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A Modern Examination of Macaulay's Case for the Civil Emancipation of the Jews

Israel Finestein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A modern examination of Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews* ISRAEL FINESTEIN Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59) arrived on the political scene on the morrow of the civil emancipation of the Roman Catholics. He had already made a name for himself in society and in political circles while at Cambridge by his advocacy of liberal causes. From the appearance in 1825 of his masterly essay on Milton, he was in the front rank of the scholarly proponents in England of unpenalized religious liberty. On 5 April 1830 Sir Robert Grant sought leave in the House of Commons to introduce his Bill for the removal of the civil disabilities of the Jews. Following a debate, leave was given and the Bill received its First Reading. But not before Macaulay, sent to Parliament that year for the pocket borough of Calne, had made his famous maiden speech in favour of the measure. The Bill, which would have placed the Jews largely in the same legal position as the Catholics, was defeated in the Commons. The memory of Macaulay's powerfully argued address did not fade. In January 1831 there appeared in the Edinburgh Review1 a fuller and no less impressive article by Macaulay on the same subject, written with equal zest, force and instinctive literary skill, and containing the quintessence of his case for abolition. Few articles in that influential Whig magazine attracted more attention than this. Macaulay's speech in the House of Commons on 17 April 1833 in support of Grant's fresh Bill won further acclaim. It came to be regarded by many as the classic presentation by a Gentile of the case for opening municipal office and Parliament to professing Jews.2 In the now reformed House, Grant's Bill succeeded, but it was rejected in the House of Lords. As a result of the two speeches and the article, Macaulay's status in the Jewish emancipationist movement soon bordered on that of a patron saint. This was a remarkable apotheosis within so short a period in respect of a young newcomer to Parliament. In 1834 he left for India, where he achieved lasting fame on account of his educational and legal reforms. He returned in 1838, was a Member of Parliament for Edinburgh from 1839 to 1847 and from 1852 to 1856, and in 1857 was made a Peer.3 The campaign for Jewish civil emancipation reached its culmination with the opening of Parliament to * This paper incorporates a lecture delivered to a combined meeting of the Shazar Centre and the Society in Jerusalem, 25 March 1981, and another to the Leeds branch of the Society, 12 September 1982. 39</page><page sequence="2">40 Israel Finestein professing Jews in 1858.4 In the latter phases of the campaign, Macaulay's support was assured, but without prominence. His contribution between 1830 and 1833 was unmatched by him or anyone else in its immediate impact, its sustained influence, or the sheer frequency of citations from, and reliance upon, his words. His notable speech on 31 March 1841 was essentially a resumption by him of his public exchange with Gladstone on the place of the Established Church in the State, to which I later return. Yet in that dawn there were some disconcerting features in his robust advocacy. It is this combination in Macaulay which gives him added historical interest. Lord John Russell, the Whig leader, has the best claim to be regarded as the major champion of the cause in Parliament. His active and vocal support extended over the entire thirty-year period of the campaign. His Bill of 1847, which would have opened Parliament to the Jews, began the series of efforts by him and others which ultimately made that reform politically inevitable. Yet none of his orations or any group of them-despite their power and clarity - dislodged the unique veneration accorded to his junior. Not even Gladstone's memorable address on 16 December 1847m favour of Russell's Bill attracted comparable attention. That speech formed a crucial stage in the history of the movement, in that it was Gladstone's first speech in favour of removing Jewish disabilities. It set out much of the ideological and political rationale for his journey towards liberalism, and was an act of self-exculpation and public education.5 There were many reasons why Macaulay's role shone so brightly and for so long. His eloquence and passion were startlingly appealing. He is reported to have raced through his speeches in Parliament and not to have been possessed of an agreeable speaking voice. But no one ever suggested that he emptied the House, as was said of the illustrious Edmund Burke. By all accounts Macaulay's speeches commanded and retained attention when heard, and not, as often with Burke, only when read. If his oratory did not have the benefit of Charles James Fox's voice, he had Fox's pungency, imagery, daring, and above all, the high sense of drama. He also dealt with a theme to which he related the whole range of major issues in public policy. He adopted a stand above politics. He reached out towards a moral plane for testing the validity of his submissions and those of his forensic adversaries, while at the same time connecting his contentions to current realities.6 Macaulay was not a Radical. Lord David Cecil has aptly described him as 'the typical man of the new progressive middle-class'.7 He was typical of a new breed of optimistic, reformist, self-confident middle-class intellectuals. His father was a merchant, notable philanthropist and prominent member of the Clapham Sect, which was dominated by the Evangelical Wing of the Church of</page><page sequence="3">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 41 England. Members of the 'Sect' were in the van of public agitation for reforms in the penal system, education and industrial conditions, and for the abolition of slavery. Macaulay's mother was of a Quaker family. The Evangelicals were by no means necessarily in favour of Jewish civil relief. Those who were, had conversionist hopes. Macaulay was seen both as a product of a reformist section of society and as a developer of their ideas in a wider context.8 He was not at home with doctine or theory, except perhaps for a theory of natural rights. Nor was he wedded to the Utilitarians, although on particular matters of reform he shared their convictions. He was a practical-minded reformer9 in an age of rapid social, economic and political change. He was as concerned as any of the old school to sustain the institutional framework of society. In his seminal review of Hallam's Constitutional History in 1828, he urged the wisdom of 'judicious and timely reformations', and of 'so widening the base of the government as to interest in its defence the whole of the middle-class Such are among the courses to success 'in averting a struggle to which no rational friend of liberty or of law can look forward without great apprehen? sion'. His support of the abolitionists on the highly sensitive subject of Jewish civic and political emancipation had about it the ring of a call for strengthening the bonds of society, for reviewing old prejudices in new conditions, for re-examining wherein lies the social and political gain. If on this and other issues the political programme of the Radicals coincided with his proposals, there was no need to damn his philosophy by reason of that association. Undoubtedly the critics of Jewish emancipation attached little value to such distinctions. On the other hand the Jewish emancipationists, who were not interested in transforming society, hailed Macaulay as the epitome of the new and safe