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Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation

Geoffrey Cantor

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies , volume 44, 2012 Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation* GEOFFREY CANTOR Early in January 1850 Queen Victoria appointed the Commissioners charged with organizing the Great Exhibition of the Works of the Industry of All Nations. She also named the treasurers responsible for maintaining and mon- itoring the Exhibition's finances. These five prominent men of business included a banker, a railway entrepreneur and the financier Baron Lionel de Rothschild.1 Reporting enthusiastically on Rothschild's appointment, the Jewish Chronicle commented: "Will the Lords again reject the man whom the Queen thus delighteth to honour?"2 The phrasing is, of course, taken from the Book of Esther but the contemporary context refers to the refusal by the House of Lords on two previous occasions to allow Rothschild to take his seat in the House of Commons as he was not prepared to swear the Oath of Abjuration which contained the unacceptable phrase "on the true faith of a Christian".3 Although the admission of Jews into Parliament had been pro- posed on several occasions over the previous two decades, the situation became more acute following the vote by the citizens of the City of London to send Rothschild to Parliament in 1847. In order to enable Rothschild to take his seat, a Jewish Disabilities Bill was soon introduced. Despite gaining a second reading in the Commons by a significant majority, it foundered in the Lords. Another attempt was made in 1849 to introduce a similar bill but again this was thwarted by the House of Lords. Hence the Jewish Chronicled question: "Will the Lords again reject the man whom the Queen thus * An early version of this paper was presented at the joint meeting on 22 September 201 1 of the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Institute of Jewish Studies, University College, London. I am most grateful for the helpful suggestions of Barbara Cantor, David Feldman and the anonymous referees which have resulted in considerable improvements to this paper. For permission to reproduce extracts from documents in their archives I would like to thank the Rothschild Archive, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, the Museum of London and Waddesdon Manor (The National Trust). 1 London Gazette , 4 January 1850, 23-24. 2 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC), 11 Jan. 1850, hi. ó I he principal historical accounts of the admission or Jews to Parliament are David t eldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture , 1840-1Ç14 (New Haven, 1994); Abraham Gilam, The Emancipation of the Jews in England , 1830-1860 (New York, 1982); M. C. N. Salbstein, The Emancipation of the Jews in Britain : The Question of the Admission of the Jews to Parliament 1828-1860 (London and Toronto, 1982). 103</page><page sequence="2">Geoffrey Cantor delighteth to honour?" - Rothschild had been honoured by his appointment as one of the treasurers of the Exhibition but snubbed by the Upper House. Th z Jewish Chroniclers comment about Rothschild provides one specific connection between the Great Exhibition and the issue of Jewish political dis- abilities. However, the principal aim of this paper is to demonstrate how con- temporary themes of Anglo-Jewish history, especially the arguments over political emancipation, intersect with attitudes to the Exhibition. The main argument of the paper will lead to the debate in Parliament over the admis- sion of Jews but by an unusual route. Unlike most historians who have pre- viously written on Jewish emancipation, I want to move the spotlight away from Parliament and the usual cast of actors - principally politicians and leaders of the Jewish community - and instead portray both the Exhibition and Jewish emancipation on a larger canvas in order to show that there were many issues common to both topics. Thus the Exhibition and Jewish eman- cipation can be viewed from a common historical perspective. As the issue of progress provides one connection, in the final section I will reflect briefly on this topic and its significance both for contemporary Anglo-Jewry and for our understanding of the period. Mounting the Exhibition The Exhibition was Prince Albert's brainchild but the practical implemen- tation of his plan involved the Society of Arts (which had a long history of organizing exhibitions and offering premiums for advances in the arts and manufactures) and especially its energetic secretary, Henry Cole.4 To advance their proposal for an international exhibition, Albert and Cole took soundings throughout the country. The next stage was to hold a meeting at the Mansion House on 17 October 1849 in order to gain the City of London's endorsement of Albert's proposals. Baron Issac Lyon Goldsmid was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Society of Arts and he also headed their deputa- tion at that Mansion House event. Among the other Jews who attended were Baron Lionel de Rothschild and Alderman David Salomons, an unremitting advocate of the admission of Jews to Parliament. Salomons played a signifi- cant role in that evening's proceedings, seconding the motion to finance the Exhibition from voluntary contributions rather than from government funds. 4 Recent studies of the Great Exhibition include Jeffrey A. Auerbach, Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display (New Haven, 1999); Jeffrey A. Auerbach and Peter H. Hoffenberg, eds., Britain , the Empire and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851 (Aldershot, 2008); James Buzard, Joseph W. Childers, and Eileen Gillooly, eds., Victorian Prism: Refractions of the Crystal Palace (Charlottesville, VA, 2007); Geoffrey Cantor, Religion and the Great Exhibition of 1851 (Oxford, 201 1 ); Louise Purbrick, ed., The Great Exhibition: New Interdisciplinary Essays (Manchester, 2001). 104</page><page sequence="3">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation In his speech, Salomons praised the "universality" of Albert's vision and claimed that by providing an open and fair international competition in arts and manufactures the Exhibition would advance the cause of peace; indeed, Salomons suggested it be called "a peace congress". Rothschild and Goldsmid were then chosen to serve on a committee of businessmen - the City of London Committee for Promoting the Exhibition of Industry of All Nations - that would further Albert's aims among the merchants, bankers and financiers in the City.5 On 4 January 1850 the names of the 23 Royal Commissioners were announced. They included Prince Albert, several politicians, the presidents of pertinent organizations, such as the Royal Academy and the Royal Society, and a few manufacturers. There were no Jews among the Commissioners, although Goldsmid's name appears to have been considered. Rothschild was one of the five treasurers whose appointments were also announced.6 Three weeks later another meeting was held at the Mansion House primarily in order to gain the City of London's financial support for the Exhibition. One of the principal motions - that the Exhibition should be funded by voluntary subscription and not by the public purse - was proposed by the Whig Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, and seconded by Rothschild, who (according to The Times) was "much applauded" when he rose to speak. More than £10,000 was raised that evening including £500 from Rothschild, £500 from his brother Sir Anthony de Rothschild, and 50 guineas from Alderman Salomons.7 Over the coming months several Jews were appointed to the committees that were assigned specific tasks in organizing the Exhibition. For example, Lewis Berger (an importer of alum), the pharmacologist Jonathan Pereira, A. Salomons (who worked in the textile trade) and Alderman David Salomons served on the Metropolitan Committee. The London Commissioners for the Fine Arts were announced as including both Sir Moses Montefiore and the Royal Academician Solomon Alexander Hart.8 This latter announcement brought a sharp rebuke from the Civil Engineer and Architect' s Journal, which was conducted by the irascible William Laxton: "On the Fine Arts 5 The Times , 18 October 1849, 6. 6 London Gazette , 4 January 1850, 23-24; for Goldsmid's name being included: Archive of the 1851 Commissioners, Imperial College, London, Prince Albert's Correspondence, H.1/1/8. 