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Sir I. L. Goldsmid and the Admission of the Jews of England to Parliament

Lionel Abrahams

<plain_text><page sequence="1">SIR I. L. GOLDSMID AND THE ADMISSION OF THE JEWS OF ENGLAND TO PARLIAMENT. By LIONEL ABRAHAMS. The majority of the documents printed below have been selected from two volumes, formerly belonging to the late Sir Julian Goldsmid, which contain a portion of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid's correspondence on political and social subjects. These volumes were exhibited at the Anglo-Je wish Historical Exhibition of 1887,1 and were described by Mr. Joseph Jacobs and Mr. Lucien Wolf in Bibliotlieca Anglo-Judaic a (pp. xxiii-iv). A few of the letters have been printed by Dr. Lciwy and Professor Marks in their life of Sir F. H. Goldsmid, but the majority have been unpublished up to the present time. It appeared to the Executive Committee of the Jewish Historical Society of England that a service would be rendered to the study of the history of the Jews of England if a selection of the letters bearing on the public affairs of the Jewish community could be made accessible to the public. Through the kindness of Mr. C. G. Montefiore, formerly President of the Society, I was allowed to examine the volumes and to copy for publication those portions which appeared to be of most general interest. The selections which I have made bear entirely on the great question which was the chief interest of Sir I. L. Goldsmid's life from 1829 onwards, viz., the removal of the civil disabilities of the Jews of England. As a record of his labours they are, of course, incomplete; nevertheless they serve to indicate how much his energy, ability, and public spirit contributed to the ultimate success of the cause. Notes have been prefixed to several of the letters explaining as 1 See item No. 799 in the catalogue of the Exhibition.</page><page sequence="2">ADMISSION OF THE JEWS OF ENGLAND TO PARLIAMENT. 117 far as possible the circumstances in which they were written and the historical allusions which they contain. It seems desirable, how? ever, to attempt to give in the form of an introduction a connected account of the civil disabilities under which the Jews of England laboured in the early years of the nineteenth century, and of the causes by which their removal was delayed. The civil disabilities of the Jews in England were the result of a system of injustice. But the system, unjust though it was, was not one of deliberate or conscious injustice. The chief importance of the Jewish emancipation struggle lies in the fact that it was a staue in the contest against a political principle that had been conscientiously maintained in England for centuries, in the belief that it was one of the safeguards of the national existence. That principle was that, inasmuch as the State recognised the religion of the Church of England as being the one true form of religion, no State duties of importance should be entrusted to those who did not profess membership of that Church. Strange results sprang from this system. Under it Pitt, if he had been a dissenter, could have taken no part in the Government of England, and Nelson, if he had been a Catholic, could never have been an officer in the British Navy. But generations of Englishmen had lived and died in the honest belief that to abandon the principle of exclusion would have been to imperil the interests of freedom, religion, and morality. And so long as all Roman Catholics were excluded from Parliament, and there were excluded from public enployment all Christians except those who subscribed to the doctrines of the Church of England, English Jews could not with any show of reason ask for a removal of their civil disabi