bourgeoisie. They availed themselves of support where they could find it - Radicals and conversionists included - but they never allowed the Macau? lay of the early 1830s to be forgotten or superseded, in spite of their own reservations over certain facets of the case as advanced by him. In May 1829 John Cam Hobhouse was elected Member of Parliament for Westminster. His constituency had a long radical history in Parliamentary elections. Its most celebrated member was Fox. Hobhouse at the time of his election was in the latter's tradition. He was attached to the progressive wing of the Whigs and he supported the Radicals. The Radicals pressed for substantial political reforms, including the rationalization and extension of the parliamen? tary franchize and the abolition of religious disabilities. Radical opinion was growing among Whig politicians. It is against this background that one should consider Hobhouse's remarks in the House of Commons on 14 July 1820 about the legal position of the Jews. It was the first specific proposal in Parliament in that century - however</page><page sequence="4">42 Israel Finestein tentative - for the abolition of the Jewish disabilities. The Jews, he declared, 'have laboured under disabilities which would be hardly believed to exist in such an age as this'. Hobhouse did not fulfil the promise he made to raise the question again in the next session. Perhaps the default was deliberately designed to let the disabilities of the Protestant Dissenters first be dealt with, to be followed by the civil emancipation of the Roman Catholics. In fact the anticipated legislation in respect of both those communities did not come about until 1828 and 1829 respectively. Hobhouse's statement was an omen that the Jewish cause was to be adopted by the Radical movement and to become part of the general progressive programme of the age. Many of the legal restrictions under which the Jews laboured applied equally to all non-Anglicans. But after the Acts of 1828 and 1829, the Jews remained the only major religious group to whom the main bulk of the restrictions applied. The principal issue was their exclusion from municipal office and from Parliament. In his well-known letter to Isaac Lyon Goldsmid of 4 April 1823, David Ricardo wrote: It appears to me a disgrace to the age we live in that many of the inhabitants of this country are still suffering under disabilities imposed on them in less enlightened times'.10 The inconsistency of the disabilities on religious grounds with the spirit and the practice of the new age was thought by many to be too obvious to be seriously contested. Yet there was sustained opposition to the proposed reforms. After 1829 the opposition to the civil emancipation of the Jews was all the firmer. It was easier to support the Jewish Bills after 1847 than those of the early 1830s. In 1845 the Tory Government of Sir Robert Peel had put through legislation which opened municipal office to Jews. Peel was impressed by the contributions which Jews had made in the City of London and in commerce and industry generally. He regarded the exclusion of David Salomons from a City Aldermancy as unjust. Jews had served in the county magistracy; there had been Jewish knights and baronets; occasionally, however irregular it was, Jews had even served in some provincial cities in municipal office; in the City of London, Jews could, by an Act of 1835 passed to deal with the special case of Salomons, hold office as sheriff. Peel's approach was essentially practical, and not without political considerations. He realized that in the light of the Act of 1845, it was only a matter of time before Parliament was likewise opened, notwithstanding the special factors applicable to that institution. Parliament could legislate on the Church of England; it controlled public finance for education; it could interfere with ecclesiastical privileges at the ancient universities and elsewhere; it had power to amend the Book of Common Prayer. The Dissenters were pressing for reforms which would greatly have impinged</page><page sequence="5">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 43 upon the status and influence of the Church. There was even talk in some quarters of disestablishment. Nevertheless, from 1845, a heavy burden of proof rested upon those who sought to exclude Jews from Parliament. The House of Commons had long ceased to be an Anglican or even a Protestant chamber. Accordingly, some of the earlier exclusionist arguments no longer rang true. Such considerations figured prominently in Gladstone's advocacy of Russell's Bill. These facets of the case did not arise when Macaulay championed the Jewish claims. The idea of pursuing Jewish civil emancipation in stages belonged to the future. He faced the issues head-on. He rested his contentions on equality of civic status, the natural rights of native-born Englishmen and the inherent commonsense of the case as well as the plain fairness and justice of it. These grounds were in accord with the central principles upon which the Jewish emancipationist leaders built their public relations. Not surprisingly, his words were not allowed to be forgotten. In particular, his speech of 1833, was printed and reprinted. Furthermore, there was much significance in the invitation extended to him in 1831 by the leading Whigs in Leeds to stand for Parliament at the next election. His sudden parliamentary repute attracted many in Leeds, which (under the Reform Act of 1832) was to be a newly enfranchized parliamentary borough. Leeds was in many ways typical of the new urban England. It was a growing industrial centre with flourishing woollen and engineering industries. It is interesting to note that the total electorate of Leeds fell short of 4000, out of a population in excess of 30,000. About 3500 voted, Macaulay polling almost two-thirds of the votes. The limited numbers involved bear little relation to the importance attached to the election. What added to the eclat of Macaulay's role in the Jewish campaign was that his History of England, with each set of volumes as they appeared, became the standard work for those who shared his interpretation of history, as well as for the many who imbibed his interpretation as authoritative.11 His influence on the reading public was immense. In an age of economic individualism and British commercial and industrial expansion, he made the steady evolution of political liberalism the central theme of the country's history and the texture of its development. The Whig interpretation of history is no longer in fashion. It was knocked off its pedestal by Sir Lewis Namier and his successors, who detected sectional advantage and personal and family advancement as greater impulses for historical development than principle or doctrine. There is an incidental irony in the fact that Namier, who cut into the inviolate strands of Macaulay's historiography, should as a Jew and Zionist also have so sternly</page><page sequence="6">44 Israel Finestein dissociated himself from the optimism which underlay much of the emancipa? tionist apologetics, including Macaulay's belief in the continuity and expansion of 'progress'. Yet it could not be gainsaid that the parliamentary system, the rule of law, the progressive curbing of executive arbitrariness, and the emphasis on individual liberty were distinctive elements in the evolution of English history. The prestige of Macaulay as historian and Whig publicist gave considerable force to the effect of his support of Jewish emancipation. The Jewish leaders were not likely, during the campaign or thereafter, to deny the Jewish cause this maximum benefit of their champion's extraordinary authority. A further feature of Macaulay's advocacy was that he did not set the argument for Jewish emancipation in a conversionist context. He remained within the Church of England, but it is doubtful whether he accepted the classic Christian or any institutional theology. The early expectation of great change weighed heavily on many Christian minds, and indeed on some Jewish minds also. Grant was among those affected. Macaulay would not have shared Grant's thinking as revealed in the latter's address to the Commons in support of his Bill of 1833.12 Grant spoke of the biblical references to divine anger against those who had obstructed the progress of the Israelites to the promised land on leaving Egypt. He commented that the nineteenth century may be in like position to the age of the Exodus. The Jews, he said, may be proceeding to the ultimate restoration of 'their greatness'. 