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Among the strange and unforeseen developments that have characterised the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century, few are likely to be regarded by the future historian with a deeper or more melancholy interest than the anti-Semite movement, which has swept with such a portentous rapidity over a great part of Europe. It has produced in Russia by far the most serious religious persecution of the century. It has raged fiercely in Roumania, the other great centre of the Oriental Jews. In enlightened Germany it has become a considerable parliamentary force. In Austria it counts among its adherents men of the highest social station. Even France, which from the days of the Revolution has been specially distinguished for its liberality to the Jews, has not escaped the contagion. General Boulanger found the anti-Jewish sentiment sufficiently powerful to make an appeal to it one of the articles of his programme, and the extraordinary popularity of the writings of Drumont shows that Boulanger had not altogether miscalculated its force.

It is this movement which has been the occasion of the very valuable work of M. Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu on ‘Israel among the Nations.’ The author, who is universally recognised as one of the greatest of living political writers, has special qualifications for his task. With an exceedingly wide knowledge of the literature relating to his subject he combines much personal knowledge of the Jews in Palestine and in many other countries, and especially in those countries where the persecution has most furiously raged.

That persecution, he justly says, unites in different degrees three of the most powerful elements that can move mankind the spirit of religious intolerance; the spirit of exclusive nationality; and the jealousy which springs from trade or mercantile competition. Of these elements M. Leroy-Beaulieu considers the first to be on the whole the weakest. In that hideous Russian Persecution which ‘the New Exodus’ of Frederic has made familiar to the English reader, the religious element certainly occupies a very leading place. Pobedonosteff, who shared with his master the chief guilt and infamy of this atrocious crime, belonged to the same type as the Torquemadas of the past, and the spirit that animated him has entered largely into the anti-Semite movement in other lands. The ‘Gloria’ of Galdos, perhaps the most powerful religious novel of our time, describes the conflict in modern Spain of the fanaticism of Catholicism with the fanaticism of Judaism. Even the old calumny that the Jews are accustomed at Easter to murder Christian children in order to mix their blood with the passover bread, is still living in many parts of Europe. M. Leroy-Beaulieu has collected much curious evidence on the subject. It is a calumny which appears first to have become popular about 1100 A.D. It is embodied in a well-known tale of Chaucer. It is the subject of one of the great frescoes that were painted around the Cathedral of Toledo to commemorate the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Two Popes of the thirteenth century, to their great honour, declared its falsehood, and by the order of Benedict XIV. Ganganelli wrote a full memoir examining and refuting it. But in spite of all condemnations, in spite of many exposures in the law courts, it is still a popular belief in Russia, Poland, Roumania, Hungary, and Bohemia, and even within the last ten years it has been the direct cause of many outrages against the Jews.

Another element to which M. Leroy-Beaulieu attaches considerable importance is the Kultur Kampf in Germany. When the German Government was engaged in its fierce struggle with the Catholics, these endeavoured to effect a diversion and to avenge themselves on papers, which were largely in the hands of Jews, by raising a new cry. They declared that a Kultur Kampf was indeed needed, but that it should be directed against the alien people who were undermining the moral foundations of Christian societies; who were the implacable enemies of the Christian creed and of Christian ideals. The cry was soon taken up by a large body of Evangelical Protestants. The ‘Germania’ and the ‘Civiltà Cattolica,’ which were the chief organs of Ultramontanism in Germany and Italy, and the ‘Kreuz Zeitung,’ which represented the strictest forms of German Protestantism, agreed in fomenting it.

Still more powerful, in the opinion of our author, has been the spirit of intense and exclusive nationality which has in the present generation arisen in so many countries and which seeks to expel all alien or heterogeneous elements, and to mould the whole national being into a single definite type. The movement has been still further strengthened by the greater keenness of trade competition. In the midst of many idle, drunken, and ignorant populations the shrewd, thrifty, and sober Jew stands conspicuous as the most successful trader. His rare power of judging, influencing, and managing men, his fertility of resource, his indomitable perseverance and industry, continually force him into the foremost rank, and he is prominent in occupations which excite much animosity. The tax-gatherer, the agent, the middleman, and the moneylender are very commonly of Jewish race, and great Jewish capitalists largely control the money markets of Europe at a time when capital is the special object of socialistic attacks.

The most valuable portion of this work is, I think, that examining the part which the Jewish race is now playing in the world, and tracing the action of historical causes on the formation of their character. On the old problem of the continued existence of the race through so many ages M. Leroy-Beaulieu has much to say. He reminds us that in the East the idea of nationality is habitually absorbed in the idea of religion, and that there are many examples of the long survival of peoples or tribes which have lost their political individuality. He instances the Copts of Egypt, the Maronites and Druses of Lebanon, the Parsees of India, the Armenians and Greeks of Asia as displaying, though in a less degree, the same phenomenon as the Jews. He attributes the long continuance of the Jews as a separate people mainly to two causes. One of them is Christian hatred, which compelled the Jews for many centuries to remain a separate people, unmixed with surrounding nations; living in a separate quarter; marrying among themselves; strengthened and disciplined in the struggle of life by enormous difficulties and by the constant elimination through persecution of the weaker elements. The other is the very elaborate Jewish ritual extending to all departments of life, which has stamped upon them an intensely distinctive character.

