Anti-Jewish Writing

The Tory Parliamentary Struggle to Preserve English National Identity, 1753–1858: Parts IV and V

Part IV: The Collapse of the Anti-Jewish Party, 1847–1858

The agitation for Jewish “emancipation” would not begin again in earnest until the Whig ministry of Lord Russell. There was no law against Jews taking up seats in Parliament; rather, they were effectively barred from taking office because of a technicality. In 1847, Lionel de Rothschild, Nathan’s son, was elected to the Commons. Unable to swear the Oath of Abjuration because of the words “upon the true faith of a Christian,” he could not take his seat. A Jewish Disabilities Removal Bill was again sent through the Commons in 1848. This provoked significant opposition among High Tories because it placed Jews on an equal footing with Roman Catholics. It was passed in the Commons, but rejected in the Lords. Following the Whig failure to get the bill passed through the Lords, Rothschild vacated his seat. He was re-elected in 1850. In consequence, the Whigs introduced into the House of Commons an Oath of Abjuration Bill, which would allow Rothschild to swear a modified oath and take his seat. Although it was passed in the Commons, it was ultimately rejected by the Lords in 1851.

Lord Russell, now Foreign Secretary in Lord Aberdeen’s Conservative cabinet, passed another Jewish Disabilities Bill in 1853. This was steered through the Commons without issue, but Lord Shaftesbury had urged its rejection in the Lords, where it was voted down after a second reading. Russell tried to pass a bill modifying the Oath of Abjuration, but it also abolished the Catholic version of the oath. This provoked considerable opposition among members of the Commons and it was voted against by a majority of MPs. In 1856, during Lord Palmerston’s Whig ministry, the MP for Manchester introduced a bill proposing the abolition of the Oath of Abjuration, but this measure was rejected after a second reading in the Lords. In 1857, Palmerston and Rothschild were returned to Parliament, with a large Whig majority. Palmerston passed an oaths bill in the Commons with the aim of substituting the Oath of Abjuration for another. This time, the Catholic version of the oath was left intact. This passed the Commons, but was rejected by the High Tories. Again Baron Rothschild again vacated his seat but was subsequently re-elected to the Commons. Lord Russell introduced another oaths bill, but before the second reading could be completed, Lord Palmerston’s ministry had fallen and was replaced by Lord Derby’s Conservative ministry in 1858. The Lords read the bill, then removed the clause affecting Jews, an amendment that was promptly rejected by the Commons.

Eager to break the stalemate between Houses, a committee was established by the Commons, with Baron Rothschild, much to the disgust of the Lords, appointed as a member. The committee’s purpose was to provide reasoned objections to the Lords’ stance on Jewish civil and legal disabilities. This would be submitted to the Lords for consideration. The Lords would then appoint a committee to come up with reasons in favor of maintaining the status quo, then submit these to the Commons for examination. During the committee stage, the High Tories, after decades of intra-Parliamentary squabbling, finally cracked. Much to their abhorrence, the Tories found themselves drawing up a compromise bill out of political expediency, even though the majority were still against Jews in parliamentary office. This was then sent to the Commons.

On the third reading of the Jewish Disabilities Bill (1858), Tory MP Samuel Warren protested, describing the measure as a “wholly unprecedented course …  calculated to lower the Legislature in the estimation of the country.” Forcing the Tories to embrace a bill they opposed on Christian principles would hurt the Conservative party. If Jews were allowed in Parliament, it would lead to the national repudiation of Christianity.

“The Jew must, therefore, in the whole tone of his thoughts, and in the whole series of his principles,” said Warren, “be so at variance with the principles and tone of thought of a Christian community, that he cannot safely be trusted with the discretionary power of making laws for that Christian community.”

He objected to the elitist nature of the campaign for Jewish relief:

The admission of Jews into the Legislature is opposed to public opinion and the wishes of the people, which ought to be distinctly ascertained by means of a general election before taking a step so seriously affecting the constitution of the Legislature. … The Bill before the House is, in the above and other respects, without precedent in our legislation; opposed to the genius and spirit of the Constitution; offensive to the Jew; derogatory to the dignity of this House; provocative of disunion and collision between the two Houses; and violates equally the principles of both parties to this unhappy contest.[1]

With the passage of the Jewish Relief Act of 1858, the Tories were forced to shed an integral part of their English ethnic identity. This is doubtless why the contest between both houses was a protracted one. The bill gave each House the ability to decide which oath they would use. It did not expressly give Jews the right to sit in Parliament, but they would be able to sit in the Commons upon alteration of the oath. The Tories would see to it, in determining what oath they would use, that the seats in the Lords would be reserved for Christians, a state of affairs that continued until 1885.