'May we not believe', he suggested, 'that during this their penal journey, those nations who aggravate their woes are themselves acting criminally. Those who try to alleviate their suffering may attract divine pleasure.' He added, in what surely is among the most remarkable passages to have been heard in the House of Commons: 'And in this view may not the future fortunes of our country in some measure depend on the reception which shall be given this evening to the proposition before this House?' This was hardly the kind of argument to which the Jewish emancipationists would have given preference. There was a striking frankness on the part of the conversionist Christian supporters of Jewish claims. Perhaps the most graphic illustration was afforded by a statement made in the House of Lords on 1 August 1833 in support of Grant's Bill by Lord Bexley, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and a friend of Nathan Meyer Rothschild. To allow the Jews fully into public life, he declared, 'will be a great step to bring them back from the Talmud to Moses and the Prophets - from there to Christ the transition is comparatively easy'. This sort of exaggerated estimate of conversionist success was often heard. It is ironic that one of the arguments put to Peel in 184 5 in favour of Jewish emancipation by leaders of the newly formed Reform congregation, was the anglicization and</page><page sequence="7">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 45 modernization of Anglo-Judaism as evidenced by their reforms, one of which was to undo the binding character of the Oral Law. Those leaders were no less on guard against conversionist designs on the part of Christian advocates of the Jewish cause. What was the essential philosophy of Macaulay's advocacy? It is best elicited indirectly from his long article in the Edinburgh Review in April 18 3 9 on a book by Gladstone. In 1838, under the title The State in its Relation with the Church, Gladstone gave expression in stylish form and with the cadences of reasonableness to his high Toryism and the views of the Church party. It aroused wide interest in intelligent society. No sooner had he written it than he became aware that he no longer accepted its canons. Thirty years later he wrote13 in retrospect that the Oxford of his day had not taught 'the value of liberty as an essential condition of excellence in human things'. He added that his book of 1838 'was written in total disregard or rather ignorance of the conditions under which alone political action was possible in matters of religion.' Macaulay's review outlived the book. Rarely can two works have better reflected two ages in such amiable and devastating terms. No one appreciated more keenly than Gladstone on the morrow of the book that what he had written was an epitaph on the cause he had so eloquently expounded. His central argument in that work was that the primary aim of government was to instil and protect religious truth and discourage religious error. To the convinced Anglican, that meant the truth of the faith of the Church of England. The argument involved, at least in theory, the exclusion from government and its principal institutions of all those for whom that truth was not the truth. The object of the State was to serve the ends of the Church. Gladstone defined a nation as having a 'personality', and asserted that it had the obligation, Tike the individuals composing its governing body, of sanctifying the acts of that personality by the offices of religion'. He added: 'Thus we have a new and imperative ground for the existence of a state religion.' The origins of these ideas are traceable to Burke, the Elizabethan Church settlement, and the medieval notion of the identity of composition between Church and State. For Macaulay the prime object of government was to keep the peace. The well-educated middle-classes, of which he was the universally acknowledged exemplar, prided themselves on, and had much benefited from, their attachment to the liberal and parliamentary sides of the country's political history. The following two crucial passages in his review reflect their interests, their habits of mind and his own philosophy of society. First: 'It is evident that many great and useful objects can be attained in this world only by cooperation. It is equally evident that there cannot be efficient cooperation if</page><page sequence="8">46 Israel Finestein men proceed on the principle that they must not cooperate for more than one object unless they agree about other objects.' There we have the root principle of what later became known as the pluralist state. Second: 'On our principles all civil disabilities on account of religious opinions are indefensible. For all such disabilities make government less efficient for its main end; they limit the choice of able men for the administration and defence of the State; they alienate from it the hearts of the sufferers; they deprive it of a part of its operative strength in all contests with foreign nations.' The applicability of the first passage to the Jews is clear, even though he was not dealing with them. The applicability of the second passage to the Jews had implications which were not unreservedly acceptable to Jews. He had already broached this point in his article in The Edinburgh Review in 1831. That article reveals the strength of his argument, as well as what must have appeared to his Jewish and Gentile contemporaries to be its limitations. The article characteris? tically linked the subject of Jewish disabilities at once to the object of government. His approach to that broad theme conditioned all that he had to say on the subject in hand. It is', he wrote, 'because men are not in the habit of considering what the end of government is that Catholic disabilities and Jewish disabilities have been suffered to exist so long. . . . Government exists for the purpose... of compelling us to settle our disputes by arbitration instead of... by blows. Macaulay's contention rested on ideas which had their own long ancestry. There lay behind it the ancient view, which had biblical warrant, that a king should be hedged about by the supremacy of the law. His powers were limited and practical, even if, within their proper ambit, divinely ordained. That doctrine had its own medieval protagonists, and was carried forward and developed in the post-medieval world. There was also the influence of John Locke's political and moral philosophy, as well as the balances in the English constitutional system as consolidated in the seventeenth century. The pre-history of those balances had their own biblical, moral, and rationalistic elements. There was also the draining of much of the old mystique out of the institutions of government consequent upon the scientific and intellectual revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. All these influences were reinforced