Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, Volume I
by Sir Moses Montefiore
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse

"The rye seed which the Israelites ought to have received in the month of August, was not given to them before the month of October; the consequence was, that the crops of the first year did not prosper, and they were obliged to take provision from the Government for the next year also. The seed for the summer crops which ought to have been given them in the month of March, they did not receive before the month of May; thus they were obliged to put the seed into the ground very late in the season, and heavy rains which followed again caused the crops to fail. The habitations assigned for their occupation being of very bad materials, and badly constructed, most of them soon fell to the ground.

"Then followed an epidemic disease among the cattle, and the Israelites suffered a considerable loss. In consequence of this misfortune the Government benevolently ordered passports to be granted in order that they might repair to other places for the purpose of gaining their daily bread; but instead of paying for a passport valid for a year, according to the law of the country, they had sometimes to pay most exorbitantly.

"In addition to this and other similar hardships, I may mention the fact of the Poll Tax being demanded from the old settlers who are not liable to it.

"In the year 1844, when an Imperial Ukase appeared again inviting the Hebrews to agriculture, with a grant of support out of the Korabka, His Majesty's Hebrew subjects, desirous to avail themselves of this Ukase, not only forwarded their humble petitions on the subject to the Governors of their respective towns and villages, but even made voluntary offers to defray the necessary expenses from their own means. Your Excellency has full evidence of this fact in the numerous applications addressed to your illustrious person, and I feel convinced that your Excellency will be surprised to hear that difficulties are thrown in the way on occasions like the following.

"Some Crown land situate in the vicinity of Wilna and Kowno was offered to the public by auction, and Israelites were prohibited from being amongst the applicants, although many of them distinctly declared their willingness to cultivate the land in question personally. All this, I trust, will be sufficient to satisfy your Excellency that the Israelites are not averse to agricultural pursuits, and that there is no foundation for the charge brought against them in this respect.

"Having thus, I trust, convinced your Excellency that there is no just ground for the accusation that my brethren are disinclined to work laboriously and cultivate the land, I now humbly request your Excellency to consider with your wonted justice the two other charges brought against them, viz.:—

"That they impose upon the peasant and deal in contraband goods, these vices being traceable to a disposition to idleness. I trust, however, I have succeeded in proving that idleness is unjustly charged against them, and in further refutation of these two imputations against the Israelites generally, I may also be justified in observing that a man, however inclined he may be to accumulate riches, will not readily give up an occupation which insures him bread in comfort, and respectability for a business that is attended with little profit and great risk of life. I have already stated to your Excellency that only the fourth part of the Hebrew population in each town or village is engaged in commercial pursuits, and supposing even for a moment, that all the merchants in any one town might be liable to transgress the law of excise and customs (which case, I think, almost impossible, as the Hebrew law distinctly forbids such transgressions), surely so wise and benevolent a Government will not cause the removal of the entire Hebrew population from the Austrian and Prussian frontiers, because a few among them may have acted in opposition to the law? For these delinquents I do not intercede, His Majesty's wise and paternal Government will treat them like similar offenders in the Imperial cities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, where I believe it will appear from the records preserved by His Majesty's Minister of Finance, there exists a great number of them notwithstanding the entire absence of Israelites. I implore only the extension of its merciful protection to the rest of the Hebrew inhabitants.

"The presence of the Israelites in the various villages throughout the Empire is said to be pernicious to the peasants. From the information I received, your Excellency will perceive that this cannot be the case. My informants assured me that since the Israelites were obliged to leave the Guberniums of White Russia and Little Prussia, the peasants have found themselves in a most deplorable state, and are very often in such an unfortunate condition that they are even without the seeds necessary for the future crops, which never happened whilst the Israelites were amongst them.

"There is also another striking proof which your Excellency, I am confident, will agree with me to be in their favour. If the Israelites had indeed imposed upon the peasants and impoverished them, the former, as they were obliged to quit the villages and join their brethren in the towns, would undoubtedly have carried some property with them, but their utter destitution was apparent from almost all of them becoming immediately a heavy burthen on the congregation, and many of them actually perished from want before they could reach the town fixed upon for their future abode.

"Your Excellency will also be pleased to reflect that the proprietors of the various establishments let on rent to the Israelites being themselves good and charitable Christians, and naturally most benevolently inclined towards their brethren in faith, would not have suffered their Hebrew tenants to impose upon them, and had the Israelites in reality been guilty of the crime, the proprietors would of themselves have driven them away.

"The circumstances, explanations of which I have now had the honour of submitting to your Excellency, have, however, in consequence perhaps of similar endeavours not having been made previously to the present moment, produced an unfavourable impression on the mind of His Majesty's Government; so much so, that His Majesty the Emperor, in his august solicitude for the welfare of the Hebrew population resident in his dominions, appointed a special committee to investigate the causes of the unsatisfactory state in which the population remains to this day, and to deliberate on the means fittest to be applied as remedies. The result of these enquiries was that the Israelites were represented to the Committee in very erroneous and unfavourable colours. Those who were characterised as rebellious and disobedient were therefore subjected to coercive measures as idlers who prove a burthen to the society of which they are members, and in order to be able to institute a just discrimination between such Israelites as have sought to make themselves useful, and such as do not yet carry on a trade or some other legal occupation, His Majesty's Government calls upon the latter to enrol themselves in one of the four following classes: 1st, one of the three guilds of merchants; 2nd, the burgess of a town by the purchase of a piece of land or a house; 3rd, a corporation of artizans, after having given the proof of ability required by the law; or 4th, the grand body of agriculturists, whether on their own property or under a proprietor. And such Israelites as shall not have placed themselves by the appointed time (the 1st January 1850) in one of the four classes are to be subject to such restrictive measures as the Government shall think it right to employ.

"Believing that in consequence of such classification more than four-fifths of the Hebrew population will necessarily have to be enlisted amongst those who, according to the above declaration, will be regarded as a burthen on society at large, I feel it a duty humbly and earnestly to make a few observations to your Excellency, and beg at the same time that your Excellency will be pleased to give credit to my assurance that in this instance I am regarding the Israelites not with the sympathy natural to a brother in faith, but with the impartiality of a perfect stranger; the sentiments which I now shall have the honour to express to your Excellency being those only of a friend to humanity.

"There cannot exist a doubt that the above imperial decree will be a most beneficial incentive to a large number of the Hebrew communities to enrol themselves in some one of the four classes in question; and his most gracious Majesty will now have the high gratification of knowing that in future those amongst his Hebrew subjects can, under no pretence whatever, be accused of idleness, the nature of their occupation being registered in the archives of the respective Guberniums they inhabit. I, however, humbly venture to suggest the addition of two other classes to the four already specified, as a proceeding in accordance with the enlightened views of His Majesty's Government. I allude, first, to labourers of every description, domestic servants, clerks, commercial agents, brokers and employees, water-carriers, porters, waggoners and carmen, provision dealers, cutters of wood for fuel, and persons engaged in similar occupations. The nature of their pursuits does not qualify them to be enrolled in any of the four classes, yet they are a body of people who, as your Excellency will admit, deserve to be looked upon with an eye of mercy for two reasons. First, because they are continually exerting themselves by their incessant labours to maintain themselves and their families in an honest and respectable way; and, secondly, because the existence of such individuals is most essential to the promotion of the welfare and comfort of His Majesty's Hebrew subjects belonging to any of the four classes. For if the latter were obliged to devote their time and attention to all the work originally intended to be executed by their inferiors, what would become of their business? Would it then not appear quite natural that in the course of time their situation would become precarious to such a degree that they would have to give up their avocations altogether. Another class of people which I am particularly anxious to introduce to the consideration of His Majesty's Government is that which comprises the spiritual leaders of the congregations, assessors of the Hebrew ecclesiastical courts, scribes qualified to write the sacred scrolls of the Pentateuch, and other religious documents, persons qualified to slay animals for food in conformity with the Jewish law, readers of prayers in the Synagogue, readers of the Pentateuch to the congregation, operators of circumcision, students who devote themselves to the study of Hebrew theology, and teachers of religion. The body of people just mentioned, your Excellency will give me leave to say, I regard as the very soul of the congregation, for it is religion alone that makes a man true and faithful to his fellow creatures, and sincere and loyal to the Government under which he lives.