The force of these causes is undoubted, but they are not, I think, the only elements to be considered. M. Leroy-Beaulieu appears to me to have somewhat underrated the physiological force and tenacity of the Jewish race-type. Following the line of reasoning of a remarkable essay of Renan, he shows very clearly that the modern Jews are far from being pure Sémites. He proves from Josephus and from other sources that there was a considerable period, both before and after the Christian era, when great numbers of Greeks, Latins, and Egyptians adopted the Jewish faith; that much alien blood afterward poured into the race through conversions among the barbarians and through the circumcision of the slaves of Jewish masters, and that there is even reason to believe that, in some periods of history, marriages with Christians were not infrequent. It is probable, however, that most alien elements that were introduced into the race sooner or later mingled with the old stock, and no fact is more clearly shown than the extraordinary power of the Jewish type to survive and dominate in a mixed race. A single instance of a marriage with a Jewess will be sufficient to perpetuate it in a family for many generations. In this fact the Jews possess an element of stability which is wholly independent of all considerations of creed and ritual. Few things are more curious than the effect of persecution on the Jewish element in Spain and Portugal. Tens of thousands of Jews in those countries were burned at the stake or driven into exile, but great numbers also conformed. They mixed in a few generations with the old Christian population, and Spain and Portugal, M. Leroy-Beaulieu truly says, are now among the countries in which the Jewish blood is most evidently and most widely diffused.

Another consideration, which M. Leroy-Beaulieu has omitted to mention, but which appears to me to have much weight, is the condemnation of lending money at interest by the Church. This condemnation, which lasted many centuries, had two important consequences. One of them was that the Jews became almost the only moneylenders in Europe. The trade was deemed sinful for a Christian, but it was found to be a very necessary one; and the Jews (as some Catholic theologians observed) being already damned, were allowed to practise it. The other consequence was that on account of the stigma which the Church attached to moneylending, the amount of money to be lent was greatly diminished, or in other words, the rate of interest was enormously and artificially raised. At a time, therefore, when Catholic intolerance made it impossible for the Jews to mingle with and be absorbed in surrounding nations they acquired one of the greatest elements of power and stability that a race can possess a monopoly of the most lucrative trade in the world.

The physical characteristics of the race are very remarkable and they are especially displayed among the Eastern Jews, who still maintain scrupulously amid poverty and persecution the religious observances of their ancestors. It is now clearly shown that the Levitical code was in a high degree hygienic, and even anticipates some of the discoveries of modern physiology. Prescriptions about forbidden kinds of food and about the mode of cooking food, which only excited the ridicule of Voltaire, have a real hygienic value in the eyes of Claude Bernard and of Pasteur. The Jews have never adopted the Catholic notions about the sanctity of celibacy and virginity, but they lay great stress on the purity of marriage. Although they live chiefly in towns, illegitimate births are proportionately rarer among them than among either Protestants or Catholics. They have been as a rule singularly free from the kinds of vice that do most to enfeeble and corrode a race. They are distinguished for their domestic virtues, especially for care of their children, and they are nearly everywhere less addicted than Christian nations to intoxicating drinks. These things help to explain the curious fact that in nearly all countries the average duration of life is considerably longer among Jews than among Christians. This superiority is general, but, as M. Leroy-Beaulieu observes, it tends to diminish in Western countries where Jews, being freed from disabilities, are more assimilated to the surrounding populations. They now usually marry later than Christians; they have on the whole fewer children, but a proportionately larger number of Jewish than of Christian infants attain adult age. M. Leroy-Beaulieu mentions two curious facts which are less easy to explain. Still-born births are very rare among Jews, and there is among them a wholly abnormal preponderance of male births over female ones.

It might be supposed from these facts that the Jews were a robust race, but no one who has come much in contact with them will share this delusion. Nothing is more conspicuous among them than their unhealthy colouring, their frail, bent, and feeble bodies. They develop early, but they have very little of the spring and buoyancy of youth and they have everywhere a low average of physical strength. Malformations and deformities are common among them; their nervous organisation is extremely sensitive, and though they are as a race distinguished for their sound, clear, and practical judgment, they are very liable to insanity and to other nervous and brain disorders. Physical beauty as well as physical strength is much rarer among them than among Christians.