7 The Times , 26 January 1850, 5; "Subscriptions Collected at Mansion House Meeting on 25 January 1850", in Collection of Printed Documents and Forms Used in Carrying on the Business of the Exhibition of 1851 , vol. 2, doc. 272. A fairly complete copy of this collection, in 8 vols, is held at the National Art Library. 8 First Report of the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, to the Right Hon Spencer Horatio Walpole (London, 1852), 4-6; Minutes of the Proceedings of Her Majesty's Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851. 1 ith January 1850, to 24th April 1852 (London, 1852), passim. 105</page><page sequence="4">Geoffrey Cantor Committee, besides lords and colonels, are put two Jewish gentlemen, a selec- tion as appropriate as putting teetotallers on the Wine and Spirit Committee. Jews and Quakers, who have scruples as to the encouragement and practice of the fine arts, are surely little fitted for such an office."9 This misguided comment should remind readers that the Exhibition had become a highly contentious issue, so much so that the whole venture almost had to be abandoned in the summer of 1850. 10 Opposition came from many quarters but especially from High Church Tory protectionists. They viewed the Exhibition as a politically motivated exercise to boost free trade, which they believed would result in British manufacturers losing orders to overseas rivals. Their more extreme supporters also feared an invasion of foreigners - that revolutionaries would invade the country under the pretext of attending the Exhibition, the Queen would be assassinated and the Church of England overthrown by either atheists or Catholics (or perhaps both). In their news- papers, periodicals and broadsheets they condemned the Exhibition and tried to obstruct the parliamentary bill that would sanction its construction in Hyde Park. That its opponents failed should not lead one to underestimate the strength of opposition to the Exhibition, both within Parliament and throughout the country, especially during the first half of 1850. During the summer of 1850 the mood of the country changed in Albert's favour owing partly to the death of Peel - who had been an enthusiastic Commissioner - on 2 July and also to Joseph Paxton's brilliant design for the building, soon known as the Crystal Palace. Although opposition continued unabated in some quarters, the Crystal Palace was constructed in a mere seven months and exhibits soon poured in from across the globe. With great pageantry the Exhibition was opened by the Queen on 1 May 1851. That very evening the House of Commons debated the second reading of the Abjuration of Oaths Bill. The bill was passed with a significantly smaller majority than expected: 202 to 177, a majority of 25. This compares with the first reading of Lord John Russell's 1847 bill, which was passed by 253 to 186, and the February 1848 Jewish Disabilities Bill, which passed its second reading by 277 votes to 204 (majorities of 67 and 73 respectively11) and votes on several similar bills over the next three years that produced similar or larger majorities. As Louise Rothschild noted in her diary, after comment- ing on the opening of the Exhibition, "In the evening however there was a sad 9 "Great Exhibition", The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal, 14 (1850-51): 20. This volume has the running head "The Architect: in Co-operation with the Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal". Laxton was employed by Baron de Goldsmid to undertake survey work in Brighton and Hove. 10 See Auerbach, Great Exhibition , 32-53; Cantor, Religion , 19-40; K. Jagow, ed., Letters of the Prince Consort 1831-1861 (London, 1938), 161-76. 11 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, HC, vol. 95, cols. 1356-1401 and vol. 96, cols. 460-586. 106</page><page sequence="5">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation display of English bigotry and intolerance. Our bill was read a second time in the House of Commons and only passed by a majority of twenty-five"12 Why was the majority much reduced on that occasion? The House of Commons had convened at 6 pm (a postponement of two hours, owing to the opening ceremony of the Exhibition earlier in the day) and the division did not take place until about midnight. It is clear that a significant number of MPs who were present at the start of the debate did not vote, probably having left the chamber before division due to the lateness of the hour. Others may not have attended because of the opening of the Exhibition. Among those who were absent from the division but had supported previous attempts to admit Jews were the Quaker John Bright, Samuel Peto (the contractor and one of the treasurers of the Exhibition) and three of the Commissioners, Thomas Baring, Richard Cobden and William Gladstone. By contrast, a number of High Anglican Tory MPs who opposed the Bill boycotted the opening ceremony in the morning but voted in the parliamentary debate that evening.13 Ironically, on this occasion, support for the Exhibition may have worked to the detriment of the admission of Jews to Parliament. Jewish visitors to the Exhibition Apart from the reports in th z Jewish Chronicle, I have managed to locate a few accounts by Jewish visitors to the Exhibition, mainly written by members of the Anglo-Jewish elite. As a prominent backer of the Exhibition and himself an exhibitor, Sir Moses Montefiore attended both the impressive opening ceremony and the closing event on 1 5 October but, unfortunately, his pub- lished diary fails to illuminate his views on the Exhibition.14 By contrast, Ferdinand de Rothschild, a twelve-year-old member of the Rothschild clan recently arrived from Germany, was greatly impressed by the opening cere- mony. "At first", he reminisced, "we were bewildered by the huge crowd, but for the assistance of a policeman I should have been crushed to death at the turnstiles. But we found an excellent place in one of the galleries and had a good view of the Queen, in her pink satin gown and her jewels and feathers, walking between the Prince Consort in uniform and the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred in highland costume and preceded by the Duke of Wellington." He especially recalled Paxton's building - "a more aerial or graceful structure cannot be imagined or equalled" - the elm trees that grew inside that structure, the fountains and the Koh-i-noor diamond, said to be 12 Journal of Louise, Lady de Rothschild, 2 May 1851, Rothschild Archive, RAL 000/ 297. Original in Hartley Library, University of Southampton, MS 97. 13 Salbstein, Emancipation, 178. 14 L. Loewe, ed., Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, 2 vols. (London, 1890), vol. 2, 23-25. 107</page><page sequence="6">Geoffrey Cantor worth £2,000,000. While many other visitors commented on these aspects of the Exhibition, Ferdinand de Rothschild also later reflected that "the then novel printing presses and numerous steam contrivances provided endless amusement" as such machinery "was still in the early stages of its develop- ment".15 Lionel de Rothchild's sister Louise appears not to have been present at the opening ceremony but recorded in her diary: "Yesterday was the great exhibiting fête of which I saw nothing but the crowds in the streets who all looked pleased and happy. It went of[f] brilliantly and peacefully and I thought how proud and pleased poor Aunt would have been to have wit- nessed such a day of triumph for English intelligence, art, order and loyalty."16 Three weeks later she visited the Exhibition and recorded in her diary that "we devoted a couple of hours to the medical and chemical depart- ment - it was very interesting, but I am sure Charlotte remembered all she saw better than I did - her love of names, facts and what I should call tangi- ble knowledge is infinitely greater than mine."17 Although such personal recollections are rare, a contemporary incident suggests that a significant number of the more affluent Jews were among the 25,000 holders of season tickets, which cost 3 guineas for men and 2 guineas for women. On entering the Exhibition, season-ticket holders were required to show their tickets at the entry booth and sign their names in a book. This signature could then be checked against the signature on the ticket itself in order to detect fraud. However, even before the Exhibition opened it was realized that observant Jews would not write their names on Shabbat. Thus Morris Oppenheim, the secretary of the Jews and General Literary and Scientific Institution, wrote to the Commissioners pointing out that this pro- cedure would prevent many Jews from visiting the Exhibition on Saturdays, "which [he claimed] is more convenient than any other day of the week for those members of our community who are engaged in commerce or [are] per- forming occupations". He therefore requested that some procedure be devised to enable Jews to enter on the Sabbath without having to sign.18 The Commissioners initially rejected this request, because a signature was deemed necessary to maintain security. 