"His Imperial Majesty being sensible of this sacred truth, in his great mercy and paternal love to all his subjects without reference to their religious creeds, granted permission to his Hebrew subjects, the soldiers at St Petersburg, to have Synagogues of their own, and I assure your Excellency that I cherish with feelings of the deepest gratitude to His Majesty, the memory of those days when, by his gracious permisssion, I was enabled to join my brethren in prayer. This event alone is a sufficient assurance to me that His Majesty's Government will in its wisdom add all those individuals to the classes of those who are considered as subjects useful to society. There are also individuals, though they cannot be brought under any of these various classes, to whom the Government will, I dare hope, extend its mercy. I mean persons advanced in age, or in an infirm state of health, and others who have no choice but to cultivate the soil, but have not the means to purchase land and agricultural implements. In short, these observations are merely to show that an immense number of people still exist who may be in every respect useful, honest, industrious, learned, and distinguished in various branches without finding a place in any of the four classes. A wise and humane Government then will surely not suffer them to be regarded as a burthen to the congregations, and cause them to be subjected to coercive measures.

"I have now shown (I trust clearly) to your Excellency that the reasons advanced for not extending to the Israelites the mercy of their most illustrious and benevolent Monarch are unfounded incorrect representations, a circumstance which, of course, I am far from attributing to the most honourable and distinguished Committee appointed for the purpose, but to parties for unaccountable reasons inimically inclined towards the Israelites. I have further proved to your Excellency that the Israelites in general are not of an idle disposition; that, moreover, most of them are anxious to cultivate the land, and even pray for such occupation; that the majority of the Israelites dwelling near the Austrian and Prussian frontiers are so circumstanced that an accusation of transgressing the laws of excise and customs cannot in justice be preferred against them. I have also represented to your Excellency that the numerous restrictions under which the Israelites of all classes suffer are a cause that their commerce can have no chance whatever of prospering, but that, on the contrary, they must from day to day sink into deeper distress; and, further, that the last measure adopted for the amelioration of their condition would tend to a contrary effect, unless the number of classes be increased. It is an unquestionable fact that the great body of the Israelites in His Majesty's empire are in a state of extreme misery. I do not venture to discuss again the causes of these evils, but only speak of the reality and depth of their existence. His Majesty himself has seen them, the Special Commission has verified the fact, and I myself having had His Majesty's most gracious permission to visit my brethren, have been a sorrowful witness of it. This, then, being so, I am convinced His Majesty and his Government will bear with me while, with heartfelt gratitude for the goodness which His Majesty has already extended to the House of Israel in his solicitude to be made acquainted with their real condition, I venture to submit to your Excellency my own very humble but earnest belief of the principles of policy which, if brought into action, would surely remedy most extensively the evils already described, and bring the work of investigation which His Majesty and his Government have begun to a most happy, glorious, and honourable consummation.

"I venture to hold my own views on this subject with confidence and decision, only because I know most intimately the feelings of my brethren. I have observed them closely in different parts of the world; have watched over them through a long life with very anxious attention; and could now, if it would benefit them, lay down that life for what I know to be their true character.

"Their natural disposition as a body, your Excellency, is not what it may have appeared to be. Expelled long ago with fearful slaughter from their ancient country, and dispersed in every land under heaven, the oppression of ages may have given them, in the eyes of His Majesty's Government, the semblance of a character which is not their own. That which they may appear to have may be artificial and superficial, forced upon them by long existing, most extraordinary, and peculiar circumstances. For these evils His Majesty the Emperor holds the full and most efficacious remedy in his own most gracious heart and most powerful hands, under the blessing of Almighty God, which would surely rest upon him in the prosecution of such an unspeakably benign object.

"Will His Majesty deign to hear my most humble and most earnest petition, and graciously put this remedy into application?

"I beseech indulgent consideration while, confiding in the nobleness of His Majesty's mind, and in the high wisdom of His Majesty's Ministers, I proceed to describe it.

"It consists primarily in nothing more than the full and real accordance to Israelites of the boon which His Majesty's Ministers have informed me has been already designed for them by the Imperial Government—videlicit, "Equal rights with all other subjects of the empire." This great favour bestowed by His Majesty publicly, immediately, and without reserve would, I am deeply persuaded, produce the most beneficial results. It would cancel at once the heavy despondency produced by the degradation of ages; it would call forth the ardent gratitude which I assure your Excellency abounds in the hearts of my brethren, and it would present to His Majesty's other subjects, and to the world at large, a most distinguished proof of His Majesty's paternal mercy, wisdom, condescension, and high magnanimity.

"I would not argue that this favour, if it had been granted without limit at other times, and under other circumstances, would have been productive of the same advantages. I would only humbly urge that now at this moment, when the minds of my brethren and of other men have been so powerfully drawn to observe His Majesty's attention to their condition, such a measure must be followed by most happy consequences.

"Entering with the deepest respect into the details of this subject, I would most earnestly solicit and supplicate—

"1st. That my brethren should enjoy without reserve the fullest and completest right of settling at their own choice in any part of the Russian territory comprised within seventeen governments or provinces, a surface occupying 17,000 square miles, and that to this end His Majesty the Emperor would be most graciously pleased to cancel all laws and customs which prevent them from settling in any towns and villages of the Guberniums of Livonia and Courland, in the cities of Kiew (formerly a most considerable Hebrew congregation), Nicolaiew, and Swatopol, and in the villages situated in the Guberniums of Whitebsk, Mogilew, Tschornigow, and Poltawa, and that His Majesty would further graciously and mercifully deign to cancel entirely the Ukases which order the removal of all Israelites for fifty wersts from the frontiers and sea shores, leaving to summary individual punishment any evil disposed persons who might participate in offences against the revenue, and by His Majesty's great kindness exciting the good and loyal to combine amongst themselves to put down all such nefarious practices, as I faithfully believe that moved by His Majesty's high policy and favour they would do.

"2nd. That they should be allowed to live in every town or village situated within the already mentioned space of 17,000 square miles without being confined to any particular street or restricted locality, and to establish manufactories. It should be borne in mind that the Hebrew population has greatly increased since the period (December 9, 1804) when they were first confined to the above-named space. From my own observation I can affirm that in many places the Hebrew people live crowded together to such a degree, that four or five families have no more room to occupy than that which would barely suffice for one family in any other Gubernium inhabited by His Majesty's subjects of another creed.

"3rd. The suspension of the Ukase respecting the removal from the inns in the villages, and permission to the Hebrew inhabitants of the Gubernium of Courland to keep farms, inns, and baiting stables agreeably to an Imperial Ukase of the 13th April 1835-64.

"4th. The admission of the Hebrew mechanics, artizans, and tradesmen inhabiting Courland into the Christian corporations of their respective trades, or to substitute the privilege of forming their own corporations so that the Israelite might have the advantage of being allowed to keep his journeymen, apprentices, or other assistants to his trade belonging to his own creed or to any other, and thus avert inevitable distress.

"5th. Permission to Hebrew merchants throughout Russia belonging to any one of the three guilds to travel into the interior of Russia for commercial purposes, and to visit Moscow and St Petersburg with the same freedom as the merchants of other creeds, and the extension of this permission to their agents, and also to mechanics of every description, and to carmen, waggoners, and labourers for the more successful prosecution of their business; of course upon the condition of their being provided with the customary passports. Respecting those individuals who do not belong to any of the four classes, my humble petition to His Majesty's Government would be to permit them to go into the neighbouring Guberniums for the purpose of their making purchases of the produce of the land and necessary provisions. Such privileges to Hebrew merchants and others, instead of being a disadvantage to commercial persons of other creeds, would, I think, operate to their great benefit, for competition and activity are the mainsprings of prosperous commerce, and these elements would become increased universally amongst the trading classes by this act of favour.