in their effect by social-contract theories, with their convenient idea that man in his natural state was free, and that men had formed themselves into societies for their mutual protection. That idea can lead to atrocious tyranny as easily as to accountable and representa? tive government. In the eighteenth century, the fathers of the American Constitution used the concept of the intrinsically limited nature of government to erect a political system of limited powers. In the next century Macaulay</page><page sequence="9">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 47 adopted the same principle in support of his belief in the narrow - although vital - inherent object of public authority. This philosophy inspired much of the liberal thinking in nineteenth century England. The relevance of this entire system of thought to Jewish emancipation was clear. The advocates of abolition were well aware of the long lineage of their school of thought. Indications of awareness on the Jewish side are found in such comments as that in the Voice of Jacob on 13 August 1847: 'the spirit of religious liberty has for more than a century been silently and incessantly at work'. The politician in Gladstone drove him to the perception that the State Establishment was an ideal which had not been and could not be achieved in reality. He explained that what he had protested against in his book was 'the principle that religious differences are irrelevant to the question of competency for civil office', and that he was not to be taken as suggesting that the degree of relevancy was the same in all cases. Macaulay had reasonably understood Gladstone to have argued a more consistent case than that, namely that religious non-conformity should be a bar to office. Whatever Gladstone may have meant, it was clear that he preferred to be associated with a more limited philosophy, which took account of conditions. Macaulay described his friend's new position - if it was new - as meaning that Gladstone's rules were 'to be followed out in practice only so far as might be consistent with the peace and good government of society.14 Macaulay would not have strenuously demurred. On 6 November 1839 Gladstone wrote to his fellow-Anglican, James Hope-who shared his anxieties over the religious and political trends in Church and State and who later became a Roman Catholic - that 'I can conceive no desolation so entire and awful as that of a Constitution which has lost its savour'.15 What came to weigh with Gladstone was this. The institutions of government having ceased to be Anglican in composition, the Church must more and more look to itself, strengthen its discipline, improve its means for propagating its truth, protect itself against false doctrine, and free its life from taint of laxity or excessive worldliness - as distinct from expending its energies on trying to uphold an old constitutional system which has fallen from its grasp. Thus it was that Gladstone came to be ready to accept the case for the political emancipation of the Jews, even their admission to Parliament, unless it could be shown that some danger to the State might accrue therefrom. He could see none. The religious reason against their exclusion had melted away. The Acts of 1828 and 1829 had dissolved the question. On 10 September 1847 he wrote to Lord Lyttleton: 'the whole question of the secularization of the State must in my opinion be considered in connection with the organization of the</page><page sequence="10">48 Israel Finestein Church ... If directly or indirectly we can add weight (real and not merely logical weight) to the claim of the Church, to have what is essential to her development done for her, by consenting to the admission of the Jews, I for one am ready.'16 We need not pause to consider the intimation of bargain involved, nor the faint suggestion of disestablishment in certain circumstances. Suffice to say that while Macaulay had urged Jewish emancipation on natural rights, advantage to the State, and the reality of what was later called pluralism, Gladstone contemplated it as a 'give-away' or as a counter. But from the points of view of either of these figures, the issue of Jewish emancipation was among the most telling of the day. It is to be noted that Gladstone did not quickly adopt the cause of Jewish emancipation. In 1841 Edward Divett's Bill to open municipal office to Jews was before the House of Commons. Gladstone was its principal opponent in the House. There was a difference between the admission of non-Anglican Christians and the admission of professing Jews. 'The profession of the Jew', he declared, Is of itself in the nature of a disqualification for legislative office.' While not advancing the notion of the State Establishment as presented in his book, he spoke of 'the distinctive Christianity of the Constitution'. He did not doubt that if municipal office is opened to the Jews, soon Parliament will also be opened to them. Macaulay renewed his earlier arguments, as well as dealing with specific questions of recent interest raised by Gladstone and others. Divett's Bill passed the Commons but failed in the House of Lords. Macaulay's entire argument on the Jewish claims is caught by his following well-known statement in his article in the Edinburgh Review: 'The points of difference between Christianity and Judaism have very much to do with a man's fitness to be a bishop or a rabbi, but they have no more to do with his fitness to be a magistrate, a legislator or a minister of finance than with his fitness to be a cobbler.' But was this true? Many regarded this question as the centre of the dispute. In their view it was precisely the religious difference which unfitted the Jew to be a legislator in a Christian country. To them, Macaulay's argument was dogmatic, even irrational, and certainly question-begging. It was by no means self-evidently correct, save on some wide and utterly novel democratic principle which was somehow connected with the disconcerting image of a future mass age. It was felt that the subject called at least for argument on practical grounds in relation to the likely effect of the proposed new dispensation on Christian belief and practice in a Christian society. 'No question', added Macaulay in the article of 1831, 'connected with the ecclesiastical institutions of the country can possibly come before Parliament with respect to which there will not be as wide a difference between Christians as there can be between any Christian and any Jew.' But was that true? A Jew in</page><page sequence="11">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 49 Parliament might well refrain from speaking or voting on an ecclesiastical question, out of good taste. Supporters of the Jewish case contended that in any event there would be so few Jews in Parliament as to render any Christian anxiety pointless. It was also argued that there might well be common ground between Christian and Jew in the face of secularist tendencies. But all these were quite different matters. The point was made in debate in Parliament that between the different segments of the Christian world represented there, there was a large area of common ground and aspiration, in none of which the professing Jews could have any share. Lord Derby on 10 July 1857m the House of Lords referred to 'an impassable gulf. For some Christians, the distinction went to the heart of things. The presence of Quakers, Unitarians, sceptics and, for all one knew, atheists, mattered less than the presence of people of the Mosaic faith. It touched Christianity at its most sensitive points. Again, did Macaulay's language take sufficient account of the adverse sentiments aroused by the social advance of the Jews? Many