15 "Ferdinand de Rothschild, Reminiscences, 1897", Waddesdon, the Rothschild Collection (Rothschild Family Trust), MS. 177.1997, fols. 21-23. 16 Journal of Louise, Lady de Rothschild, 2 May 1851. 17 Ibid., 22 May 185 1 . "Charlotte" was probably either Lionel de Rothschild's wife (1819-1884) or Louise's elder sister Charlotte Anselm von Rothschild (1807-1859). My thanks to Justin Cavernelis-Frost, the archivist of the Rothschild Archive; private communication, 10 January 2012. 18 Morris Oppenheim to Lords Russell, &amp;c., 21 April 1851, Archives of the Commissioners of the 1851 Exhibition, Imperial College, London, Commission Correspondence, A/ 185 1/2 12; Edgar A. Bowring to M. S. Oppenheim, 22 April 1851, JC, 25 April 1851, 227. 108</page><page sequence="7">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation Oppenheim's intervention annoyed one correspondent, "M" from Maldon, who reminded readers of the Jewish Chronicle of the Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy". He chastised those wealthy Jews who broke this Commandment by attending the Exhibition on the Sabbath. They would, he argued, also set a bad example to less affluent Jews who were constantly exhorted to strengthen their religious observance. Furthermore, M drew attention to the Commissioners' decision to close the Exhibition on Sundays in accordance with the Christian Sabbath. If Christians could not attend the Exhibition on Sundays, it seemed inappropriate for Jews to be seen promenading at the Exhibition on Saturdays. Undeterred by M's arguments, the ever-persuasive Sir Moses Montefiore contacted the Commissioners, who then obligingly agreed that "all persons of the Jewish religion who object to sign the book on Saturday, will, on producing their tickets at No. 1 1 Box, in the South Centre, be admitted".19 The existence of this special arrangement sug- gests that significant numbers of wealthy Jews intended to visit the Exhibition on Shabbat. From reports in th z Jewish Chronicle it is clear that various eminent Jews from abroad attended the Exhibition: the French musician M. Da Costa Franco was mentioned, as were the Rev. Dr. Wolff ("the erudite" Chief Rabbi of Denmark who stayed with the Rothschilds), Dr. Isaacson, the Chief Rabbi of Rotterdam, and "other Rabbies [sic] of renown". Advertisements in th t Jewish Chronicle likewise indicate that Jewish-owned hotels in London were in great demand from visitors to the Exhibition.20 It was not only wealthy Jews who attended. With the help of philanthro- pists such as Baron Goldsmid, Nathaniel Montefiore and Nathaniel Levy, pupils from Jewish schools were able to visit the Exhibition. Without this support Jewish children from poor homes would not have been able to afford the admission fee, which from 26 May was reduced to a shilling for three days each week. The Jews' Infant School sent 1 50, the Jewish Orphan Asylum 1 50, the Villa Real School 24, Jews' Free School 55 and an unspecified number from the Western Jewish Girls' Free School. (The Palestine Place School, which was run by conversionists, also sent 51 pupils.)21 Never slow to moral- ize about the significance for Anglo-Jewry of any contemporary event, the Jewish Chronicle welcomed the long-term influence of these visits and pre- dicted that half a century later these children from poor backgrounds would look back and "remember that it was at the Royal Exhibition [where] they first witnessed with surprise and admiration those works of industry, the pursuit of which had since formed a large portion of their daily avocations, and from which had sprung the germ that had given sustenance to their subsequent 19 Letter from 'M', JfCy 2 May 1851, 237; "Exhibition of 1851", jfC, 9 May 1851, 247. 20 JfC, 27 June 1851, 295-96; 4 July 1851,311. 21 First Report, 92-100;^, 4 July 1851,311; 18 July 1851,327. 109</page><page sequence="8">Geoffrey Cantor success in life".22 A visit to the Exhibition might then prove beneficial by pro- viding a stimulus for self-improvement. As many contemporary accounts emphasize, a visit to the Exhibition not only enabled the visitor to view the vast array of exhibits but also to observe the other visitors who crowded the aisles of the Crystal Palace. In particular, as the Exhibition attracted a large numbers of visitors from abroad, it offered a unique opportunity for people of different races and religions to see one another and even mix together. Although a small number of Muslims and members of other faiths had settled in Britain, Jews represented the main non-Christian religious group. Yet, over the summer of 1851 London became a multi-cultural city. For the first time many Englishmen and women rubbed shoulders in London with people of different skin colour, speaking strange languages and dressed in unfamiliar costumes. Thus one visitor recounted: "From every part of the globe came representatives, many gorgeous in ori- ental robes. Dusky Indian Princes with turbans and jewels on their foreheads; sallow-faced Chinese Mandarins in silken embroidered dress; sedate little Japanese potentates with inscrutable faces; broad-faced, woolly-headed African Chiefs wearing bright colours; travellers from America, Australia, Canada . . . mingling with Russians, Poles, Frenchmen, Italians and Austrians."23 The Jewish Chronicle was delighted to find fellow Jews among the exhibitors and visitors, including four of the six guards employed by the Bey of Tunis. Some Christian visitors commented on the Jews they encountered. For example, while travelling to London from Scotland a clergyman shared a coach with a bearded German, probably "of Hebrew extraction". The clergyman was initially repulsed by his travelling companion's extensive beard and moustache. However, they soon struck up a conversation and the clergyman realized that the bearded foreigner was "one of the most intelli- gent and agreeable men I ever met". This encounter helped him better appre- ciate Albert's aim of advancing international brotherhood through the Exhibition.24 A fuller example is provided by an American visitor, William Drew, who subsequently published an account of his travels, which included a visit to the New Synagogue, near Bishopsgate. He described the interior of the syn- agogue and the proceedings at the Shachrit service, including the continual hubbub of conversation. In the middle of this generally informative narra- tive, he noted the "jet black eyes of the beautiful Jewesses" peeping out from the gallery and added that, although he could not vouch for its truth, it was 22 JC, 25 July 1851,331. 23 Mrs. E. M. Ward, Memories of Ninety Years, ed. Isobel G. McAllister (London, 1924), 63-64. 24 A Country Minister, "Notes of a Visit to the Great Exhibition", MacPhaiVs Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal and Literary Review 12 (1851): 245-47. IIO</page><page sequence="9">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation rumoured that Jews believe that "women have no souls, and therefore have no interest in worship [other] than to look on reverently". Although he was clearly impressed by the service, which he associated with Jewish practices at the time of Jesus, he nevertheless concluded his account by asserting that Jews are morally blind and cannot appreciate the truth of Christianity. He therefore looked forward to their conversion.25 A third and different example is provided by the author of the frequently quoted report on the condition of Jews in London's East End. In his London Labour and London Poor , Henry Mayhew offered a perceptive and sympa- thetic portrait of the street Jews who sold everything from oranges and lemons to spectacles and, of course, old clothes. Less well known is his 1851 : or the Adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys , an account of the Sandboys family from Cumbria who visited London in order to attend the Great Exhibition - although, owing to various mishaps, they failed to see the exhibits on display inside the Crystal Palace. Among Mr Sandboys's adventures was a visit to the Old Clothes Exchange near Houndsditch, where he was surrounded by a number of filthy old-clothes men whose thick accents he could barely under- stand. He was completely disorientated and, in the midst of this mayhem, he lost his pantaloons. In this fictional work Mayhew provided a more humor- ous, vibrant, raw but also cruel account of the Jewish trade in old clothes than in his better-known study of London's poor.26 Many visitors would also have encountered Jews if they entered any of the four London branches of E. Moses and Son, the much celebrated "tailors, clothiers, hatters, woollen drapers, hosiers, furriers, [and] boot &amp; shoe makers". For example, soon after arriving in London from York, a non- Jewish visitor was driven past "the immense establishment of that prince of Tailors 'Moses &amp; Son' in the Minories". Later in his visit he recorded in his diary that he had seen "the West End Establishment of Moses and Son[,] the celebrated Jew Clothiers and Dealers, and we witnessed a most brilliant illumination, the whole front of the Building being covered with various devices".27 For its part the firm of Moses and Son responded to the Exhibition as a welcome business opportunity: it advertised widely and even produced a 64-page catalogue specifically for visitors to the Exhibition, in which its stores were described in English, German and French. The 25 William A. Drew, Glimpses and Gatherings , during a Voyage and Visit , to London and the Great Exhibition , in the Summer of 1851 (Augusta, GA, 1852), 303-1 1. 