"6th. Permission to re-establish the congregational unions called Kahals, which serve them as their natural point of centralization; and to leave all congregational offices in the hands of Israelites, so that their finances, their charitable institutions, and their minor duties may be under their own administration. This boon would, I am sure, be particularly satisfactory to my brethren, and would especially call forth at the same time their confidence and affection towards His Majesty's person and his Government, and that proper feeling of self-respect without which they cannot be expected to rise from their present condition of despondent degradation.

"7th. Permission to Israelites to avail themselves of the assistance of Christians in the various occupations of life—a measure which would tend strongly to soften down those feelings of difference which now exist between these two classes of His Majesty's subjects, and to obliterate that line of demarcation which His Majesty and his Government justly regard with so much regret.

"8th. Permission to the Israelites to live as agriculturists in the vicinity of their Christian neighbours.

"9th. The right of keeping brewhouses.

"10th. Promotion from the ranks of Hebrew soldiers or sailors who distinguish themselves in the Imperial army or navy.

"11th. And, in fine, the removal from the Israelites of all such taxes and restrictions as at present they are made to bear in a greater number and to a greater extent than other classes of His Majesty's subjects, and in particular that of the Sabbath Light, which presses so heavily on the poor.

"Such are the general details of the request that I most respectfully solicit your Excellency to lay before His Majesty the Emperor. I most humbly and earnestly pray, that in the great opportunity which Divine Providence has opened to His Majesty, he will raise the fallen, relieve the oppressed, cheer the desolate, and by a high and magnanimous measure of policy set an example which the whole world, and especially my brethren, will never cease to remember with gratitude and admiration.

"Your Excellency will observe that what I here entreat in the name of my brethren, as well as in that of every friend of humanity, amounts in fact to nothing more than that which your Excellency's most enlightened and benevolent Sovereign has already accorded to His Hebrew subjects, by the declaration contained in the document with which your Excellency obligingly furnished me.

"Under existing circumstances, deprived as they are of the means adverted to in that declaration, of turning their activity to useful objects, and of establishing their prosperity upon a safe basis, poverty, distress, and the annihilation of all hope must be the fate of His Imperial Majesty's most faithful and loyal Hebrew subjects, and indeed they appear already reduced to the lowest depth of distress.

"I therefore most humbly approach His Majesty's philanthropic Government with my fervent prayer, that it will be pleased to carry out without delay the good and humane intentions of His Most Gracious Majesty the Emperor, manifested in his decrees.

"With respect to the real disposition of my brethren, I feel it right to mention that from communications which I held with the Russian authorities during my permitted visit to the Israelites in His Majesty's dominions, I have reason to think that my co-religionists have been generally exempt from the commission of capital crimes, and that even in regard to ordinary morality and the greater proportion of minor offences, their conduct is of a very exemplary kind. I sincerely hope that this statement will accord with the reports in the possession of His Majesty's Government. I feel confident that His Majesty's Government will reflect upon another pleasing fact of which I was also informed, that the Israelites have never been connected with the formation of any plot or scheme against those in authority, but on the contrary have endeavoured on all occasions to serve their country with earnest zeal, and with most unanimous sacrifices of life and property. As an instance, I shall only mention their exertions in favour of the Empire which they have the happiness to inhabit, during the presence of the French in Russia, in the year 1812, and more particularly in the revolt of the year 1830. On the latter occasion the Israelites were highly gratified by a proclamation, which their magnanimous Monarch caused to be issued in his name, by the Adjutant General Prince Nikolai Andrewitz Dolgarukow, in which His Majesty condescended to express his great satisfaction with my brethren, and, moreover, renewed his assurance to them that they should find in Russia, under the glorious sceptre of their exalted Monarch, a fatherland and security of their property and privileges.

"I am happy to repeat my statement to your Excellency that the same loyal sentiments towards His Majesty's Government, which they have invariably cherished, still animate their hearts, and that they embrace with avidity every opportunity to accede to the wishes of the Government.

"The following fact will, I trust, bear me out in my assertion. On His Majesty's desiring that the Israelites should change their costume, for which, as having been peculiar to themselves and their ancestors, they had a natural predilection, they have shown their obedience to this desire, though this was not done without considerable pecuniary sacrifice and ruinous loss to many whose warehouses were well provided with furs and silks.

"I beg to assure your Excellency they are ready to cultivate the land; they are prepared to undertake any work however laborious; they wish to establish manufactories of every description; they are desirous to cultivate their minds to the best of their power by the study of modern science and literature. Be assured that poverty, restriction, and disproportioned taxation have alone heretofore prevented them from effecting these objects. But it is in the power of His Majesty's Government to raise and revive them all, by simply decreeing the removal of existing impediments to their full enjoyment of all the privileges which their most humane and paternal Emperor has granted them.

"I beg to assure your Excellency that I well know how to appreciate the great confidence which His Majesty's Government has placed in me, in granting the privilege of personally witnessing the state of my brethren in Russia. The influence which I flatter myself that I have with them, I have exercised for the purpose of strengthening them in their continual efforts to meet the wishes of His Majesty's Government.

"With your Excellency's kind permission I shall have the honour from time to time to address your Excellency on the important matter which forms the subject of my present communication, and to which His Majesty's enlightened Government has devoted itself with so much zeal and humanity.

"I shall ever gratefully remember the kindness and attention which your Excellency was always pleased to evince towards me during my stay in the Imperial city, and your Excellency will give me leave to say that my visit to Russia will ever be remembered with heartfelt gratitude for the greatest condescension and humanity of the most illustrious and magnanimous Emperor Nicholas, from whose royal lips I heard that I should have the satisfaction of taking with me his assurances and the assurances of his Ministers that he was desirous to improve the condition of my co-religionists.

"In most fervent prayers I unite with two millions of His Majesty's faithful Hebrew subjects, supplicating the most High to grant long life and everlasting glory to their beneficent Sovereign, who we further pray may behold the fruition of his desire to ensure the happiness of every class in his dominions, and thus reap the sincerest gratitude of every humane and philanthropic heart.

"It may be proper to observe that, mindful of the condescension and confidence reposed in me by His Imperial Majesty, I consider this report, together with the two reports by which it is accompanied, a private and confidential communication.

"In conclusion, I entreat your Excellency's indulgence to pardon the length at which I have ventured to intrude on your Excellency's attention, and with feelings of the most profound respect, I have the honour to be your Excellency's most faithful and devoted humble servant,

(Signed) "Moses Montefiore."




The report to Count Ouvaroff, Minister of Public Instruction at St Petersburg, was as follows:—

"To His Excellency, le Comte Ouvaroff, Ministre de l'Instruction publique de sa Majeste l'Empereur de Russie, &c., &c., &c.

"May it please your Excellency,—The zealous and untiring energy which your Excellency evinces in continual efforts to promote education, and to diffuse amongst all classes of His Imperial Majesty's subjects that important blessing, Knowledge, will, I feel assured, induce you to pardon me if I venture to lay before your Excellency such observations on the present condition of my brethren in Russia, with respect to their educational establishments, as by your Excellency's favour I have been enabled to make.

"Previously to my doing so, I beg leave to present my warmest acknowledgments for the very kind and condescending manner in which your Excellency was pleased to convey to me the sentiments of His Imperial Majesty's Government. I shall ever remember with gratitude the assurances your Excellency gave me, that the Russian Government was anxious to promote only such education as is based upon pure religion; that it did not entertain sentiments inimical to the Jewish faith; that on the contrary the Government was anxious to institute with respect to the Israelites such measures as would tend to prove to them the paternal kindness of His Majesty; and that for this reason the Government had called together a Committee of Chief Rabbis, eminent for their piety, in order to gain the perfect confidence of all their brethren.

