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The Struggle For Political Freedom.

(Concluded from p. 525.)

Having thus demolished the two first points of the attack, he gives some of the reasons which induced the Jews to apply for this particular measure, as they had failed to obtain the desired boon by having it included in the bill for naturalizing foreign Protestants, which had been brought in because it was thought necessary to increase the number of his majesty’s subjects. He says:

The Jews, (who have been settled here ever since Oliver Cromwell,) most certainly, when natives, are entitled to all the privileges of an English subject, except such as are prohibited to all dissenters by the Test Act. They have had an act of Parliament these many years, empowering them to take such oaths to the government, as are appointed for those that hold lands;* but several of the chief of them are foreigners, (who, I am credibly informed,) have brought into this country upwards of fifteen hundred thousand pounds; as they maintain their own poor, every rich person they can introduce, is a benefit to them, since it diminishes their taxes, and thereby makes the load more supportable to the rest. Many of the chief of them did desire to be naturalized, and could not, though they saw several of their own religion of much lower rank, who were naturalized by virtue of acts of Parliament; and besides, as all born here were so, they were seeking no new privilege to the Jews in general, but only to themselves in particular; they found with concern, that of late years, the supplies of rich persons that used to come to them from abroad, were in some sort stopped; at the same time, they found the American Naturalization Act had answered so well, that since its taking place, the greatest supplies of rich persons, were those come from America, those that used to come from Spain and Portugal, now going to France and Holland. They found that <<566>>even some among them, alarmed by invidious reflections thrown out by particular persons, had of late retired to Holland; preferring the security of their establishment there, to a doubtful situation here.

* Vide 10th George I.

The natives could find no possible objection to the measure, and looked upon it, if obtained, as a corroborative proof of their establishment; which, though of no direct use, will always be esteemed by all sensible persons as advantageous. It was the more so to them in general, as some had been decoyed away, merely on this false reasoning, that in France and other countries, there were modern laws in their favour; whereas their establishment here depended on the ancient laws of the kingdom, on custom, and the general rights of the subject.

Add to this, that, though the reflections cast out were from private persons, yet they too well knew, that if an opportunity should offer in public, there might be a time, when what was only mentioned, might be turned against them; nor had there been wanting some attempts to lessen their rights, which, though defeated, had cost them trouble and expense to get over.

They thought they never could have a more proper opportunity to have their situation explained: seeing that all disinterested persons were satisfied with their conduct, and that the principles of the established religion continually inculcated the practice of those inestimable virtues, humanity and benevolence to all mankind. They saw the Parliament almost continually employed, in finding out methods to heal the wounds that the late war had made, and intent on all means that might increase the riches of the nation; they knew no misconduct that could be alleged to their charge, and therefore hoped for the unanimous concurrence of all persons, in anything they could offer that might be reasonable; they therefore thought it their duty to lay before the administration, what they imagined might be of public utility, adding thereby their mite to the public welfare.

It was while they were endeavouring to form a plan of this nature, that several eminent persons thought it was necessary to increase the number of his majesty’s subjects. This gave rise to a bill that was brought into the House of Commons, for the naturalization of foreign Protestants; to this, as being consonant to the Jewish principles, they immediately showed an inclination, and desired they might be included; but the bill meeting with great opposition, though they were encouraged to continue their solicitations for an inclusion, yet fearing lest they might embarrass a measure, which they thought for the public good, they declined the pursuit of their private interest, and endeavoured to advance the bill.

<<567>>I shall waive entering into the causes of that bill’s failing, or into the merits of it; but, immediately on dropping their solicitation, it was the general talk of the town, even from opponents of the present measure, that the most useful part of the bill was given up, as a naturalization to poor people was no object, and of little consequence; that few or no others could be expected. Whereas, were the Jews included, many rich from among them might be drawn over: nay, the debate, when the bill was thrown out in the House of Commons, greatly, turned upon that; and it was generally agreed, that the introduction of rich Jews would be useful to this country. The honour done them, in that day’s debate, laid a fresh obligation on them, to propose some method that might answer the so much approved purpose; they therefore thought it their duty to prosecute it, and to waive any little selfish view, which any of them might have in not soliciting it. They then almost unanimously agreed to solicit for it, premising that they would not desire any new privilege whatsoever.

