianity, and are now preachers, doctors of law and medicine, police officers, finance councillors, judges, <<66>>and soldiers, and many active agents in withdrawing others from Judaism.” And it is disgraceful that they were right in thus arguing; for constantly new candidates for royal or popular favours presented themselves in almost every kingdom and state, and they turned their backs on the men of Israel and on their faith, though many of them had been educated by public and private charity, in the fond expectation that the talents they had early displayed would become useful to the religion of Israel, and that they would stand forward as the champions of their brothers, as those who would defend the cause of human rights violated in the broken promises which had been made to the Hebrews. Such conversions, however they might swell the numbers of Christians, in profession, were no actual loss to our religion; we lost but the vile, the worthless, though they are clothed in gold and purple, and are the confidants of kings, and the honoured amidst the nobles of the land.

But in the mean time we increased, as we did in Egypt, despite of the new device to diminish us, and whereas, in 1826 we numbered for instance in Prussia about 154,000, we were found to have about two years ago say 204,000, showing an increase of at least 50,000 souls in twenty years, though full 2000 had been baptized, a far larger number had left the Prussian dominions, and none of any account had entered them, because of the prohibitory laws against the introduction of foreign Jews except by special permission. We have not the statistics at hand relating to other states; but we venture little in asserting that the data which Prussia offers may be taken as a standard for all Europe; and hence it will be seen, that the loss we have met with in the escape of so many apostates has been no actual diminution of the strength of the servants of God, who are thus severed from those who hate Judaism, or have not faith enough to abide true to its behests amidst doubts and difficulties.

But with the present awakening of the people to the full view of the responsibility of their rulers, will the fiction of a “Christian State” still retain its supremacy over their minds? Will those who have emancipated themselves, or become emancipated through the prowess and example of others, continue to submit their consciences to the dictates of those who have always, with but rare exceptions, been the tools of power, and the apologists of all <<67>>oppression, so they but contributed to increase the respect, influence, and revenues of the Church, whatever is understood by that term? Have the people learned, or will they learn, to look upon preachers, priests, monks, bishops, cardinals, popes, or by what other names the militia of the church may be called, as fallible mortals, who, though very good as advisers in matters which they have carefully studied, and to which they have devoted the best years and energies of their life, are very unfit to govern mankind by their exclusiveness, and limiting all the good in the world to those they call arrogantly their saints, their elect? Will free men, who have discarded the divine right of kings, continue to pursue a proselytizing policy, to gratify those who, as a class, are the avowed enemies of liberty? A great deal is said about Christianity being the foster-mother of freedom; and one must confess that the best republics are those where it is professed in some shape or the other. But we may freely contend that freedom is not the consequence of Christianity, at least of Catholic Christianity, and that liberty became appreciated only when the Bible,—not the book called the New Testament, but the blessed Scriptures of Israel—became the watchword and the guide of civilized Europe. Men may laugh as they please against the Puritans, Independents, and fanatics of the days of Charles the First and Oliver Cromwell, who interlarded their speeches with words and phrases from the “Old Covenant,” and called themselves with the unusual name of ancient Bible worthies; but they were the men of iron, with nerves of steel, whose looks quailed not before the frown of tyrants, and who could uphold constitutional liberty though surrounded by conquering legions; and who could proclaim the word of God on the hill-tops, with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other, whilst some comrades watched on some distant peak to warn them against the sudden approach of the minions of power, who sought to slay and to exterminate the free spirits who would not bend the knee to the modern Baal.

We do not dispute that others besides Jews and Protestant adherents of the Bible have understood what freedom is; but it is unquestionable that the most grinding oppressions, feudalism and the Inquisition, have been the invention of Catholic rulers and Catholic clergy. Men may attempt to gloss over historical facts as they please, and throw a cloak of glory over past <<68>>scenes, and exhibit there in the light of romance and adventure; but strip them of the false glitter that is put upon them, and nothing will be found more hurtful to the freedom of the labourer than the armed power of the knighthood, the military aristocracy of the middle ages,—and nothing more injurious to the free development of the human mind than the absolute control of the priests, exercised in so many ways, and the assumption at length resulting therefrom, of inquiring into the faith of all the inhabitants of Christian countries, under a patent from the pontiff, whose fiat both declared what faith was, and what punishment should be meted out to those who dared to dissent from it. Compared to such a system, the simple manners of the ancient Saxons were the perfection of freedom; at least the people there who were freemen were enabled to bear arms, and though no one had any right to property in himself, the state gave to all alike a portion to cultivate for the support of each one’s family, if we recollect aright.