of their supporters pointed out the effect of that advance. Their mingling showed that the Jews, given the opportunity, were not irretrievably inward-looking and separatist, as ceaselessly alleged. On 17 April 1833, Sir Robert Inglis told the House of Commons that the Jews 'will refuse to receive any privileges which may be offered to them founded upon a renunciation of a distinct national character'. However misinformed he may have been about what the Jews would or would not accept or in what spirit they would receive abolition, and however much he may have laboured under wishful thinking about the attitudes of the bulk of the Jewish community, the Jewish 'national character' continued to be widely commented on. Many Christians wondered what it signified, and what the relationship could or would be between it and the emancipation being sought. In whatever spirit Jewish 'separatism' might be explained or justified, it was held up as a conscious, deliberate and persistent fact. One did not need to share Charles Lamb's antipathy to Jews to be aware of the nature and degree ofthat 'separatism'. In his well-known essay of 1823 entitled 'Imperfect Sympathies', Lamb caught in famous words a widespread sentiment. He expressed the consequential reserve openly. T do not relish', he wrote, 'the approximation of Jew and Christian which has become so fashionable. The reciprocal endear? ments have something hypocritical and unnatural in them.' He had little sympathy with, perhaps no understanding of, the Jewish dilemma in the emerging new era. He was puzzled by the anglicization of the Jews. 'Why keep up', he asked, 'a form of separation [that is by the Jews] when the life of it has fled?' He was genuinely perplexed by what he, understandably, for want of a better term called 'a moderate Jew'. 'The spirit of the Synagogue', he added, 'is essentially separative'. Others were to express Lamb's puzzlement in later years.</page><page sequence="12">50 Israel Finestein The Jews may have mingled, yet they held back. They remained distinct. It was disconcerting even, and perhaps especially to their friends. Macaulay sought to deal with the contention of separatism and separate interests. He related the argument to the allegation that the Jews lacked patriotic feeling. 'Even if, he observed in his article, 'the alleged facts are admitted, still the Jews are not the only people who have preferred their sect to their country.' This was not a defence which the Goldsmids and David Salomons would welcome. The attachment of the Jews to their country was a cardinal principle with the emancipationists. It was unreserved. It was their most regular theme. Macaulay went on: 'If there be any proposition universally true in politics, it is this, that foreign attachments are the fruit of domestic misrule_It has always been the trick of bigotry... to govern as if a section of the state was the whole and to censure the other sections of the state for their want of patriotic spirit. If the Jews have not felt towards England like children, it is because she has treated them like step-children.... The English Jews are, as far as we can see, what our Government has made them.' Almost every phrase was contrary to the Jewish protestations of the day and in conflict with reality as far as the Jews were concerned. Related to this side of the debate was the frequent suggestion that in so far as Jews, especially those of recent arrival and their immediate families, may show anti-social traits or engage in unsavoury vocations, they were what Christian society had made them, or driven them to. Ricardo had long before commented that among the various groups suffering discrimination in the law, 'the Jews have most reason to complain'. The reason for his view was that 'they are frequently reproached with following callings which are the natural effects of the political degradation in which they are kept.'17 These well-meant double-edged expressions were publicly common form on the part of supporters of the Jewish claims. The Jewish emancipationists, making a virtue of necessity, became engaged in a series of public efforts to raise the social and occupational level of their fellow-Jews at and near the base of the Jewish social pyramid. The creation of Jewish schools, schemes to encourage and improve manual skills, the home visitation programmes, the promotion of literary projects by way of cheap literary tracts, the gamut of anglicization, were all inspired as much by the need to be seen to be improving the civic and social standards of the foreign Jews and their children as by any altruistic and philanthropic impulse. There was also of course the anti-conversionist motivation. But inherent in Macaulay's presentations was the assertion or assumption by him of a marked degree of Jewish particularism. The implications went beyond the above-mentioned considerations. Here was a phenomenon which was far more difficult for the Jewish emancipationists to counter, whether by</page><page sequence="13">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 51 argument or action. Macaulay sought to explain away something which the Jewish spokesmen were at pains to deny existed, or if it existed, was explained as no more than a matter of religion bereft of national content or sectional pursuit. Macaulay gave voice to what was a common assumption. It was linked in some minds to a belief that there was some hovering Jewish money-power independent of state power. In 1830, John E. Blunt, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, wrote a treatise on the state of the law relating to the Jews. It bore the title A History of the Establishment and Residence of the Jews in England: With an Enquiry into their Civil Disabilities. It was in its time much used as a work of authority and reference. He dealt in particular with the question whether Jews were technically barred in law from holding freehold land. Unlike Francis Goldsmid, Blunt concluded that they were barred. He advocated an express enactment in their favour to avoid doubt. In the course of his argument he wrote: 'Under the existing state of the law the Jews have no direct interest in supporting the State ... it is too much to expect that they will resign any advantage for the prosperity of a community whose restrictive laws exclude them from the possibility of obtaining counterbalanc? ing benefits.' In short, he wanted, so to speak, to harness Jewish wealth and interest for the benefit of the State. The idea of the power of Jewish money died hard, and was not limited to opponents of the Jewish cause. It is true that Abraham Goldsmid and Nathan Meyer Rothschild had played crucial roles in raising huge loans in aid of the French Wars. Rothschild, and his brother-in-law, Moses Montefiore, had also raised millions to assist the Government to compensate the slave-owners on the abolition of slavery in 1833. These loan-contractors did not bargain for political rights. But such events gave some colour to the potentially pejorative statements of Macaulay and Blunt. Sampson Gideon of 174 5-fame was not a household name when Macaulay wrote and spoke, but his role in financial support of the Hanoverian succession at a critical time was well-known, as was the role of Jewish finance in the French Wars, which was a living memory. Rothschild was now a household name. Macaulay rhetorically asked in his article: 'Does the expectation of being restored to the country of his forefathers make [the Jew] insensible to the fluctuations of the stock exchange? Does he, in arranging his private affairs, ever take into account the chances of his migrating to Palestine?' The negative replies left the critics of the Jewish claims unimpressed. To them, this kind of debate only