One of the Benefits of the Jewish Emancipation (1849-1858). An old Jew shows his wife a sucking pig and says_ Dare mine dear, see vot I’ve pought you! tanks to de Paron Roast-child & de Pill.

Part V: The Destruction of English National Identity

In the History of the Jews in England, Jewish historian Cecil Roth wrote, with an air of triumph:

“On Monday, 26 July 1858, Baron de Rothschild at last took his seat in the House. Two hundred years after Cromwell’s death the work that he had begun reached its culmination, and an English Jew was for the first time recognized as an equal citizen of his native land.”[2]

The High Tories were the racial consciousness of the English nation, the last bulwark of the nation’s racial defenses against alien intruders. They were willing to fight tooth and nail for the preservation of England’s distinctive ethnic character. With the numbers and influence of the High Tories seriously diminished by late nineteenth century, who would stand for England?

The triumph of the Judeo-Liberal vision was possible for two reasons:

(a) The millenarian beliefs of evangelical Christians. Millenarian beliefs among English Puritans introduced a world-denying and ascetic spirit into the English culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These destructive tendencies exacerbated the Englishman’s weaknesses, especially his relative lack of ethnocentrism, his individualism, and his tendency to promiscuous altruism.

Christianity is not an intrinsically destructive force; from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, it functioned as an Anglo-Saxon ethnic identifier. On the other hand, its universalist tendencies could be exploited by hostile elites—Jews, Whigs, liberals etc.—to dissolve and replace English national identity with a raceless cosmopolitanism. For example, historians speculate that Cromwell had both economic and millenarian reasons for re-admitting the Jews in 1656, believing this would lead to mass conversion of Jewry, ushering in the Millennium. The Jew Bill of 1753 was interpreted within a similar eschatological framework of mass Jewish conversion and universal redemption. In the nineteenth century, many Christians believed it was their duty to fight for Jewish relief because it would usher in the Second Coming. The Anglican evangelical Robert Grant, who tirelessly agitated for the removal of Jewish disabilities in the Commons during the 1830s, was an advocate of pro-Jewish millenarianism.

Perhaps our solution to this paradox is found in Oswald Spengler, who wrote: “It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity—and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction.”

If the birth of Western civilization occurred in the late Middle Ages, as Spengler contended, then Faustian man inherited the Christianity of late antiquity and “made it a new religion,” one that reflected Faustian man’s affirmation of life and striving towards the infinite. Faustian man transformed an ascetic and syncretistic Middle Eastern cult into a militant faith that would alter the course of world history. The music, architecture and literature of the late medieval period, like the Scientific Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all sought to expand Faustian man’s consciousness.  Christianity, by accommodating itself to the Germanic warrior ethos, served as an ethnic marker that preserved English identity when faced with ethnic conquest and subversion by hostile invaders. In this Faustian regime, Europeans did not hesitate to drive out Jews and Saracens who threatened their survival as a race or the territorial integrity of their homeland. This warrior ethos permeated the medieval doctrines of the Christian church, i.e., the military orders, the code of chivalry, the rejection of infidels as sworn enemies of Christ, the glorification of the book of Revelation’s warrior Christ, the importance of jus ad bellum etc.

Faustian Christianity concealed a double-edged sword. The world-denying and universalistic dogmas of the old Magian religion, never completely submerged by ethnocultural Germanization, could be recovered and used to de-emphasize the religion’s significance as a Germanic ethnic marker. These dogmas, i.e. pacifism, universal love, the brotherhood of man, would be employed by hostile elites—Whigs, Jews, and liberals—to exploit European vulnerabilities. As a result, Europeans would no longer be willing to fight for what their ancestors had handed down to them. Courage, bravery, honor, glory, wealth—these were the values of Faustian Christianity, of Columbus, the conquistadors, the English settlers in America. The Magian-like Christianity that now dominates the Western World is a complete reversal of these values, the last gasp of a dying civilization.

(b) Whiggism, which evolved into modern liberalism. This political philosophy, in its earliest form, stressed the economic benefits of Jewish immigration. It assumed a Benthamite utilitarian cast as time wore on. Liberals who fought alongside the Jews to sabotage English identity argued that maximizing Jewish happiness would increase the happiness of the greatest number. Although Bentham himself was not an egalitarian, many of the Jews’ liberal champions were just as much concerned with liberty as they were with equality.

