The story of Jews in England begins with the Norman Conquest of 1066. Jews from Normandy, following in the footsteps of William the Conqueror, traveled to England to make their fortunes in a land that had always been, as far as they were concerned, terra borealis incognita. England was an ideal location for Jews; it was among the few places in Western Europe unaffected by the Crusading frenzy sweeping the continent, a state of affairs that lasted until the middle of the twelfth century and often involved violence against Jews. Jewish immigration began as a trickle, but their numbers perceptibly increased with the establishment of permanent communities in metropolitan areas. In medieval England, Jews influenced the English economy was far out of proportion to their small numbers. A growing Jewish population combined with their main occupation of money lending inevitably led to ethnic tensions with the Anglo-Saxon majority (see Andrew Joyce’s article on Jews in medieval England). The Jews practiced strange rites in an unknown tongue and deliberately segregated themselves from the general populace. This created an atmosphere of hostility, leading to occasional eruptions of sporadic anti-Jewish violence.
The Plantagenets, wishing to safeguard an important source of revenue, protected the Jews. The Jew was made a privileged foreigner, who answered to no one else but the king. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon peasant, the Jew had complete freedom of movement. As the king’s property, the royal sheriffs were obligated to ensure the Jew’s safety at all times and enforce collection of unpaid debts from gentile borrowers. Compared to the common people, Jews possessed great wealth and made enormous contributions to the Royal Exchequer. This mercenary relationship between English Crown and Jewry was not to last forever.
The Anglo-Saxon peasant saw the Jew as a predatory, money-grubbing foreigner. The Jew’s narrow- minded focus on the acquisition of wealth and power, regardless of cost, were always at the expense of the wider community. The church saw the Jews as a class of infidel moneylenders who actively resisted conversion to the Christian religion. The lesser barons also came to resent the Jews; they had to surrender land as collateral to Jewish financiers, otherwise they would not be able to cover their expenses while accompanying the king on his foreign military adventures. Many could not pay their loans back in full and became indebted to the Jews. Together, all three estates pressured Edward I into taking action. In 1275, the king enforced the ecclesiastical prohibition against usury; as a result, the Jews were banned from engaging in the practice on English soil. In 1286, Pope Honorius IV issued a bull to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his suffragans warning of the dangers of Jewish proselytism. In 1290, Edward, eager for a chance to display his Christian piety, ordered the expulsion of the Jews from England. They were not to return again until 1656, when they were invited back by Oliver Cromwell.
This medieval episode in English history is crucial to understanding Edmund Burke’s scathing denunciation of Richard Price’s 1789 speech on the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Jew as the quintessential moneylender, without national allegiance of any kind, was a popular stereotype that had arisen during the Middle Ages. This conception of Jewish character served as the historical template for Burke’s negative characterization of Jews as greed personified. Like most ethno-racial and sex stereotypes, it was highly accurate. According to Gavin I. Langmuir, who cannot be accused of being biased against Jews:
“Jews had not been known as moneylenders in antiquity, but starting in the twelfth century, they became stereotyped as usurers. Like the Christ-killer stereotype, the usurer stereotype, although obviously an exaggeration, had a solid basis in reality. While medieval Jews were not all moneylenders and also engaged in other kinds of conduct, from the twelfth century onward they were in fact disproportionately concentrated in lending money at interest.”1
Of significance for Burke was Price’s delivery of his pro-Jacobin speech in a Protestant Dissenter’s meeting-house, colloquially known as the Old Jewry, in a part of London historically known by the same name. This was the main road in London’s medieval ghetto, which had been home to the Jews since the time of William the Conqueror, up until their expulsion in 1290. The Great Synagogue of London was located in the Old Jewry, an indication of the ghetto’s importance in medieval Jewish ritual and commercial life.
Price argued for a pro-Jacobin interpretation of the Glorious Revolution, using the language of popular sovereignty to emphasize its revolutionary character. The conservative answer to Price was Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790. Throughout, Burke is careful to connect everything about Price’s speech to the Old Jewry, including its audience, location and form of delivery. He does this about a dozen times. The significance of the Old Jewry would have been known to any Englishman familiar with London’s history and its financial district. It was the center of English Jewry until 1290. Burke wished to discredit Price’s revolutionary principles by dismissing it as the “doctrine of the Old Jewry,” thereby stamping it with the indelible mark of Jewishness. To be associated with Jewishness was to be associated with short-sighted, selfish, usually mercenary behavior in one’s dealings with others.
