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English News

London, February 4, 1848, (5608.)

The Jewish Emancipation question still continues to absorb almost the whole of public attention. Indeed since I last addressed you, “it may be said the plot has thickened.” Public meetings have been got up in numberless districts among our Christian brethren, where the strongest sympathy has been manifested on behalf of our cause. If nothing shall ensue from these manifestations, it must still be grateful to the feelings of the Jews, to find so much good will entertained towards them by those perhaps who not many years ago looked upon that nation as a degraded and an “accursed” race.

I am not quite so sure that our gentile fellow-subjects know very much more of our national character and our religious polity even now, if the truth be confessed, and therefore from some of them the good opinion is the less valuable or acceptable. There are, however, many intelligent individuals of high standing, who have given us their support because of their better acquaintance with us, I am happy to say, and it is from such as these that sympathy and assistance come the more gracefully. I am told that in the upper house we are to have the support of the Duke himself (Wellington), which will no doubt induce many followers. Seven Bishops are spoken of also as being likely to support the measure, which must have considerable influence on several peers, who, as it is supposed, make no objection to the bill on civil or political grounds, but have conscientious scruples against it on religious grounds. The debate is to be resumed in the lower house on Monday evening next (the 7th inst.), unless perhaps some pressing business shall put it off a little later. On the first reading Sir Robert Inglis declared that he was glad of the necessary lapse of time between then and the next reading, on account of the recess, because he thought it would allow of a valuable opportunity of ascertaining the feeling of the public on the question, who he expected would be sure to inundate the house with contra petitions. Strange enough to say, however, the very opposite has been the result: the petitions in favour have far outnumbered those against. A few nights ago the “Jewish Association for Removing the Disabilities, &c.,” which I once before described to you, got up a meeting at Sussex Hall, for the purpose of having a Jewish demonstration on the subject, Mr. Alderman Salomons was to have presided, <<56>>but I am told he declined, because it was intended to be made a mixed meeting, a great number of public men of the Christian profession having been invited to speak. However, the meeting did take place, and a Mr. Joseph Mitchell, president of the society, took the chair. The hall was crowded, and a number of resolutions were passed, being moved and seconded by Jews only, and the Christian visitors were invited to speak upon them. There were none of what may be termed the leading Jews among the speakers, but several very respectable middle-class men. With the exception of what fell from a Colonel Gauler, a conservative, who treated the subject on religious grounds only, it was not at all referred to in that spirit by any one else. Indeed some of the latitudinarian views which were declared by zealous friends of civil and religious liberty, would have served as well to justify the admission into Parliament of a Pagan as a Jew. Of course this kind of argument rather damages than improves the cause; for I can but think that the true Jew would rather be emancipated as a professor of Judaism than as a British subject only. Many of them, unhappily, in their anxiety for the bill, are disposed to make concessions from Judaism itself, such as by explaining away our nationality and the like. Luckily there are very few, however. One or two more pamphlets have appeared since my last, and amongst the best is that written by Mr. F. H. Goldsmid, a barrister. The subject is argued with judgment, skill, and dignity, and the religious bearing is not attempted to be set aside, but is dealt with, as far as it goes, in a very becoming spirit, and the work seems evidently accomplished by emancipation at any cost.

On Saturday last שבת יתרו, Dr. Adler delivered a sermon in which he attempted to define what was “Judaism,” and his matter was so extremely pertinent to the great question of the day, that the wardens were memorialized to have the sermon published, which is being done.

The Board of Deputies has resolved on presenting a petition from their body, purporting to be for themselves and the congregations which they represent, on behalf of the bill. All the Deputies, I am told, are not agreed as to the propriety of the course, and one or two have refused to sign without an appeal to the congregations, which is required in such a case, as I believe, by the constitution. The appeal is therefore being made.

That matter concerning the refusal of a Great Synagogue to bury the late Mr. Elkin, except with certain modifications in the customary ceremonies, has led to a correspondence in the public journals. The Morning Herald has had several letters from some anonymous writer <<57>>on the subject, who attempts to prove that the Jews are not fitted for emancipation by reason of their intolerance, as instanced by this example. The writer is evidently one from our own ranks (a Jew), and a member of Burton Street Congregation. It appears very discreditable, as the facts are much distorted, and the thing is evidently done in ill-humour and spite. Of course the Herald, which is most earnest in its opposition to our emancipation, accepts and inserts such correspondence con amore. The excitement that prevailed at the time of the Rabbi’s refusal to sanction the burial of the late Mr. Elkin, has somewhat subsided now, being lost sight of in the all-engaging topic of the day.

Hoga’s work has not continued since the first number; he was too violent against Christianity to win the honest Christian by his exposure of the doings of the “London Society,” and too much a renegade to elicit patrons or partisans amongst the Jews, so that his project has to all appearance become a failure. He certainly makes a mistake if he thinks he can reinstate himself into the confidence or even fellowship of the Synagogue merely by displaying violent opposition to the Church. The Synagogue only recognises one course for the repentant sinner, and that Mr. Hoga knows quite as well as the best of us.