The diseases of liberalism and cosmopolitanism were already in existence by the mid-seventeenth century, albeit in an inchoate, nascent form. In the Whig-liberal narrative, the Jewish attack on English national identity was portrayed as the underdog’s struggle for legal and civil equality in an oppressive society. The liberalism of the nineteenth century allowed Jews to establish a permanent foothold within the host society, with the aid of those Englishmen who had a diminished sense of racial consciousness. The Jews and their liberal regressive allies had succeeded against their “oppressors,” but only at great cost to the survival of Western civilization, which had been infiltrated and weakened from within. The roots of modern Western degeneracy are found in the emergence of the more inclusive liberal world-views of the nineteenth century.

The Whiggish view of history—the belief in endless social progress—does not promote mutual co-operation in an ethnically heterogeneous living space, but inter-ethnic warfare. When two distinct ethnic groups with diametrically opposed interests are confined to a single geographical area, the racially healthy group will always take advantage of the racially unhealthy; if lack of good racial health is defined as widespread promiscuous altruism, i.e., Lockean individual rights, religious tolerance, universal suffrage, feminism etc., the group with the strongest ethnic identity will use these as weapons against the group being infiltrated and subverted. By exploiting its weaknesses, such as the European’s promiscuously altruistic attitude toward outgroups, the invading Jewish ethny maximizes its own survival at the expense of the host.

The attempt to do away with English ethnicity in the early modern period was led by a Judeo-Whig-Liberal elite, in collusion with Anglican evangelicals. By the late twentieth century, it would become so powerful that race-conscious whites would find their civilization being taken away from them and given to racial aliens. The attempt to encourage ethno-racial amalgamation between Jews and Englishmen was an attempt to redefine English national identity to accommodate Jewish ethnic interests. The result was inter-ethnic warfare, followed by subversion of English national identity from within. Once the Jewish influence had spread throughout the English body politic, English national identity would be further expanded to accommodate the peoples of the Third World, a development that will ultimately lead to the ethnic extinction of the English. The year 1948, the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush on English shores (see Andrew Joyce’s “The SS Empire Windrush: The Jewish Origins of Multicultural Britain”), was really the culmination of a series of events set in motion by Oliver Cromwell.

The parallel between Judeo-Whig-Liberal elite betrayal of the English public from 1753–1858 and Judeo-Liberal elite betrayal of the European public from 1948 to the present is striking. Cromwell invited Jewish foreigners to settle on English soil for economic reasons, just like the globalist elites, who invite Third-World immigrants to colonize Western countries so they can be economically exploited as a source of cheap labor. Jews were also re-admitted for millenarian reasons, with the Puritans believing that Jewish colonization of England was part of the divine plan, one that would usher in humanity’s universal redemption; in the same vein, Third World immigrants are imported by neoliberal globalists to recreate heaven on earth, similar to the New Jerusalem of the English Puritans.

There are other similarities. The Jew Bill was the result of Jewish meddling in English affairs at the highest levels of government, with the collusion of the Whig elite. Similar events occurred in the United States during the 1960s, where Jewish involvement in the demographic transformation of the country, in collusion with liberal elites, has been among the most decisive factors.[3] That Jews have always been a weapon of Western elites eager to advance their narrow economic and ideological goals is an inescapable conclusion. The difference, of course, is that national populist resistance to Judeo-Whig-Liberal elite power in 1753 was able to exploit the patriotic sentiments of the Anglo-Saxon peasantry to devastating effect, temporarily thwarting Jewish infiltration of English society.

Self-identified Jews pushing for dissolution of English national identity while maintaining their ethnic identity as Jews, would be a recurring leitmotiv in the history of Jews in Europe and the New World. This aspect of Jewish behavior would figure prominently in the twentieth century and would be a major factor in the undoing of Western civilization in the Anglosphere.

Whether the integrity of one’s racial identity can be preserved or not typically depends on the resolve of the elites, since a nation’s world-view or “ruling ideology” is ultimately a reflection of elite power. If the elites value the survival of the people they rule, they will preserve their distinct ethno-racial character; if they do not, they will undermine it by importing racial aliens. This was the case in early Victorian England; public opinion was molded by the millenarian evangelicalism and utilitarian liberalism of the Judeo-Liberal elite, placing the Lords at a strategic disadvantage because of the increased public pressure to resolve the intra-Parliamentary disputes in favor of the Jews and their allies. At some point in the late 1850s, resistance to Jewish interests became futile and High Toryism ceased to exist as a major force in English politics.

