SIR MOSES MONTEFIORE.*
Sin MOSES MONTEFIORE'S century of existence has certainly been a century of active life; and it has been consecrated, with his wealth, his position, and his energies, to the service of his fellow-tribesmen in a way almost unexampled. He has been not only the Wynn, but the Shaftesbury, the Peabody, and the Schnadhorst of his co-religionists all over the world.
It is a startling thing to be reminded, as this record of his career reminds us, that when Moses Montefiore first entered the Stock Exchange as a broker (the precise year we are not told, but it was some time between 1806 and 1812) only twelve Jews were allowed to act as brokers in the City of London, and he had to pay £1,200 to the Lord Mayor for the privilege of admission. When he first bought his house at Ramsgate in 1830, it was still held doubtful by eminent counsel whether a Jew could be permitted to hold land in England. In the same year a Bill for the removal of the civil disabilities of the Jews was thrown out by the House of Commons by a majority of 66. In 1833, after the Reform Bill, the same Bill was carried in the Commons, but thrown out by the Lords, and it continued to be thrown out by them at frequent intervals till 1845. It was not till that year that Jews were enabled to fill Corporation offices, and not—again, thanks to the House of Lords—till 1850 that Jews were admitted to the House of Commons. Even inour own times, though Lord Beaconsfield, a Jew by birth, wore the Garter, yet it is well understood that Sir George Jessel was not given the peerage he had so amply earned, simply and solely because their Lordships' susceptibilities would have been offended by the admission of a professed Jew to their august society. It is, perhaps, not less curious that if race and religious animosities then prevailed against the Jews, similar animosities prevailed amongst the Jews themselves. The Spanish and Portuguese Jews looked on the German Jews with much the same feelings as those with which both were looked on by English- men. " Even in their exile," we are told, " the former shrank instinctively from fellowship with their German and Polish brethren, upon whose sad history not one ray of light had been shed, and who had been reduced by useless oppression to a lowly, pettifogging, almost an ignoble race. As late as 1744, when Jacob Bernal, ancestor of the present Duchess of St. Albans, desired to wed a German Jewess, he had to apply for leave to the Council of Elders of the Synagogue, and then only obtained leave under the most humiliating conditions." It is to the credit of Sir Moses Montefiore that he bore as great a part in healing this schism between the two " nations " of Jews as in Jewish emancipation. The success of the Roths- childs, no doubt, even more largely contributed to the same result. But, after all, the chief work of Sir Moses Monte- fiore's life has not been so prominently emphatically successful
in uniting and raising the position of Jews in England, though he largely contributed to that end, as it has been in emancipating and protecting the Jews scattered abroad among all the nations of the earth. He early made his fortune, partly on the Stock Exchange and partly by the establishment of the Alliance Insurance Company. This company was established on a Jewish basis, in consequence of the failure of Moutefiore's brother-in- law to be elected actuary to the Guardian Office,— a failure due to his Jewish birth. According to the author, this Company owed its success to the fact that " it had not then been ascertained that the Jews enjoyed a greater longevity than other races, and their lives were consequently insured at rates determined by the ordi- nary actuarial calculations," whereas "elaborate studies in vital statistics have since proved that Jewish lives are, on an average, nearly fifty per cent. more valuable than those of any other known people," the result, we may suppose, of centuries of life is Ghettos, which has killed off the weaker specimens, and left only the hardiest to thrive and reproduce themselves. An office that paid fifty per cent. beyond that paid by other offices was not a bad investment.
Having made one fortune, and by the death of his brother inherited another, Montefiore determined to retire from business• at the age of forty-three, and the last fifty-seven years of his life have been devoted to his religion and co-religionists. Even since he reached his eightieth year he has under- taken four missions, one of them to Jerusalem, on their behalf. In the East and in the greater part of Europe he found the condition of the Jews deplorable. They lived
• Sir Mows Monfeftoro: a arnteanial Biography. By Lae on Wolf. London : John Muriel. '-884.