26 Henry Mayhew and George Cruikshank, 1851 : or the Adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys and Family, Who Came up to London to "Enjoy Themselves and to See the Great Exhibition (London, 1851), 97-102. 27 W.J. Bell, "Journey to London". Museum of London, MS. Acc. No. 52.25, fols, iv and 22r. Fol. 22V is a full-page advertisement for Moses &amp; Son. The use of gas lighting and large plate-glass windows made the shopfront highly visible. See also Lynda Nead, Victorian Babylon: People , Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London (New Haven, 2000), 89. Ill</page><page sequence="10">Geoffrey Cantor catalogue also listed the range of merchandise, including Genoa velvet summer vests and fishing coats for men, mourning coats, ladies' riding habits, coachmen's greatcoats, grooms' liveries and, for 1 1 guineas, complete outfits including eighteen shirts.28 Several other Jewish businesses were prominent in seeking custom from the millions of visitors to the metropolis in the summer of 1851 and they, together with the orange sellers, may have benefited from the trade generated by the Exhibition. The "unity of mankind" Prince Albert not only envisaged an exhibition that would display the indus- try of all nations but he also believed that it would bring together people from different nations in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood and thus improve international understanding and advance the cause of peace. For example, at the Mansion House banquet on 21 March 1850 attended by representatives of towns throughout Britain and emissaries from a number of other countries, Albert articulated his vision of an exhibition of science, technology and "manufactures" that would encourage "peace, love, and ready assistance, not only between individuals, but [also] between the nations of the earth". It would, he insisted, advance the cause of the "unity of mankind". Punch coined the phrase "Temple of Peace" to describe the Crystal Palace and pacifist groups enthusiastically supported Albert's plan for the Exhibition.29 As a small religious minority Anglo-Jewry appreciated the benefits that would accrue from the implementation of Albert's vision. For example, in February 1851, following a lecture at Sussex Hall, the medically trained Nathaniel Montefiore proposed a toast to Prince Albert to honour him for encouraging the arts, science and literature and for his "vast and gigantic idea" of mounting the Exhibition. It would, Montefiore argued, not only advance science and the arts but, "by the commingling of the people of every country, create, by the intercourse which must necessarily take place, a good, perfect, and peaceful understanding between man and man". Likewise, in its issue of 9 May the Jewish Chronicle praised the recently opened Exhibition for encouraging "the progress of the arts and sciences, and of manufactures, [and] the tri-sisterhood of Peace, Love, and Good- will". Albert was por- trayed as leading a "peace movement" and teaching "a lesson of religious equality" by appointing Rothschild one of the treasurers.30 The Exhibition 28 The Exhibition of All Nations to be had Gratis and Post-Free, on Application Personally or by Letter to E. Moses &amp; Son . . . (London, 185 1 ?). Moses and Son was closed from sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday evening. 29 The Times, 22 March 1850, 5; Punch , 28 Dec. 1850, 265. See also Cantor, Religion , 166-87. 30 JC , 21 February 1851, 158; "Oath of Abjuration Bill 9 May 1851, 242. See also report of Abraham Benisch's lecture at the Western Synagogue,^, 13 June 1851, 284-85. 112</page><page sequence="11">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation was attractive to Jews precisely because it propagated the values of religious and ethnic equality and did not seek to discriminate against any minority. However, as will be seen in the next section, Protestant commentators on the Exhibition expressed a variety of views - not all complimentary - about for- eigners and Jews.31 Christian responses to foreigners, Jews and the Exhibition In discussing Jewish political emancipation most historians have focused on the parliamentary debates and the key political figures, such as Lord John Russell, and a few members of the Jewish elite. The parliamentary debates are thus portrayed as determining whether or not Jews were admitted. While this is true in an obvious sense, this paper suggests how the frameworks can be broadened by examining another kind of source to which historians of Jewish emancipation have paid far less attention. This framework is provided by the contemporary periodical press. Periodicals reflected almost every shade of reli- gious and political opinion and many were closely aligned to political and reli- gious positions. To take the examples to be discussed her z,John Bull was unreservedly Tory, High Church and protectionist, while the Nonconformist was aligned with religious dissent (principally Congregational), championed free trade and endorsed radical or Liberal policies. Such periodicals frequently commented on both Jewish emancipation and the 1851 Exhibition.32 They are useful sources because they enable the historian to go beyond the usual cast of prominent individuals and instead appreciate the views of much more exten- sive socio-religious constituencies. This paper therefore draws on the period- ical press to address the wider social attitudes towards both Jews and the Exhibition. To keep discussion within manageable proportions examination will be limited to just two Christian periodicals that represent widely differ- ent - indeed opposing - views on both these issues. The first is John Bull , which a contemporary source described as "admirably adapted to country gentlemen".33 On its masthead it displayed the crown and sceptre lying on the Holy Bible accompanied by the text, "for god, the sovereign, and the people ".John Bull pursued a long-term campaign against Jews, who were often portrayed in association with Turks, infidels, heretics and Catholics - all deadly opponents of Protestant Christianity. Likewise, in recounting a recent outbreak of cholera in Turin, John Bull made the not unfamiliar link between Jews and disease by noting that four of the five 31 It should be noted that opposition to Catholics and to Catholicism was far more prominent than was opposition to Jews. See Cantor, Religion , 27-30. 32 For the range of religious periodicals see Joseph F. Altholz, Religious Press in Britain , 1760-1Q00 (New York, 1989). 