The victory of the Judeo-Liberal elite in 1858 spelled the death of English national identity. If the Jew could be an Englishman, anyone could be an Englishman. The effects of this decline have worsened considerably since Jewish “emancipation” and are now unstoppable, unless drastic measures are taken.


Alderman, Geoffrey. “Not Quite British: The Political Attitudes of Anglo-Jewry.” In The Politics of Race by Ivor Crewe (2015).

Endelman, Todd M. The Jews of Britain: 1656 to 2000. Univ. of California Press, 2002.

Endelman, Todd M. The Jews of Georgian England, 1714-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society. University of Michigan Press, 1999.

Hibbert, Christopher. Wellington: A Personal History. HarperCollins Publishers, (2010).

Latimer, B. “Samuel Richardson and the ‘Jew Bill’ of 1753: A New Political Context for Sir Charles Grandison.” The Review of English Studies, 66 (275), 2015b, 520–539.

‌Panayi, Panikos. Germans in Britain since 1500. Hambledon Press, 1996.

Perry, Thomas Whipple. Public Opinion, Propaganda, and Politics in Eighteenth Century England. Harvard University Press, 1962.

Rabin, Dana Y. “The Jew Bill of 1753: Masculinity, Virility, and the Nation.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, 2006, pp. 157–171., doi:10.1353/ecs.2005.0067.

Roth, Cecil. A History of the Jews in England. Clarendon Press, 1964.

Shapiro, J.S. Shakespeare and the Jews. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.

‌Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn and Arnold, Thomas. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D. Two Volumes. London: T. Fellowes, 1858.


[2]     1964, pg. 266

[3] Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2002; orig.: (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998).

The Tory Parliamentary Struggle to Preserve English National Identity, 1753–1858, Part III

Part III: The Jewish Campaign Against Parliamentary Anti-Judaism, 1829–1836

The movement for Jewish “emancipation” in nineteenth-century England was spearheaded by Jews and their Whig or Liberal allies, while the opposition was led by the High Tories:

The High Tory majority in the House of Lords had acted as a barrier to the advancement of Jewish ‘emancipation’ … and some of the arguments put forward against the Jews, both in and out of Parliament, reflected the traditional Tory view that Church and State were part of an inseparable entity, in the promotion of which Jews ought to play no part. (Alderman, 2015)

In practice, Anglo-Jewry had more freedoms than their compatriots in central Europe, but in late-Georgian England, the laws on the books indicated that they were less free. Cecil Roth writes:

The entire body of medieval legislation which reduced the Jew to the position of a yellow-badged pariah, without rights and without security other than by the goodwill of the sovereign, remained on the statute book, though remembered only by antiquarians. As late as 1818 it was possible to maintain in the courts Lord Coke’s doctrine that the Jews were in law perpetual enemies, ‘for between them, as with the devils, whose subjects they are, and the Christian there can be no peace.’[1]

Despite his freedoms vis-à-vis Ashkenazim of Central Europe, in the English society of the nineteenth century, politically and professionally, the Jew was still excluded from the mainstream:

Public life was, in law, entirely barred. Jews were excluded from any office under the Crown, any part in civic government, or any employment however modest in connexion with the administration of justice or even education, by the Test and Corporation Acts. … These made it obligatory on all persons seeking such appointment to take the Sacrament in accordance with the rites of the Church of England. … Naturally these disqualifications included the right to membership of Parliament, for which the statutory oaths in the statutory form were a necessary preliminary. For the same reason the universities were closed, and, as a consequence of this, various professions.[2]

The Jew says: “Come I sha—Open the door vill ye—I vants to come in—and heres a shentlemans a friend of mines—vants to come in too—dont be afeard—I dont vant a sheat for nothing—I can pay for it So help me Got.”

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Jews in Edmund Burke’s Political Philosophy

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. Read more

Crypto-Jews, German Guilt, and the Wittenberg Jew-Pig

“Here on our church in Wittenberg a sow is sculpted in stone. Young pigs and Jews lie suckling under her. Behind the sow a rabbi is bent over the sow, lifting up her right leg, holding her tail high and looking intensely under her tail and into her Talmud, as though he were reading something acute or extraordinary, which is certainly where they get their Shemhamphoras [hidden name of God in Kabbalah].
Martin Luther, 1543 

