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Reflections on the History of the Anglo-Jewish Community. Presidential Address

H. S. Q. Henriques

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Reflections on the History of the Anglo-Jewish Community. Presidential Address (1920). By H. S. Q. Hexriques, M.A., D.C.L., K.C. The Anglo-Jewish community has now been established here for a period slightly exceeding two and a half centuries?a period which, however long it may seem to the individual, is but short in the history and development of nations. In this period the Anglo-Jewish community has become firmly established in the country, and has won the goodwill of the majority of the population. This is in marked contrast to the hostility with which the English people formerly viewed the Jews?a hostility which was satisfied only by their total expulsion from the realm in the year 1290, and which lingered on for some time after their return in the reign of Charles II. For turning them oat "bag and baggage" King Edward I. was rewarded by his faithful Commons with a grant of one-fifteenth of all their moveables (pro expulsione Judaeorum)?a signal mark of gratitude,1 although these same Commons had, nine years earlier, offered the king three times as much for granting them this boon, but the vote was apparently passed after the decree of banishment had been issued, and gratitude is wont to depreciate when once the longed-for object has been attained. This feeling of hostility did not diminish during the long period of their banishment. Sir Edward Coke writes of them in his Institutes, first published in the year 1628, that they were odious both to God and man,2 and usually speaks of them as infidel Jews, and being infidels they were, according to his doctrine, perpetual enemies and wholly beyond the protection of the law, so that their persons might be assaulted or their property plundered with impunity. As he writes: 1 Tovey's Anglia Judaica, p. 234, quoting from Daniel, the historian. 2 2 Inst.9 p. 507.</page><page sequence="2">132 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. " All infidels are in law perpetui inimici, perpetual enemies (for the law presumes not that they will be converted, that being remota potentia, a remote possibility), for between them, as with the devil, whose subjects they be, and the Christian, there is perpetual hostility, and can be no peace; for as the Apostle saith, 2 Cor. vi. 15: Quae autem conventio Christi ad Belial, aut quae pars fideli cum infideli; and the law saith: Judaeo Christianum nullum serviat mancipium, nefas enim est quem Christus redemit blasphemum Christi in servitutis vinculis detinere. Register 282: Infideles sunt Christi et Christianorum inimici. And herewith agreeth the book 12 Hen. 8, fol. 4, where it is holden that a Pagan cannot have or maintain any action at all." 3 This amiable doctrine of the complete " rightlessness " of Jews and other non-Christians was rejected by the Courts when it came before them for decision in the years 1684 and 1697,* but it was accepted at the time when it was laid down, and was apparently in accordance with popular sentiment. In the time of the Commonwealth, Prynne, who was certainly not a reactionary, exhibits equal animosity against the Jews, as may be seen in his well-known Demurrer ; and even Oliver Cromwell, although he gave expression to much more liberal views in matters of religion, and showed Menasseh ben Israel certain marks of favour, was unwilling to risk his popularity by giving any formal permission for Jews to settle here or recognising the status of those who were known to be in the country. This popular antipathy to the Jews gradually decreased after they had permanently settled in the country and became better known to its inhabitants, but it was for several generations possible to rouse it to the utmost fnry, as was manifested in the successful agitation for the Repeal of the Jews' Naturalisation Act of 1753, and even Dr. Tovey, who cannot fairly be charged with indulging in anti-Semitism, in his Anglia Judaicay published some sixteen years earlier, namely, in 1737, assumes that their unpopularity was such that it was necessary to pay handsomely for the privilege of returning to the country. Accordingly, he supports his view that their restoration was due to Charles II. by the argument: " And who so likely as that Monarch,, 3 Rep. vii. 17a, 176. 4 See The Jews and the English Law, pp. 185-191.</page><page sequence="3">REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. 133 who was for ever coveting money and would do anything to attain it ? " 5 It is possible that even now the feeling has not been wholly extirpated, and there are no doubt people in the country who cordially dislike the Jews, but a popular agitation expressly directed against the Jews would not have much chance of success at the present time, so that the modern anti-Semite finds it expedient to hide his real object by confining his attack to aliens or foreign Jews. For although the insular prejudice against strangers still continues in almost unabated vigour, the spirit of religious bigotry once so powerful in the country has gradually died out under the beneficent influence of the effects of the Toleration Acts and the better knowledge gained by contact with the professors of alien faiths. The danger, therefore, which threatens the Anglo Jewish community at the present time is not anti-Semitic but anti alien legislation. Unfortunately of recent years there has been a tendency in British policy to depart from the generosity which at one time characterised our alien legislation^6 e.g. the Aliens Act of 1905 7 gave unnecessarily wide powers to the Home Office, which although on the whole exercised with fairness, were capable of abuse, and the Aliens Restriction Act,8 passed at the commencement of the war, was necessarily more stringent, the powers given by it being exer cisable only when a state of war with a foreign Power exists, or when an occasion of imminent national danger or great emergency has arisen; and it is now proposed by a Bill now before the Houses of Parliament to continue these arbitrary powers in time of peace when no imminent national danger or great emergency has arisen. Should these powers be made permanent, it does not follow that they will be misused by the executive, but in any case the system of placing the lives and fortunes of a considerable class of individuals at the 5 Anglia Judaica, pp. 279-280. 