went to reinforce their contention that the Jews were not Englishmen, that they had distinct interests which were not those of their fellow-subjects, and that they had an independent power of their own. In his speech of 5 April 1830, Grant 'partly admitted' one of the regular</page><page sequence="14">52 Israel Finestein contentions concerning the Jews. They were 'a sort of wandering dispersed people concerned in operations between different countries but belonging to none'. He attributed that condition to laws which gave them no country and attached them to no soil' and added that 'they would become a settled people if Parliament would afford them a country. . . . The Jews spoke as it were a universal language and they would spread the story of British liberality in the remotest corners of the globe'. Britain would benefit in repute and commerce. Macaulay could hardly fail to take up such considerations. It was a central suggestion of the opposition that the Jews constituted a distinct and unassimil able nation of their own. In his address on this occasion he said that 'till we have tried the experiment' no one would know 'whether by making Englishmen of them they will not become members of the community'. Until it is tried, one should not say that they are or will be 'more attached' to 'their nation'. Here was the tactical defensiveness of debate. But inherent in such argument, taken alone, was a concession which to the critics affected everything. No amount of argument by Macaulay concerning the differences between missionary Roman Catholicism and non-missionary Judaism or between the religious nature of Jewish attachment and the alleged quasi-political nature of the status of the Pacacy, could rid opponents of the idea that the Jews - whether through history or by religious precept or popular aspiration - constituted a nation across boundaries, or satisfy them that Jews were or could be Englishmen. Macaulay adopted some of the premises of his critics, and his recasting of them only sharpened their pointedness. Macaulay wrote ambiguously about political power. He referred to the accepted notion that in society - as distinct from any presumed natural state of man - power must reside somewhere, that is to say, some persons will have ultimate power. He went on to argue that since power has to reside somewhere, all have an equality of right to share in that power. This is not necessarily the consequence of his premiss. Neither in logic nor in life is the syllogism automatically sound. In any event, the Jewish emancipationists were not seeking power, political or otherwise, but equality in citizenship, with the opportunity of submitting themselves for election to civil office. To the extent that they felt entitled to share in the exercise of the power of the electorate, professing Jews had been accorded the franchize without Christian forms in 1835. To the extent that they aspired to the right to share in the exercise of sovereignty by membership of the legislature, the Jewish spokesmen refrained from resting their case on the desire to share power. Macaulay's use of the term and his emphasis on entitlement to share power brought him to a consideration of the 'power' which he considered was already vested in the hands of Jews. His examination of that 'power' and of its relationship to Jewish wealth, to some</page><page sequence="15">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 53 extent confused the argument, misrepresented the nature of the Jewish claims, and gave ammunition to the critics. Macaulay had this to say in his article: 'In fact the Jews are not now excluded from political power. They possess it; and as long as they are allowed to accumulate large fortunes, they must possess it.' He went on: 'What power in civilized society is so great as that of creditor over the debtor? If we take this away from the Jew, we take away from him the security of his property. If we leave it to him, we leave to him a power more despotic by far than that of the king and all his cabinet. . . . The Jew may govern the money-market, the money-market may govern the world. The Minister may be in doubt as to his scheme of finance till he has been closeted with the Jew.... If it is our duty as Christians to exclude the Jews from political power, it must be our duty to treat them as our ancestors treated them, to murder them and banish them and rob them. For in that way and that way alone can we really deprive them of political power.' If Macaulay was not necessarily stating what actually happened in and through the money-market, few of his readers would have regarded his description as entirely empty imagination. His imagery as to Jewish power would not have seemed an idle flight of fancy in the light of known and remembered events and the accumulation of myth. Here was an unmistakable inference that financial skills and the influence which they bring were part of the character and life-style of the successful Jew. William Cobbett was a radical and an anti-Semite, and what the Americans would call a populist. He deplored the growth of the new industrial cities, resented paper money, and was close to the rural England which was on the wane. He thought of the Jews as the prime beneficiaries of the new age. He rested his opposition to their civil emancipation on two grounds. The first was that it meant, in his words, 'abolishing Christianity in England'. He was not alone in expressing particular fear over the prospect of Jewish judges. 'What would be our position', he cried in the House of Commons on i March 1833, 'with a Jewish judge on the Bench, a blasphemer by profession ... what would the honourable member do when this judge stuck up there [comes] to try a man for blasphemy?' Cobbett's second ground concerned what he conceived to be the Jewish character. The Jew, he argued in the House, never dug, ploughed, or made his own coat or shoes, but 'makes as much money as he can'. This picture of the Jew, money-making at the expense of the toilers, came readily to Cobbett. His language would not have been taken entirely seriously by those familiar with his style and temperament. Yet in Macaulay's style and substance there was an unwitting touch of support for Cobbett's diatribes.</page><page sequence="16">54 Israel Finestein Macaulay's advocacy had the two-edged quality which demonstrates the unique nature of the debates about the Jews. They took place against a background of generations of historical conditioning of Jew and Gentile. Friends and critics were confronted alike with the results ofthat long epoch in European history when the Jew was the irretrievable outsider, the devil's kin, the literate and learned infidel, feared, derided and reviled in the parishes of Christendom. On all sides, conduct and attitude were profoundly and enduringly affected by the centuries of that experience. This brings us back to the stark alternatives posited by Macaulay in his article, and repeated in his speeches.18 Consider also the echoing remarks by Grant on 17 April 1833 in the course of his speech in support of his Bill. He argued that antipathy towards the Jews was no ground for their disabilities. They are here, he said, and should be treated as citizens are entitled. 'If, he went on, 'you do not like the Jews, that may be a very good ground for banishing them from the country, but it is bad logic' to exclude them for that reason from public office. In the same debate, Macaulay returned to this theme. He referred to Inglis' propositions that, Christianity being part of the law of the land and the Jews constituting a separate nation, there was no place for them in the institutional life of the state. Macaulay treated all these contentions as controversial, but accused Inglis himself of compromising his own principles. Inglis, declared Macaulay, compromised 'between the principles of persecution and the principle of toleration'. The compromise consisted of allowing the Jews protected residence. 