During my early years researching the Jewish Question I was particularly struck by the strident and flamboyant nature of medieval and early modern anti-Jewish folklore and related art. I recall being fascinated at the strangeness and creativity of tales like the 16th-century Jewish woman said to have given birth to twin piglets,[1] the common 15th-century belief that Jewish males menstruate,[2] and speculation that Jews buried their dead with small rocks to throw at Christ in the afterlife. As with much of Jewish history and the historiography of anti-Semitism, the subject of anti-Jewish folklore has been dominated by Jewish scholars. My first introduction to the topic was thus The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore (1991) by the Jewish UC-Berkeley folklorist Alan Dundes (1934–2005), widely regarded as the field’s pre-eminent, and perhaps only, expert. In the book, as one might well expect, Dundes strips anti-Jewish folklore of context and presents instead a collection of “evil” and “dangerous” fantasies lacking any logical or rational basis.

Aside from the work of Dundes, direct scholarly engagement with the subject of medieval anti-Jewish folklore has been relatively rare, with most Jewish scholars preferring to probe medieval artistic linkages between Jews and the Devil (see, for example, the work of Robert Bonfil, Marvin Perry, and Frederick Schweitzer) rather than some of the more outlandish or colorful “memes” that then circulated. Almost all of these scholarly accounts utilize medieval anti-Jewish folklore as a means of denigrating and indicting medieval Christianity as irrational and prejudiced, and ultimately as the fons et origo of an equally irrational and prejudiced modern anti-Semitism. An explanatory account of medieval and early modern anti-Jewish folklore informed by historical context remains to be written, despite admirable and broadminded texts like The Singular Beast: Jews, Christians, and the Pig (1997) by Claudine Fabre-Vassas. This is a project I am giving serious consideration to undertaking. As luck would have it, it’s also becoming somewhat relevant again.

Of all the artistic manifestations of anti-Jewish folklore, few are more acute, vehement, and scatological than the imagery of the Judensau, or ‘Jew-Pig.’ In brief, the image, depicted in woodcuts or in stone (often on churches) between the 13th and 15th centuries, is an allegorical reference to Jews drawing sustenance from the Talmud, with Jews shown suckling from a sow and/or examining or eating its feces. The association of Jews with pigs in medieval Christian folklore was longstanding, owing something to the known aversion of the Jews to pork, and produced an array of stories and imagery that flagrantly ignored the ancient dietary commands in Leviticus. In one legend, for example, the aversion to pork dated from the time of Christ, when a sneering Jew challenged Christ to guess the contents of a barrel that the Jew knew to contain a slaughtered pig. Unknown to the Jew, the pig had been removed and his own children were hiding in the barrel. When Jesus answered that the man’s children were in the barrel, he was mocked and told there was a pig inside. “Let them be pigs then,” replied Jesus, and the children were transformed into piglets. From that day onward, so goes the tale, Jews avoided eating pork because for them that would be cannibalism. One suspects that seriousness was never a primary concern in the development of such folk tales — they served as entertaining and memorial “memes” to impart the message that Jews were different and were to be avoided. Read more

Balzac and the Jews

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was an incredibly prolific French novelist of the first half of the nineteenth century. A pioneer of realism, he wrote 85 novels in twenty years, many comprising parts of his multifaceted examination of French society, which, invoking Dante, he dubbed La Comédie Humaine—The Human Comedy. Through carefully observing every social actor, profession, institution, and condition of French life, Balzac aimed to analyze the forces underlying the economic and social changes wrought by an emerging capitalist society—a society he believed was excessively motivated by money at the expense of traditional values.

His most famous works include Eugenie Grandet (1833), Pere Goriot (1934), Lost Illusions (1837), and Cousin Bette (1846). In developing the novels that would comprise La Comédie Humaine, Balzac hit upon the (then revolutionary) idea of using recurring characters. He wrote with great attention to detail to depict and explain their lives, and strived to present them as real people with real triumphs and frequent failures. Never fully good nor fully evil — his characters are entirely human in their desires and their behaviors. Balzac’s attention to detail and unfiltered depiction of people in society had never been seen before in literary writing. In addition to his remarkable powers of observation and prodigious memory, he had an intuitive understanding of people and their motivations which, borrowing the term from Sir Walter Scott, he called “second sight.” The French poet Baudelaire, an ardent admirer of Balzac, noted how “All his characters are endowed with the same vital flame which was burning within himself.”[1]

After working for three years as a lawyer’s apprentice, the young Balzac turned his back on the profession, finding it inhumane and tedious in its working schedule. His experiences in the law did, however, provide the basis for many plotlines in his novels which often center on legal disputes, wills and contested legacies. Turning his attention to writing, his early attempts to forge a literary career proved unsuccessful, as did later attempts to achieve success as a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician. Despite experiencing dire poverty and constant rejection, Balzac continued to write, and his breakthrough came with The Chouans (1829), a novel set in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Its success encouraged him to devote himself wholeheartedly to a literary career. From this point, his life’s purpose was to achieve glory as the historian of his time, as the “secretary” of French society. In this endeavor he developed what many would regard as insane work habits.

