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A Petition from Haslemere in 1753

A. M. Hyamson

<plain_text><page sequence="1">2. A Petition from Haslemere in 1753. The following passage is taken from Bygone Haslemere, a Short History of the Ancient Borough and its Immediate Neighbourhood from Earliest Times (London, 1914), edited by E. W. Swan ton, aided by P. Woods. Concurrently with the manoeuvres to oust the old members, much political feeling was engendered through the country by a Bill for the Naturalization of Jews. In the General Evening Post of December 8th to 11th, 1753, appears a letter of November 28th, addressed by forty-three Haslemere men to their Representatives, James Oglethorpe and Peter Burrell, Esquires, in which they laid before them the great inconvenience that would affect the free-holders of the Borough and the rest of the Kingdom by naturalizing the Jews. Whether or not it was mere party move, or dictated by honest motives, is not apparent (pp. 198-9).</page><page sequence="2">A PETITION EROM HASLEMERE IN 1753. ?i The Bill "to permit persons professing the Jewish religion to be naturalised by Parliament and for other purposes therein mentioned" had become an Act of Parliament some months before the letter to which the foregoing extract refers was written. By the time the letter was published a Repeal Bill had been introduced into Parliament, and was well advanced towards the statute book. Oglethorpe, who was a supporter of the Naturalisation Bills, lost his seat in Parliament at the General Election of 1754. Twenty years previously he had shown his friend? liness towards Jews in the matter of the colonisation of Georgia, of which he was the originator as well as being the first administrator of the Colony. He had hardly arrived in the Colony with the first batch of colonists when a shipload of Jews arrived, a large number of whom were practically destitute. Oglethorpe was at first at a loss to know what to do with them, but as under the Charters freedom of religious opinion and observance wTas guaranteed to all, with the exception of Papists, after a little consideration he incorporated the newcomers in the Colony. Oglethorpe's fellow-trustees at home took a very different view of the situation. They were determined not "to make a Jews' Colony of Georgia," and wrote instructing him to discourage any Jewish settle? ment, and by no means to allow Jews any share in the privileges of the colonists. Oglethorpe, however, ignored these instructions, and the part taken by Jews in the history of the Colony, from its very foundation, shows that in doing so he acted in its true interests. In the words of Mr. Leon H?hner, "To Oglethorpe belongs the credit that the Jewish settlers were allowed to remain. He retained them on his own re? sponsibility. He sought to pacify the trustees by praising the industry of the newcomers, and giving a detailed account of the noble services of Dr. Nunez, one of the settlers, . . . whose generous ministering to the sick in the Colony had excited Oglethorpe's admiration." ("The Jews of Georgia in Colonial Times," Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of America, vol. x. pp. 71 et seq.) Oglethorpe was first returned for Haslemere in 1722. During his absence in Georgia he was again elected, and so retained the seat up to 1754. Thus, while he was befriending the Jewish settlers in Georgia, Oglethorpe was still a member of the English House of Commons. Albert M. Hyamson. March 1915.</page></plain_text>