'Those', he said, 'who formerly cut off Jews' hands . . . [and] burnt them in slow fires . . . had not [Inglis'] humanity' but they were more consistent. On 22 May 1833, Russell, the senior Parliamentary supporter of the Bill, stated: 'If differences of religious opinion are to lead to civil disabilities, you ought not to stop at exclusion from Parliament but ought to go to the fullest extent . . . even to banishment and death.' That would be the 'complete' application of the principle. What are we to make of these prominent references to the alternative policy, the final solution? It was no more than a forensic ploy, an absurd parody of the opposition. But there was no such resort in the heated debates regarding other religious groupings. No other group evoked for purposes of debate any such theoretical logic. The power of unreason had not been exorcized by the vaunted technological advances in the nineteenth century, even though it was heir to the age of reason and was the age of progress and intellectual growth. The vulnerability of the new structure of liberal ideas was acknowledged, not least by some who continued to propound the doctrine that the extension of</page><page sequence="17">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 5 5 knowledge assured moral advance. The Damascus Affair of 1840 and responses to it in Europe shocked liberal opinion. On 21 July 1843, in significant language, the Voice of Jacob commented that 'the electric shock proceeding from Damascus served to rouse Christians and Jews from their slumbers into which many circumstances had lulled them.' By the 1830s the reactions against the Napoleonic arrangements had in some regions undone the civil advance of the Jews which had extended across Europe from the 1790s. Xenophobia was deep-rooted. In Rome, the Papacy proved obdurate in regard to Jewish disabilities. Emancipation was a tender plant. At a Jewish public meeting in Manchester in May 18 51, Tobias Theodores, the local Hebrew scholar and publicist, declared that 'the eagle of European civilization ... [is]... scarcely fledged. If the face of the moral world were to be darkened again, the spirits of the Middle Ages [would] rush from their caverns . . . and curses which had scarcely yet been hushed would be loud against the Jews.' Theodores had contributed to The Times on 5 November 1840 a powerful article repudiating the Damascus ritual murder charge. His article received the editor's published support and gained wide Christian attention. The above references by Macaulay and others to the theoretical casting-out of the Jews may be said to point to the novelty of the Jewish entry into western society and to a sharp awareness of the old irrational hatred of the Jews. The sense of novelty remained. When friends mentioned a dread alternative to the full acceptance of the Jews, they hit upon, as though by instinct, a corollary to denying to them the right to be what they are, with all their distinctiveness and historical attributes. They advocated Jewish emancipation not only because of the Jews but also in spite of them. What in effect they said was this. What is to be done with these people? They will not change soon, if at all. In the main they are not likely to abandon their special interests, their own hopes. They remain a distinct people. As long as they exist, they must be accommodated. Ancient prejudice must give way to considerations of policy, principle and humanity. They and Europe require the full acceptance of them. The readiness to see no conflict and to subsume any special features of Jewish life under the heading of a distinctive historical religion, was heightened by the growing acknowledgment of a sense of Christian reparation due to the Jews for past treatment. The subject was occasionally spoken of by Christian supporters in the 1830s and 1840s, but the idea gained wider currency and strength when urged by Gladstone and Peel from 1847. In particular its incorporation by Peel in his impressive speech on 11 February 1848 carried great weight. Peel shared Inglis' view - which differed essentially from Macaulay's - that it was society (or the state) which bestowed rights, by express grant or by</page><page sequence="18">56 Israel Finestein recognition of prescription.19 The test was pragmatic. Peel, conceding the irreversible nature of Jewish integration into society, and seeing no injury accruing from it to society or religion, was prepared to concede admission to Parliament. The idea of thus making amends to the Jews gave the pragmatic conclusion an added welcome and propriety. This unspectacular kind of decision-making, which avoided on principle any reliance on instant principles or rights, irritated the Radicals by its slowness and uncertainty; sometimes confused the Whigs by its ambiguity; and certainly by its results disturbed members of his own party. However much Peel might disown any doctrine of inherent rights, the fact was that the extension of virtually full civic rights to non-Christians and in particular to Jews in the circumstances of nineteenth-century England, helped to erode the old doctrine of bestowal. It tended to reinforce the developing idea of an ever-widening democracy in recognizably modern terms. In this and in other respects Jewish emancipation formed a significant part of English history. Macaulay's role in its success was a significant contribution to the country's political development. What was incidental and expendable in Macaulay's argument, was to some the kernel. In July 1846, the Morning Herald, a Tory newspaper, fashionably referred to Lionel de Rothschild, now head of the family in England who next year was to be elected one of the Members of Parliament for the City of London, as a 'foreigner'. The newspaper also included in that description Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, whose well-known inter-denominational philanthropy had nothing to do with the question. Nor was their English birth considered relevant. Rothschild was unable to take his seat until 1858 because of the required Christian oath, but was meanwhile elected and re-elected in the City. This kind of forcing the pace of the law was regarded by some Tories as unconstitutional. Such was the opinion expressed by Disraeli's friend, Lord John Manners, the archetype of Disraeli's 'Young England', who stood against Rothschild in the City. But the course clearly had the support of the Whig chiefs, with Lord John Russell himself standing as a fellow-candidate in the Whig interest in the City. It was not the first time that Jews had stood for election to Parliament in the face of their then inability to serve. The same issue was raised, for example, when in the General Election of June 1841 Salomons was a candidate in Maidstone. His opponent, the high Tory and vigorous Churchman, Alexander James Beres ford-Hope, presented himself as defender of the Church and the Constitution. The robustness on the part of prominent Jewish emancipationists in this connection, was accompanied and followed by great circumspection in other ways. On 14 November 1856, at the conclusion of Salomons' widely praised Lord Mayoralty in the City, the Jewish Chronicle, in candid language, welcomed his</page><page sequence="19">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 5 7 delicacy in that office. 'He failed', wrote the editor, 'to extend his public hospitality to either the wardens [of synagogues] or the religious officials in a body or to make any other public demonstration prominently bringing under notice his religion.' To have done so, he added, 'might have injured' the wider cause of opening Parliament to Jews. 