With the decrease, therefore, of the influence of the Catholic clergy in France, and not because they favoured a change in government, the first revolution in France took place; and the late overthrow of the Orleans dynasty was also preceded by systematic and violent assaults on the Jesuits, who were supposed, whether justly or unjustly, (it is not for us to determine the question,) to favour the retrograde movements of the king, and to endeavour to reduce the individuals of France to become “like a passive corpse” (perinde ac cadaver) in the hands of their order, and hence submissive tools of the government. We have not the space at present to adduce any quotations from various recent works which have fallen under our observation; but we will merely refer to the book called “Les Jesuites,” by Professors Michelet and Quinet, which no doubt greatly contributed to arrest public attention from the fact that some opposition was offered to the lecturers, both by the government and the clergy, to the progress of the lectures which constitute the work in question. It will be evident, on the whole, that the present expulsion of the Orleans king will have an important bearing on the state of the church, though it is not to be expected that it will reach the height of anti-Christian sentiments which prevailed at the conclusion of the last century. And we think that no one <<69>>who observes the “signs of the times” can help seeing that all the mummery of priests blessing the flags of the new republic, and holding public celebrations of funeral rites over the victims of the struggle which ended in the expulsion of the king, will deceive the multitude as to their real feelings, or make any one suppose that they are sincerely for universal freedom, in opposition to royal and clerical prerogatives.

It is true that in France all religions are tolerated alike, or rather that all religions are alike in a very low state of development, infidelity being the prevalent sentiment among the people, despite the parade which has been made of magnificent churches, and other outward exhibitions of attachment to particular creeds. But in the greater part of other continental Europe it is one or the other church which prevails, and with the exception of Holland and Belgium, the Jews are everywhere oppressed. It is under the colour of religion or state policy that they are debarred of their just claims to equality, and it is not to be denied that in many instances at least, the clergy have been foremost, by spreading among their followers false, or at least exaggerated statements of what Judaism professes, to prejudice the public mind against us. Now those who are acquainted with European politics will readily acknowledge that it is not alone the present agitation in France which has called up a similar spirit elsewhere; for the masses have been in commotion these many years; and it was long foreseen that at the first contest between sovereigns and people, the former would have to yield all that should be demanded, however unreasonable the demands might be. It only required the shameful flight of Louis Philippe, the almost wonderful overthrow of a constitutional throne, supported by immense wealth, strong fortifications, and hundreds of thousands of bayonets, to fan the slumbering embers into a bright flame; and hence, barely had the news reached other lands, when, as if by magic, scenes analogous to those in Paris were enacted, and with arms in their hands, the people demanded the long-asked-for concessions, for which they had in vain again and again besought their rulers by petition and supplication, and the powerless sovereigns had to yield, almost unconditionally, to the popular clamour, merely to save a semblance of their once irresistible power.

