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The politics of immigration, 1881-1905

Cecil Bloom

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905* CECIL BLOOM Migration has been a continuous feature of Jewish history. In modern times, it reappeared after the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-9 when numbers of Jews fled westwards from Poland and Russia. Britain's place in Jewish migration is an exceptional and generally honourable one. Its role is admittedly much less import? ant than that of the United States of America, although it is worth noting that in 1914 more Eastern European immigrants were living in London than in any other city except New York and Chicago.1 Britain's prime importance in this connection was as a land of transmigration, since many Jews landed at an English port on the eastern coastline only to re-embark on a transatlantic ship on the other side of the country. There had been no immigration control in Britain since 1836, when restrictions imposed in 1793 were abolished. A Jewish population which in 1858 had numbered 36,000, rose to 60,000 by 1881.2 Of these, a high proportion were native born.3 The significant numbers of Eastern European Jews that began to arrive in Britain in 1871 were either fleeing persecution in Romania, or had been expelled from Russian border regions. The Russo-Turkish war of 1875-6, and conscrip? tion into a virulently anti-Semitic army, quickened the pace of emigration. The assassination of Czar Alexander II in March 1881 and the promulgation of the 1882 'Temporary Orders concerning the Jews' (the so-called 'May Laws') led to savage persecution which continued virtually unabated until the 1917 Revolution, resulting in emigration on a scale hitherto unknown in Jewish history. Within a single generation, some 2,750,000 Jews sought shelter overseas. Initially, British public opinion took little notice of the increasing Jewish popula? tion. With Irish Home Rule the major issue in British politics, it was the Jewish community itself that was most concerned about the arrival of aliens unaccus? tomed to British society. The grandees - such as the Rothschilds, Montefiores and Mocattas - took the view that while the gates should be open to all, immig? rants should be discouraged. If possible, they should be shipped off to the United States or sent back to the Continent, if they could be persuaded to do so. British politicians, to their credit, were especially concerned at the treatment of Jews and condemned in strong terms those responsible for the pogroms. In 1880, for example, the Government was asked to insist that, before Romanian independence would be recognized, the Treaty of Berlin should be adhered to so that Jews * An earlier version of this paper was delivered to the Leeds branch of the Society on i June 1992. i87</page><page sequence="2">Cecil Bloom could be accorded full civil rights in the Russian Empire.4 A year later, Lord Randolph Churchill was expressing concern about pogroms in Odessa and in another town 'the name of which I cannot pronounce'.5 For many years, responsible non-Jews expressed strong opinions about the persecution of Jews. In January 1882, articles in The Times on Russian pogroms6 prompted a Mansion House meeting sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Manning, Charles Darwin, Matthew Arnold and Lord Shaftesbury.7 Afterwards a sum of almost ?109,000 was collected, as part of a conjoint effort with organizations in France, Germany and Austria, to help refugees who had congregated in Brody in Galicia. Of the many who received support from this fund, 8596 were helped to emigrate to America, 478 to come to England and 468 to return eastwards. Funds from donors as far afield as Brisbane and Welling? ton were provided to alleviate misery in Russia.8 There was some doubt about what action should be taken. A House of Commons motion asked the Govern? ment to insist that the Czar stop further acts of violence against Jews. Gladstone was firmly convinced, however, that such a move would be 'positively injurious to the interests of those on whose behalf it is brought forward'.9 Similar protests continued and, at a meeting in the Guildhall in 1890, the Duke of Westminster was foremost in asking the Czar to repeal all oppressive anti-Jewish legislation.10 Another ?100,000 was raised to help refugees. Legislation was passed eventually less through any real sense of conviction on the part of various British governments than through action by politicians on the fringe - minor figures in Parliament influenced by rabble-rousers and the more articulate anti-Semites and anti-aliens. The indigenous Jewish community did little to prevent what happened, and most, but not all, the Jewish leaders of the time showed much ambivalence on immigration issues. The primary communal body, the Board of Deputies, was ineffective in combating the anti-alien lobby, in which some prominent Jews were active. Sir Harry Samuel, the member for Limehouse, who belonged to the West London Synagogue, even took an out? spokenly active role in the ultra-nationalist British Brothers' League founded in 1901. David Alexander, president of the Board of Deputies, was a member of the Executive of the National Vigilance Association, a body concerned mainly with the protection of morals, and especially of women who might be led astray, which argued that controlling alien immigration would help reduce prostitution. Some attempts, albeit half-hearted, were made by Jewish leaders anxious to control immigration levels. As early as 1880 the London Board of Guardians placed advertisements in the Eastern European Jewish press to make it clear that help would be available only to immigrants with a minimum of six months residence in Britain,11 and this policy was followed also in Manchester.12 These steps were commended in a Commons debate.13 In 1886 the London Board followed up its advertising campaign with a letter to a St Petersburg newspaper 188</page><page sequence="3">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 warning against emigration because of both the state of the labour market in Britain and missionary activities. 'It is better' wrote the president, Lionel Cohen, 'to live a life of hardship in [the] homeland than to suffer the disgrace of famine and the approach of missionaries'.14 In 1882 Sir Samuel Montagu and the secretary of the United Synagogue, Dr Asher Asher, even travelled to Poland to try to stop emigration. But immigration gathered pace and in 1883 it was claimed that only half the estimated Jews in London had been in Britain for more than ten years.15 The Jewish Board of Guardians never ceased its efforts to stem the flow, although it did help new arrivals after the six-month qualifying period. The Board's policy, which it claimed was success? ful,16 was to return to the Continent those with little prospect of earning a living, and who could be persuaded to go provided it was not to areas of persecution. Some 50,000 immigrants were returned to Europe under its auspices. Total numbers repatriated were even higher because other agencies were also involved.17 Jews, however, continued to try their luck in Britain as letters reached the old country reporting on the superior conditions in Britain; although problems facing newcomers were not concealed.18 The role of the Board of Guardians in Jewish immigration was, at all times, equivocal. Nathan Joseph, an important figure in its affairs and the Chief Rabbi's brother-in-law, was a consistent opponent of an open-door policy. Undesirable immigrants received the brunt of his hostility. 