In a key passage, Burke compares the events of 1688 with the French Revolution:
“Other revolutions have been conducted by persons, who, whilst they attempted or affected changes in the commonwealth, sanctified their ambition by advancing the dignity of the people whose peace they troubled. They had long views. They aimed at the rule, not at the destruction, of their country. They were men of great civil and great military talents, and if the terror, the ornament of their age.”
Here, a world-view and mode of conduct antithetical to Jewishness is enunciated. Not having a Jewish mentality meant realizing that one’s own fate was inextricably tied up with the fate of the national community. For the well-informed, rational agent of Burke’s political philosophy–to quote Enoch Powell–“the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.” Rational agency entailed practical governance, prioritizing collective psychological and material well-being by “advancing the dignity of the people.” The Williamite view of the nation excluded self-interested greed and utopian tinkering with the machinery of government. The framers of the 1689 Declaration of Right acted not for themselves, but for the future generations of Englishmen who would have to avail themselves of the law’s protection. To rule selfishly, such as by embezzling treasury funds or squandering it on foolish military adventures and unworkable utopian schemes, was to neglect the commonwealth’s affairs, bringing about its destruction for the sake of personal gain and self- aggrandizement. Burke continues:
“They were not like Jew brokers, contending with each other who could best remedy with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin brought on their country by their degenerate councils.”
For Burke, the French revolutionaries were the perfect Jews; their revolution was, in essence, the systematic Judaization of European life and culture. In using government as a vehicle for utopian political experimentation, they manifested a high time preference, the opposite of the Williamite “long view” toward the effects of government policy on national community. In this respect, they mirrored the short-sighted greed and selfishness of the Jews. They treated the subjects of their novel experiment with callousness and inhumanity, similar to the callousness and inhumanity of the typical Jew. The French revolutionaries gathered together as a “degenerate council” and conspired among themselves to destroy France through “fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper”. This was not unlike the Jews, who secretly conspired in their own “degenerate councils” to plot the financial ruin of European civilization.
The Glorious Revolution would have been inconceivable without the union of church and state. Without this unity, chaos would have ensued and the state would have become just another feeding trough for predatory Jews and other elite free-riding parasites. Jews thrive on chaos, just as they did in the years following 1066, when the dukes of Normandy were still in the business of pacifying the Anglo-Saxon populace and behaving as an alien elite for whom the Jews were quite useful. A constitutional government, reinforced by the union of church and state, would serve as an effective bulwark against predatory Jewish economic behavior. This is why, writes Burke, “[t]he Jews in Change Alley have not yet dared to hint their hopes of a mortgage on the revenues belonging to the see of Canterbury.”
Before the revolution, preservation of the French ancien regime allowed the nation to quickly recover from the Wars of Religion. The France of 1789 was different. The revolutionaries had “attacked the fountain of life itself,” in reference to the machinery of state administered by clergy and aristocracy. The backbone of the aristocracy was then broken and church lands were “sold to Jews and jobbers.” Burke wrote:
“The next generation of the nobility will resemble the artificers and clowns, and money-jobbers, usurers, and Jews, who will be always their fellows, sometimes their masters.”
Jacobin egalitarian principles, the essence of Judaization, would ensure the bastardization of aristocratic bloodlines by prioritizing “money-jobbing” and “usury” over inheritance; without an aristocracy equal to the task of government, the downfall of the national community was inevitable. Apostatizing from their French identity, the Jacobins became Jewish proselytes. As ersatz Jews, they could not outdo the Jewishness of the stereotypical Jew. The Jews would either be their equals or their “masters,” just like the great Jewish banking families of nineteenth-century Europe, the Rothschilds, the Oppenheims and others. Whenever Judaizers were allowed to dominate the economic life of the national community, civilizational decline inevitably followed. Judaization always entailed the abandonment of nation in favor of a short-sighted, self-interested greed for money and power.
