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Address Vol 3

Dr. Richard Garnett

<plain_text><page sequence="1">REPORT OF ADDRESS BY DR. RICHARD GARNETT. Dr. Richard Garnett said that it would not become him, not being himself a member of the Jewish race, to enter into the discussion which he understood was prevalent as to whether Re-settlement Day ought or ought not to be celebrated; but he was very glad of the con? clusion arrived at that it should be; because it gave him the oppor? tunity which he might not otherwise have had, of saying to them that he felt an equal amount of thankfulness was due from himself as an Englishman as from them as Jews, for the redress of an ancient wrong. In any wrong, two parties must participate: the one who inflicted it, and the one who suffered it. He blushed to say that England once stood in the position of the doer of a great wrong, and, therefore, there was reason for thankfulness that the disgrace had been removed. He could see nothing discreditable in the desire of the Jewish race to commemorate the day on which they were permitted to re-settle in England after many centuries of persecution in various countries. The disgrace was for the persecutors, and he was as thankful for Oliver Cromwell's wise and humane action as any of them could possibly be. The oppression that the Jews had suffered had fostered some of their noblest qualities and had brought forth many heroic characters, but many of the persecutions which were inflicted on the Jews in the Middle Ages were of a petty nature and more matter for ridicule than deep regret. Some of them were comparatively excusable, being founded upon the idea that the Jews were of a distinct and alien race who could not amalgamate themselves with the Christian peoples, and against whom Christian peoples must protect themselves. Of course it had been proved what a mistake that was. A tribal feeling certainly did exist, but no doubt that feeling was necessary to preserve the ancient traditions of which the Jews were naturally proud. But it 72</page><page sequence="2">REPORT OF ADDRESS BY DR. RICHARD GARNETT. 73 was the tribal feeling which animated the Jews of the Middle Ages that roused the antipathy of the Christians. Even in those days, however, there were humane men. One of the first acts of Pope Pius IV. was to repeal the obnoxious law which compelled the Jewish race to wear a yellow badge, but unfortunately he was succeeded by a very different sort of man. Pope Pius V. very soon proceeded to undo the good work of his predecessor, and it was amusing to note in connection with this that the Jews began to suffer from colour? blindness. So much so, in fact, that Pope Pius V. soon had to issue another edict to the effect that yellow did not mean pale blue or green. The Jews who were celebrating Re-settlement Day should not forget that in the Middle Ages, at the very time that Oliver Cromwell was doing his great act of humanity, a great injustice was inflicted by the Jews themselves. But now at the end of the nineteenth century, in the happy days of civil and religious freedom, they would not think too harshly either of the Jews in Holland who almost murdered Spinoza, or of those Christians who endeavoured to restrict the benevolent intentions of Oliver Cromwell. Turning from those old days to the present time, it gave him sincere satisfaction to see the happy position in which England stood as regards religious tolerance, in comparison with many other nations particularly on continental Europe. He trusted that the abominable feeling of anti-Semitism, which had been stirred up by evil-minded men on the Continent, was only a temporary phase and would soon die away. Anti-Semitism had always existed in those countries where it was now rife, and he believed that of recent years the feeling had been re-awakened and intensified. He remem? bered that when he was in Berlin thirty-four years ago, there was a discussion on the subject of eminent men to whom statues should be erected. He had asked, where was the statue of Moses Mendelssohn, and he was told in reply that such was the state of feeling in Germany at the time, that no statue was likely to be erected at all. He men? tioned those facts just to show that anti-Jewish feeling in Germany was no new thing! How pleasant it was to turn to England and note the different state of things. It was only a few days ago that one of the most important ceremonies which the English Church enacts was held in the City of London, when the new Bishop of London was enthroned in St. Paul's Cathedral. One of the principal features of</page><page sequence="3">74 REPORT OF ADDRESS BY DR. RICHARD GARNETT. that occasion was the presence of the Chief Magistrate, who was a Jew. And, in his opinion, the most gratifying circumstance in con? nection with the fact was that, interesting and striking as it was, it attracted no particular attention. Nobody commented on it and no? body criticised it. They could gather from it an idea of the extent of the advance in religious freedom and tolerance since the Middle Ages. It led them to think what was the state of feeling among the people at the time when Oliver Cromwell performed the great action which they were commemorating. Was Cromwell so much in advance of his age that he met with no sympathy, or did he venture to allow the Jews to re-settle in England, knowing that such a measure would not be upset by the English public1? It might be that one of the members of the Jewish Historical Society could say. He did not know, but he did not think there was any serious opposition offered to the measure by the people of the time. In his researches into English history he had met with many crimes imputed to Cromwell, but he did not remember having seen it imputed to Cromwell as a crime that he restored the Jews to England. He believed that the English people were not at that time fanatically indisposed to the Jews. Shakespeare, who lived seventy years before Cromwell, treated the Jews in a way that the English people were not likely to resent. If they read the old story on which Shakespeare based his play " The Merchant of Venice," they would be struck with the absence of any feel? ing of humanity to Jews, and Shakespeare's portrayal of the character of Shylock was so vastly different from that contained in the original story that, being intended for public representation before a miscel? laneous audience, it was a proof of a liberal feeling of the day towards the Jew. If, however, Cromwell had returned to earth in 1753 he might have thought that his work was in danger of being undone, so bitter was popular feeling in England against the Jews. There was a strong reaction of feeling against a Bill that had been introduced for the naturalisation of Jews. Cromwell, although he had permitted the Jews to live in England, had not ventured to allow them to be naturalised. In 1753, the Government carried a Bill which provided that Jews could be naturalised, but the measure excited the most violent opposition, and it was denounced to such an extent, that the Government had eventually to bring in another Bill to repeal the</page><page sequence="4">REPORT OF ADDRESS BY DR. RICHARD GARNETT. 75 former Act. Looking into the matter, he found that at that time there was a great deal of bigotry and prejudice amongst the English people, and their feelings were stirred up by those to whose interest it was to create ill-feeling against the Jews. Dr. Garnett read some extracts from pamphlets that were circulated at the time denouncing the Jews, and concluded his address by mentioning that there was to be seen at the National Gallery a fine picture of Oliver Cromwell, painted by Madox Brown, which shows the Protector riding on horse? back absorbed in thought.</page></plain_text>