'This class constitutes a grave danger to the [Jewish] community', he wrote. 'Its members were always paupers and useless parasites . . . Many of these were never persecuted but came with the persecuted.'19 In contrast, the Board's secretary told the 1888 Select Committee on Immigration and Emigration that the Board 'cannot ignore .. . the old English tradition which has ever granted the right of asylum to the oppressed', and it did not want this principle to be disregarded.20 The Board's policy stood condemned, however, following the president's evidence to the 1902 Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, when he described some of those whom the Board helped as 'undesirables'. By doing this, he practically yielded the argument to the restrictionists. Even the ex-president, Benjamin Cohen, MP, was not prepared to vote against the 1904 Aliens Bill because 'it sought to accomplish [although he doubted this] .. . [the keeping of] criminal and other dissolute classes out of this country'.21 There were those with more tolerant attitudes, however; they included Montagu (despite his trip to Poland), Hermann Landau, Herbert Bentwich and Leopold Greenberg. Although not particularly enthusiastic, this group favoured freedom of entry and clearly understood that some aid was necessary after the immigrant had landed. But the 85-year-old retired Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler was not so sure. In 1888 he sent an urgent message to colleagues in Eastern Europe about immigrants coming to Britain. 'It is difficult for them to support themselves ... they sometimes contravene the will of their Maker on account of their poverty 189</page><page sequence="4">Cecil Bloom and overwork and violate the Sabbath and Festivals. Some have been ensnared in the net of the missionaries.'22 He added that the Jewish community could not fully help - 'One city cannot support all the refugees of other countries' - and asked his colleagues to preach in their synagogues against 'the evil which is befalling our brethren [in England] and to warn them not to come ... for such ascent is descent'. Diplomatic channels were also invoked. Those applying to the British consul in Odessa were always warned that 'England is overcrowded with unemployed workmen and it is most undesirable that people should proceed there'.23 The Board of Deputies was not particularly concerned with the immigration issue. As the representative and senior Jewish communal body in Britain, its main role was to protect Jewish interests in Britain and, if possible, in the world at large. Those of poor immigrants from Eastern Europe were not a priority and appear not to have been a concern, at least until 1896. Between 1875 and 1896, the minute books of Board meetings make no mention of any immigration issue,24 and it is clear that the Board paid little attention to the problem and took little action to counter anti-alien and, with it, anti-Semitic propaganda. It maintained a low profile, becoming alert only when the Royal Commission was appointed in 1902. By then it was too late. When the Commission was announced, the Board had the effrontery to decide it would undertake the defence of the alien before the Royal Commission. It claimed to have arranged for fifty-one witnesses, Jews and non-Jews, to give evidence.25 Charles Emanuel, the Board's secretary, appeared before the Royal Commission and said that the Board's attention had been 'attracted' to the alien question some four years previously,26 an astonishing statement in view of all that had been going on in British political life from 1881 onwards. The Board did, however, publish a pamphlet in 1901 to show that the official immigration statistics were misleading,27 and in another argued against what it described as fallacies on which some of the Royal Commission's recom? mendations were based.28 During the debate on the Aliens Bill in 1904, the Board said it would willingly support measures to prevent undesirable aliens entering. There was no public protest, and no statements came in support of desirable aliens although the Board strongly rejected some of the restrictionists' arguments. In 1905 the Board's president, conscious of criticism of its apathy, said that the Board was 'not sleeping but is doing its best to procure the amendment of the [1905] Bill',29 and it arranged for local congregations to lobby individual MP's in order to obtain amendments to the Bill.30 On the opening page of a publication outlining its position on the Bill, the Board was at pains to place on record that '[we] have not the slightest desire to champion aliens of immoral or criminal character and feel that [we] are recording the sentiments of the whole body of Jews in the U.K. in stating that [we] would readily support any measure, however stringent, so far as it should be effectually directed against these objectionable classes.'31 The Board was clearly distancing itself from immigrants, but it did not 190</page><page sequence="5">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 occur to its leaders to criticize both Aliens Bills in strong terms. They were, admittedly, responsible for ensuring that the law would be changed in favour of political and persecuted refugees. Outright opposition was never contemplated. Only after the passage of the 1905 Bill was much attention directed towards alien and immigration issues. A key factor in the debate was that there was much confusion on immigration numbers. Propagandists on both sides quoted figures, &lt; ften grossly distorted, to support their arguments, but a variety of statistics emerged from the official immigration enquiries and even from some independent observers. These, how? ever, did not clearly distinguish between Jews and Christians, so it is not easy to estimate with any degree of accuracy the number of European Jews who settled in Britain. Gartner has concluded that, despite extensive statistical data, the ques? tion is unanswerable because of inherent shortcomings in the data.32 The first major examination of immigrant numbers came from the 1888 Select Committee on Emigration and Immigration. The Board of Trade estimated that between 400,000 and 500,000 moved one way or the other each year, and from 1871 until 1881 the balance was about 22,000 coming in, that is, a mere 2000 per annum. These were meaningless figures in terms of estimating inflow, because they failed to allow for those emigrating. The Federation of Synagogues suggested that there were about 33,000 Jews in the East End of London. One observer, using school register data, contradicted this estimate. A total of 60,000 Jews, he concluded, were living in East London, of whom 33,000 were foreign-born. A further 1000 foreign-born lived elsewhere in London.33 Another independent observer estim? ated that less than half of the aliens arriving at the Port of London were Jews.34 The Select Committee invoked the 1871 and 1881 Census returns to evaluate the origin of foreign-born residents. It concluded that the proportions of Russian and Polish-born (that is, mostly Jewish) immigrants in London and the whole country were similar, at 10 per cent in 1871 and 13-15 per cent in 1881, apart from Whitechapel where the corresponding figures were 36 per cent and 55 per cent for 1871 and 1881 respectively.35 The Russo-Jewish Committee also tried to assess the London Jewish population in 1892. A paper on the subject illustrates the problem faced