00 Mitchell s Newspaper Press Directory (London, 1 05 1 ). US</page><page sequence="12">Geoffrey Cantor reported cases were Jews. It also drew its readers' attention to those Jews who had converted to Christianity.34 Every attempt to admit Jews to Parliament inflamed John Bull. For example, in June 1850 it reprinted a petition circu- lated by the National Club (founded in 1845, and was committed to uphold- ing "the Protestant principles in the constitution") arguing that the forthcoming Oaths Bill, which would enable the admission of "Jews and other unbelievers", should be thrown out; otherwise it "will, in our judgment, be virtually to un-Christianise the British Legislature, and thereby to invite the displeasure of Almighty God". One correspondent even complained that the National Club's petition was too weak and the writer instead urged that, if passed, the bill "will destroy the exclusively Christian character of the British Legislature, Queens, Lords and Commons alike; and, as a national expression of contemptuous indifference to all distinctions between true and false religion cannot fail to provoke the displeasure of almighty god, and cannot fail to draw down some manifestation of his wrath".35 Similarly, the editor of John Bull condemned the Abjuration of Oaths Bill which came before the Commons on 1 May 1851 for its second reading, describing it as "the obnoxious Bill which is to unchristianize our Legislature". He expressed his unstinting opposition to Jews being allowed to legislate for a Christian country, whose history and legal framework firmly bound together Church and State. Further weight was added to this familiar argument by giving examples of how Rothschild's admission would under- mine the Christian character of the country. Under pressure from various Christian organizations, Parliament was also discussing a bill - the Sunday Trading Prevention Bill - that would regulate Sunday trading. However, a petition by 456 London traders had been received, opposing the legislation. John Bull described these petitioners as "Jewish hucksters" who were acting out of self-interest but were completely uncaring about the two and a half million Christians who would be affected by this desecration of the Sabbath if Sunday trading were not adequately regulated. Moreover, the granting of political power to Jews could result in the admission of Jews to the ancient universities, with pork being banned from college halls and the New Testament excluded. John Bull also charged Rothschild with "discreditable trickery" and "low-minded chicanery" in presenting himself at the Commons on 30 July 1850, when he read the Oath but omitted the crucial phrase "on the true faith of a Christian". While there were some legitimate concerns about Jews legislating on issues that pertained to the Anglican Church, much of John BulFs rhetoric was patently xenophobic and portrayed Jews as dishonest, duplicitous and intent on undermining Christianity.36 34 "The Crystal Palace of 1851", John Bull 30(1850): 211, 214 and 794; 31 (1851): 36 and 233. 35 John Bull , 30 (1850): 365 and 394. 36 "The Jew Bill", John Bull 31 (1851): 280-81. 114</page><page sequence="13">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation This xenophobic attitude towards Jews was of a piece with its criticism of the Exhibition. Early in 1851, following an outbreak of cholera in Jamaica, John Bull expressed concern that foreigners coming to London for the Exhibition would spread the disease to England and it raised the question whether the Commissions and Board of Health had made adequate plans for this eventuality.37 It also feared that the invasion of foreigners would under- mine the British - that is, Protestant - way of life, as they would use the Exhibition as an excuse to enter Britain to spread immorality and atheism. "[W]hat a desecration will ensue, when our streets shall swarm with foreign- ers who all their lives have been utter strangers to the duty of keeping it [the Sabbath] holy? . . . We have invited a torrent of ungodliness into our streets, and we shall have to submit to its inundation." Riots and much debauchery were to be expected as the "scum of the Continent" flocked to London. The agitator Mazzini had, it claimed, already arrived, Garibaldi was on his way and they would be joined by Chartists and 1 50-200,000 Irish vagrants. With hackles rising, John Bull reported that more than 10,000 political adventur- ers then in Switzerland were heading for London and hordes of foreign des- perados and republicans had been invited by English socialists.38 Protectionism was not only an economic doctrine but a call to defend England against being inundated by foreigners. (It should be remembered that Prince Albert was a foreigner.) Just as these invaders had to be prevented from reaching London, so the Jew had to be kept away from the levers of power in Westminster. A very different assessment of the situation is provided by the other peri- odical - the dissenting, liberal, pro-free trade Nonconformist , edited by a Congregational minister. It staunchly opposed the power vested in the Anglican Church, especially in the realm of education. The Dissenters' claim for fair treatment in such areas as politics and education, where the estab- lished Church exerted its power and influence, was underpinned by a theo- logically grounded commitment to equality. As the historian Timothy Larsen has argued, during the middle decades of the century Dissenters - especially those of more radical leanings, such as Congregationalists - also campaigned for the principle of equality to be extended to people of other religions.39 Although some Dissenters still hoped for the conversion of the Jews, their advocacy of equality included the campaign to admit Jews to Parliament. An editorial in the Nonconformist at the time of the 1848 Jewish Disabilities Bill illustrates Larsen's argument. The writer, presumably the editor, John Campbell, argued that the case for admitting Jews to Parliament was straight- 37 Ibid. 24-25. 38 Ibid. 30 (1850): 777; 31 (1851): 88-89, 121 and 201-02. 39 Timothy Larsen, Friends of Religious Equality: Nonconformist Politics in Mid-Victorian England (Woodbridge, 1999), 114 and 126-32. US</page><page sequence="14">Geoffrey Cantor forward and unanswerable: "It has upon it the stamp of justice. It commends itself at once to reason. It cannot be rejected without rejecting the very basis of representative government. And on this ground, the Jew asks admission to senatorial power, as a right which he may claim in common with every subject of the realm." Moreover, he argued, Jews posed no threat to the state and although their opponents cited religion as the reason for discriminating against Jews, the writer could not find any biblical justification for such a prejudice.40 The same liberality and assumptions about equality can be found in the Nonconformist's reports on the 1851 Exhibition. For example, Albert's pro- posals were warmly welcomed in the editorial following the first Mansion House meeting. "It is a sign of the times, and a pleasing one", commented the editor. "Politically, and morally, even, the benefit of such an international reunion might prove not inconsiderable. To make peoples conversant with each other's industrial products is a powerful lever for overthrowing national prejudices, for producing mutual respect, for guaranteeing friendly relations, for preserving universal peace."41 There was no attempt to assert the supe- riority of England or to denigrate the foreigner; indeed, foreigners were wel- comed into a Britain that was liberal and self-assured.42 Its sister weekly, the British Banner, which Campbell also edited, was equally explicit: "The Crystal Palace knows no difference between Jew and Greek, Frank and Saxon. In that arena, for the first time in the annals of mankind, the Negro and the Malay, the Sclave and the American, will stand together on equal terms; and merit of its kind will carry away honours of genius, and industry without reference to questions of blood, type or colour. This is a starting point for a true theory of the equality of the nations, - a new era in the history of progress."43 This passage conveys the optimistic message that the 1851 Exhibition made possible for the first time the true "equality of nations". Notice also that the British Banner endorsed the notion of social progress, a theme that will be discussed in the final section of this paper. Taking John Bull and the Nonconformist as reflecting widely different parts of the religious spectrum, one can appreciate that the response of each to the admission of Jews to Parliament was similar to its attitude to the Great Exhibition of All Nations. The High Church, Tory John Bull responded to both issues by deploying what Mary Douglas has called a "monster barring" strategy, a typical xenophobic response by those who feel threatened.44 By 40 "Removal of Jewish Disabilities", Nonconformist 8 (1848): 84-85. 41 Ibid. 9 (1849): 846. 42 Jonathan Parry, The Politics of Patriotism: English Liberalism , National Identity and Europe , 1830-1886 (Cambridge, 2006), 59-71 and 93-102. 43 "The Great Exhibition", British Banner 4 (1851): 329. Compare Romans 10:12. 