|Vol. III, No. 3
Sivan 5605, June 1845
Progress of Liberality.
It will be remembered that about two years ago, the legislative assembly of the Prussian Rhenish provinces passed a resolution emancipating the Jews, which did not receive the royal assent. We are glad to announce, however, that the movement is not laid aside, and that the Christians themselves, in some districts, ask for an equalization of rights between themselves and the Israelites. We extract the following from the London Jewish Chronicle of April 18. The article speaks for itself.
To the High Estates in the Eighth Provincial Diet of Westphalia assembled, the Petition of the Householders of Paderborn, for the full Emancipation, Political and Civil, of the Jews.
There is no civilized state, whose constant endeavours are not directed towards attaining that position for its institutions and its laws, which may be deservedly called the immutable, the divine. But before the throne of the Most High there is no respect of persons; all men are equal before Him! Equality before the law ought to be therefore the basis of every political constitution, of every legislation. Still is this plain truth deplorably violated in our native land, though it is undoubtedly blessed with a high degree of civilization. In this our native land there exists an entire class of subjects, from whom are withheld, on considerations of religious difference, every political right, and many an important civil privilege enjoyed by every other native of the realm; by which disqualification, the members of that class are stamped with the brand of degradation, and become objects of persecution. To our grief, we must confess, that this harsh verdict of the law of the land has become for many a Christian the rule of his personal conduct towards towards the victims of oppression. The victims, on whose behalf we intercede, are the Jews!
There is a sacred Christian commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” and it is this first of all moral laws which all Christians have thought it right to transgress, from the time of the institution of their holy religion, in their dealings towards large numbers of their fellow-men. Though, according to the words of our divine Redeemer, every human being is our neighbour, Christian people have violently excluded from the pale of “Humanity” a considerable number of unfortunate brethren—have persecuted them during nearly two thousand years with all the weapons of hate, envy, and revenge. The unfortunate brethren for whom we plead, are the Jews!
Heavy were the struggles which Germany (and especially our common country, Prussia) had to sustain, ere it could release itself from the yoke of foreign rule, and achieve its present power and prosperity. Fearful were the sufferings through which it had to pass, ere it could conquer that peace with which it has now, for thirty successive years, been blessed. The ruler has returned to his liege subjects—the people have reconquered their legitimate sovereign. Our nobility may now peacefully enjoy their possessions; industry and the arts flourish, free from all restraint, in our cities; and the husbandman, from being a serf, is become a free man, who independently cultivates the ground which is his own. But a number of subjects there are, still shut out from all the blessings of our peaceful condition. They have been, we might say, deprived of what they formerly possessed; they alone, of all, have nearly a right to regret that they co-operated in rescuing Prussia from foreign thralldom. With us they fought, under the protection of God, for our king and fatherland—with us they rushed forward to stake their lives and their substance—equally with us they bear all public burdens, and cheerfully contribute towards perpetuating among us that prosperity which their fellow-countrymen have now for thirty years enjoyed.
Well may the feeling man inquire into the reason of the inexpressible oppression exercised by the whole state, and by the majority of the inhabitants towards a small number of fellow-subjects. Are they Atheists, oppressors of the human race? Are they enemies of our land, because they are Jews? Are these the reasons why the inalienable rights of men are denied them?—why they are excluded from the ranks of those whom it is a Christian duty to love?—why they are shut out from the enjoyment of privileges for which they have paid with innumerable sacrifices? No indeed! Their sole crime is, that they are the descendants of a people who planted the seed from which is derived the tree of Christianity.
The inhabitants of Paderborn feel vividly the ignominious violation of human dignity, these two millennia, in the persons of the Jewish people. To delay, by one moment, the reparation of that ancient wrong, adds to the injury. The Jews are united with us by the bonds of one common land, of one language. In their temples are offered up prayers for our common sovereign. They bear equal burdens with all of us; they share our afflictions, though deprived of advantages which we enjoy; they cultivate, in common with us, our native soil; but they reap not the fruits of their toil. The fundamental law of their faith in their Decalogue is the basis of the Christian religion, as of all modern legislations; and great, indeed, is the blindness of those who have the presumption to object, that the Jews are immersed in ignorance and immorality.
Impelled by these considerations, we dutifully submit our petition to the High Diet of our estates. We petition for an act of immutable natural justice; we appeal to the “love of our neighbour,” which is commanded by Christianity; we request, in the name of our Jewish brethren, as their sacred due for their great sacrifices to the public weal, that the high Estates be pleased, after the example of the Seventh Rhenish Diet, and in the spirit of the speech there delivered by a noble-minded ecclesiastic of the Catholic church, to lay an humble petition at the feet of His Most Gracious Majesty, for the immediate grant, to all his Majesty’s subjects of the Jewish faith, of all political, as well as civil rights, on a perfect equality with His Majesty’s Christian subjects.
The signatures of the citizens of Paderborn.
Paderborn, February, 1845.
Notwithstanding the above appeal, the Chronicle contains in addition:—
The “Sun” of Wednesday evening, April 16, reports, on the authority of the “Rhine Observer,” that the Diet of Westphalia has rejected the motion for the emancipation of the Jews. Only sixteen members voted in favour of the motion.