by demographers of the time. Depending on the premises employed to make the estimates, figures of 61,000, 74,000 and 106,000 were produced.36 The next detailed evaluation of immigrant population, the 1894 Board of Trade Report, used census data and separated 'Russian and Russian Polish' foreigners from other foreigners living in Britain in the period 1871-91, as follows:37 Year 1871 1881 1891 Total foreigners 113979 135640 219523 Russians/Russian Poles 9974 15271 47695 191</page><page sequence="6">Cecil Bloom Jewish numbers were a relatively small part of the foreign population, although there was a marked increase in these numbers after 1881. The report also drew attention to towns with substantial foreign populations, but showed that Jews formed a relatively low proportion of total immigrant numbers everywhere (including London) except in Leeds and Manchester.38 Most of the political activ? ity directed against Jews was, however, in London, with a total foreign population far in excess of that in Leeds and Manchester. The report puts the figures of Jewish immigrants arriving at the Port of London, and not proceeding to America, at about 7000, 3000 and less than 3000 for the 3 years 1891-3 respectively.39 This constituted less than half the total number of foreigners who entered Britain to settle. Admittedly, new immigrants also went to places other than London, but the numbers were not so great as the anti-alienists then claimed. An independent assessment published in 1888 showed a similar pattern.40 Whitaker's Almanack confused the picture because it suggested that large numbers of foreigners were landing at the ports as immigrants, about 45,000 in 1890, 65,000 in 1895 and 92,000 in 1904.41 But these figures included the many foreign visitors to the country, and almost certainly foreign seamen as well. Census data from other countries were given in the 1894 Report, however, showing Britain to be under less pressure from immigration than elsewhere in Europe. There were 5.8 for? eigners in Britain per 1000 of the general population, according to the 1891 census, while comparable figures for Germany and Austria were 8.8 and 17.2 respectively (1890 census figures for both countries). For France in 1886 the even greater figure of 29.7 was recorded.37 One difficulty in arriving at reliable figures was the failure to distinguish between aliens who arrived en route for other countries and those who intended to settle in Britain. Often the figure publicized was the sum of these two categor? ies, plus the not inconsiderable numbers of seamen involved in the shipping trade. Those who were merely en route stayed in the country for a short time only, before leaving for elsewhere. Even some of those listed as 'not en route" eventually emigrated westwards. By the time the Royal Commissions sat (1902 and 1903) clearer understanding had been reached, and the numbers arriving in each year from 1892 to 1902 were then given as follows:42 Russians/Poles Romanians 8194 *lt 2440 7482 It 2219 10204 It 2226 12773 It 2522 14775 It 2651 15248 It 2524 20266 It 3930 25633 3216 Aliens not en route Other 22862 Aliens en route Seamen 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 25537 30618 33656 20324 22675 24076 21200 795i8 35512 44036 40036 32221 32177 49947 71682 9760 9821 9894 10461 10762 12299 13362 14950 192</page><page sequence="7">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 1901 20914 1162 33388 79140 15746 1902 28511 1282 36678 118478 15062 #lt=less than. These figures were included in the 'Other' column adjacent. The numbers of those en route elsewhere make up more than half of the total numbers arriving at British ports. The figures show the Jewish presence (as measured by the numbers of Russians, Poles and Romanians) to be only just over a third of the total shown as 'not en route'. The most accurate estimates of the total numbers of immigrant Jews in England and Wales must be those provided in the census returns. Definitive data for the period 1861-1901 are given below:43 Total Total foreign Total born in Total England &amp; Wales born Russia/Poland aliens 1861 20.07m 101832 5249 84090 1871 22.71m x39445 9569 100638 1881 25.97m 174372 14468 117999 1891 29.00m 233008 45674 198113 1901 32-53m 339436 82844 247758 Jewish immigration never reached the levels claimed by the restrictionists. There was, indeed, a substantial increase in Jewish immigrant numbers after 1881, but even so the proportion of Jews, defined as those of Russian and Polish origin, was still quite a small part of the total immigrant population. By 1905 there was general agreement on the total number of Jews in Britain. Using different methods, one estimate computed totals of 217,500 and 259,050,^ although there was inevitable argument on the definition of a Jew. Another estimate gave a figure of 262,000, of whom 148,000 lived in London.45 It is now generally accepted that we have reasonably reliable figures for the Jewish population in 1914, when the total number of native and alien Jews was believed to be about 300,000, of whom 186,000 lived in London.46 While the immigrant issue was generally associated with Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, public opinion in the early 1890s for the most part was less concerned with the subject than was Jewish opinion. A Board of Trade report showed that the size of the influx had been exaggerated; and that the immigrants were considered to be 'not a bad lot'. There was no evidence that they depressed wages by 'taking the bread out of the mouths of English people' and they were commended for establishing a new and substantial export trade in tailoring.47 To the Liberal Party, freedom of entry was an important aspect of the principle of Free Trade; an anti-alien law would have contradicted the party's concept of this. Fabian socialists also condemned restrictions, but members of the Conservative Party now began to ask questions about the wisdom of free access. The anti immigrant lobby continued to take note of the population statistics. 193</page><page sequence="8">Cecil Bloom Although Jewish life was generally viewed favourably, some adverse criticisms were emerging. On the one hand, Elie Halevy wrote: 'It is very doubtful whether the commercial morality of the East End Jew was more than their native rivals .... Their sexual morality ... was high. Their sobriety was admitted .... It was their insatiable appetite for work which made them formidable.'48 Beatrice Webb examined the conditions in the East End tailoring trade in Charles Booth's classic Life and Labour of the People of Britain. 