6 There were, of course, in olden times many laws against aliens, a complete list of these will be found in the Historical Survey or first chapter of my Treatise on the Law of Aliens and Naturalisation, but by the middle of the nineteenth century these had all been repealed or become obsolete, so that from the Naturali? sation Act of 1870 to the Aliens Act of 1905 there were probably fewer restrictions upon aliens in England than in any country in the whole course of history. 7 5 Edw. VII. c. 13. 8 4 &amp; 5 Geo. V. c. 12.</page><page sequence="4">134 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JE WISH COMMUNITY. mercy of executive officers, however trustworthy and broad-minded these may be, is a thoroughly bad one, and contrary to the spirit of our British system under which the rule of law has ousted the discretion of the executive authorities. This alien legislation especially concerns the Anglo-Jewish community, which has from the first been continually recruited by alien immigrants, to whom in a great measure it owes its growth and vitality. It is as much to the interest of the Jewish as of the general community that alien immigration should be properly regulated, and that there should be means of excluding or expelling aliens who are undesirable, in the sense that their presence here is a danger to the State; but it is likewise in the interest of all that the machinery used for this purpose should not be controlled by the arbitrary will of an individual, but should be founded on the principles of justice well known to the English law. The harshness of alien legislation is to a great extent mitigated by commercial treaties and diplomatic relations with foreign countries, whose ambassadors, legates, or consuls may interfere in cases of undue severity; but this channel of relief is not open to the bulk of Jewish immigrants, many of whom are refugees from religious or racial persecution in their former homes. It is therefore of the utmost importance to the Jewish community that no derogation from the complete equality conferred upon it by the repeal of the old disabili? ties should be introduced by the enactment of ill-conceived or unjust alien legislation. For this reason the ancient English law of nationality has been the greatest safeguard to the Anglo-Jewish community. That law adopts the principle of the jus soli, by which any person born on British soil becomes at birth a British subject whatever the nation? ality of his father or mother may be, and accordingly beyond the scope of the laws relating to aliens. Thus the bulk of the children of the Jewish alien immigrants are from their birth British subjects, and there is no political distinction between them and the children of native-born Englishmen. It is to the credit of the Jews that they have on the whole fully recognised the duties which this status entails, for the children of the foreign Jews have shown consistent loyalty and borne true allegiance to the country which has recognised them as its citizens, and the alien parents, though many of them have either</page><page sequence="5">REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JE WISH COMMUNITY. 135 not sought or failed to obtain naturalisation in this country, have done nothing to prevent the Anglicisation of their children. Through indifference, or on account of want of energy or opportunity, they may themselves have neglected to learn the English language. They may have held themselves aloof from the general population partly on account of these causes, but still more in order to maintain the time-honoured customs and traditions of their religion, for the sake of which they and their fathers had suffered so much in their former homes. Yet they have always taken the greatest care that their children should attend the public schools of the country, and thus learn to speak the language and identify themselves in sympathy and feeling with their English neighbours. One of our great difficulties has been to reconcile this assimilation to the general population with the continuance of Jewish religious customs, and differences in this matter are apt to arise between the older and the younger generations, but it should not be impossible to reconcile these differences with the assistance of the experience of the long-established portion of the British community, who have been able to combine the characters of true sons of Israel and loyal citizens of Great Britain. It has recently been proposed to fundamentally change the English law of nationality by discarding the principle of the jus soli in favour of the rival doctrine of the jus sanguinis, by which the nationality of children is determined by that of their parents without regard to the place in which they happen to be born. The result of such a change, so far as the Jewish community is concerned, would be to make many of its members, who have now