Balzac’s energy was unbounded and his productivity astounding. His phenomenal work ethic was necessitated by a penchant for luxurious living—a tendency that constantly plunged him into debt, and led to his being hounded by creditors for most of his adult life. To evade them, he registered under pseudonyms and frequently changed his lodgings. While Balzac eventually earned decent money from his literature, his reckless spending always ensnared him in further debts: bills exist for his order of fifty-eight pairs of gloves at one time, and for similarly extravagant purchases from his fashionable tailor and jeweler in Paris. Balzac was famous for his bejeweled walking sticks, red leather upholstered library, busts of Napoleon (whom he loved), and other things of a luxurious and superfluous nature. In a letter from 1828, his publisher and friend Latouche wrote:

You haven’t changed at all. You pick out the [expensive] rue Cassini to live in and you are never there. Your heart clings to carpets, mahogany chests, sumptuously bound books, superfluous clothes and copper engravings. You chase through the whole of Paris in search of candelabra that will never shed their light on you, and yet you haven’t even got a few sous in your pockets that would enable you to visit a sick friend. Selling yourself to a carpet-maker for two years! You deserve to be put in Charenton lunatic asylum.[2] 

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Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy: Between Containment and Profit, Part 3

Go to Part 1.
Go to Part 2.

The Political Testament of 1752 and the Jews: “The Most Dangerous of Sects”

Frederick the Great’s two political testaments are significant documents—systematic presentations of political doctrine, which rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia had composed since the days of the Great Elector (apparently inspired by Richelieu). These expound not only many of Frederick’s general doctrines but also contain his longest and most explicit comments on Jews and justifications concerning his Jewish policy. These are therefore essential documents for understanding the monarch’s thinking.

In the Political Testament of 1752, the Jews are presented essentially as an economic problem. Their numbers in Prussia had increased substantially following Frederick’s conquest of Silesia in the 1740s, which had also lengthened the country’s border with Poland, where Jews had an important economic role. Under the heading, “On Rules for Commerce and Manufactures,” Frederick writes on the need for industrial policy, local manufacturing, and tariffs. In this context, he says of the Jews:

One must watch over the Jews and prevent them from getting involved in wholesale trade, prevent their numbers from increasing, and, at fraud they do, deprive them of the right of residence, for nothing is more contrary to the merchants’ commerce than the illegal trade done by the Jews.[1]

Frederick, a deist, was essentially contemptuous of all traditional religious stories and organizations. Under the heading “On Ecclesiastics and Religions,” he advocates religious tolerance rather than fanaticism, ensuring civil peace and prosperity for “Catholics, Lutherans, Reformists, Jews, and many other Christian sects.”[2]

All that having been said, Frederick notes that the Jews are nonetheless “the most dangerous of sects” due to their economic practices:

The Jews are the most dangerous of sects, because they harm Christian trade and are useless to the State. We need this nation for some trade with Poland, but one must prevent their numbers from increasing and fix them, not at a certain number of families, but a certain number of heads, and restrict their commerce and prevent them from wholesaling, so that they only be retailers.[3]

Frederick therefore opposed Jews not on religious grounds but because he thought them prone to fraud, detrimental to other businesses, and useless to the State, except in enabling trade with underdeveloped Poland. Frederick argues for Jewish policy to be motivated strictly on utilitarian economic grounds rather than on religious or racial ones: practical measures included both economic policy (keeping Jews out of wholesaling), and a voluntarist population policy aimed at limiting Jewish numbers (headcount not family count), but also including the forcible deportation of those found guilty of fraud.