'The characteristic love of profit [her italics] in the Jewish race has a twofold tendency; to raise the workers as a mass of individuals, and to depress the industry through which they rise.' In another chapter she wrote: 'As an industrial competitor, the Polish Jew is fettered by no definite standard of life; it rises and falls with his opportunities .... As a citizen of our many sided metropolis [the Jew] is unmoved by those gusts of passion which lead to drunkenness and crime .... Is it surprising ... that the chosen people with 3000 years of training should in some instances realise the promise made by Moses to their forefathers: "Thou shall drive out nations mightier than thyself and thou shall take their land as an inheritance".'49 S. H. Jeyes, an influen? tial writer, wrote in ambivalent terms: 'It has been said that "every nation has the Jew whom it deserves". We have then our native English Jews ... a better sturdier stock, a more desirable body of fellow citizens it would not be easy to find. They have their faults but they are English to the core. In patriotism they are not inferior to any of us Gentiles. But [the immigrants] from Russia and Poland have all the vices which are generated by many centuries of systematic oppression.'50 This immigrant class would never be popular in Britain 'since they succeed, if not in taking the bread out of English mouths, at least in reducing the margin of wages which might be spent on beer and gin [and] they are naturally and not quite unfairly detested'.51 Not all detractors of the Jews were Conservatives. Hilaire Belloc, the Liberal Party anti-Semite, was concerned with the 'Jewish peril',52 while another Liberal, the historian Professor Goldwin Smith, believed that as long as Jews remained as such it was beyond the power of the legislator to make them patriots.53 He raged about the Jewish rich.54 Smith's diatribes were countered by Chief Rabbi Herm? ann Adler in an article entitled 'Can Jews be Patriots?'53 in terms that were commended by Gladstone.55 W. H. Wilkins' The Alien Invasion was an important contribution to the debate. Wilkins was at all times anxious to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism - he wrote against the 'vagrant and vicious Italians, idle Hungari? ans, degraded Chinese and all the other undesirable specimens of... the motley horde'56 as much as destitute foreign Jews. He complained that young Jewesses were being forced into prostitution as they disembarked at the Port of London, and criticized the 'wealthy and powerful English Jews' who did nothing to stop Jewish immigration. Wilkins was genuinely concerned lest native working men should react radically to the immigrant, and urged (in 1892) that action should be taken promptly, rather than waiting 'until the smouldering embers of discontent burst into a blaze, the flames of which may be difficult to check.'57 Another 194</page><page sequence="9">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 Liberal, Sydney Buxton, the member for Poplar, was an outspoken opponent of alien immigration. Arnold White, who ran as a Gladstonian Liberal in 1886, was anxious that the burden of maintaining the British tradition of helping oppressed peoples should not fall on the poor British worker.58 He had been on record in support of Jewry, had claimed to be outraged at some vicious anti-Semitic remarks in the press, and went so far as to describe Polish Jews living in Britain as worthy, law-abiding citizens.59 He later wrote The Modern Jew and The English Democracy, both filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric. He believed that Jews influenced national life out of all proportion to their numbers and even to their wealth. He consoled himself with the belief that Jews disagreed among themselves on almost every subject: 'What their influence would be if they were unanimous is useless to inquire, since nothing but the reversal of the traditional policy of England is likely to induce universal agreement among a quick-witted and somewhat quarrelsome people'.60 Future anti-Semitism would come not from hatred of the Jewish masses but through the 'rich and powerful Hebrews who really are the rulers of the civilised world by having it in pawn'.61 White, to his credit, accepted the need for a home for the Jews and suggested Armenia as such a place,62 but complained of the seventy-nine Zionist societies that had emerged and which attracted immig? rants to Britain.63 He believed that all Englishmen would wish to continue to give asylum to bona fide refugees, but was especially concerned about the increased power of a larger Jewish community.64 White compared Jewish refugee immigrants unfavourably with political ones, such as Mazzini, Kossuth and Orsini, who 'brought with them money in their pockets to pay their hotel bills'.65 He com? plained that while refugees had been traditionally welcome in Britain because they had been no burden on the public purse - indeed they had been a source of material profit to the commonwealth - things had changed since 1882. He did, however, concede that the indigenous Jewish community was humane and gener? ous to its co-religionists. White's views were countered by Stephen Fox, who used statistical data to draw the conclusion that the evidence did not support the clamour against pauper immigration. Immigrants, he showed, were no burden on the local rates, but rather sources of profit to native workers, having introduced two distinct branches of trade (tailoring and boot and shoe manufacturing).40 Joseph Banister's England under the Jews is a vicious, rabidly anti-Semitic work that refers to all foreign Jews as thieves, sweaters, usurers, burglars, forgers, traitors, swindlers, blackmailers and perjurers. As if this were not enough, the male Jew was 'probably the most lecherous breed in existence'.66 One Jew who was better able to understand the immigrants was the Revd Simeon Singer, minister of the fashionable New West End Synagogue. He explained the causes which made Jews move westwards and denied that they lowered wages, confirming that they had, in fact, introduced new industries to the country.67 The influential political economist, J. A. Hobson, showed some understanding of the social politics of the subject. In his Problems of Poverty he wrote of Jewish immigrants: 'there is much to be said in their favour. They do not introduce a 195</page><page sequence="10">Cecil Bloom lower morality into the quarters where they settle, as the Chinese are said to do; nor are they quarrelsome and law-breaking like the lower-class Italians who swarm into America .... [The Jews] are steady, industrious, quiet, sober, thrifty, quick to learn and tolerably honest. They are .. . to be encouraged for they turn out the largest quality of wealth at the lowest cost of production.' The problem was that the Jew was too good a competitor. 'He is the nearest approach to the "ideal" economic man, the "fittest" person to survive in trade competition ... he is almost devoid of social morality ... he acquires a thorough mastery of all the dishonourable tricks of trade which are difficult to restrain by law; the superior calculating intellect which is a national heritage is used unsparingly to enable him to take advantage of every weakness and folly and vice of the society in which he lives.'68 The press also began to take notice. As early as 1886 the Pall Mall Gazette had written of a Judenhetz brewing in East London'.69 It featured a letter which began: 'The foreign Jews of nationality whatever [sic] are becoming a pest and a menace to the poor native born Eastender ... 