The Jews are guilty of much worse than the subversion of gentile economic life. Burke wrote:
“We have Lord George Gordon fast in Newgate; and neither his being a public proselyte to Judaism, nor his having, in his zeal against catholic priests and all sorts of ecclesiastics, raised a mob … which pulled down all our prisons, have preserved to him a liberty, of which he did not render himself worthy by a virtuous use of it. We have rebuilt Newgate, and tenanted the mansion. We have prisons almost as strong as the Bastille, for those who dare to libel the queens of France. In this spiritual retreat, let the noble libeller remain. Let him there mediate on his Talmud, until he learns a conduct more becoming his birth and parts, and not so disgraceful to the ancient religion to which he has become a proselyte; or until some persons from your side of the water, to please your new Hebrew brethren, shall ransom him. He may then be enabled to purchase, with the old hoards of the synagogue, and a very small poundage on the long compound interest of the thirty pieces of silver, (Dr. Price has shown us what miracles compound interest will perform in 1790 years) the lands which are lately discovered to have been usurped by the Gallican church. Send us your Popish archbishop of Paris, and we will send you our Protestant Rabbin.”
Lord Gordon was the instigator of the eponymous anti-Catholic riots of 1780. He was imprisoned in Newgate for libel against Marie Antoinette, a year after his conversion to Judaism. In Burke’s eyes, his defamation of the French Queen, considered a threat to international tranquility by the British government, was far more disgraceful than his membership in an already disgraceful Semitic cult.
Unlike the “Protestant Rabbin,” the Jews had not threatened chivalry by openly slandering members of the monarchy or aristocracy. Burke’s lyrical celebration of the chivalric ideal in the Reflections, dismissed by his colleague Sir Philip Francis as “pure foppery,” is fixated on the person of Marie Antoinette. As a seemingly ethereal being, who “hardly seemd to touch” the ground upon which she tread, the queen is treated as an object of veneration; any who defame her reputation deserve to be harshly punished.
In Burke’s political philosophy, chivalry was “the glory of Europe.” It “inspired courage” among soldiers and gentlemen, but “mitigated ferocity,” making commoners the companions and friends of king and aristocracy, rather than mere pawns to be milked for taxes or impressed into the army whenever manpower was in short supply. Subordination to nobility produced by this code of honor was an “exalted freedom,” introducing a “noble equality” between those who work, those who fight and those who pray (deriving from Indo-European culture), without “confounding ranks.” Chivalry “ennobled whatever it touched,” distinguishing the ancien regime in Europe from Asia and the civilizations of classical antiquity.
The leveling, materialist philosophy of the Enlightenment removed “all the decent drapery of life” by reducing mankind to the lowest common denominator. The identification of regicide with “common homicide” was the logical conclusion of this ruthless striving for social and political equality. By banishing the “public affections,” or the “love, veneration, admiration, or attachment” felt by the commoners for king, queen, nobles and clergy, the laws of the land would have to be enforced through the “terrors” of judicial punishment. The oath of fealty between a lord and his subject was the most important antidote to tyranny, freeing the king from having to fear his own subjects. Of the French Jacobins, Burke wrote: “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.”
To teach Gordon “a conduct more becoming his birth and parts” Burke advises him to read the Talmud, otherwise he can wait until the French are able to bail him out of prison. With compound interest from the thirty pieces of silver used to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin, Gordon can purchase the lands “usurped by the Gallican church.” As a Jewish proselyte, Lord Gordon is as much a Christ-killer as any Jew. Richard Price, a spiritual Jew by virtue of espousing Jacobin revolutionary principles, “has shown us what miracles compound interest will perform in 1790 years.” Through quiet subversion of the national community, he reveals himself to be a Jewish proselyte who also bears responsibility for the murder of Christ.
The French revolutionaries are regicides because of their anti-monarchical sentiment. In Thoughts on French Affairs (1791), Burke speaks of King Louis XVI being “among traitors and regicides.” In this regard, the Jews are spoken of derisively as the Jacobin’s “new Hebrew brethren.” Together, French regicide and Jewish deicide form a single united brotherhood; but the French regicide is also a deicide, if only symbolically; he has murdered Christ with the materialism and deism of the French Enlightenment. In a 1791 letter to the Marquis de Bouillé, Burke wrote:
“As to France–I believe it is the only Country upon earth, thro which, for so long a way, a spectacle of suffering Royalty . . . could have passed, without any other sentiment, than that of the most barbarous and outrageous insolence … But those who have deny’d the God of humanity, and made the Apotheosis of Voltaire, are deprived of all the feelings of nature and of Grace. They cry ‘give unto us Barrabbas.’ When they suffer as the Jews, they will have more pity from good men, than they are entitled to from any they have shewn to suffering dignity and content Innocence.”