44 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Purity and Taboo (London, 1966). lió</page><page sequence="15">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation contrast, the Liberal-oriented Nonconformist welcomed Jews to Parliament and was enthusiastic about an exhibition that would encourage equality, unity and peace. In contrast to the pessimism and protectionism manifested by John Bull, the Nonconformist celebrated the doctrine of free trade as a way of improving the world and as a benefit to all. The Abjuration of Oaths Bill, 1 May 1851 The preceding section has provided a broader canvas on which to appreciate Christian reactions to the admission of Jews to Parliament by showing the alignments between attitudes to Jews and to the Great Exhibition. I now turn to Parliament and the Liberal administration of Lord John Russell. Five years earlier, in 1846, the Tories had been decisively split when Robert Peel sided with the Whigs, Liberals and Radicals in supporting the repeal of the Corn Laws. This brought down his administration, leaving the rump of conserva- tive, Tory protectionists in an increasingly weakened position as Russell introduced a range of legislation that was antipathetic to their core commit- ments. While becoming ever more incensed by a rising tide of liberalism, they continued to affirm their traditional values - paternalism, the maintenance of law and of the sacred alliance between Church and State, and the necessity of retaining trade barriers. They saw themselves as the bulwark against the threats to their traditionalist image of Britain posed by political radicals (espe- cially Chartists) and by the opponents of the Anglican Church, including Catholics, Dissenters, Jews and atheists. By contrast, Russell was keen to reduce the power of the High Church and challenge its claims to provide the religious leadership of the country and to direct its political life. While Peel passed some measures that were highly unpopular with his own party, such as raising considerably the annual grant to the Catholic seminary at Maynooth in 1845, Russell mounted attacks on the High Church and pursued a liberal policy by trying to reduce the influence of factions holding extremist views by extending toleration to religious groups both within and without the Anglican Church. As a Liberal he believed that all free-born British citizens were equal before the law and Jewish citizens therefore had the right to sit in Parliament. Yet this proposal evoked strong opposition from the beleaguered High Church Tory protectionists - as noted, the target read- ership for John Bull.AS At the Commons debate on the evening of 1 May 1851 the connection between the Exhibition and Jewish political emancipation was made explicit by the MP for Lincoln, Colonel Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp. This High 45 Jonathan Parry, The Rise and Fall of the Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (New Haven, 1993). I53-2I7- 117</page><page sequence="16">Geoffrey Cantor Church Tory was among the most vociferous opponents of the Great Exhibition in the House of Commons and he also vehemently opposed the Abjuration of Oaths Bill. Sibthorp began his speech on i May by assuring the House that as a good Christian he had absented himself from the opening cer- emony in the Crystal Palace earlier in the day. "Yes, he repeated, neither his duty to his God, nor his duty to his country, would suffer him to visit that showy bauble." It was also, he claimed, his duty to God to oppose the admis- sion of Jews to Parliament. He therefore urged the House "not to sanction this measure - a measure totally unworthy of the assent of any Christian assembly"; in his view, Parliament was just such a Christian assembly.46 Thus Sibthorp saw his duty as a devout Christian and as a loyal Englishman to oppose both the Exhibition and the admission of Jews. For him, these issues were necessarily bracketed. It is also instructive to compare the voting patterns at the Abjuration of Oaths Bill on i May 1851 and at the debate on 4 July 1850 on the proposal to mount the Exhibition in Hyde Park, when a motion opposing this proposal was defeated by 166 to 49, a majority of 119. Not surprisingly, Charles Newdegate, the protectionist, anti-Catholic MP for North Warwickshire who led the attack against the Abjuration of Oaths Bill, voted against the Exhibition at the earlier debate. By contrast, Russell supported both propos- als, as did William Page Wood, the Solicitor General who steered the Oaths Bill through the Commons on 1 May. More generally, of the 123 MPs who voted in both debates, 105 either opposed both the admission of Jews to Parliament and the proposed Exhibition or supported both bills. Thus there was a fairly strong correlation between voting on these two motions and only eighteen MPs voted in favour of one of these issues but not the other.47 That eighteen did not vote in accordance with the principal alignments indicates that voting patterns were influenced by other factors. For example, in con- trast to Nonconformist evangelicals, Anglican evangelicals were unlikely to support the Abjuration of Oaths Bill but were divided over the Exhibition. Thus both Sir Robert Inglis (MP for Oxford University) and John Plumptre (who was one of the tellers on 1 May) strongly opposed Jewish emancipation but supported the Exhibition Bill. Local interests also influenced voting pat- terns; in particular, MPs representing neighbouring constituencies or who themselves lived near Hyde Park tended to oppose the proposal to mount the Exhibition in the Park. Sibthorp's interjection and the correlation between voting figures returns us to the main theme of this paper, the putative connection between the 46 Second reading of the Oath of Abjuration (Jews) Bill on 1 May 1851, Hansard Parliamentary Debates , HC, vol. 116, cols. 405-406. 47 Ibid, and "Hyde Park - Exhibition of 1851" debate on 4 July 1850, Hansard Parliamentary Debates , HC, vol. 112, cols. 901-931. 118</page><page sequence="17">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation Exhibition and the admission of Jews to Parliament. As has been seen, Sibthorp was opposed to both and for similar reasons. Like John Bull and many High Church Tories, he maintained a view of England as a Protestant country that had to retain its Christian purity by repelling all outsiders - Jews, Catholics and foreigners. By contrast, liberal periodicals like the Nonconformist and the British Banner supported the Exhibition, welcomed foreigners to London, and saw the justice of admitting Jews to Parliament. This paper has focused on periodicals that represent fairly extreme ends of the politico-religious spectrum and leaves as an open question just how well attitudes to the Exhibition and to Jewish emancipation correlate for other parts of that spectrum. Yet for these extreme positions there not only exists a fairly strong correlation but many of the same arguments were also used by the protagonists when discussing both the Exhibition and the place of Jews in England. Jewish successes at the Exhibition By the middle of the nineteenth century the elite Anglo-Jewish families were well established and often involved in finance. However, in his 1853 account of Anglo-Jewry, John Mills (a sympathetic Welsh clergyman) also identified Jews as particularly prominent in certain trades, such as shipping and cloth- ing (thus encompassing both respectable outfitters like Moses &amp; Son and the old-clothes sellers of Houndsditch). He also singled out Nathan Defries's "gas-fitting establishment". While acknowledging the success of Jews in trade and commerce, Mills noted with regret that the community's "litera- ture is neither extensive, nor important", although he indicated that British Jews were beginning to remedy the situation. A few years earlier the Jewish Chronicle had likewise chastised the community for its failure to contribute to literature: "the soil of our literature lies barren", it claimed.48 These criti- cisms applied to literature in its wider sense, which included publications in science. It was feared that the lack of contributions by Jews to British litera- ture and science provided antisemites with ammunition to support their view that Jews were intellectually inferior and only drawn to the lowly activity of making money. In the light of Anglo-Jewry's apparently poor showing in literature and science, th z Jewish Chronicle took great pride in the fact that many Jews, both 48 John Mills, The British Jews (London, 1853), 324-25 ;JC, 27 Sept. 1848, 689-91. See also [Charlotte Montefiore], A Few Words to the Jews (London, 1853), 34-36. Grace Aguilar, proba- bly the most prominent Jewish writer of the previous decade, had died in 1847. Some of her writ- ings were, however, published posthumously, such as The Mother's Recompense (London, 1851). See Nadia Valman, The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge, 2007), 85-129. 