15 or 20,000 Jewish refugees of the lowest type . . . have a greater responsibility for the distress which prevails than probably all other causes altogether.' The St James Gazette printed a vicious attack on Jewish immigration. Facts were falsified; immigrants were accused of immorality and of being financial liabilities to local authorities. Readers were told that 'the vast majority of these foreign Jews are nihilists and anarchists of the very worse type.'59 Such attacks were not helped by adverse comments about immigrants in the Jewish press, such as the Jewish Record, which was scathing about the 'scum of the Polish ghetto'.70 A Society for the Suppression of the Immigration of Destitute Aliens, financed by Arnold White and Lord Dunraven, was formed in 1886.71 At a key meeting, a motion asking for the exclusion of pauper aliens was passed. Montagu, Mocatta and Alfred Cohen were present; all three spoke against the proposal.72 A deputa? tion from Lord Campion's Committee on the Condition of the Working Class then went to see the Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, to ask him to stop immigration.73 They also suggested state-assisted emigration, while Arnold White, one of its members, wanted to stop 'the leaks which take in the riff-raff from other countries', and quoted the then acting Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler as saying that he could not guarantee that young Jewesses were always chaste. But Salisbury was largely unimpressed. He saw difficulties in stopping paupers arriving, but he partially yielded by appointing a Select Committee in 1888 to examine the way the United States and other countries handled the issue and to consider the need for immigration restrictions.74 The Government wished to be seen working on similar lines to the administration across the Atlantic. Lord Rothschild and Montagu both sat on this Committee. Ministers of reli? gion, employers and trade unionists, doctors and sanitary inspectors, as well as prominent members of the Jewish community, gave evidence. The Jewish Board 196</page><page sequence="11">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 of Guardians described its efforts to return immigrants to Europe or send them on to America and the British Colonies, but did not consider the state of the labour market justified prohibition of entry. The Board was the first to focus on the misleading statistics. It demonstrated that the large increase in foreigners in London was mainly due to Germans not of the Jewish faith.75 The Boot and Shoe trade-union leader, who was to distinguish himself at the 1904 and 1905 TUC meetings, was certain that 'Jew foreigners' had taken business away from native workers by making 'cheap and nasty stuff, and claimed that a quarter of the 20,000 workers in his trade were Russian and Polish Jews.76 A Board of Trade official testified that few Englishmen worked in the sweating branch of the boot and-shoe industry and predicted that the ready-made clothing trade would soon be in foreign hands unless action was taken.77 The population figures given earlier showed that the foreign population was relatively small. Concern centred on Jewish immigrants' inclination to settle in only a few towns, and generally in special areas within these towns such as Whitechapel and Stepney in London, the Leylands in Leeds and Red Bank in Manchester. Overcrowding there was a problem, as was the tendency that the Select Committee detected of destitute foreigners helping to reduce the living standards of the native poor by working for lower wages and for longer hours. The immigrants' health was regarded as being good, 'notwithstanding neglect of all sanitary laws'. They were quick to learn, they were moral, frugal, thrifty and inoffensive as citizens, but generally 'very dirty and unclean in their habits'.78 The Committee concluded, mildly enough, that immigrant numbers were exaggerated, but recommended that more accurate, frequent and detailed statistics should be collected. While the numbers were not sufficiently large to cause alarm, and there was no need at that stage for legislation, the situation might have to be re-examined in the future. The scandal of the sweatshops introduced another element into the debate and the sweating system became an important issue. In 1884 The Lancet commissioned a special report on 'The Polish Colony of Jew Tailors', concluding that very poor sanitation in their homes resulted from long hours worked by women in workshops (they could often be seen returning home from work at 1a.m.).79 The Jewish Board of Guardians took prompt action in dealing with this report,80 although the Jewish Chronicle was not satisfied. It demanded stronger action from the Board against unscrupulous masters 'not just in pure [Jewish] self-defence ... [but] out of regard for the poor themselves'.81 The British liberal class continued to have genuine concerns over sweating, and The Lancet then commissioned a series of articles on sweating in the main cities. These described in vivid detail the appalling conditions as well as the unprincipled attitudes of some of the workshop masters.82 'Legislation', cried the journal, 'is urgently required'.83 The House of Lords Select Committee on the sweating system took a somewhat cautious view of the immigrants' role, concluding: 'We think that undue stress has been laid on the injurious effect on wages caused by foreign immigration inasmuch as we find the 197</page><page sequence="12">Cecil Bloom evils complained of obtain in trades which do not appear to be influenced by foreign immigration'.84 It recognised, however, that in certain trades, Russian and Polish immigrants worked long hours for starvation wages. Officers of the Jewish Board of Guardians tried to defend the daily-hiring-of-labour system, but the Select Committee did not 'appreciate the Jewish view of hiring'.85 Understandably, the Trade Unions were concerned with the sweating trades, and a witness to the Sweating Committee, again the Boot and Shoe leader, Charles Freak, complained of the 'big Jew manufacturers' playing one trade union off against another. He objected that the 'poorest, most miserable class of men in the world should all be emptied into England to destroy English labour'.86 The TUC meeting of that same year (1888) agreed to keep the matter of pauper immigration under close review, and deplored the fact that Britain had become 'the refuge of all the rubbish of the central countries of Europe'.70 That great socialist, Keir Hardie, seconded the resolution. Agitation varied according to prevailing economic conditions. Both unemploy? ment and immigration were, at that time, low. Matters changed, however, in 1890 when 400,000 Jews were expelled from major Russian cities to the Pale of Settlement and earlier Russian government decrees began to be strictly enforced. The numbers of Jews arriving in Britain gradually rose, and anti-alien activity was stimulated by the growing concentration of Jews in a few urban areas. The worst parts of the cities which attracted immigrants did, indeed, assume the appearance of foreign enclaves. The Leeds Times in 1888, for example, called the Leylands 'more Jewish than any part of Palestine'.87 Wilkins was advocating a society for the 'protection of British workmen against the unlimited influx of destitute foreign labour.'88 The only anti-alien organization of significance, how? ever, was the one financed by White and Dunraven. Its supporters included Liberal MPs and some prominent trade unionists such as Ben Tillett.89 As more Conservative MPs began to take a greater interest in the subject, the Government was forced to announce, in 1891, that the immigration issue was being examined; but it was careful to stress the need to protect the right of political asylum.90 At a public meeting of the Association for preventing destitute aliens, Buxton pro? tested at the unrestricted influx of aliens, arguing that foreigners reduced the country's social standards by accepting lower wages. He commended the Amer? ican policy of forcing shipowners to return these unwanted people to Europe.91 Later, the association was anxious to avoid any suggestions of anti-Semitism per se and tried, unsuccessfully, to establish contact with leading Jews.92 But several members of the Jewish Board of Guardians intimated that, as private individuals, they supported