as a despised, outcast, proscribed race, with no legal sanction for their barely tolerated existence, and subject every now and again to outbursts of the wildest persecution and outrage. If the Jews have now become a power in every country, it is in no small degree owing to the efforts of the hero of this book. It is extraordinary that the cause, or pretended cause, of the late Jew-bait and the disgraceful charges of murder in Hungary, are only the latest examples of a persistent slander on the Jews, of which the story of Hugh of Lincoln is the most famous in- stance in England, and the anti-Jew riot at Alexandria in the first half-century of our era, the earliest recorded example—the allegation that the Jews murder people, generally children, for use in the Passover rites. It is hardly credible that in Damascus and also in Rhodes in 1840, at Constantinople in 1844, in Morocco in 1863, as in Hungary in 1883, the "blood accusation" (which the -Jews themselves originally levelled against Pharaoh, who was said to have bathed daily in a bath of the blood of Jewish children) gave occasion to torture, outrage, and massacre among the un- happy Jews. It is to the part he took in journeying to Mehemet Ali in Egypt, to the Sultan of Turkey and the Sultan of Morocco, for the purpose of getting these outbreaks of fanati- cism quelled, and on similar missions to the Czar and the Pope, to Louis Philippe and Napoleon III., to the Queen of Spain and the Queen of England, the King of Roumania and the King of Servia—in fact, to all the Principalities and Powers in whose dominions Jews are settled—that Sir Moses owes his world-wide fame.
In 1840 he secured the safety of his fellow-countrymen against Syrian fury, instigated by the French, at the hands of Mehemet Ali. When Syria passed back under the control of Constantinople, he obtained even greater concessions from the Sultan, in the famous Firman which put the Jew in a position of toleration and freedom throughout the Turkish Empire. It is significant of the power now possessed by the Jews in the world, of the imperium in imperio possessed by Sir Moses Montefiore, that every country which haS helped the Jews has not been without its reward, while every Power which has opposed them has suffered proportionately. Thus the Pope in 1859 refused to give up to his parents a boy who had been kidnapped by the Roman Inquisition, on the ground that he had been secretly baptised. The Jews were keen supporters of Garibaldi and the King of Sardinia. In 1843 the Czar issued an edict for the removal of all Jews within thirty-five miles of the frontier of Russia into the interior. He was persuaded by Montefiore to suspend it, and eventually to vevoke it; but he would not grant adequate recognition or privileges to the Jews. This was not forgotten in 1877. When the heart of England was stirred, as it has rarely been stirred since the massacre of Piedmont, by the story of the Bulgarian atrocities, and when the united voice of the nation was raised against the unspeakable Turk, it would have naturally been supposed that the Jews, whose countrymen had felt the force of Mussulman outrage in Syria, and in Turkey, and in Morocco, would have joined in the protest against the tolera- tion of such atrocities. But the Syrian atrocities were -committed and instigated partly by Christians ; so was the Morocco tyranny. The Hatti-Sherif of 1840 had wiped out any memory of Turkish wrong; the Russian Ukase of 1843 had not been so wiped out. Hence D'Israeli, who was Prime Minister of England, nearly hurried us into a war with Russia on behalf of the authors of the Bulgarian horrors, while the pious and benevolent Sir Moses sent large contributions, and wrote a sympathetic letter to the Turk.
This is the most emphatic reminder we have in the book that, after all, the fame of Sir Moses Montefiore lies not so much in inis having lived a hundred years,—others have done that,— nor in the fact that his one hundred years have been years of continuous public activity. It lies in the fact that he is a rich Jew, 100 years old, who has been a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He is of the straitest sect of his own persuasion. His one dream appears to be a retura of the Jews to their Holy Land,—a dream which a good many who are not Jews would not, perhaps, be sorry to see realised ; and to realise this he has made several journeys, and spent much time, trouble, and money, and has, no doubt, in doing so, greatly elevated the condition of the Jews of Palestine and elsewhere. But throughout he has thought, lived, and acted as a Jew. His aspirations, his politics, his benevolence, have not been English, though, generally speaking, they have been noble enough in a Jewish patriot. He has, no doubt, spent hand- -some sums on some of the charities of the City. But for an hour which he has spent on behalf of the English people as such, he has spent a year for Jews as such ; and where he has spent a penny on the Christian English, from whom his wealth and power have been gained, he has spent a hundred pounds on Jews. This is not, indeed, a matter of either complaint or wonder ; we think, on the whole, that it is matter for congratulation and respect. If the Jews have been persecuted and oppressed for eighteen centuries, it is hardly surprising and hardly to be regretted that they think more of their own people still, than they do of those who have persecuted and oppressed them. Treated as an alien and outcast race, they have naturally remained a separate people. The lifting-up of the Jew which Sir Moses Montefiore has effected is for the benefit of the world in general; and if the motive was not for the benefit of the world in general, but for the benefit of the Jewish world, that is only saying that patriotism is regarded by the Jews as no less sacred a virtue than it is held to be by Englishmen.