"These assurances enabled me with pleasure to undertake the task, the result of which I now have the honour to submit to your Excellency, feeling convinced that your Excellency's noble and enlightened sentiments will induce you to give a due consideration to a subject of such infinite importance.

"It must be to your Excellency a source of the highest gratification to hear that His Imperial Majesty's Hebrew subjects are far from depreciating the advantages which the human mind in general derives from education. Wherever and whenever I had an opportunity of addressing them on that subject, they assured me that they were ever ready most zealously to assist in the promotion of their mental and social improvement, and they joyfully hailed every opportunity presented to them of enriching their minds by pure and wholesome knowledge. 'An Israelite,' they said, 'cannot underrate the value of knowledge. Every page in our history proves the reverse. Our ancestors, from the earliest period of that history, have been remarkable for their zeal to uphold science and literature as the greatest and holiest acquisitions. We refer the enquirer to the works of Bartholocci, Wolf, De Rossi, Rodriguez de Castro, by which it will be at once ascertained that Israelites have always kept pace in useful learning with their neighbours, and that all circumstances considered, they possess in most instances fully as much general knowledge as falls to the share of their non-Israelite fellow-subjects in a corresponding grade of society.' And in corroboration of this statement, I beg to inform your Excellency that many of the Israelites in His Imperial Majesty's dominions have distinguished themselves by their writings in Hebrew theology and literature, and that their works are very highly appreciated by the learned in Germany. 'To improve the mind and promote every kind of useful and sound information which tends to elevate a man before God and his fellow-creatures, they deem to be an important injunction of the sacred law.' I therefore had no difficulty whatever in persuading them of the good intentions which His Majesty's Government entertained with respect to the organisation of schools for their benefit. They overwhelmed me with quotations from the sacred writings, tending to show that with the Israelite it is an imperative duty to give the best effect to such benevolence.

"Their notions of religion in general, and of the sacred books which treat thereon, are not less correct, and I had opportunities of hearing them frequently elucidate many Scriptural texts, in a manner which proved to me that they were possessed with the true spirit of their religion, and that they derive from the perusal of the Oral Law such beneficial instruction as must tend to make them faithful to their God, loyal to the Government of the country in which they live, and good men to all their fellow creatures.

"Their arguments on this subject, and the excellent quotations which they advanced in support of them, appeared to me to be of so much importance that I cannot forbear submitting them to your Excellency's kind consideration, bearing particularly in mind that the adherents to the Oral Law, as the sacred and only authorized commentary to the holy Scripture, have been represented to your Excellency in a light certainly not calculated to throw much lustre on Israel at large.

"The Talmud distinctly forbids us appropriating unlawfully from our neighbour, whether he be Israelite or non-Israelite, any object whatever, even of the smallest value. ('Khoshen Mishpat, Halakhot Genebah,' ch. ccclxxviii., secs. 1, 2.) Every kind of deception is interdicted without respect to the person subject thereto being Israelite or non-Israelite. (Maimonides, 'Halakhot Deot,' ch. ii., sec. 6.) By the same authority we are bound to act with equal fairness in the sale of any article, be the purchaser Israelite or the follower of any other faith. ('Khoshen Mishpat,' ch. ccxxviii.; Maimonides, 'Halakhot Makhiva,' ch. xviii., sec. 1.) That every temptation to do wrong may be avoided, an Israelite is enjoined not to keep under his roof any bad coin, unless he deface it so that it cannot be used as current coin in dealing with any person, whatever be his religious faith. ('Peroosh Hamishnayot teharambam Tract Kelim,' ch. xii., Mishna 7.) The prohibition of such practices is understood in the sacred text in Deuteronomy, ch. xxv., v. 16: 'For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.'

"Principles like these must surely tend to create good feeling between all Israelites and their neighbours of every faith.

"Sincere attachment and perfect obedience, the strictest loyalty we are enjoined to evince towards the Government of the country in which we live, and this is a truth, my brethren rightly aver, prominently taught in our sacred writings. Therefore, in the first place, we look upon the monarch, though of another faith and nation, as the anointed of the Lord (Isaiah ch. xlv., v. 1), and consider his Government as a resplendence of the heavenly Government ('Tract Berakhot,' p. 58). We are enjoined to fear the Eternal Being and the King, and not to confederate with those who are given to change (Proverbs xxiv., v. 21). The prophets, in speaking of a non-Israelite ruler, say: 'Serve the King of Babylon, and ye shall live;' and they also command us to 'seek the peace of the city whither the Almighty has caused us to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it' (Jer. xxix., v. 7). The reverence we are enjoined to testify towards our earthly sovereign is further shown in our glorifying the Almighty Power for conferring a similitude of His boundless Majesty upon a mortal. We are enjoined not to swear against the King even in thought (Kohelit ch. x., v. 20), and to regard the decrees of the Monarch as inviolable ('Tract Baba Kama,' p. 112). We are distinctly ordered not to act in opposition to the King's laws relating to the customs and excise, even though the Israelite be the most heavily taxed ('Baba Kama,' 112; 'Pesakhim,' cxii. p. 2; Maimonides, 'Halakhot Melakhim,' ch. iv., sec. 1; 'Khoshen Mishpat,' ch. ccclxix., sec. 6); and from the same authority it is incumbent on us to show the same veneration to those who are representatives of the monarch as to himself ('Tract Shebuot,' xlvii. p. 2).

"The high esteem in which the Israelite holds every human being who is distinguished by moral and mental qualities, is clearly stated in Maimonides, 'Halakhot Shemita Weyobel,' ch. xiii., sec. 13, and of this the most striking confirmation is found in the words of our Talmud ('Baba Kama,' xxxviii. p. 1), where we are told that a Gentile who applies himself to the study of the sacred law is to be held in equal esteem with the High Priest, which is likewise declared in the book 'Tana debe Eliyahoo,' in the beginning of the ninth chapter.

"I had another most gratifying instance of the sound and clear perceptions which they have of the pure doctrines of our religion and the traditional commentary to the sacred Scripture, in the sublime elucidation which they gave to that most important point in our creed which refers to the Messiah.

"'We are praying for a time,' said they, 'when the ideas of mankind at large are to be noble and sublime; for a time when, as the prophet describes, Gentiles will come to the light of Zion and kings to the brightness of her rising (Isaiah lx., v. 3); when nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth His glory (Psalms ch. cii., v. 10; Daniel ch. vii., v. 27).

"Our sentiments are more distinctly stated by the immortal Maimonides in the following words ('Halakhot Melakhim,' ch. xii, secs. 4, 5): 'The wise men and the prophets did not desire the advent of the Messiah, that they might attain the power of any terrestrial government, that they should be elevated in worldly rank by the nations, or enjoy every terrestrial comfort. No! this was not the object of their fervent prayer; their object was, in that glorious period, to be enabled to devote themselves wholly and in perfect freedom to the study of the holy law and its sacred literature, through which they might, at the end of their worldly career, attain the bliss of immortality. That period is expected to be full of peace; no war, no disturbance, no hatred; no jealousy between men will then exist; happiness will be the lot of every creature, and the whole world will only be anxious to acquire the knowledge of the law. Then will Israel be enlightened by the Word of God, for the world is to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, even as the waters cover the sea.'

"A most remarkable feature in the purity of that particular article of our creed is, that whilst the prayer for the Messiah regards the welfare of the whole human race, it also strongly inculcates a sentiment that no kind of coercive measures ought to be used by any person for the purpose of hastening the advent of that blissful period. Our Talmud declares that the Omnipotent enjoined the Israelites not to press events to bring on that promised season of peace, nor ever to oppose the nations ('Tract Ketubot," 1. cx. p. 1).

"Having made these preliminary remarks, I shall now proceed to describe to your Excellency the state of the schools which I visited in the course of my journey through Russia and Poland.

"Being anxious to convince myself of the real condition of my brethren, I often took them by surprise, and I am happy to say, although they had not teachers of profane sciences, still most of the pupils in some schools knew how to write and to read in the Russian, Hebrew, and German languages. In Wilna I found the schools organised agreeably to the command of His Imperial Majesty's Government; they were well provided with competent masters, and the pupils answered most satisfactorily questions in the various branches of tuition—in Latin, Russian, and German grammars, geography, arithmetic, and history.