the association's objectives, provided the right of asylum was maintained. The Government, while not accepting the validity of the statistics disseminated by the restrictionists,93 took the wind out of their sails by announcing that it proposed to introduce an Aliens Bill.94 By the time the anti-aliens realized that nothing was going to be done, the Boer War had begun and other matters assumed 198</page><page sequence="13">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 greater importance. Israel ZangwilPs masterpiece, Children of the Ghetto, was pub? lished in 1892. The novel described Jewish life in the East End, and its impact may have influenced attitudes in favour of immigrants. Certainly ZangwilPs brother, Louis, thought so, for he claimed that the Conservatives dropped plans for legislation under the direct influence of the book.95 Immigration control was still TUC policy, and its 1892 meeting urged that every legitimate means be used to obtain legislation.96 Many Conservatives, too, wanted legislation. Gladstone had been a strong opponent of immigration control, but his attitude softened as he became conscious of the widespread support that had been won by the anti aliens and he agreed to an enquiry to establish the facts. Immigration was an important feature of the debate on the 1893 Queen's Speech.97 A proposal for a restrictionist Bill was however denied by Gladstone. Sir Charles D?ke argued that evils caused by immigration were less than those from Free Trade, because the alien competed fairly with the native worker. Keir Hardie expressed bitterness at the way in which, as he saw it, thrifty, prudent workers who emigrated were being replaced by poor degraded Jews. One member complained that in some streets it was hard to know that 'you are in England'. The Government continued to stonewall. At the end of 1893 it announced that immigration was not increasing significantly and that although the situation would be closely monitored, action was unnecessary.98 Anti-alien pressure intensified. Joseph Chamberlain delivered an important speech in Bradford in June 1894: 'the time has come to restrict and limit immigration of paupers. I do not see why we should increase competition for the benefits of persons who are not altogether a very desirable style of resident'.99 A month later Lord Salisbury, the Conservative leader, intervened in a personal capacity, by introducing a Private Bill into the House of Lords. When in government he had consistently side-stepped legisla? tion. He was now anxious to give the Government more power to deal with aliens, by authorizing inspectors to prohibit aliens they considered to be idiots, insane, paupers or persons likely to be suffering from dangerous or infectious diseases. The Bill was also aimed to exclude foreigners suspected of being criminals or political agitators, who 'live in a perpetual conspiracy of assassination'. The immigrants now arriving 'are not the men [Garibaldi and Kossuth] to whom we offered asylum in old times', Salisbury said.100 To a pillar of the Conservative establishment these two revolutionaries had suddenly become respectable. Roseb ery, by now the Liberal leader, was not convinced by Salisbury's argument on pauper aliens, since Polish Jews entering the country in a 'state of some poverty' did not become chargeable to the rates, thanks to Jewish support.101 The Bill received a second reading despite Government opposition, although the House of Commons did not proceed with it. Rosebery, however, did not rule out future legislation if the stream of paupers grew. The subsequent 1894 Board of Trade report highlighted the way Jews concen? trated in special trades. Foreign Jewish workmen were accused of lacking feeling for the dignity of labour and of caring little for the reputation of their trades.102 199</page><page sequence="14">Cecil Bloom The Report noted that fifty-six Russian and Polish Jews were in prison in 1894, but after comparing crimes committed by natives and by immigrants, it concluded that the latter were 'on the whole a peaceful and law-abiding community'.103 The status of Jews in politics at this time is also a relevant factor. During the 1868 election campaign, the Jewish Chronicle wrote that there was no reason why a Jew should not, like any other citizen, follow his own personal political inclina? tions. He should also be able to protest against attempts to identify Jews with any one political party.104 The Jewish electorate was not large enough to be influential, but the Conservative party became more attractive as wealthier Jews recognized common economic and, increasingly, social interest with their Gentile neighbours. Even Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler was a staunch Conservative, as was the reli? gious head of the West London Reform Synagogue.105 Although restrictionism continued to be identified mainly with the Conservative Party, by the turn of the century some leading figures in the community were supporting an enquiry into immigration. The established Jewish community had its own material reasons for stemming the tide. 'As long as there is a section of Jews in England who proclaim themselves aliens by their mode of life, by their very looks, by every word they utter', declared the Jewish Chronicle in August 1891, 'so long will the whole community be an object of distrust to Englishmen however unmerited that distrust may be'.106 Anglo-Jewry, although not going as far as the restrictionists in invoking state interference, did not want to encourage the stream of Jews arriving. A look at Jewish membership of the House of Commons is instructive. In the 1880 Parliament, four of the five Jews were Liberals, but five years later three of the eight MPs were Conservatives. A year later, four of the seven Jews returned to Parliament were Conservatives while in 1895 there were seven Conservatives and only one Liberal. Two more Jewish Liberals were elected in 1900.107 The majority of the Jewish electorate was, however, Liberal, and became more so as immigra? tion loomed larger as an issue. Eventually, enthusiasm among the Jewish upper class for the Conservative Party became more restrained. Lord Rothschild and Montagu (later Lord Swaythling), one Conservative and the other Liberal, led the community politically as the alien issue was developing. Rothschild had a sincere commitment to Russian Jewry, and in the important election in Mile End in 1905 which precipitated the 1905 Aliens Act broke ranks with his party to support the Liberal candidate. Montagu was Liberal MP for Whitechapel from 1885 to 1900, and founded the Federation of Synagogues largely to help satisfy the religious needs of the newcomers. He was more sympathetic to the entry of Eastern European Jews than any other leading figure, though even he had sup? ported some anti-alien activities. These two gave leadership to a community previ? ously divided on the alien question. Even Jewish workers in East London exhibited some anti-alien antagonism, while English-born Jews genuinely found themselves in a difficult position: they were worried that the immigrant inflow might com? promise the status for which they had worked hard, and did not want the status 200</page><page sequence="15">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 of the community to be eroded. On the other hand, they were acutely conscious of the hardships of their co-religionists and were sincerely anxious to help them. F. D. Mocatta also showed the enlightened attitude of some sections