the rights of natural-born subjects, aliens and subject them to the disabilities imposed by our alien legislation. This would constitute a most grave calamity to the Anglo-Jewish community, dividing it permanently into two sections?those with and those without the rights of citizenship. At present the distinc? tion is but temporary, lasting for one generation only, for the children of the immigrants automatically acquire the full rights accorded to their longer-established neighbours. The change would moreover, in my view, be detrimental to the interests of the country as a whole. Besides being the substitution for a principle of English law handed down from generation to genera? tion, and embodied in our system of jurisprudence of a by no means</page><page sequence="6">136 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. perfect doctrine from foreign codes, it is not to the advantage of the State to allow the growth in its midst of a population owing nothing more than temporary allegiance to itself and recognised as having rights to the citizenship and claims to the protection of some foreign and possibly hostile State. The whole of this subject is discussed from opposite points of view in two papers read by myself and Dr. Ernest J. Schuster before the Grotius Society in the year 1917, which are printed in vol. iii. of their Transactions, to which I must refer for further detail. As a result of this discussion a committee was appointed by that Society, which drew up a Report showing how by adopting a proper system of registration the English and foreign laws might be reconciled, so that the inconveniences now arising from their divergence might be overcome without abandoning the fun? damental principles on which they are based. This Report and the recommendations framed in accordance with it may be found in vol. iv. of the Society's Transactions. It is in the best and highest interest of our commanity, and I think of the country as a whole, that such a solution of this im? portant question should be adopted, but all attempts to abolish the principle of the jus soli should be opposed by us Jews with all the force and power we can command. So long as this principle is retained the laws relating to alien immigration and the naturalisation of aliens, though of great and special interest to us Jews, are not vital to the existence of our community, but it behoves this country to be liberal in both these matters ; if we are to retain our position as foremost in the sphere of international trade, we must allow aliens (unless demonstrably undesirable) free access to our shores, and if we are to continue to hold the proud position of " The Empire State," we must freely admit foreigners to share in bearing the burden which Empire imposes on us, as Bacon says : "All States liberal of naturalisation towards strangers are fit for Empire." Another fact conducing to the present flourishing condition of the Jews in England is that they have never persisted in claiming for themselves a separate national status. I say persisted in, because the Petition presented by Manasseh ben Israel to Oliver Cromwell before the Whitehall Conference may be interpreted as making requests</page><page sequence="7">REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JE WISH COMMUNITY. 137 of this nature, but even those members of the Council who were in favour of the re-admission of the Jews were opposed to this part of the Petition, for the first proviso which they insisted upon was " That they be not admitted to have any publicke Judicatoryes, whether civill or ecclesiasticall, which were to grant them terms beyond the condition of strangers." 9 Thus in their ordinary daily life, both in their dealings with each other and the outside community, the Jews in England have followed the law of the land and not the Mosaic code?questions of inheritance, marriage, divorce, &amp;c, being regu lated by English law ; the only special privileges accorded to the Jews, apart from certain concessions in respect to working on Sunday, being that in respect of their marriages ; so far as ceremonies only are concerned, they have been allowed to follow their own usage.10 The reason for this is that the English law has always recognised marriage as a religious institution?indeed, the validity of civil marriages was not recognised before 1836?and in its liberality gave the same recognition to Jewish religious ceremonies as to those of the established Church. Privileges were thus accorded to the Jews in respect of the place, time, and form of celebrating marriage, but other matters relating to marriage, such as the prohibited degrees, legitimacy, and divorce, are regulated in accordance with the ordinary law. No doubt some Jews would have preferred that a different principle should have been adopted, but I am convinced that the Anglo-Jewish community would never have attained its present position if a legal Grhetto had thus been set up in which all self respecting Jews would have been necessarily included. The Jews in England thus came to look upon themselves and to be regarded by their neighbours as members of a distinct religious sect, but not as belonging to a separate political entity. Accordingly, in the Acts of Parliament granting them the privileges which have enabled them in course of time to obtain complete equality with their fellow-citizens, they are uniformly described not as Jews but as " persons professing the Jewish religion." The first of these statutes was passed in the year 1723, when the Act of the previous year, 9 Henriques on the Return of the Jews to England, p. 41 and p. 53. 10 See in re De Wilton. De Wilton v. Montefiore [1900], 2 Ch. 481.