The causes of this inferiority may be easily explained. Life pursued during many generations in the crowded Ghetto; the sordid habits that grow out of extreme poverty and out of the assumption of the appearance of poverty, which is natural in a persecuted and plundered race, go far to explain it; but there is another and, I think, a more important cause which M. Leroy-Beaulieu has rather strangely neglected. Physical strength and beauty can be maintained at a high level in crowded town populations only by a constant influx from the country. The pure air and the healthy labour of the fields are their main source. This great school of health the Jews have never known. For many centuries it would have been impossible for them to have lived in peace as farmers or agricultural labourers among a Christian peasantry, and if they ever possessed any aptitude or taste for agricultural pursuits they have long since wholly lost it.

Their moral like their physical characteristics present strange contrasts. No natural want of moral elevation or tenderness or grace can be ascribed to the nation that has produced both the Old Testament and the Gospels, and has most largely shaped and inspired the moral life of the civilised world. In Christian times no race has maintained its faith with a more devoted courage, and it has encountered and survived persécutions before which the persécutions of other creeds dwindle almost into insignificance. M. Leroy-Beaulieu quotes the statement of the grand Rabbi Lehmann, that it is a clearly attested fact that in two months of the year 1096 twelve thousand Jews, whose names have been preserved, were massacred in the towns of the Rhine alone, because they refused to accept a Christian baptism. The Spanish Jews who perished by one of the most excruciating deaths rather than forswear their faith may be numbered by thousands, and those who preferred exile and spoliation to apostasy, by hundreds of thousands. Even in our own sceptical and materialising age the conduct of the Russian Jews under the recent savage persecution shows that the old spirit is not extinct. In the face of the long and splendid roll of Jewish heroism, it is idle to dwell on the fact that in each great persecution some Jews have yielded to the fear of death and consented to perform the rites of a faith which they inwardly abhorred, or on the fact that a few Rabbis have under such circumstances justified these feigned conversions.

Prolonged persecution, however, has had a profound influence on their character, and its influence in some respects has been very pernicious. Hatred naturally provokes hatred, and violent oppression against which there is no redress is naturally encountered by subterfuge and fraud. A race who were for centuries playing their part in life against overwhelming obstacles learned to avail themselves of every advantage. Adulation, servility, falsehood, and deception became common among them. They became at once hard, wily, and rapacious, and ready instruments in ignoble and oppressive callings. Shut out from open paths and honourable ambitions they haunted the obscurer byways of industry; they were to be found in many occupations which sharpen the intellect but blunt the moral sense, and they threw themselves passionately into the acquisition of wealth and of secret power. Exposed for generations, even in lands where they were not more seriously persecuted, to constant insult and contempt, they often lost their self-respect and learned to acquiesce tamely in what another race would resent. Slavish conditions produced, as they always do, slavish characteristics, and, as is always the case, those characteristics did not at once disappear when the conditions that produced them had altered.

M. Leroy-Beaulieu has dwelt with much force on this subject, and he ascribes considerable weight to the fact that the Jews have been wholly outside the system of feudalism and chivalry in which the modern conception of honour was chiefly formed. Perhaps the Jew might retort with some justice, that he has had at least the compensating moral advantage of having derived no part of his notions of right and wrong from a Church in which such an institution as the Spanish Inquisition was deemed a holy thing.

Defects of another kind have contributed largely to his unpopularity. Great as is the power of assimilation which the Jewish race possesses, the charm and grace of manner seem to have been among the qualities they most slowly and most imperfectly acquire. It is natural that men who have been excluded from honours but not from wealth should value money and the ostentatious display of riches more than their neighbours. In the professions in which the Jews chiefly excel, men rise most rapidly from low origin and culture to conspicuous wealth. Direct money-making has some tendency to materialise and lower the character, and Jews have been for generations prominent in occupations which do much to impair those delicacies of feeling on which the charm of manner largely depends. Besides this, as M. Leroy-Beaulieu truly remarks, though the oldest of the cultured races they are a race of parvenus in the good society of Europe. In nearly all countries they have till very recently been excluded from the kind of society and from the kind of education in which the best manners are formed. The exaggerations of bad taste; the love of the loud, the gaudy, the ostentatious, and the meretricious; the awkwardness of men who are ill at ease in an unaccustomed sphere, who have not yet mastered the happy mean between arrogance and obsequiousness and who are therefore somewhat prone to both extremes, still frequently characterise them. Few persons who know Germany will doubt that the tone of manners of the German Jews has contributed quite as much as any other cause to their unpopularity.