"In Hebrew, however, they could only obtain instruction during three hours each week. The pupils who frequent the gymnasium also attended whilst I was there the schools thus organised, and I had an opportunity of ascertaining that a considerable number of them were well versed in various branches of science and secular education. The girls' schools are in a most flourishing state, and your Excellency will be pleased to hear that the pupils excel in the knowledge of the Russian, Polish, French, Hebrew, and German languages, in addition to their knowledge of geography, Russian history, and arithmetic. With respect to the Talmud Tora schools (your Excellency having expressed so zealous a desire to advance the study of the Hebrew language and its literature), I feel much pleasure in assuring your Excellency that I examined a great number of pupils, and their knowledge of Hebrew was surprising. Sometimes they were addressed in that language, and they translated it into German, or vice versa; on various occasions they continued to recite any sacred text in the Bible after the first word of the chapter or verse was given to them. At Warsaw also I found the schools organised upon the principles laid down by His Imperial Majesty's Government in a flourishing state. The pupils are well versed in the Russian, Polish, French, Hebrew, and German languages, independently of their knowledge of geography, history, arithmetic, and composition. I was equally satisfied in inspecting the girls' school. Like those at Wilna, these schools may be regarded as models, for they are upon an equality with similar establishments in my own country. The school of industry I also found to be a most excellent establishment, which, in the course of time, will confer great benefits upon the rising generation. With respect to the Talmud Tora schools, in which a knowledge of Hebrew language and its literature is exclusively taught, I beg leave to assert that there is not any school in the most distinguished Hebrew congregation in Europe that deserves to rank higher than those established in Warsaw and Wilna. Of the various Hebrew schools which I visited in the smaller towns on my route, I was frequently surprised in a most agreeable manner. At those where I expected it the least the pupils were well acquainted with the Hebrew language and its literature, and on many occasions wrote in my presence various sentences in the Russian, Hebrew, and German languages.

"I particularly inquired the reason why the Talmud Tora schools had no professors appointed for the Russian language and other branches of secular science and literature, this deficiency having struck me the more after having heard such powerful arguments in favour of studying these, showing that a knowledge of worldly science and literature, when combined with that of Hebrew and the observance of pure religion, was well adapted to improve an Israelite. The answer to my inquiry was, that they had not the means to procure such professors; that to have a master of that description would have given them the highest pleasure, but that having themselves to contend with innumerable difficulties in obtaining the ordinary and most urgent necessaries of life, they deemed it their first duty morally and religiously to procure, with the limited means they had, such instruction for their children as is essential for the enjoyment of their religion, leaving other kinds of learning for more favourable opportunities. Of their real feeling on this head the following incident is an example. I offered the means of procuring masters for the Russian language, geography, history, writing, and arithmetic in several schools, and my offer was most eagerly accepted, and the following day masters were engaged.

"With respect to the inclination of the Israelites to frequent public schools, I found that a considerable number of the Jewish youth do attend these institutions, and many more would do so were it not that a most difficult question arises to their parents, who say, 'We thoroughly appreciate the great advantages derivable from additional acquirements, but what is to become of our children after their minds shall have been so instructed in the higher branches of knowledge and their sensibilities thereby necessarily refined? or how are we to provide them with proper habiliments and books required for the purpose if we can hardly afford to satisfy them with bread?' Very many Israelites are also much afraid that the mode of instruction at some public schools, and at some established for the Israelites exclusively, may induce their children to abjure the Jewish faith, which of course is dear to Israelites, and which they are ready to defend with their lives. For there are schools where persons, who are apostates from the Hebrew religion, are allowed to instruct the pupils, a course of tuition which must give rise to the most painful anxiety in the minds of those by whom that religion is still cherished.

"I beg leave now to state, with the most profound respect for your Excellency's judgment on this important subject, that I have given it most serious consideration, and knowing from ample evidence that my brethren in the Russian empire are most anxious to advance their mental and social improvement, I humbly submit to your Excellency that they are in a fit condition for receiving the benefits which their most benevolent and merciful monarch intended to bestow upon them.

"My humble petition to your Excellency is, that by your humane and kind intercession supplications may be brought effectually before His Imperial Majesty's Government.

"Those supplications I will thus set forth. In the first place, that they may be permitted to have the management themselves of their Hebrew theological schools. This is essential to their dearest sympathies and interests, as no other persons could promote the study of Hebrew literature more effectually. In all regions where civilisation has made any marked progress, wherever its blessings are really experienced, Hebrew literature is regarded as its most precious feature, and all nations ardently cultivate its study and render homage to its worth. May it therefore please the Imperial Government to allow the Israelites themselves, the people by whose agency this boon has been given to mankind, to have the direction of those establishments in which they are to be trained in the true knowledge of their own inalienable inheritance. For the acquirement of knowledge in secular science and literature they should also have the appointment of their own teachers, such whose competency may be approved of by His Majesty's Minister of Public Instruction, or should be allowed to avail themselves of the public educational establishments, subject, of course, to such periodical examinations as may be deemed necessary to test the progress of the pupil.

"Secondly, they consider it a just regulation that, in those schools which His Majesty's Government has originated solely for their benefit, no convert from Judaism be appointed a teacher. Particular allusion is here made to the Rabbinical school at Warsaw, where a person who was tutor, whilst belonging to that faith, continues to hold that situation even after having abjured it and embraced another. No permanent satisfaction can result from such an anomaly, which will surely deter sincere Israelites from sending their children to institutions placed in similar circumstances, as they will naturally suppose that His Imperial Majesty's Government encourages conversion, but which I am assured, by a statement from your Excellency, it does not desire. Such appointments of instructors should be made as would remove all misconception on this vitally important subject.

"Thirdly, I submit to your Excellency that it is just that the Ukase issued on the 24th November 1836, declaring that all such Hebrew books as are pronounced by the Chief Rabbi not to contain inimicable sentiments to the government of the country, be permitted to remain with the Israelites, do continue in full force, because unfortunately during the last eleven months, the Hebrew libraries of private individuals have been in the hands of the police, and many books which they were authorized to keep by the Chief Rabbi, having thereon his seal and signature, were taken away from them, and even those books on which the Committee of Censors would find nothing wrong, are still kept back by the Committee. May it therefore please your Excellency to order that the books be returned to the owners.

"Finally, I have to petition your Excellency to take seriously into consideration all that I have here advanced on my suffering brethren's behalf. Your Excellency, I am aware, entertains the most philanthropic views, and when your Excellency reflects on the earnest desire of my brethren in His Imperial Majesty's dominions to benefit by education in the most comprehensive and useful sense of the word, and the restrictions which as Israelites impede a beneficial progress therein, I am sure that your Excellency's enlightened judgment will accord them your powerful advocacy with His Imperial Majesty's Government.

"Your Excellency may indeed believe that I assert as my solemn conviction, that when they shall fully enjoy those privileges and opportunities which their paternal and beneficent Sovereign has designed for them, the result will be surprising to those who have underrated their talents and inclinations, and most gratifying to all who like your Excellency have evinced a sincere desire to promote their welfare, equally with that of the other numerous people over whom His Imperial Majesty reigns.—I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration and the most profound respect, your Excellency's most faithful servant.

(Signed) "Moses Montefiore."




The last of the three important reports made by Sir Moses Montefiore to the Ministers of the Emperor of Russia was to Count Kisseleff, and ran as follows:—

"To his Excellency Le Comte de Kisseleff, Ministre du domaine de l'Empire de sa Majeste l'Empereur de Russie, &c., &c., &c.