The question now suggests itself, “What political effect will <<70>>all this have on the state of the Jews?” Unquestionably in the first outbreak of the new emotions produced by the enjoyment of never-before-known freedom of action, some acts of violence will be, as we learn they have been, practised against our people. They are supposed to have wealth, and those disposed to plunder will surely employ the present juncture to enrich themselves at the expense of their Israelitish neighbours; others again, urged by a fanatic spirit, may be foolish and wicked enough to destroy our places of worship, before steps can be taken to arrest their plans. But when calm is again restored, as restored it must be, it is to be expected, at least, that the notion of a “Christian State” will have been exploded, aided, as this progress will naturally be, by the entire overthrow, in a political point of view, of Christianity in France. We do not rejoice in the reign of infidelity; but we express merely a well-known truth, that with the supremacy of the working classes in the Gallic republic, Christianity ceases to be an element of the state government any more than Judaism or any other religion. If morality and a sobered freedom thus can and do stand firmly established,—if each system of belief—if each creed—each mode of observance stands by its own strength—if no ministers of religion receive any stipend from the state—if each congregation supports its own ministers, it is surely no cause of grief to a Jew that Christianity is no longer in the ascendant as a favoured and a privileged religion; that his own ancient and blessed faith can stand side by side with Catholicity, Protestantism, or any other creed, and spread and grow by its own strength, without either being more or less protected by the state; and for one we should rejoice when our officiating ministers, as they are termed, are no longer in the receipt of a paltry sum of three hundred francs, and less, for their whole support from the state; for Jews must be lost, indeed, to all sense of feelings, if the poorest village population could not contribute that much for the endowment of those who address for them the Throne of Grace.

If now we are right in our prognostications that, with the overthrow of arbitrary government, the absolute power of the clergy, and with it the fiction of a “Christian State” will also vanish, then is there every hope that at length brighter days are dawning for long-oppressed Israel, and that not many years will elapse before no one will be asked any more to forswear his faith before <<71>>he will be admitted to devote his talents to the service of his  native land; when the distinction between Christian and Jew will be no longer an affair of the state, but solely one between man and his Maker. It is, however, not to be expected that this will be a sudden result, or that prejudice will die without a struggle; for the minority, which we are everywhere, can hardly hope to be at once recognised as endowed by nature with the same powers and capacities, and therefore entitled to the same position with the others; and though these may have achieved their freedom, they may not be willing to emancipate us from ancient trammels at the first blow they strike for liberty and equality. But so soon as the people come to investigate for themselves, they cannot do otherwise than turn their attention to the bright example furnished by the Constitution of the United States, which knows of no religious distinctions, and looks upon all the inhabitants alike as entitled to the pursuit of happiness, and equal protection from the laws; and we may yet have occasion to be grateful to the One whom the wrath of man does honour, for having endowed such men as Washington, Franklin, and Madison with wisdom to frame for this land a fundamental law under the protection of which all classes of men can live together happily and securely, each one protected against the intermeddling of his neighbour, whether he be one of few or many, whether rich or poor. Should this occur, we shall then be able to rejoice sincerely over the events which now are shaking Europe to its centre; and neither as citizens, as lovers of freedom, nor as servants of the One God, shall we have the least cause for complaint, that at length we are free to pursue undisturbed our destiny, till it pleases our Father to gather us again together, and to bring us once more to Zion, never more to be plucked out from there. And if ancient Germany again becomes a nation—if Poland throws off successfully the chains of oppressors—if fair Italy takes a rank as one people, a rank which she has not enjoyed for many long centuries, ever since barbarians from the north overran her cities and fields—if it is truly said “A man may die, but a nation never,”—why should not the patriotic Hebrew also look forward to the time (even without reference to revelation) when he may again proudly boast of his own country, of the beneficent sway of his own laws, of the bravery of Judah’s <<72>>sons, of the virtue of Israel’s daughters? Where is the heart that would not swell with a mighty sensation, could he once more see our fair land restored to its former beauty, when the wilderness is to bloom as the rose, and the waste cities be built up again, and the son of David rule in righteousness among his equals?

But be this consummation of our hopes far distant or near, at least we are warranted as Israelites to rejoice over the humiliation which has overtaken the potentates who deemed themselves instinct with sovereignty as a divine gift, exclusively theirs; and who knows but that, before many days are over, the mighty Emperor of Russia may be induced to ameliorate the hard fate of our numerous brothers living under his iron sway; and that all who have worshipped God under affliction may learn truly that their deliverance has sprung from the Source of all good, and that they may render Him that cheerful obedience when free, which they rendered when the yoke of oppression lay heavily on them, and thus prove that they were truly worthy of the great mercy which has been extended to them. At least let us hope; and let us confide in Him who directs everything for the good of his creatures, that the present agitation, too, may redound to the happiness of all mankind. and among them to the civil and religious prosperity of our brothers of the house of Israel.