It is probable that these defects will gradually diminish, and it would be a grave error to regard the Jewish race as wholly devoted to material ends. The multitude of their martyrs is a sufficient answer to the charge, and no people cherish more strongly the ideals of their past and have more of the pride both of race and of creed. They have at all times, as M. Leroy-Beaulieu observes, been distinguished for their reverence for learning, and it is an undoubted fact that Jewish families and families mixed with Jewish blood have produced an amount and variety of ability that far exceed the average of men. The ability goes rather with the race than with the religion. Spinosa, Heine, Ricardo, and Disraeli to quote but a few of the most illustrious names were not believers in the synagogue. Some of the forms in which the Jews have most excelled are such as might have been expected from their past. It is natural that the descendants of the most nomadic and cosmopolitan of races should have been great masters of language and in the foremost rank of philologists, and it is not surprising that the descendants of the chief moneylenders and calculators of the world should have produced great financiers, and have shown a very eminent aptitude for mathematics. Medicine more than most professions depends on individual ability, and has been exercised independently of the favour of Churches and Governments, and in medicine the Jews were for a long period pre-eminent. Their marked taste and turn for music may appear more surprising. It is universally recognised and is sufficiently evident to anyone who will look at the faces of the chief orchestras of Europe. Besides a crowd of lesser names they have produced among composers Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, and Halevy, and among contemporary performers Rubinstein, Joachim, Hermann Levy, and Lucca. A Jewess is the most popular tragic actress on the contemporary stage, and another Jewess was probably the greatest tragic actress of the century. M. Leroy-Beaulieu notices that in painting and sculpture the Jews have been less conspicuous, and he attributes this to their horror of idolatry. I should rather ascribe it to the fact that European art in its best period was mainly devoted to depicting Christian subjects for Christian churches. At all events several considerable Jewish names may be cited in contemporary art, and the Dutch painter who bears the name of Israels is perhaps the greatest living master of the pathetic in painting. In Western Europe, wherever public life has been opened to them, Jews have thrown themselves into almost all the great movements of their time and have distinguished themselves in nearly all. Cremieux, who was a leading figure in the French Republic of 1848, was a Jew both by birth and by creed. David Manin and Leon Gambetta had Jewish blood in their veins. Lassalle and Marx, the chief names in German socialism, as well as great numbers of their followers belong to the same race, and more than one English example of political eminence will occur to the reader. In both German and Dutch literature Jewish names are frequent and they are nearly everywhere prominent in journalism. In the army they have been much less distinguished. Many Jews no doubt serve in the great continental armies with honour, but the Jew is naturally a pacific being, hating violence and recoiling with a peculiar horror from blood. The beneficence of the Jew was for a long time very naturally confined to his own race, but since the hand of persecution has been withdrawn, and wherever the Jews have been suffered to mingle freely with the Christian population, it has taken a wider range and Jewish names are conspicuous in some of the best forms of unsectarian philanthropy.

It is the evident tendency of modern political life to split up into a number of distinct groups representing distinct interests or forms of thought. We find a Catholic party, a Nonconformist party, a Labour party, a Socialist party, a Temperance party, and many others. But in spite of the crusade that has arisen in so many countries against the Jews, we nowhere find a distinct and clearly defined Jewish party. The tendency of the race is rather to throw themselves ardently into existing movements, and their power of assimilation is one of their most remarkable gifts. As M. Leroy-Beaulieu shows by many illustrations, they are apt in most Western nations even to exaggerate the national characteristics, though they usually combine with them a certain flexibility of adaptation and a certain cosmopolitanism of view which is essentially their own.

It was inevitable that with such tendencies the old rigidity of creed should be impaired and that the observances which completely severed the Jew from other people should be discarded. There can be little doubt that the dissolution of old beliefs which has been such a marked and ominous characteristic of the latter half of the nineteenth century has been even more common among the Western Jews than in Christian nations, and it appears to have spread quite as rapidly among the women as among the men. Many Jews have passed into complete religious indifference into absolute and often very cynical negation. They have become, as Sheridan wittily said, like the blank page between the Old and the New Testament. Others have taken refuge in a kind of highly rationalised Judaism little different from pure Theism. Some of the most independent, scientific, and trenchant criticism of the Old Testament writings has proceeded from members of the race which was once distinguished for the most complete and superstitious worship of the letter of the law. Spinoza in his ’Tractatus Theologico-Politicus’ led the way in this path, and in our own day I need only mention the writings of Salvador, Kalisch, and Darmesteter and the remarkable Hibbert Lectures of Mr. Montefiore.

This movement, however, is chiefly confined to the Western Jews. The Oriental Jews have retained in a far greater measure their old creed and ritual, their old fanaticism and aspirations. To them Palestine is still the land of promise, and they still dream that it is destined to become once more a Jewish State. Few persons who consider the conditions of the East and the power of the Jewish race will pronounce the realisation of this dream to be impossible or even in a very high degree improbable. Perhaps the most formidable obstacle is the poverty of the land and the total absence among the Jews of agricultural tastes and aptitudes. One thing, however, may be safely predicted. If Palestine is ever again to become a Jewish land, this will be effected only through the wealth and energy of the Western Jews, and it is not those Jews who are likely to inhabit it.