of the Jewish upper class. He wrote: 'It is not for us as Englishmen to try and close the entrance into our country of our fellow creatures especially such as are oppressed. It is not for us as Jews to try and bar our gates against other Jews who are solely persecuted for professing the same religion as ourselves.'108 The anti-immigrant offensive continued. The trade-union movement regularly debated immigration, and its 1894 meeting called on the Government to prohibit the landing of destitute aliens. The 1895 meeting devoted much time to the subject. Workers in trades threatened by immigrant labour (such as the boot-and shoe operatives, the tailors and the furniture workers) were especially vociferous in their anti-alienism. Many virulent sentiments were expressed, the most obnoxious coming from Charles Freake who described the Polish Jews in his boot-and-shoe industry as a 'blighting blister'. East London was being made the 'dumping ground of the refuse of the world . . . They were the lowest class of being on earth and had no sense of honour'.109 A Jewish delegate pointed to socialism as the answer to the problem. The London Trades Council headed by two leading socialists, Will Crookes and Tom Mann, also called on the Government to exercise tighter control on entry.110 They were supported by the Jewish trade unionist Lewis Lyons, leader of the tailors' strike in 1889. At about this time, Jewish action became more organized. Jewish trade unionists meeting in Whitechapel in September 1894 objected to the TUC resolution passed earlier in the month. They argued that poverty and misery were caused by the means of production being in private hands, not through the influx of foreign workers.111 Following the 1895 TUC resolution, a pamphlet entitled^ Voice from the Alien was issued to argue the case for the Jewish immigrant worker.112 The year 1895 was a turning point; organized labour thereafter moved more in favour of the working immigrant, but the 1895 election featured a Conser? vative commitment for action against aliens. Some Jews supported Conservative Party policy, among them the leader of the West London Synagogue, who was in favour of the 'absolute prohibition of alien pauper immigration'.113 The right of asylum was still an article of faith even in those Jews supporting restriction. Benjamin Cohen, MP for Islington, and his friends were prepared to work to discourage immigration provided this point was accepted.92 The Conservatives easily won the election, but then took no action on the alien issue. Prospective legislation was referred to in the 1896 Queen's Speech,114 but none emerged due to difficulties in drafting legislation. Sir Howard Vincent, MP for Sheffield, tried twice to introduce a Bill, in 1897 and 1898,115 as did the Earl of Hardwicke in 1898.116 Hardwicke's Bill, which went through the Lords, was essentially a repeat of Salisbury's of four years earlier. Vincent, previously Director of Criminal Investigation at Scotland Yard, went out of his way to dispel any notion that his 201</page><page sequence="16">Cecil Bloom movement was anti-Semitic. 'We respect the Jews, we admire the part they have played in the [Boer] war, and the action we are taking is as much in the interests of the Jews themselves as in those of any other section of the population.'117 The Government found no place for Hardwicke's Bill when it reached the Commons. This, once again, illustrates the lack of official interest in action to deal with the subject, no matter which party was in office. Once in Government, the politicians saw no need for legislation. And again, agitation outside Parliament at this time became muted. The dominant domestic issue of the last twenty years of the century was Irish Home Rule. While the Second Boer War and imperial expansion were almost as important as the century closed, the alien issue was of far less concern. In spite of these trends, a powerful anti-alien offensive again started, and strong resentment began to build up among the working classes. A number of ugly incidents, such as breaking of house windows, are well documented by Gainer.118 Housing complaints featured prominently, and Irish labourers were particularly active in some of the unpleasant scenes which occurred. Immigration control was not an issue in the 'khaki' election of 1900, which nevertheless was a key year, since 30 per cent more Jews were recorded as having entered the country in 1899 than in any of the previous seven.119 The three-year total for 1897-9 was given as 130,000, of whom one-half were clearly Jews. The Jewish presence was now clearly apparent. At the turn of the century, 100,000 of the 110,000 Jews in London were said to be living in the East End; 60,000 were foreigners.120 But provincial numbers were also rising. Between 1880 and 1900 Manchester Jewry increased from 3000 to 25,000 and in Leeds the increase was from 3000 to 15,000.121 In 1900-1, immigration issues became more important as more arrived.122 Unemployment also started to rise in 1901, a fact vigorously exploited by Major William Evans-Gordon, MP for Stepney. Evans-Gordon, who became the anti-alien leader, was a retired Indian civil servant and had visited the Pale of Settlement and Jewish communities in Galicia and Poland. In The Alien Immigrant he wrote that 'East of Algate, one walks into a foreign town'.123 He believed problems would be lessened if aliens spread themselves evenly over the United Kingdom rather than concentrate in limited areas of a few cities, and his book developed the theme of a foreign country in parts of Britain. Evans Gordon was one of the first to broaden the immigration problem beyond London. He considered the alien question to be a national one, not something confined to the East End.124 Immigration, both of Jews and non-Jews, continued alongside another factor - a shipping-price war. Between 1902 and 1904 it was cheaper to travel to the United States from Hamburg via England than by going direct,125 so the numbers of those entering the country appeared to be on the increase. The Government was criticized for having no aliens legislation in the 1901 Parliamentary pro? gramme (Balfour refused to be pressurized126) which led Evans-Gordon to estab? lish the first quasi-Fascist organization in Britain, the British Brothers' League.127 202</page><page sequence="17">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 The actual founder of the League was a nonentity, and its Executive Committee was headed by a man who was a labourer by trade. Evans-Gordon was its brains and driving force as well as its banker. Rothschild called Evans-Gordon a 'jack? ass',128 but jackass or not, Evans-Gordon can claim much of the credit for the Aliens Act. The League aimed to exclude destitute and undesirable aliens and its meetings produced scenes not dissimilar to the Mosley ones of some thirty years later. Typically the League, which had some Jewish supporters,129 claimed that it was 'very anti-anti-semitic'.130 Conservative MPs continued to press hard, and fifty-two of them formed a Parliamentary Pauper Immigration Committee with Sir Howard Vincent as chairman.131 He suggested to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, that the first step towards control was to pass into law the first part of the latter's 1894 Bill.132 Salisbury put him off with the statement that 'the matter [was] receiving the attention of the Government'.133 Again, even at this late point, there was no Government enthusiasm to intervene. This was not the Salisbury who