"May it please your Excellency,—My first and principal report had reference, as your Excellency will have seen, to the condition and wants of my brethren in Russia. In obedience, however, to the permission which His Majesty the Emperor most graciously gave me, and to your Excellency's most benevolent desire, it is incumbent on me to make some remarks (which for the sake of clearness I prefer submitting in a distinct paper) in regard to those who are inhabitants of the kingdom of Poland. In so doing, I would humbly beseech His Majesty the Emperor, your Excellency, and His Majesty's Government at large, so far as it may be made acquainted with the subject, to receive such remarks, and any requests that may stand connected with them, with great and indulgent consideration.

"Humble as is my position in life, when compared with the most exalted stations of the high persons to whom I venture to address myself, I nevertheless have laid upon me by the high benevolence itself which I have experienced, a heavy responsibility to Almighty God, to His Majesty the Emperor and his Government, to my brethren, and I believe to the whole civilized world.

"I most sincerely believe that the human race at large would experience solid and lasting benefit, if His Majesty would deign to carry out fully and completely his gracious expressions of desire for the welfare of his Hebrew subjects. With these views I would most humbly and earnestly supplicate that the great and sublime course of proceeding already commenced by His Majesty, which I have ventured to solicit for the Israelites in Russia, should be extended as fully to those of my brethren who are resident in Poland. I supplicate the powerful Russian Government to prove to the whole civilized world that the amelioration of the condition of the Hebrew race, for which it is so graciously desirous, can be produced with completeness and effect, by measures that would appeal to the gratitude and love of a loyal and warm-hearted people.

"Permit me in the first place to direct your Excellency's attention to two paragraphs, the fifth and seventh of the Organization Statute of Poland promulgated in the year 1832, and which are immediately connected with the subject in question.

"Therein His Majesty the Emperor and King of Poland declares that 'the difference from the Christian modes of worship cannot be regarded as a cause of exclusion to any person whatever from the rights and privileges granted to all other inhabitants professing the Christian religion.

"'The protection of the law equally extends to all the inhabitants of the kingdom without any distinction of rank or social condition.'

"With the profoundest respect I will now proceed to lay before your Excellency the following brief enumeration of serious restrictions under which my brethren in Poland are weighed down.

"1st. Concerning their confined habitations.

"(a) There are towns in Poland in which Israelites are never allowed to reside.

"(b) In these towns or marts where they have permission to live it extends only to a few streets.

"(c) From every habitation situated near the high roads they are entirely excluded.

"(d) They are prohibited from settling within three geographical miles of the frontier, which, in a country of the dimensions of Poland, excludes them from a considerable tract of territory.

"2nd. Regarding mechanics (trade).

"(a) An Israelite following any trade or mechanical operation is not allowed to keep apprentices, neither can he declare such as journeymen. This naturally involves the Hebrew mechanic in innumerable difficulties, for he is entirely dependent upon his own personal exertions, and can never avail himself of the assistance of his fellow-mechanics.

"(b) He is prohibited from working with a Christian master, and in consequence of his not being acknowledged as a master among the corporations, he is always considered as a person who injures the trade.

"3rd. With respect to agriculture, crown lands, or ecclesiastical property.

"The Israelite is prohibited from taking on lease, nor is he ever allowed to be the proprietor of any lands, however small in extent; for even the property of private individuals he can only rent by paying heavy taxes for the patent, and then even is not allowed to employ Christian assistants.

"4th. Additional taxes.

"(a) An Israelite has to pay a tax of three kopecs, besides the usual tax, upon each pound of beef or veal lawfully prepared for his use; fifteen kopecs silver for a turkey, five kopecs silver for a fowl, eight kopecs silver for a duck, and nine kopecs silver for a goose.

"(b) A Hebrew labourer living in the vicinity of Warsaw cannot enjoy the advantage of bringing his goods or the produce of his land into the capital, there being a law that every Israelite from the provinces who comes to town should pay, daily, ten silver kopecs for permission to stay, and seven and a-half silver kopecs for the duty on the stamp.

"(c) An Israelite dealing in spirituous liquors lies exclusively under taxes for such a privilege. Thus an individual having a brewhouse and brandy distillery has to pay 25 dollars to the City Exchequer, 66-2/3 dollars to the finances of the State, 66-2/3 for the distillery, 66-2/3 for the brewery, amounting to 291-2/3 dollars annually; and although he pays for such a privilege dearly, he cannot bequeath it to his child, for only those are allowed to enjoy it who obtained permission in the year 1809.

"5th. Other restrictions.

"(a) An Israelite is not allowed to appear as a witness in a case of lawsuit against a Christian, for his evidence is not considered valid. The great injury he must sustain from such a law or practice is incalculable.

"(b) As soldiers, although they may distinguish themselves in the army or navy, they are not permitted to rise in rank. The mode of enrolling recruits is also most painful; for, notwithstanding a distinct decree having been issued by His Majesty's Government in the year 1843, that recruits should be given up to the authorities by the community, without the interference of any officer, still great wrongs are committed by some of the petty officers, which cause the ruin of numerous families.

"(c) They have not the advantage, like other subjects of His Majesty, of renting the local revenues derived from the sale of spirits. Not, however, that I would consider this restriction a hardship, excepting so far as it is a distinctive mark upon the Israelites in Poland.

"(d) They are excluded from the great advantages derivable from the acquirement of science and literature, by being prohibited from following the professions of chemists, architects, lawyers, and several other similar avocations.

"Like their brethren in Russia, the Israelites of Poland are accused of great aversion to every kind of manual labour, preferring to gain a livelihood by devotion to petty commerce. It is alleged also, that they are disinclined to agriculture, avoid every mechanical pursuit, and defraud the Government of the excise and customs; that they distinguish themselves from the rest of the inhabitants by their particular costume; and finally, that the precepts of their religion, to which they most scrupulously adhere, are of antisocial tendency.

"I entreat your Excellency's kind consideration of the few observations which I deem it essential to offer, in reference to the foregoing imputations. The statistical accounts of Poland shew that, in proportion to the number of Hebrew inhabitants, there are more mechanics amongst them than amongst any other class of His Majesty's Polish subjects; they devote themselves to the most laborious occupations, and it may be easily ascertained that there is not only a great number of Hebrew brickmakers, blacksmiths, paviors, and carpenters, but there may be found two thousand Israelites who break stones on the chaussees. As a most striking instance, I shall name to your Excellency a small town of the name of Kalnary, where there exist no less than 486 families following mechanical pursuits, amongst a Hebrew population of 1500 families, as I believe may be proved by the official accounts of the police.

"Your Excellency, I am confident, will be of opinion that it may be justly inferred, if, under the restrictions against which the Hebrew mechanic has daily to contend, he still perseveres in his pursuits with honesty, and remains spotless in his character, this class of persons would be greatly augmented if all those obstacles were to be removed which now press so heavily on industrial exertion.

"With respect to agriculture, permit me to mention that in the year 1823, when the decree was issued, under his late Majesty, the Emperor Alexander of blessed memory, that the Polish Jews should cultivate the land, though they were denied the privilege of becoming proprietors, and though they had to contend with various other restrictions connected with agriculture, under the hand of an Israelite, to which I have already alluded in the preceding pages, nevertheless a considerable number of them offered themselves to cultivate the land, but, unfortunately, could not succeed in their applications. The local authorities always replied to the petitioners that the land in question was not qualified for them as Israelites, that they should look out for some other piece of ground which the Government could dispose of to them. In consequence of these answers, the applicants petitioned for a list of all the land which might be accessible to Israelites, yet I regret to say that twenty-three years have since passed without any reply having been given to this humble request. Thus circumstanced, they petitioned to the effect that the wealthier classes amongst them might be permitted to purchase land from private individuals, either to cultivate the same in person, or to let it out in small portions to the poor, yet under the condition that the space of land should not extend to more than would be sufficient for five or ten farmers to cultivate. Moreover, the proposed purchasers declared their willingness to relinquish any right and privilege any other (non-Israelite) proprietor of land might be entitled to. They went still further, for in their anxious desire to secure the honest object of their petition, they offered the forfeiture of the land in case any of the parties connected with its agriculture were to be found withdrawing from personally cultivating it, or were to be proved guilty of calling in Christian peasants, however few, for the assistance of the new agriculturists.