We need not go over the whole ground of his refuting the foolish notion that Jews could be injurious to trade, as he justly demonstrates that the more wealth you bring into a country, the more enterprise you infuse into its institutions, the more you augment its means, its productiveness and power. And as the Jews to be admitted were to be men of wealth and probity, it was evidently for the benefit of the realm, and the city of London in particular, that they should be invited over. These ideas are well set forth by two petitions which were sent to Parliament. Our author speaks of the underhand manner in which the petition against the measure was got up and signed in London; and then he continues:

Yet such was the power of reason, that the bill being committed, it suffered no alteration whatever; about a week was elapsed before the third reading was appointed; and from its first appearance, to the time the bill was passed, was above five weeks, which, considering the time the Parliament sat, was surely as long as such a bill could reasonably admit of.

The bill now became the public talk of every company; and many eminent merchants and manufacturers, finding the tendency of the opposition was not merely to the bill itself, but a spirit of oppression against all Jews, as well native as foreigners, persecution on religious topics, and not unmixed with some Jacobitical spirit, they thought it might bring danger to the present system of government; for, were it <<568>>once admitted, that it is proper for the public to examine people’s private rights, on account of their religion, none can answer where that would end; and, foreseeing the prejudice of such maxims to our trade and commerce, insisted on their presenting a petition in favour of the bill.

This petition was so generally approved of, that it is incredible how soon* such numbers signed it, as totally overthrew the hopes of the opponents, who were so incensed at this disappointment, that they everywhere employed threats to dissuade people from signing in favour of the bill, and  used every unwarrantable method that could be thought of, till finding this engine too weak, they at length unmasked their covered battery, and used the corporation artillery to move.

* It was opened but on Thursday, about one o’clock, and was closed on Sunday’s coming on.

It has been  industriously thrown out, that the corporation would never have petitioned against the bill, had it not been for the petitions in favour of it. As I have informed myself of that fact, I have all the reason to believe, that though it was concealed, fearing such a design would have met with opposition, yet it had been concerted before the petitions for the bill were first formed.

The first petition was to the following effect, viz.:

“That the petitioners are of opinion, that the passing of the bill depending in the House, to permit persons professing the Jewish religion to be naturalized by Parliament, into a law, may encourage persons of wealth and substance to remove, with their effects, from foreign parts into this kingdom, and increase the commerce and credit of this nation, and therefore pray that the said hill may pass into a law.”

This was signed by above one hundred of the most eminent merchants and traders in the nation, all Christians, and generally known for moral worthy men, of great property, experience, and extensive knowledge in trade; they having considered the bill, saw the advantages it might produce, and that no detriment could ensue.

Several eminent merchants and manufacturers thought this petition not full enough, to express the benefits that might accrue to the navigation and manufactures of this kingdom; they therefore formed a second petition of a more extensive nature, to the following effect, viz.:

“The petition of the several merchants, traders, and manufacturers, shipwrights, and commanders of ships, whose names are thereunto subscribed on behalf of themselves, and many other persons concerned in shipping, and in the woollen and other manufactures of this kingdom, <<569>>alleges that the petitioners are of opinion, the passim the said bill into a law, may encourage many persons of wealth and substance, to remove with their effects, from foreign parts into this kingdom, the greatest part of which, agreeable to the experience of former, times, will be employed by them in foreign trade and commerce: and in the increasing the shipping, and encouraging the exportation of the woollen and other manufactures of this kingdom, of which the persons who profess the Jewish religion have, for many years last past, exported great quantities; and therefore pray that the said bill may pass into a law.”

This was signed by above two hundred people, mostly persons of the greatest fortunes, judgment, and abilities, in the trading part of the nation; their properties were so considerable, that it must add the greatest weight to their sentiments, and the more so, as they were on the spot, competent judges of all that passed, and no otherwise biassed, than as concerned for the national good, which, had the bill been dropped on the reasons alleged, they judged would have been very detrimental.

Now as regards the claims of the Jews, for their past conduct, to be treated as children of the state, he says:

It is hard to account for the conduct of persons concerned in public affairs; yet every one is eager to give his private sentiments on them, and though formed on conjecture, they often aim right. It is in that light only, not as certainties, but as conjectures, (which, perhaps, you may approve,) that I shall attemptit ; I shall begin by that of the Jews, as thev were the first who moved this affair.

I have told you the motives they alleged for soliciting the bill; the grounds were just, but I can never think they would have done it, had they expected the clamour that has since spread through the whole nation. It never could be their interest, it never could be their design; perhaps they had some secret causes, perhaps some private attempts were made upon their rights as subjects, which might have made them desirous of ascertaining what they were; besides which, their conduct in the year of the rebellion, made it necessary, as they had a certainty of the enmity of those who had any way wished it success, and must have lived in the constant fear of their taking the first opportunity of oppressing them: some of them had turned their thoughts to buying landed estates, and might be willing every obstacle should be removed, before they purchased.

These seem sufficient motives for their conduct. As I think many of the circumstances of their behaviour, in the year 1746, may not have <<570>>come to your knowledge, I shall recite the most material; whereby you may judge the service they were of, in that important year.

It was then, when even the smallest aid was necessary to the public good, that all who had the good of this constitution at  heart, exerted themselves in their different vocations; and every individual might justly claim the glory of having contributed to save his country, as, had not each that did, exerted his utmost, the whole might have been lost. Our nobility took the field at the head of the troops they raised; our counties and cities formed associations; our metropolis distinguished itself by its zeal, and that of its chief magistrate* was so notorious, and his prudent management so successful in keeping the peace of it, that they will always deserve the highest applause of every good Englishman!

* Sir Richard Hoare.

The Jews, taking part in the general danger, distinguished themselves; their lower people enrolled their names in the city militia,† and appeared on all occasions on their duty neglecting their customs, which lead them never to bear arms but on emergencies; and esteeming this as one of those occasions that directly regarded them, showed plainly how much they interested themselves in the good of this country, and the present establishment. Those of a better rank entered into associations of all sorts; while those whose situation made them more useful in following their own callings, every way promoted whatever was thought serviceable to the government.

† At this time, it was not supposed they would attack a dunghill only, but might be called on to fight.

It was at this time our credit was sinking; a continual run on the bank had so drained our specie, that many apprehended they would stop payment. The Jews were particularly industrious in importing specie, all which they immediately and zealously brought to the bank, and thereby contributed greatly to the establishment of its credit, not only by the sums they brought in, but by raising the spirits of the people, who, by seeing such treasure conveyed to the bank, with such entire confidence, at first slackened the demand for money, and by degrees the general confidence of mankind was re-established.

I remember, at that time, it was thought so great a merit, that several people solicited the Jews, many times, to give them the money when imported, that they might have the honour of carrying it to the bank.

The Jews thus greatly contributed to the support of that fountain of our national credit, which, had it at that time received a shock, none can answer the effect it would have had on the state, surrounded as it <<571>>was with enemies abroad, rebellion stalking unrestrained, and prosperous in the heart of the kingdom, headed by a popish Pretender. Had our credit failed us, which was one of  our greatest resources, to extricate ourselves from the dangerous state we were in, what could we have expected less than the total ruin of the state, the loss of our religion, properties, and lives?

The critical situation of our credit at that time was such, that, to restore the credit of the bank, it was not sufficient to bring in supplies, without a stop was put to the continued demand made on it; it was then that our enemies, (for such I shall ever call them,) taking the advantage of the public fears, publicly exposed to sale bank notes at a discount, nay, they pressed the sale of them so much, that, had not an immediate remedy been applied, we had been undone. This occasioned some few of our most eminent merchants immediately to meet, and consider how to put a stop to this disorder, (their numbers were not twelve, among them two Jews;) and immediately to begin a subscription, obliging  themselves to take bank notes in payment, at par.

This glorious resolution saved our sinking credit, and once more foiled over enemies’ attempts. Had any one declined, or even been backward in the said association, (which was no doubt attended with danger,) it would perhaps have been past our power to have remedied the evil, for all efforts of authority would but have weakened credit. The memories of these persons ought to be dear to every true lover of his country, religion, liberties, and laws; and yet some of these valuable persons were Jews. Might not such Jews deserve to be naturalized?

These worthy men were immediately supported, as soon as it was known, by every person in trade who had the true interest of his country at heart. The Jews, to a man, signed this glorious association; how many, who pretended to Christianity, acted otherwise, I am ashamed to mention; yet this association was so strong, as to answer fully the intended purpose, viz., to deter our enemies from endeavouring the sale of bank notes at a discount, and to restore them to their full credit and currency.

Another great work was still wanting; money was scarce in the public treasury, the immediate calls for it, and the necessities of all mankind were very pressing, occasioned partly by large sums having been collected in the hands of disaffected persons, and drained out of the kingdom by the war; all which having rendered it so all over the kingdom, it was, notwithstanding, necessary to fill the royal coffers. All measures to have constrained the bringing it in, must have been destructive, as it would but have increased the fears and anxieties of <<572>>the people, and the run on the bank; it then was resolved, as the most prudent way, to apply first to the public. A subscription was opened in the city, to borrow money on the land-tax; it was a visible disadvantage in point of interest to every subscriber; yet here the Jews distinguished themselves. As one quarter of the money immediately raised on this occasion was theirs, this subscription added strength and weight to the government’s measures, and was accomplished at the very time the rebels were advancing to the heart of the kingdom, and their affairs in the most prosperous  situation.

And now, sir, were you on the spot, and could compare the names of those who then appeared in support of these just and salutary measures, and those who in Parliament and out of it (by subscribing the petitions) supported the present bill, you would want no further proof to convince you, that those who take their part have ever supported the constitution, while the names of many in the opposition have scarce ever been known in the support of our constitution and liberties against a popish Pretender and his abettors.

As a testimony of the regard paid to the Jews, and the utility they were then thought of to the state, an address to his Majesty being resolved on, one of them was chosen of the committee that was to head the merchants on that memorable occasion; in honour that would hardly been done him by that useful body, had they not been satisfied that the Jews had everywhere zealously done their duty; they then were thought worthy of being subjects, as well as now, notwithstanding the invidious representations of a party, and the hasty, mistaken zeal of some enthusiasts.

1 cannot omit the behaviour of two of them, (partners) on that occasion, they had some ships armed in the river, which were to go out a privateering, and loading of goods for foreign markets; it came to be known, that to prevent the enemy’s landing, some such ships were necessary; they immediately tendered these ships so fitted out, at their own cost, to the service of the government, waiving thus their private utility, to have the honour of being useful to the public. Are not such subjects worthy of naturalization?

Thus their behaviour in that year has merited the applause of every true lover of` liberty, and detester of popery, tyranny, and oppression.

Their behaviour on all other public occasions has been the same, and all the malice of their enemies has not been able to lay one public bad action to their charge. They never solicited any favour for what they had done, by enlargement of their privileges, but still actuated by the same principles, conscious of the services they had performed, thought <<573>>the augmenting their numbers, under the care and control of Parliament, would aid, support, and strengthen the true interest of this country.

It is remarkable, that one of the promoters of the association for circulating bank notes, and the two last mentioned persons, are aliens; they have resided in this city upwards of forty years, and have solicited this bill partly for themselves, looking upon the honour of being called Englishmen, as a sufficient reward for their services, and of some utility to themselves, as there are several private advantages, which naturalized subjects enjoy, that aliens cannot.

The Jews, therefore, did not crave a right which they had not deserved, they only asked for some remuneration for their sacrifices in the cause of their adopted country: and though through the timidity of the ministers, and the low state of appreciation of liberty, then prevailing, they failed of obtaining their just due, it is consoling to reflect, that, with a change of time has come a change of sentiment; and that whatever be the result of the present attempt of Lionel Rothschild to take his seat in Parliament, the time must come when in England, at least, the shackles of prejudice will be removed, and the Jew be regarded as an equal with his fellow-citizens. We must be permitted to state here, that if we understand the Jewish character aright, the question is not to obtain offices, because we are not strong enough, nor altogether ambitious to claim a large share of public favours; but this we ask, that if our fellow-citizens or fellow-subjects, the authorities, or the Crown choose to place us in a situation to be of service to the state, no exceptional laws shall step in with their veto to bar the door to us, whereas it ought to be open to all men, no matter if they profess one set of opinions or the other. It is no doubt a difficult thing to make the world acknowledge the self-evident proposition that, of right, no one has a claim to judge the opinions of the other, this not being conceded to each other by the organization of society, since by this mutual judging each other, it will be a constant scene of oppression of one or the other party; witness the struggle in England between Protestants and Catholics, where always one suffered when the other was in the ascendant. But at last, if we possess the right of being chosen, we cannot choose ourselves; and therefore the Christians, being the majority or having the patronage, can exclude us from all public prefer<<574>>ment if they think proper. The privilege, then, is all we wish, and let the public judge whether they require our services. This is all we ask, and no one can dispute the entire justice of the claim.