had tried to enact a private Bill in 1894. Those who were in favour of providing a haven for the destitute alien were not, however, without strong support. Although Montagu had left the House of Commons in 1900, other members of his family, Stuart Samuel and Herbert Samuel, took over his role, if with less authority. Non-Jews sympathetic to the immigrant cause included Sir Charles D?ke and C. P. Trevelyan of the Liberal Party, and Keir Hardie (who reversed his previous position) and John Burns of the newly-formed Labour Party. Winston Churchill, too, was a strong sympathizer. The Jewish, community was now strengthening its own defences. As unemploy? ment rose, the Board of Deputies began to analyse emigration and immigration figures. These showed that some shipping companies were falsifying the numbers of passengers carried in order to avoid the effect of an International Shipping Convention relating to passengers who were en route elsewhere. The Board showed the real figures to be only 2600 a year between 1894 and 1898, not the 30,000 increase claimed by Vincent.134 A conference of 'Delegated and Trade Unions and other Jewish Bodies' planned action against possible adverse legisla? tion.135 An Aliens Defence League was also formed.136 But Jewish communal defence became really effective only after the Aliens Bill passed into law in 1905. The British Brothers' League widened its scope, a smallpox epidemic in Nov? ember 1901 having provided an excuse to propose the formation of a Pink Ribbon League to draw public attention to the scourge of 'the vilest refuse of the world', 'loathsome wretches who come grunting and itching to these shores'.137 Although the Pink Ribbon League did not last long, a British Brothers' League meeting at the People's Palace attracted 6000 people. Conservative and a few Liberal MPs were applauded enthusiastically when such epithets as 'scum' and 'rubbish' were used to describe aliens. Some Jews were on the platform and one, H. S. Samuel MP (no relation of Montagu), in advocating restriction, said that he was doing his duty 'to my race and my constituents'.138 Henry Norman MP, who was shortly 203</page><page sequence="18">Cecil Bloom afterwards appointed to serve on the Royal Commission, was clearly years ahead of his time. He was cheered enthusiastically when he declaimed: 'Let the nations burn their own smoke. Let them disinfect their own sewage. We will not have this country made the dumping ground for the scum of Europe'.139 Evans-Gordon produced some exaggerated figures. 'Not a day passes but English families are ruthlessly turned out to make room for foreign invaders', he said. 'Rents are raised 50-100 per cent and a house which formerly contained a couple of families is made to hold 4 or 5 in conditions which baffle description.' Even responsible bodies followed Evans-Gordon in fabricating all sorts of wild statistics. The Con? servative Central Office claimed that immigration in 1890-1900 was precisely 429,298, a figure far in excess of the total numbers of foreigners listed in the 1901 Census. Evans-Gordon was apparently anxious to avoid an anti-Semitic label. He objected to immigrants 'not because they are Jews or Gentiles but purely on social or economic grounds',140 and he insisted that the established Jewish community was just as interested in restriction as any other section in the country. He claimed to be horrified at the treatment of Jews in Russia and was very critical of the Romanian Government's anti-Jewish policy. But he did not see why ghettos in London and Leeds should be made into branches of those in Warsaw and Pinsk. He maintained that Britain could help by settling Jews in the colonies.141 Chaim Weizmann was of the opinion that Jews were rather hard on Evans-Gordon. 'The determining factor [in the acceptability of the Jews to any host country] ... is the solvent power of the country. England had reached the point [in 1903] when she could or would absorb so many Jews and no more .... The reaction against this [absorption] cannot be looked upon as anti-Semitism in the ordinary or vulgar sense of that word; it is a universal social and economic concomitant of Jewish immigration, and we cannot shake it off.'142 Perhaps Weizmann was also conscious of some words Evans-Gordon had written on Zionism. He had referred to Israel ZangwilPs 'great project of territorial organization' as a solution to the Jewish problem, and he asked for support for ZangwilPs work so that 'they [the Hebrew race] may be ready for Palestine when Palestine at last is ready for them'.143 Notwithstanding all the attacks on Jewish immigrants, there were still those who were unmoved by the commotion. The words of Gerald Balfour, then MP for Central Leeds, are worth noting. Despite the high Eastern European population in Leeds, he had received in fifteen years no more than half a dozen representa? tions on alien immigration, which 'was not a burning issue in Leeds'.144 Leeds was not a source of propaganda material for the restrictionists, despite the heavy concentration of Jewish immigrants in one section of the city. Eventually the Government gave way. A Royal Commission on Alien Immigra? tion was set up on 21 March 1902 to enquire into the immigration problems, particularly in London, and to ascertain what measures other countries had adopted to control immigration.145 The Commission was asked to advise what 204</page><page sequence="19">The politics of immigration, 1881-1905 action should be taken and whether statutory powers for expulsion were required. The seven-man Commission headed by Lord James of Hereford included Lord Rothschild and four known restrictionists - Evans-Gordon, Henry Norman, MP, Alfred Lyttleton, MP, and William Vallance, Clerk to the Whitechapel Guardians. The Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Sir Kenelm Digby, was the other member. It sat for thirteen months and heard from 190 witnesses in all. Many East London residents - shopkeepers, politicians, JPs, doctors, sanitary inspectors and trade unionists - gave evidence in favour of legislation. Witnesses also came from other parts of the country. The pro-alien case was put mainly by Jews, but some Jews showed hostility to immigration. Eight Christian but no Jewish religious leaders gave evidence. The Royal Commission report is informative and gives a valuable insight into the social conditions of the time. Inevitably, there was much inconsistency between different witnesses' perceptions of aliens and their life-style, and of Jews and their character. Some saw aliens (and in most cases this meant Jewish aliens) as having great intelligence and shrewdness; they were industrious, ambitious, temperate, domesticated, thrifty and strongly encouraged their children's education. On the whole they lived moral lives. Others, however, saw Jewish immigrants as liars, cheats and perjurers, with dirty habits, socialistic in their views and detached from English national life. Overcrowding in certain districts in London was, however, seen as the greatest evil of all. The leading Jew to give evidence was Montagu, who was asked especially about the dispersion scheme which he was pioneering. This attempted to disperse Jews from the crowded ghettos of the East End to smaller towns in the provinces. In May 1902 Montagu convened a conference entitled the Jewish Congregational Union which aimed to bring together Jews from around the country to help with the problem of trying to improve the living standards of immigrants. The Union set up a Jewish Disp