The Political Testament of 1768 and the Jews: Against Usury and Fraud

Frederick’s Political Testament of 1768 still predates the first partition of Poland, during which the Jewish population of Prussia would grow with the annexations of Polish territory. Nonetheless, this Testament too dedicates significant attention to the Jews, essentially presented as an economic problem. Jews are denounced again, this time not only for fraud but also usury. Hence, under the heading “On the Bank,” dealing with lending, Frederick praises “the Lombards established in the big towns, who lend money for manufacturing and other works at low interest, to prevent the Jews from crushing the peoples through usury.”[4]

Under the heading “Views for the Future,” Frederick expounds on the need to develop the country, its agriculture, cities, and industry. Again, Frederick notes the Jews’ usefulness for trade with Poland, but otherwise finds them harmful:

We have too many Jews in the cities. We need some on the border with Poland, because in that country there are only Hebrew merchants. If a city is not close to Poland, the Jews become harmful by their usury, by the contraband among them, and by the fraud undertaken to the detriment of the Christian bourgeois and merchants. I have not persecuted the people of this sect; but I believe it is prudent to ensure that their numbers do not increase too much.[5]

Frederick mentions the Jews a final time under the heading “On the General Police,” charged with enforcing order, safety, and good manners. He writes that the police must, among other duties, ensure that “the Jews do not crudely conduct their usury.”[6]

Frederick’s basic attitude on Jews had thus not fundamentally changed between 1752 and 1768. Claiming to not be motivated by religious prejudice, purely economic and political reason, he denounced their “crushing the peoples through usury” and their “thousand scams [friponneries] which turn to the detriment of the Christian burghers and merchants.”[7] They were again only useful in Poland and their numbers ought to be carefully limited.

Conclusion: The Contradictions of Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy

Frederick the Great’s attitudes and policies towards the Jews were free from religious or racial prejudice, animated by the Enlightenment’s spirit of toleration for religious minorities. In other words, because of Enlightenment values, he was naturally inclined in a theoretical, a priori sort of way to view Judaism as deserving tolerance, just like other religious sects. However, in practical terms, he realized the harm that Jewish business practices caused to the non-Jewish population whose interests, after all, were his main concern. And he inherited a contradictory set of policies from his predecessors which aimed at simultaneously limiting the Jewish population and the economic problems associated with it, while economically profiting from that population’s licit or illicit activities. Frederick’s own experience in government and warfare led him to essentially maintain, rationalize, and further develop these policies.

Frederick himself had a liberal reputation as an “enlightened despot.” The French philosopher Jean le Rond d’Alembert wrote him:

[The Austrian emperor] is apparently granting the Jews freedom of conscience and the status of citizens, which his ancestors the august emperors would have regarded as the greatest crime. It is you, Sire, whom humanity and philosophy must thank for all which the other sovereigns are doing and will do to favor tolerance and suppress superstition; because it is [Your Majesty] who gave them the first great example.[8]

In fact, Frederick’s policies were quite restrictive on the whole, but this statement is symptomatic of the secularizing Enlightenment’s move away from religiously-defined citizenship and toward the gradual recognition of Jews as individual citizens, free of any group loyalty or ethnic bias.

In fact, assimilation and shedding of group identities and ties did not occur at any level of the Jewish community, including the movement of Reform Judaism, and it was never intended by any significant segment of the Jewish community. Jews had warmly greeted the Enlightenment and “emancipation” but refused to accept the Enlightenment’s premise that group ties would be rejected in favor of a thoroughgoing individualism. As Israeli historian Jacob Katz noted,

The predicament of emancipated Jewry, and ultimately the cause of its tragic end, was rooted not in one or another ideology but in the fact that Jewish Emancipation had been tacitly tied to an illusory expectation—the disappearance of the Jewish community of its own volition. When this failed to happen, and the Jews, despite Emancipation and acculturation, continued to be conspicuously evident, a certain uneasiness, not to say a sense of outright scandal, was experienced by Gentiles. . . . If gaining civil rights meant an enormous improvement in Jewish prospects, at the same time it carried with it a precariously ill-defined status which was bound to elicit antagonism from the Gentile world.[9] (Katz 1983, 43)

Jewish writers on this period have rightly emphasized the self-contradictory and even self-defeating quality of Frederick’s policy of accepting Jews for economic reasons but seeking otherwise to limit their numbers and influence. As the number of wealthy Jews gradually rose, these steadily increased pressure on the government to eliminate checks against them, a self-reinforcing pattern common in Western history. The Jewish Encyclopedia writes:

During Frederick’s entire reign the Prussian Jews continually protested against harsh edicts, but without much success. In 1763, however, succession to the rights of the Schutzjuden was extended to second sons on condition that these take up manufacturing. For this privilege the Jews had to pay 70,000 thalers. For further privileges the Jews had to purchase a definite number of pieces of porcelain from the royal porcelain manufactory.[10]

The Jewish Virtual Library confirms this trend, also reinforced by the large Jewish population Prussia acquired by conquering parts of Poland:

In Berlin, Breslau, and Koenigsberg the upper strata of the Jews, who were rich and influential, took the first steps toward assimilation, acquiring the General-Privilegium, which granted them the rights of Christian merchants (such as freedom of movement and settlement). Through the First Partition of Poland (1772) Prussia’s Jewish population had almost doubled, and Frederick feared above all an influx of Jews from the newly annexed province of West Prussia.[11]

It is no wonder that Frederick’s policy proved unsustainable and was gradually dismantled by his successors. The Jewish Virtual Library notes: “Frederick’s nephew, Frederick William II (1786–97), inaugurated a period of liberalization and reform in Prussia. As crown prince, he had borrowed large sums from Berlin’s Jewish financiers.”[12] The vicious circle of Jewish emancipation, Jewish economic, political, and cultural empowerment, and anti-Semitism would of course culminate in the apocalyptic conflict between Jews and Germans in the first half of the twentieth century.

[1] Gustav Berthold Volz (ed.), Die Politischen Testamente Friedrich’s des Grossen (Berlin: Von Reimar Hobbing, 1920):

[2]Ibid. Frederick added, in a manner typical for Enlightenment politicians, that while he was contemptuous of religions one ought to be respectful in public:

It is indifferent in politics whether the sovereign has a religion or not. All religions, when examined, are based on some fabulous and more-or-less absurd System. It is impossible for a man of good sense to enter into these matters and not witness Terror; but these prejudices, these errors, this wonder are made for men, and one must know how to respect the public to not scandalize them in their religious practice, whatever their religion be.






[8]Frederick, Œuvres, 25/214.

[9] Jacob Katz, “Misreadings of anti-Semitism,” Commentary 76, no. 1 (1983):39–44, 43.

[10]“Frederick II,” JE:

[11]“Prussia,” JVL:


Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy: Between Containment and Profit, Part 2

Voltaire at the court of Frederick the Great.

Go to Part 1.

Frederick, Voltaire, and the Jews

Frederick the Great and the famous French philosopher Voltaire had one of the most celebrated relationships between prince and intellectual of the Enlightenment. Indeed, on this rests some of Frederick’s claims to being an “enlightened despot.” Voltaire himself was a vociferous critic of both the Jewish religion and Jews as a people. He wrote in his Philosophical Dictionary: “It is with regret that I speak about the Jews: this nation is, in many respects, the most detestable which has sullied the earth.” Voltaire’s letters to Frederick have numerous critical comments on Jews. For instance, reacting to Catherine II of Russia’s sending a Jew to Egypt to investigate the situation in the country, he said: “The Jews have always loved Egypt, whatever their impertinent story [Exodus] says.”[1] Voltaire appears to have been much more emphatically anti-Semitic than Frederick.

Frederick and Voltaire fell out for various reasons, one of the most important being displeasure over crooked financial dealings between Voltaire and a Jew, Abraham Hirschel. According to Voltaire’s biographer Wayne Andrews:

On November 23, 1750, [Voltaire] called upon Abraham Hirschel, a Jew known for his talent in making money in forbidden transactions, and requested him to buy up for his account in Dresden a certain amount of Saxon bonds. These were then selling at thirty-five per cent below par, but according to a Prussian-Saxon treaty, could be redeemed at par by Prussians. This was such an easy invitation to attack the Saxon treasury that Frederick, on the eighth of May 1748 agreed that the bonds could no longer be imported. Despite this, Voltaire went ahead. Offering a bill of exchange on Paris for forty-thousand francs and a draft on a Berlin Jew for four thousand shillings, he made Hirschel his agent. As agent, Hirschel turned over certain diamonds as security. But then Voltaire saw fit to cancel the bill of exchange that Hirschel cashed, and a nasty quarrel followed with Hirschel demanding the return of his diamonds. Voltaire lost his temper, snatched a ring off Hirschel’s finger, and the affair had to be settled in court. [. . .]

Frederick was not pleased, and the dignity with which he behaved on this occasion was, for once, kingly. He would not allow Voltaire in his presence until the case was settled. He knew that Voltaire was lying when he claimed he had sent Hirschel to Dresden to buy furs and diamonds and was irritated by his language.[2]

Frederick laconically described the affair: “[concerning] Voltaire’s trial with the Jew: it’s a matter of a scoundrel who tried to hoodwink a crook.”[3] This scandal concerning a Jewish financial speculator and a greedy Frenchman contributed to the brevity of Voltaire’s stay in Berlin. Read more