</page><page sequence="8">138 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. which made it necessary for all landowners to take the oath of abjuration, was modified in favour of Jewish landowners by enabling them to omit the final words, " On the true Faith of a Christian." These same words, &lt;e persons professing the Jewish religion," are used in all the later Acts. But it is to be observed that in the earlier statutes imposing disabilities upon the Jews they are never so described, but are simply called Jews. See, for instance, the Poll Tax Acts of 1688 and 1689, the Marriage Duty Act of 1694, and the Act to oblige the Jews to maintain and provide for their Protestant children of 1702.11 These enactments give the clearest indication of the basis upon which full equality of rights has been given and accepted. And yet we occasionally find the expression " Englishman of the Jewish persuasion " used by certain members of our community as a term of reproach or contempt. It is not easy to understand the psychology of those who use the phrase in this way. There is no incongruity in a Jew, if he has the rights of a British subject, proclaiming himself an Englishman, though it might perhaps be more accurate to assume the name of British?but that is a grievance of ancient standing nursed by the Scots ever since the Act of Union of the two kingdoms. He owes allegiance to the English throne, and, allegiance being one and indivisible, to no other country, and has every reason to be proud of his British nationality. He has equal reason to be proud of his Jewish religion, and every cause to be grateful that the country whose nationality he possesses has for generations accorded complete toleration to that religion. So long as that policy is maintained there can be no question of any one of us being an Englishman first and a Jew afterwards, or vice versa. The spheres of politics and religion can be kept distinct, and each of us can be an Englishman first and a Jew first at one and the same time. The question of national rights brought forward by some sections of the Jewish communities in Eastern European countries recently at the Paris Peace Conference has never been raised on behalf of the Jews in England, who have never felt any need for such rights. It was a claim to a separate sub-nationality rather than a separate nationality in the technical sense, and involved a separate exercise 11 See Appendix.</page><page sequence="9">REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JE WISH COMMUNITY. 139 of political rights. Each sub-nationality was to be entitled to return a certain number of members to the national legislature, and to have a separate ministry and department of State for the management of its own affairs. Equality for the Jews in England has been won by very different means. Political rights were the last to be asked for and the last to be obtained, and since they have been obtained the Jewish community has never attached itself as a whole to any political party. In the early days of their resettlement the Jews very wisely abstained from taking any part in political contests. In recent times when they have had the same rights of being elected members of Parliament as their fellow-citizens they have not acted as a single body, but each individual has enrolled himself in which? ever political party he might choose, and Jews have frequently been elected by constituencies in which there are practically no Jewish voters. In this way they have been able to secure more seats in the House of Commons than their numbers would entitle them to, and as a rule the Jewish members have been fairly distributed among the two great political parties almost in proportion to the strength of those parties in the House. As there has been no Jewish vote in the country, so the Jewish members in the House have never formed themselves into a separate group, though they have occasionally worked together for the purpose of forwarding some matter of Jewish interest, which they could promote without severing themselves from the party to which they belonged. It would be of the greatest advantage to the community if some means could be devised for making this co-opera? tion among Jewish members of Parliament more regular and more efficient. As benefits have been conferred upon the Jews by both political parties impartially, and as we have every reason to anticipate fair play from all the great parties in the future, there is no occasion to set up a special organisation for Jewish voters and thus create " a Jewish vote." Except in two or three constituencies it would be hopeless to run a candidate with the support of Jewish electors only, and in only a very few districts would the Jewish vote have any weight. In fact, individual Jewish electors are able to exercise more influence on a candidate than could be expected from a Jewish vote. It is often said that the Jews as a body ought to support the Liberal</page><page sequence="10">140 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. party, because that party was more active in removing Jewish dis? abilities : apart from the non-sequitur of this conclusion, the pre? misses are not quite accurate. Whatever professions the Liberal party made during the struggle for emancipation, it was never willing to risk its political fortunes upon such an issue ; for again and again a Liberal government submitted to defeat in the House of Lords with? out thinking of appealing to the country on this question, and it was, in fact, a Conservative government which ultimately passed the necessary legislation. It is indeed fortunate from all points of view that these matters of religious equality should be