A parallel is drawn between the earthly suffering of Christ and French Royalty. Those who have replaced God with “the Apotheosis of Voltaire,” have murdered Christ, the logos made flesh. Like the Jews, who betrayed Christ and mocked his sufferings, the Jacobins greet the spectacle of suffering royalty with “barbarous and outrageous insolence.” The Jew’s callousness and inhumanity stem from his obsession with money, but for the Jacobin, his embrace of radical Enlightenment philosophy has turned his heart to stone in the face of human suffering. Instead of Christ, the French mob demand their metaphorical “Barabbas,” Voltaire and the other philosophes, who challenged the traditional hegemony of the ancien regime.
Of course, Burke did not dismiss every member of the Jewish race as “itinerant Jew-discounters” or “Jew-jobbers.” Although many were selfish and grasping, a few were upstanding men. “We have in London very respectable persons of the Jewish nation, whom we will keep,” writes Burke. He continued:
“[B]ut we have of the same tribe others of a very different description,–housebreakers, and receivers of stolen goods, and forgers of paper currency, more than we can conveniently hang. These we can spare to France, to fill the new episcopal thrones: men well versed in swearing; and who will scruple no oath which the fertile genius of any of your reformers can devise.”
Many Jews are thieves and fraudsters who should be exported to France, where they can be with their fellow Jews in spirit, the French revolutionaries. Once there, the “itinerant Jew-discounters” and “Jew-jobbers,” initially driven out of the Temple by Jesus, would be brought back in and given positions of ecclesiastical power and influence. “So long as the Jews have assignats on ecclesiastic plunder,” wrote Burke, they would use it “to exchange for the silver stolen from churches.”
Burke’s anti-Jewish polemic conceptualizes Jewish identity as a series of monetary transactions, such as bartering, brokering, buying, selling and mortgaging. This is because, historically, the stereotypical Jew was always defined in terms of his relation to money and its function in the market economy. This narrow obsession with turning a profit at every opportunity, which gave Jews the ability to exercise disproportionate control over the commercial life of medieval England and elsewhere, alienated everyone around them. By becoming indebted to Jewish moneylenders, Anglo-Saxon freemen were reduced to a condition of wretched servitude. As a result, the Jews had to be driven out from the host society or they would utterly destroy it.
For Burke, the Jews are a people set apart. Even at his most sympathetic, Jewishness is always incompatible with English identity. Not once in any of his extensive body of writing does he ever countenance the idea of an Englishman of Jewish faith. The Jews belong to the “Jewish nation” or “Jewish tribe,” whereas the Anglo-Saxon belongs to the English nation. The Jew is always a Jew because his interests are diametrically opposed to the Englishman’s; the Jew sees everything in terms of pounds and shillings, but the Englishman does not. If a Jew wishes to become an Englishman he must first shed his identity as a Jew. Becoming non-Jewish means abandoning his own nature to embrace English customs and mannerisms. This he can never do, as the following discussion makes abundantly clear.
What constituted English identity for Burke? In Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796), Burke lists the defining characteristics of European civilization:
“The nations of Europe have had the very same christian religion, agreeing in the fundamental parts, varying a little in the ceremonies and in the subordinate doctrines. The whole of the polity and oeconomy of every country in Europe has been derived from the same sources. It was drawn from the old Germanic or Gothic custumary; from the feudal institutions which must be considered as an emanation from that custumary; and the whole has been improved and digested into system and discipline by the Roman law. From hence arose the several orders, with or without a Monarch, which are called States, in every European country. …”
Burke views Western culture as a synthesis of disparate elements, Christian morality, Roman civil law and Germanic custom. These have been welded by force of historical circumstance into a unified whole. This cultural similarity meant that “no citizen of Europe could be altogether an exile in any part of it.” The dominant ethnic markers of English identity are Protestant faith, English common law, as influenced by the Code Justinian, and Anglo-Saxon custom. Clearly, Englishness had nothing in common with Jewishness, except by way of Christianity, but even that relationship was a tenuous one. Christianity is as different from Judaism, both doctrinally and culturally, as modern Hinduism is from the Vedic rituals of the invading Aryans who subdued the aborigines of the Indian subcontinent. Jews spoke a different language, namely Hebrew, followed the halakha of the Torah, and observed Semitic practices originating in the Middle East.