'How easily by any Jewish demonstra? tion', went on the editor, 'might the susceptibilities of the nation have been wounded, its jealousies been awakened, and its apprehensions aroused.' The newspaper proclaimed that his tenure showed that Judaism was not incompat? ible with public office. For all the advances, apologetics remained the nub of Jewish public relations. At all times Jews had to be on their guard. At all times they had to prove themselves worthy of their civic and political emancipation. This continued to be the Jewish stance. They elevated citizenship into a conscious test of character, and made the preservation of Judaism, at least institutionally, a patriotic duty. We see in that period some of the groundwork of their responses to the closing decades of the nineteenth century, including the reactions to political Zionism.20 Macaulay tended to see people and events, past and present, in sharp black and white. The main thrust of his contribution to the cause of Jewish emancipation, was to counter some of the principal contentions launched against it. He was the master 'apologeticist', in a cause which was more complex than even he imagined, and in circumstances of greater flux than even he perceived. He who was once thought of as having permanent contempor? aneity, takes his place as 'a righteous man in his generation', but in his optimisim a flawed prophet. NOTES i On 2 5 January 1830 Macaulay wrote to Macvey Napier, the editor of the Edinburgh Review, that he had been approached by a number of Jews, on behalf of the managers of the proposed Petition to Parliament for the abolition of the Jewish disabilities, to write an article for them in that journal. In that letter, Macaulay commends the cause. On 16 October 1830 he wrote again to the editor that 'the Jews' were urging him to write. See Macaulay's Letters, ed. Thomas Pinney, I (1974) 262, 311. On 12 February 1831 he informed Napier that I. L. Goldsmid had told him that it was desired to publish his article as a separate pamphlet, to which he had no objection if the publishers of the journal had none. It does not appear to have been done. In 1830 Goldsmid had published as a pamphlet the principal speeches in the Commons that year in favour of Grant's Bill, including Macau? lay's. 2 These debates echoed some of the fea? tures of the discussion in Parliament in 1753 on the ill-fated Naturalization Act of that year and its repeal in the face of popular clamour. On 5 April 1830 Grant cited with approval the following observation of Henry Pelham whose Ministry introduced the Act of 1753: 'Surely, I am not to look upon every man as my enemy who diners from me in opinion upon any point of religion. ... I must think the Jews are in much the same case with the Dissenters from</page><page sequence="20">5 8 Israel Finestein the Church of England'. In his analogy with the Dissenters, Pelham was ahead of his time. Macaulay would have adopted it, as would the Radicals and the Utilitarians. It was the heart of Jewish public relations. 3 When Russell invited him to address the House of Lords in support of his Oaths Bill of 1858, which would have opened Parliament to Jews, Macaulay, who voted for the Bill, declined to speak. 'You would not,I am sure,' he wrote to Russell on 6 April 1858, 'advise me to make my debut in the House of Lords on a subject long worn out . . . which has gone to the debating societies ... on which I have harangued and written till I am weary and on which I have nothing to say but what has long been in print and has been read, reviewed, quoted, praised and abused in England and America.' Letters, VI. 4 M. C. N. Salbstein, The Emancipation of the Jews in Britain, 1982. Further to the state of Jewish opinion, see Israel Finestein, 'Anglo Jewish Opinion 1828-58', Trans JHSE XX (1964). 5 See in particular Gladstone's extensive introduction to his publication of the speech. 6 This does not mean that Macaulay was free from political partizanship, or that he was a doctrinaire. In his speech of 1830 he ack? nowledged that the Jews had no legal right to what they claimed. It is the moral right we are to look at ... on every principle of moral obligation, I hold that the Jew has the right to political power. Every man has a right to all that may conduce to his pleasure if it does not inflict pain on anyone else. . . . The onus probandi lies not on the advocates of freedom, but on the advocates of restraint', to show danger to the State. It was a controversial social philosophy. 'I hold', he wrote to John Howison, a leading Scottish Quaker, on 1 May 1844, 'that no theological test whatever ought to be imposed on any candidate for civil office.' Letters, IV. 7 David Cecil, The Later Life of Melbourne (1954) 44. 8 For the nature and impact of the 'intel? lectual aristocracy', composed mainly of lead? ing Evangelicals, Quakers, Unitarians and philosophical radicals, see N. G. Annan, 'The Intellectual Aristocracy' in Studies in Social History, ed. J. H. Plumb (1955); and G. Kitson Clark, The Making of Victorian England (1962). 9 See his letter to Howison (note 6) for an avowal of a prudential, Fabian-style approach to political change. 10 Trans JHSE IV (1903) 130-1. 11 For appraisals and critique, see John Clive, Thomas Babington Macaulay: The Shaping of the Historian (1973); and the introduction by Hugh Trevor-Roper to his abridged edition of Macaulay's History of England (1979). 12 On 15 November 1859, Macaulay wrote to his sister, Fanny: 'The truth is that every generation is of more importance to itself than all preceding and all future generations. Every generation imagines that it is of special importance in the great scheme of divine government which goes on slowly unrolling itself through thousands and thousands of years.' Letters, VI. He dissociated himself from the prophetic visions of his time which had been especially nourished by the Napoleonic era. 13 Gleanings, Section vii (1868) p. 115. 14 Correspondence on Church and Religion of W. E. Gladstone, I, ed. D. C. Lathbury (1910) 16. 15 Ibid. p. 47. 16 Ibid. p. 79. 17 See note 10. 18 'Formerly,' he declared in 1830, 'the persecution of the Jews was at least consistent. The thing was made complete once by taking away of their property, their liberty and their lives. . . . How are we to permit all the consequences of their wealth, but one?... If it was to be full and entire persecution after the consistent example of our ancestors, I could understand it. . . . But this is a delicate persecution with no abstract rule for its guid? ance.' In 1841, he observed: 'Carry out the principle to its legitimate extent and what would it lead to? Why, in the lapse of time you will be justified in whipping and burning men for holding opinions on religious subjects at variance with what had been considered by many to be the test of what was right on the question.' 19 On 16 December 1847 Russell stated in the Commons: T place this question upon this simple but I think solid ground-that every Englishman is entitled to the honours and advantages which the British Constitution</page><page sequence="21">Macaulay's case for the civil emancipation of the Jews 59 gives.' While he regarded that pronouncement as clear-cut, the opposition viewed his words, so far from resolving the issue, as encapsulat? ing some of their own grounds of opposition. 20 The present author's paper, 'Some Modern Themes in the Emancipation Debate in Early Victorian England', appears in the volume of essays presented to the Chief Rabbi and edited by Rabbi Dr J. E. 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