treated as national rather than as party questions. There are other reflections I might make, but your patience must be by now exhausted, Et jam tempus equum fumantia solvere colla. In concluding, I should like to say that, in spite of the pessimistic talk one often hears, there is no reason to despair of the present or the future of the Anglo-Jewish community. It may be that many of its members take no part in its public work and little or no interest in its affairs ; some through indolence and self-indulgence, others because their whole energy is absorbed in the under field of general politics or public work ; but when one reflects that our community has no places or salaries to give, no titles or honours to bestow, it is almost astonishing to find that so many able men are willing to devote their time and labour to its service. However widespread recalcitrancy, lukewarmness, and apathy may appear to be, "there are yet seven thousand in Israel, knees that have not bowed to Baal." One more point. Much is heard nowadays of the gulf between East and West, by which is meant the points of view of the alien and native-born Jews. That there should be this great difference between these points of view is not strange considering the differences in the circumstances and environments of their holders, but the chasm is being bridged over every day ; the East End of to-day is the West End of to-morrow, and when all is said and done, in spite of differences, jealousies, and misunderstandings, there always has been, and I hope always will be, a strong bond of sympathy between what are called the East and the West End Jews.</page><page sequence="11">REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. 141 In the Anglo-Jewish community there is ample room for differences of opinion. It embraces East and West, Zionist and non-Zionist, Orthodox and Reform, &amp;c. &amp;c, but there is no room for disloyalty to this country. That would be in conflict with the precept laid down by our sages to seek the good of the State in which we dwell, and therefore treason to the cause of Israel. January 5, 1920. APPENDIX. (See note 11.) (1) (1688). The Poll Tax Act (1 W. &amp; M. c. 13, s. 10). Statutes of the Realm, vol. vi. p. 65. "And be it further Enacted and Ordained by the Authoritie afore? said That every Merchant Stranger and Jew resideing within this Kingdome shall pay the Summe of Ten pounds." (2) The Poll Tax Act, 1689 (2 W. &amp; M. c 2, s. 10). Statutes of the Realm, vol. vi. p. 158. " And be it further Enacted and Ordained by the Authoritie aforesaid That every Merchant Stranger Resideing within this Kingdome shall pay the Summe of Ten pounds. Every Jew who is a Merchant shall pay the Summe of Twenty pounds. Every Jew who is a Broker shall pay the Summe of Five pounds and every other Jew of the Age of Sixteene yeares and upwards the Sum of Ten shillings." (3) 1694. The Act for granting duties upon Marriages, Births, and Burials and upon Batchelors and Widowers (6 &amp; 7 W. &amp; M. c. 6, s. 57). Statutes of the Realm, vol. vi. p. 583. " Provided always and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That all persons commonly called Quakers or reputed such and all Papists or reputed Papists whether they are Popish Kecusants Convict or not and all Jews or any other persons who shall cohabitt and live together as man and wife shall and are hereby made lyable to pay the several and respective duties and Sums of money payable upon marriages according to their respective degrees titles orders and qualifications &amp;c." (4) 1702. "An Act to oblige the Jews to maintain and Provide for their Protestant Children." " To the End that sufficient Maintenance be provided and allowed for the Children of Jewish Parents who shall turn Protestants Be it enacted by the Queens most Excellent Majesty by and with the Advice and Consent of</page><page sequence="12">142 REFLECTIONS ON HISTORY OF ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY. the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by Authority of the same That from and after the Twenty fourth Day of June One thousand seven hundred and two if any Jewish Parent in order to the compelling of his or her Protestant Child to change his [or her] Religion shall refuse to allow such Child a fitting Maintenance suitable to the Degree and Ability of such Parent and to the Age and Education of such Child then (upon Complaint thereof made to the Lord High Chancellor of England or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal or Commissioners of the Great Seal for the Time being) it shall and may be lawful for the said Lord Chancellor Lord Keeper or Commissioners to make such Order therein for the Maintenance of such Protestant Child as he or they shall think fitt." (5) (1723). 10 Geo. I. c. 4. " And whereas the following words are contained in the latter part of the Oath of Abjuration viz. (upon the true Faith of a Christian) be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That whenever any of His Majesty's Subjects, professing the Jewish Religion, shall present himself to take the said Oath of Abjuration, in pursuance of the above recited Act, or of this present Act, the said Words (Upon the Faith of a Christian) shall be omitted out of the Said Oath in administering the same to such Person, and the taking the said Oath by such Person professing the J ewish Religion, without the Words aforesaid in like manner as Jews are admitted to be sworn to give Evidence in Courts of Justice shall be deemed to be a sufficient taking of the Abjuration Oath within the meaning of this and the said recited Act."</page></plain_text>

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