Cultural and civilizational differences were not the only reasons for Jewish incompatibility. In the Reflections, Burke wrote:
“You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity. …”
Since Magna Carta, rights and liberties were inherited by the English people; whether one possessed rights and liberties guaranteed by Magna Carta determined whether one belonged to the English national community. The framers of Magna Carta, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the English barons, were descended from an amalgamation of Germanic tribes; on the other hand, there is no historical record of Jewish habitation in England before 1066. The Jews who settled in London after the Conquest were considered the king’s property and were regarded by the peasants as alien interlopers.
According to Burke, the Jews were “royal serfs,” a nation set apart, not to be confused with the Anglo-Saxon villeins. Magna Carta applied only to free men and the only free men in England were of the native English; the rights and liberties promised by King John were “for us and our heirs forever.” With the abolition of villeinage in the late medieval period, the lower orders of Anglo-Saxon society were granted the same rights and liberties because of shared ethno-racial origin. How English could Jews fit in if they could not inherit English rights and liberties by virtue of descent or ties of blood? Burke’s concept of English identity is, at bottom, explicitly biological; Englishness is transmitted from generation to generation, not embraced, copied or assimilated.
Although the Jews are a dangerous minority, Burke offers no real solution to the Jewish Question. The Jewish obsession with short-term profit, their self-interested greed and secret, ongoing conspiracies to financially ruin gentile societies, are recipes for national disaster. At best, Burke says, half-mockingly, the worst Jews should be shipped to France to join their revolutionary brethren in dismantling the French nation. There is not enough English rope to hang all of them, so why bother keeping them around?
Burke was ambivalent toward Jews, despite his race realism. He defended the Jews of the Dutch-owned colony of St. Eustathius, an island in the West Indies. In 1781, it was captured by a British fleet; under the orders of Admiral George Rodney, an Englishman, the island’s Jewish inhabitants were either deported or imprisoned and their possessions looted. In Parliament, Burke, an MP, condemned Rodney’s persecution of the Jews: “If Britons are injured, Britons have armies and laws, the laws of nations … to fly to for protection and justice. But the Jews have no such power, and no such friend to depend on. Humanity then must become their protector and ally.”
The philo-Semitism of this passage is mitigated by Burke’s explicit rejection of Jews as members of the European community. Britons, like other Europeans, have the “laws of nations” to rely on, whereas the Jews cannot rely on any such laws because they are a nation scattered throughout the nations of Europe. Even though the Jews of St. Eustathius may have lived for generations in the Netherlands and assimilated Dutch language and culture, they were not Dutch, nor could they ever rely on Dutch laws for protection. For all intents and purposes, they were outside the “laws of nations”; but this did not mean that acts of violence could be committed against Jews with impunity, as some Europeans seemed to think. In Burke’s view, “humanity,” or international law, must serve as the Jew’s “protector and ally.” The Jew, for Edmund Burke, is the Eternal or Wandering Jew of legend. Although everywhere, he belongs nowhere. He is forever condemned to wander the Earth because his ethnicity and culture are fundamentally alien to mankind.
Burke was willing to extend “full civil protection” to Jews, at least in principle. In spite of this philo- Semitic gesture, he made no special effort to repeal England’s ostensibly anti-Jewish legislation, nor did he call for Jewish emancipation in the United Kingdom. Jews are bad for England, but there are always intervening humanitarian considerations preventing the most enlightened Europeans, such as Burke, from taking the necessary remedial action. This is because the roots of pathological altruism are deeply ingrained in the European psyche. If no satisfactory resolution of Europe’s age-old Jewish Question can be found, Jews will continue to be a troublesome minority for Europeans, far more troublesome than all other immigrant groups combined, including the current bumper crop of low-IQ immigrants, chiefly sub-Saharan Africans and Moslems of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin. As a result, besides Jews, there will be hundreds of imported ethno-racial groups actively promoting their own group interests at the expense of whites. Given that Europeans have not been able to satisfactorily resolve the Jewish Question and many are welcoming the new immigrants, the prospect for European survival in the face of catastrophic non-White invasion is quite grim.
1 Gavin I. Langmuir, “Continuities, Discontinuities and Contingencies of the Holocaust,” in The Fate of the European Jews, 1939-1945: Continuity or Contingency? ed. Jonathan Frankel. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pg. 16