119</page><page sequence="18">Geoffrey Cantor from Britain and abroad, exhibited at the Crystal Palace and that among these there were a significant number of prize winners. In an editorial in the Jewish Chronicle entitled "Are the Jews Given to Intellectual Pursuits: A Retrospective Glance", Marcus Bresslau reported on a visit to the Exhibition which provided him with ammunition to refute the claims of those who viewed Jews as inferior: Is it true, as alleged by our uncompromising opponents, that the Jewish mind can only centre in the acquisition of money? Is it a fact, that they cannot and do not turn their minds to intellectual pursuits? And we unhesitatingly answer, No; it is a calumny of the deepest die pay a visit of discovery to the Crystal Palace, and, with official catalogue in your hand, tell us whether among the many artistic and scientific benefactors and competitors which that mighty exhibition has drawn together, the derided and contemned Jew does not take a fair and honourable stand.49 Thus the Exhibition demonstrated that, contrary to widespread opinion, the "maligned and persecuted" Jew had indeed contributed to the arts and the sciences. Bresslau also reported on the exhibits manufactured by Jews, including Joseph Braham's patent spectacles, the stained glass and lithographs exhib- ited by George L. Lee of High Holborn, the ornamental dress stitched by Mrs Salom of York St, Westminster, and the splendid sets of false teeth made from hippopotamus by S. L. Finzi. The magnificent state bed manufactured by Faudel and Phillips at a cost of more than £1500 was also noted (and described elsewhere as "a prodigious misexpenditure of money - the only redeeming point being that the decorations embrace two pieces of needle- work of extraordinary merit").50 Among the other items of Jewish interest was the silver testimonial presented to Moses Montefiore and Lady Montefiore following their successful visit to Damascus when they had obtained the freedom of its Jewish community who had been charged with the blood libel. Montefiore also displayed two sandstone vases carved by Mordechai Schnitzer, a Jew living in Jerusalem.51 In the Tunisian section visitors could see a display of clothing worn by local Jews, including what are described as religious garments. Another exhibit from Tilsit (now Sovetsk) is listed as "A tower of filigree work set in garnets, similar to those used by Russian Jews at the celebration of the Sabbath."52 49 JC, il July 1851, 313. JC, 3 Sept. 1851, 383-84; 9 April 1851, 215; 7 March 1851, 171; 28 Feb. 1851, 167; "A Glance at the Exhibition", Chambers Edinburgh Journal 15 (1851): 338. 51 "A testimonial, in silver, presented to Sir Moses Montefiore" by Hunt &amp; Roskell, 165 New Bond Street; Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue, 3 vols. (London, 1852), vol. 3, 286-87; "Two vases carved out of a species of sandstone of Jerusalem . . ."; ibid., 830. 52 Ibid., vol. 3, 14i3~i4and 1075. 120</page><page sequence="19">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation There was one Jewish contributor whose presence and success was partic- ularly celebrated by the Jewish Chronicle . During his perambulations at the Exhibition, Bresslau visited the Russian stand and encountered a calculating machine and its Jewish inventor, Israel Abraham Staffel. So impressed was Bresslau that he devoted more than a full-page spread to this invention in the 18 July issue of the Jewish Chronicle , which also included a testimonial from the Imperial Academy of Sciences and an illustration of the machine. Besides describing the machine and its mode of operation, he noted that Staffel was widely acknowledged for his inventions, having displayed his calculator at the Imperial Russian court and received patronage from various Russian and Polish noblemen. Staffel was thus not merely an able mechanic but a philoso- pher who had mingled with the intellectual giants of the day. He was subse- quently awarded a prize by the jury for his calculating machine, which was assessed the best machine of its kind in the Exhibition. The example of Staffel provided Bresslau with a convincing rejoinder to those who claimed that Jews were intellectually inferior.53 Staffel also won the esteem of Sir Moses Montefiore, who invited him to his home, made him a "handsome present" and then lectured him on the importance of extending Jewish education in Russia and Poland. During one of their many visits to the Exhibition, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert exam- ined Staffel's calculator and were reported to have been greatly impressed. Thomson Hankey, the Governor of the Bank of England, also closely inspected the calculator and another machine invented by Staffel that was designed to test precious metals. This exhibit was later transferred to the Bank for further tests. As a coda to Staffel's successes in London, Prince Albert took the unusual step of sending him £20, "in appreciation for his invention".54 The example of Staffel demonstrated that far from being intellectually inferior, a Jew could rank among the leading intellects and therefore Jews could hold their heads high. They could also gain confidence from the award of medals to several Jewish manufacturers including B. Jonas and Brothers (cigar makers), Moses, Son and Davis (tallowmakers), M. and S. Meyer (who specialized in dressed English rabbit skins, riding boas, muffs and gloves), Salomons and Sons (embroidery), Faudel and Phillips (needlework and embroidery), Nathan Defries (gas appliances), M. Myers and Son of Birmingham (steel pens) and Barnett Meyers (walking sticks).55 Moreover, three Dutch Jews and ten French Jews were awarded prizes.56 Both Sir 53 yC, 1 1 July 1851,324. 54 Loewe, Diaries, vol. 2, 23-24;^, 25 July 1851, 336; 1 Aug. 1851, 339; 21 Nov. 1851, 55. 55 Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations , 1851: Reports of the Juries on the Subjects in the Thirty Classes into which the Exhibition was Divided (London, 1852), 60, 163, 386, 469, 472, 474, 504, 506, 659, 663 and 666. jC, 31 Oct. 1851,30; 14 Nov. 1851,47-48. 121</page><page sequence="20">Geoffrey Cantor Moses Montefiore and Baron de Rothschild received medals for services ren- dered.57 In all, Jews acquitted themselves well at the Exhibition and showed that they were in step with the march of the intellect. The liberal idea of progress Proponents of the Exhibition portrayed it in optimistic terms as a display of the vast progress made by the industrialized nations, especially Britain. Indeed, the word progress and its synonyms were repeatedly deployed by contemporaries to portray the significance of the Exhibition and the changes that were transforming many aspects of life at mid-century - railways, the telegraph and the great advances in print technology (to mention but three). Although the notion of progress was contested by some groups, the leaders of the Anglo-Jewish community shared this enthusiasm about progress - intellectual progress, economic progress, progress in politics, progress in education and so on. To take just two examples among many, at the dinner to mark the inauguration of the Manchester Jews' School in May 1851 a speaker argued that the ideas of "Light, knowledge, [and] progress" were vital to Jews. He continued: "To the Jewish people the progress of knowl- edge, and the maintenance of civilisation, were the necessary conditions of their existence."58 The second example merits closer attention as it is derived from an unusual source. The young and talented Charlotte Montefiore published in 1853 an anonymous collection of essays under the titled Few Words to the Jews . The opening essay was appropriately headed "The Present Age and Judaism" and began with an optimistic reflection on the contemporary ethos: "This is a wonder-teeming age, very great and very glorious. Science and art take giant strides. Improvements and discoveries are brought forth in such quick succession that yesterday's marvel is consigned to oblivion by today's more wonderful exploit, or rare invention, or work of surpassing interest." Progress was for her (like many others) the defining feature of the age and, as she proceeded to argue, the Great Exhibition was its exemplification. The Crystal Palace that rose into life and beauty, as by a magician's wand, and disappeared like a phantom, was a symbol of the age. It contained within its precincts the works of science, art, and humanity, that are the glory of the age. The vast edifice, its long aisles, its crowded galleries, were hung with the tro- phies won by genius and industry, won in hard-fought battles by the veterans 57 Certificates deposited in Special Collections, University College, London, Montefiore MS. A/8/5; Rothschild Archive, RAL 000/924. 58 JC, 30 May 1851, 269-70. 122</page><page sequence="21">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation whose hair had grown gray and bodies feeble in the service of their liege masters; and there, in proud array, those trophies rose one above another, and glittering in the sun of a bright May morning, they smiled a welcome on each passer-by, on peasant, peer, and prince.59 Although Charlotte Montefiore came from the wealthy Jewish elite, her view of the Exhibition and of the early 1850s was probably shared by most middle- and upper-class British Jews. Britain was seen as an increasingly prosperous nation with a liberal tradition and Jews could look forward to sharing in its progress and prosperity. Jews, Charlotte Montefiore urged, should take advantage of the opportunities available to them. The Jewish people were, in a sense, paradigm examples not just of survival but of the ability to transcend such adversities as persecution and make innovations. The ethos of progress, engendered by the Great Exhibition, was highly congenial to the Jewish Chronicle which, as David Cesarani has emphasized, adopted a rationalist, liberal approach and continually urged the Jewish community, and the rab- binate in particular, to improve itself in such areas as education.60 Like the Jewish Chronicle, Charlotte Montefiore perceived a pattern gov- erning history - British history - that historians have often called "Whig history", following Herbert Butterfield and exemplified in the writings of Thomas Babbington Macaulay (who was himself a persuasive advocate of Jewish emancipation).61 According to this optimistic account of history, progress is inevitable, with ever increasing political liberty and enlighten- ment, as reflected in the advance of science and education. The Great Exhibition demonstrated this march of the intellect and was portrayed as an exemplification of the Whig - or liberal - ideology. As many of the Exhibition's proponents noted, it could only have been held in a free country with a constitutional monarchy. For example, a tract addressed to foreigners visiting the Exhibition stressed that England was an egalitarian country pos- sessing free institutions and a settled government, while a sermon by a Congregational minister praised England's "liberal institutions, just laws, and enlightened government".62 Jews like Charlotte Montefiore found much to applaud in liberal Britain and readily subscribed to the Whig ideology. Jews had benefited from the liberal, progressive ethos of Britain and most of the barriers preventing their progress had been removed over the preceding 59 [Montefiore], Few Words to the Jews, 1-2. 60 David Cesarani, The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991 (Cambridge, 1994). 61 Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (Harmondsworth, 1973). 62 Anon., An Address to Foreigners Visiting the Great Exhibition of Arts in London, 1851. The Scriptures and the Sabbath in England (London, [1851]), 3; T. Flower, The Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations , Viewed in Relation to Christianity: A Sermon Preached to the Congre gationalists of Wimborne Minster , on Sunday Evening , October 5M; and in the Independent Chapel , at Bournemouth , on Tuesday Evening, October 21st 1851, 2nd ed. (London, 1851), 5. 123</page><page sequence="22">Geoffrey Cantor decades. Other than the religious tests at the two ancient universities, the main political disability that remained in 1851 was the oath that prevented Jews taking their seats in Parliament. In his impressive Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture 1840-1914 David Feldman has rightly stressed that the mid-century arguments over the admission of Jews into Parliament should be understood in the context of an intense political conflict over the nature of Englishness and especially the relation between Church and State. In this paper I have shown how another highly contested topic - the mounting of the Great Exhibition - can be brought within the same framework as many of the issues raised over the admission of Jews into Parliament were also articulated in responses to the Great Exhibition. In line with Feldman's historiography this argument has moved the issue of Jewish civic disabilities from the narrow context of Anglo-Jewish history to the broader context of British history. This larger context, which includes the Great Exhibition, also alters understanding of the admission of Jews to Parliament in an interesting way. Feldman began his analysis by rejecting the Whig view that history is the natural unfolding of a pre-ordained scenario in which progress occurs through the extension of liberal policies. He was thereby rejecting the dom- inant construction of Anglo-Jewish history which was centred on the pro- gressive removal of Jewish disabilities - the Sheriffs Declaration Act (1835), the Jewish Municipal Relief Act (1845), the university reform acts of 1854 and 1856, the Bill of 1858 allowing Rothschild to take his seat in Parliament and the wider Jews' Act Amendment Bill two years later. As Feldman has rightly argued, this view of history portrays Britain as a benign environment in which Jews could prosper and it thereby fails to recognize the deep antipathies directed against Jews. Also, it fails to provide an adequate means of engaging such controversial issues as the relationship between Church and State that were explicitly contested around the mid-century.63 While I concur with Feldman's arguments against the standard portrayal of the sequential raising of barriers to enable Jewish emancipation, this study of Jewish responses to the Great Exhibition nevertheless brings Whig history in through the back door by considering the notion of progress, which was repeatedly used as a self-description of nineteenth-century Britain, particu- larly at the time of the 1851 Exhibition, since the Crystal Palace and its con- tents provided a highly visible paradigm of progress. To cite one example among many, one of the guides to the Exhibition opened with the declara- tion: "The Great Industrial Exhibition will stand out in history as one of the most important events in the progress of society."64 Many passages from the 63 Feldman, Englishmen and Jem , 26-32. 64 A Guide to the Great Exhibition: Containing a Description of Every Principal Object of Interest (London, 1851), 1. 124</page><page sequence="23">Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation Jewish Chronicle and from Charlotte Montefiore's essay on "The Present Age and Judaism" reflect this confidence in progress. British Jews portrayed themselves as living at a time of remarkable and unstoppable progress - from which Jews would necessarily benefit as restrictions and exclusions were removed. Moreover, periodicals like the Nonconformist and British Banner maintained a not dissimilar notion of progress in science, technology and society: their notion of social progress included the opportunity for anyone to rise in society and the abolition of such discriminatory hurdles as the dis- abilities suffered by Dissenters and Jews. By contrast, opponents of the Exhibition, like Col. Sibthorp and John Bull , denied this progressivist view of English history and instead insisted on the preservation of the social order, the maintenance of trade barriers and the exclusion of Jews and other for- eigners from positions of power. Thus the progressivist Whig account of history was itself an actors' cate- gory, albeit a contested one. Although the progressivist view of history is open to just the kind of objection that Feldman rightly articulates, the notion of progress was a significant issue in the mid-nineteenth-century disputes about both the Great Exhibition and the admission of Jews to Parliament. Moreover, it provides a further connection between both topics since the country that threw open its doors to foreigners, enabling them to visit and compete in this first international Exhibition of industry which was also com- mitted to progress in science, the arts and manufactures, would soon over- come the reactionary forces and open the doors of its Parliament to Jews. 125</page><page sequence="24">Plate i The largest documented Jewish tallage of the thirteenth century, Worcester (1241-42). The National Archives , Richmond, TW9 4DU</page></plain_text>

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