"I have no doubt that, equally with their Russian brethren, the Israelites of Poland are most desirous to adopt agricultural pursuits.

"It has been charged against the Israelites of Poland, that they do not render any personal service to the country in which they live. This charge might not have been without foundation eighteen or twenty years ago, when they paid an annual tribute of many hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of being exempted from personal military service, but not so at present, for many thousand Israelites have evinced their devotion to the cause of their native land, by sacrificing their lives on numerous occasions, and their services in the army and in the navy have already been appreciated by their exalted Monarch himself.

"With respect to the peculiar costume which most of the Israelites have been accustomed to wear for many centuries, from what I had an opportunity of seeing I can assure your Excellency that most of them have already adopted the European habit, and I have not the least doubt that, in the course of time, the ancient dress will have entirely disappeared. It is erroneous to suppose that the ancient costume is enjoined by, or has any foundation in religion. Such is not the fact. It originated from a decree of the Government in existence three hundred years ago, when the Israelites were commanded under a most severe punishment to assume this garb to distinguish them as members of the Jewish faith. The truth of this statement may be ascertained by referring to 'Vol. Leg. Polon. Sub. Anno 1538,' Vol. I., p. 254.

"Having now, as I trust to the satisfaction of your Excellency, refuted all the arguments which have hitherto been held of sufficient moment to deprive many hundred thousands of Israelites of the rights and privileges which, as faithful subjects, they, in accordance with His Imperial Majesty's humane intention, ought to enjoy, I most humbly implore His Majesty's Government in its great wisdom to remove from His Majesty's Hebrew subjects all restrictions which may prove obstacles to their honest pursuits in life, and in particular those restrictions which I have previously alluded to, and which I have endeavoured to classify.

"Possibly your Excellency, though animated with the noblest feelings of humanity, may, in the fulfilment of the duty your high position imposes, deem it necessary to call my attention to the existence of certain restrictions which, on account of the pecuniary advantages the State derives from them, cannot easily be removed; such, for instance, as the meat tax, which annually amounts, to 300,000 silver roubles. But in answer to this, permit me to observe that in conformity to His Majesty's most gracious decree issued in the year 1817, the Israelites were, on entering the army or navy, to be free from paying the exemption money, and in addition to this were to enjoy the same privileges in every respect as all the other inhabitants of the country.

"The Israelites are now acting to the very letter of the Imperial Ukase, for they serve personally in the army and navy, and are acknowledged to be good, brave, and faithful. I submit, therefore, that they are now entitled to the same privileges as are granted to all other inhabitants, and as a matter of course, to be free from the payment of exemption money. Considerations of economy will not, I feel persuaded, be permitted to overrule the just and humane intentions of His Imperial Majesty.

"I entreat your Excellency distinctly to understand that I have not written with this comparative brevity on the subject of the Israelites in Poland, because I think their position less deserving the attention of the Imperial Government than that of the Russian brethren. On the contrary, in Poland affliction and degradation are the more severe; and what stronger fact can be offered in support of the urgency of the claim of the Israelites of the last named country on the justice and humanity of His Imperial Majesty than this, that these persons constitute one fourth of the whole population.

"I have written less fully concerning my Polish brethren, only because I am most unwilling to trespass more than my absolute duty requires upon the gracious consideration which I supplicate; and I would further observe, that my report as to my brethren in Russia has been drawn up with the intention that those who are resident in Poland should be included in its general arguments.

"It would be to me a source of the deepest regret, if from any observations made in this or the preceding letter the impressions were produced on the mind of His Majesty that I had responded to his most gracious conduct towards me by a tone of unsuitable complaint in regard to the state of my brethren. Such a course, I earnestly assure your Excellency, I have been most desirous to avoid. I have given the most anxious care to the investigation of the facts to which I have adverted, and I have made no representation of the truth of which I have not received very strong evidence.

"I have endeavoured to elucidate the causes which tend to produce the evils to which I have directed the attention of your Excellency, and if I have commented on them with frankness, I trust it will be conceded that this was my duty, and that in so doing I have best fulfilled the wishes of His Imperial Majesty, who, by experience, I know to be as condescending as he is powerful.

"I therefore call upon the unbounded justice of His Majesty's Government; I pray, in the name of suffering humanity, to that most exalted and mighty Monarch, whose noble heart is filled with love and deep affection towards his faithful subjects, to consider the case of my brethren, and show mercy to the many hundred thousands of them who daily send up to the Eternal Ruler of myriads of worlds their most devout and fervent prayers to prolong the glorious life of His Majesty, their Emperor and King. I feel myself in sacred duty bound to impress upon your Excellency's noble mind that the benign words I had the honour of hearing from your illustrious person, to promote the welfare of Israel, was one of the principal causes which emboldened me to lay the case of my brethren so close at your heart. I therefore entreat your Excellency's powerful influence with His Majesty's Government on behalf of those who look up for help with the greatest anxiety to their benevolent and magnanimous Sovereign.

"Everlasting blessings will be showered down from Him in whose hand the welfare of every creature lies upon the exalted throne of His Imperial Majesty. Generation to generation will proclaim his glory and righteousness; every mouth will sing praise to the Lord, and every heart will bear gratitude for being permitted to live under the benign rays of the merciful sceptre of Russia.—I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration and the most profound respect, your Excellency's most faithful servant,

(Signed) "Moses Montefiore."




The reports given in the foregoing chapters were forwarded to Lord Bloomfield, the British Ambassador at St Petersburg, who in letter dated January 3rd, 1847, informed Sir Moses that he had forwarded them to their respective addresses. Lord Bloomfield, having read the reports, adds: "I need scarcely assure you that I have perused them with great interest, and have gleaned much useful information from this result of your labours."

Count Kisseleff prefaces his reply to Sir Moses, dated November 5th, 1847, with the following words:—

"Monsieur,—J'ai en l'honneur de recevoir les deux memoires que vous avez bien voulu m'adresser en date du 10 Novembre dernier (1846) sur la situation des Israelites de l'Empire et du Royaume de Pologne. L'une et l'autre de ces pieces out ete placees sous les yeux de l'Empereur, et Sa Majeste Imperiale, appreciant les sentimens de philantropie qui les out dictees, a daigne a cette occasion exprimer une fois de plus tout l'interet qu' Elle porte a Ses sujets Israelites, dont le bien-etre et l'avancement moral ne cesseront d'etre l'objet de sa constante sollicitude.

"Vos deux memoires seront portes, par ordre de l'Empereur, a la connaissance du Comite, et serviront a appeler son attention sur differens details. Cette disposition vous prouvera, combien Sa Majeste Imperiale s'est plue a rendre justice aux intentions qui ont dicte votre travail et a l'esprit dans lequel il est concu.

"Agreez, Monsieur, l'assurance de ma consideration distinguee,

"Le Cte. de Kisseleff."


"Sir,—I have had the honour to receive the two memorials which you addressed to me on the 10th of November last (1846) respecting the situation of the Israelites in the Empire and in the Kingdom of Poland.

"Both documents have been placed before the Emperor, and His Imperial Majesty, appreciating the feelings of humanity which have dictated them, has been pleased to express once more the interest which he takes in his Israelite subjects, whose welfare and moral advancement will not cease to be the object of his constant solicitude.

"Your two memorials will be brought to the knowledge of the Committee, by order of the Emperor, and they will serve to direct its attention to various details. This proceeding will show you how much His Imperial Majesty has been pleased to do justice to the intentions which have dictated your labour, and to the spirit in which it has been conceived.—I have the honour to be, &c.,

"Count Kisseleff."

Count Ouvaroff, the Minister of Public Instruction, acknowledged the receipt of the report addressed to him as follows:—

"Monsieur,—J'ai recu la lettre que vous m'avez fait l'honneur de m'adresser en date du 10 Novembre 1846. Vos observations, sur l'etat, de nos ecoles Israelites, m'ont vivement interesse, et je vous sais gre de les juger favorablement car ce ne sont que les premiers commencements, d'une ere nouvelle dans l'education de vos correligionaires en Russie. Il est cependant permis d'esperer que l'organisation des fonds, specialement destines a cet effet, nous applanira la voie des ameliorations desirees.

"Quant a votre sollicitude sur l'education religieuse des Israelites, vous connaissez, Monsieur, mes sentiments a cet egard et vous avez pu apprecier vous-meme le soin, avec lequel on evite dans nos reglements scolaires tout ce qui pourvait choquer, leurs moeurs on exciter leur susceptibilite religieuse.

"Agreez, Monsieur, l'assurance de ma consideration distinguee.

"Le Cte. Ouvaroff."

"St Petersbourg, "_ce 26 Fevrier_ ___ "_10 Mars 1847._"


"Sir,—I have received the letter which you did me the honour to address to me under date of November 10th, 1846.

"Your observations on the state of our Israelite schools have greatly interested me, and I thank you for expressing a favourable opinion of them, as they are only the first beginning of a new era in the education of your co-religionists in Russia. But we may be permitted to hope that the organisation of the funds specially intended for this purpose will smooth the way to the desired improvements.

"With regard to your solicitude about the religious education of the Israelites, you know my feeling with regard to this matter, and you were able to judge for yourself of the care we take to avoid in our school regulation all that could give offence to their observances or awaken their religious susceptibilities."

(Signed) "Count Ouvaroff."

Sir Moses, with a view of both conveying his gratitude to the Ministers for their very courteous communications and of making an additional effort to impress on their minds the object of his visit to Russia, addressed each of them again in a special letter. To Count Kisseleff he wrote (1848):—

"May it please your Excellency,—I have had the honour to receive, through the kindness of Baron Brunnow, your Excellency's esteemed favour of the 5th November last, the contents of which were highly gratifying to me.

"I was delighted to learn that the reports (in which, by His Imperial Majesty's gracious permission, I was enabled to represent the condition of the Russian and Polish subjects of His Imperial Majesty professing the Jewish faith) had come under the personal notice of the Emperor, that on that occasion His Imperial Majesty was pleased to reiterate his anxious desire to promote the welfare of his Jewish subjects, and that by His Imperial Majesty's directions, these reports would be submitted to the consideration of the Committee specially appointed to investigate the state of the Jews in the vast Empire of His Imperial Majesty, so that the attention of the Committee might be called to the several details contained in such reports. These evidences of His Imperial Majesty's paternal solicitude have made a deep impression on my heart, and cannot fail to be gratefully appreciated by every friend of humanity.

"The sentiments which your Excellency has been pleased to express in the name of the Emperor, fully confirm the high opinion of His Majesty's exalted principles, entertained by myself in common with all who have had the good fortune to visit the numerous nations living under His Majesty's benignant sway.

"I notice with sincerest satisfaction that the honourable committee in question have at present under consideration a measure to facilitate the presence of my co-religionists, for commercial purposes, in the capitals of Russia, and also the allowance of the privilege to cultivate land in the vicinity of Christian settlements.

"These acts of His Majesty's high favour cannot fail to elevate the commercial standing of His Majesty's Jewish subjects, and by affording them still greater encouragement, to the maintenance of social intercourse with their fellow countrymen of other religious denominations, must necessarily lead to the improvement of all as citizens of one great Empire.

"I am confidently convinced that my brethren in Russia and Poland understand and appreciate the benevolent intentions of His Imperial Majesty; that they feel assured that the Emperor's sole object is to improve their condition, and that they are impressed with the conviction that their truest wisdom will be to acquiesce cheerfully in the measures designed for their welfare by their powerful and enlightened Sovereign, and to adopt with alacrity the course which, in his paternal care, His Majesty may direct.

"The gracious reception which His Imperial Majesty has already given to my reports, emboldens me to hope that the existing restrictions calculated to impede the well-being of my Russian brethren will be speedily removed. By this means I feel assured will not only their happiness and prosperity be promoted, but their character as good, useful, and most loyal subjects will be abundantly testified.

"I trust that the documents to which I have referred will satisfy the Committee that the Israelites of His Majesty's Empire are not of an idle disposition, but, on the contrary, most of them are anxious to cultivate land, and even pray for such occupation, and that under the fostering protection of His Imperial Majesty they will gladly apply themselves to industrial pursuits.

"On the whole, my heart is filled with hope that the honourable and distinguished Committee will take into consideration, the circumstances of extreme misery in which the great body of Israelites in His Majesty's Empire is placed, and that the Committee will kindly and speedily proceed to the arduous, but noble and sacred, task of carrying out the intentions of His Imperial Majesty to a most happy and glorious conclusion.

"In fine I beg to express to your Excellency my sincerest acknowledgments for the kind and condescending manner in which your Excellency was pleased to convey to me your very gratifying communication; and with fervent prayers that your Excellency may soon find the happy opportunity of signifying to me some good tidings of the progress which may have been made in the further extension of His Imperial Majesty's favour to my brethren, I have the honour to remain, with the most profound respect, your Excellency's humble servant,

(Signed) "Moses Montefiore."

We now return to the diary of 1846, in the entries of which, from June 20th to the end of the year, we find a succession of pleasing evidences of the motives which prompted him and Lady Montefiore to undertake the journey to Russia.

In an interview which he had with Sir Robert Peel, the latter told him that he would be happy to do everything, either privately or publicly, to forward his benevolent objects; that he would write to Count Nesselrode to say that he had seen the favourable impression made on the public mind by Sir Moses' report of the promises made to him; and that, if His Excellency rightly valued its effect, those promises would in the result be confirmed by their strict fulfilment.

June 28th.—Sir Robert conveyed to Sir Moses, in a letter dated from Osborne, Isle of Wight, the gratifying news that Her Majesty had conferred on him the dignity of Baronet of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

"I have the satisfaction of acquainting you," he writes, "that the Queen has been graciously pleased to confer on you the dignity of a baronet. This mark of Royal favour is bestowed upon you in consideration of your high character and eminent position in the ranks of a loyal and estimable class of Her Majesty's subjects agreeing with you in religious profession, and in the hope that it may aid your truly benevolent efforts to improve the social condition of the Jews in other countries by temperate appeals to the justice and humanity of their rulers."

The honour thereby conferred on Sir Moses by Her Majesty was not only a cause of great happiness to himself, individually, but also a source of the highest gratification to all his brethren in the British Empire and on the continent, inasmuch as it undoubtedly manifested Her Majesty's solicitude for the welfare of all the Jews in other parts of the world.

A deputation from the elders of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Synagogue, headed by their President, Mr Hananel de Castro, waited on Sir Moses to request, in the name of their co-religionists, that he would sit for his portrait, to be placed in the Vestry-room, to which he consented.

Sir George Hamilton, whom he had requested, when at Berlin, to present a petition to the King of Prussia in favour of the Jews at Krakau, informs him (June 12th) that, when dining with his Majesty at Sans Souci, he had an opportunity of speaking to him on the subject which Sir Moses had entreated him to explain to His Majesty. "The King," he wrote, "was very gracious on the occasion;" and he sent to His Majesty the petition prepared by Sir Moses. The King regretted very much not to have seen him at Berlin, and wished Sir Moses could have remained there until his return.

The good offices rendered by Sir George in engaging His Majesty's favourable consideration on the subject became a cause of much happiness to Sir Moses.

July 11th.—He attended the Lord Mayor's grand entertainment given to His Highness Ibrahim Pasha. His Lordship introduced him to the latter before dinner, and proposed his health to the company, which was extremely well received.

Sir Moses concludes his diary for the year with expressions of deep gratitude to Heaven for all mercies bestowed on him and his affectionate consort.


Transcriber's Note:

Some Hebrew text has been transliterated into Latin characters if one was not already provided. These passages are marked with [Hebrew] where they occur.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse