2 MAY 1891, Page 11

H. E. P.

IT seems possible, even probable, that the Jewish people are about to suffer a wrong which will be exceptional even in their history of misfortune. They have been already expelled from their main habitat four times—once with the consent of their own leaders from Egypt, twice with extreme

• violence from Palestine, and once with every refinement of cruelty from Spain—and now they are to be expelled from Russia, which for centuries has been their principal abode. Even after allowing for the facts that an angry Jew exagge- rates, and that the Press of Eastern Europe is in great measure in Jewish hands, it is hardly possible to doubt, as the evidence slowly accumulates, that the party which attributes the economic distress of Russia to the Jews has prevailed, and that the Russian Government, exasperated by their stubborn refusal either to change their faith or to modify their ways, is carrying out a steady and well-considered plan for the ex- pulsion of its Jewish subjects, by concentrating them in the provinces of Old Poland, and then forcing them, by the denial of all means of subsistence, to a continuous involuntary emigration. They are being driven from city after city, always in the same direction ; occupation after occupation is closed to them ; and at the same time every facility is offered them to expatriate themselves, whether by entering the nearest countries, or by joining the streams of emigrants now pouring towards the 'United States and Brazil. The pressure exerted is in its way scientific, the provinces being cleared one by one, so that the Jew of Odessa is still safe, while the Jew of Moscow is flying ; but it increases rapidly in severity, and with one or two more turns of the screw, it will become equivalent to a decree of expulsion under penalty of death from hunger. As the Czar himself sanctions the edicts, there is no appeal against them ; evasion becomes increasingly difficult as the means of the community are exhausted ; and as the populace and the soldiery are delighted with the decrees, there is no possibility of even temporary resistance. The smallest rebellion organised by Jews as Jews, and in the name either of their faith or their descent, would end in a war of extermination, in which the odds are at least twenty to one against the insurgents ; and the twenty have behind them an army of two millions. There is nothing for the million of families threatened to do but to submit, and if the pressure continues, to leave Russia by all open roads, and for all countries, populous or empty, which will consent to receive them ; or by a universal act of apostasy to obtain a doubtful chance of respite, the Govern- ment having recently, as Jews affirm, either prohibited con- versions, or—for that statement is .too monstrous for belief, and would rouse even the torpid Russo-Greek Church to protest—having signified that the converts shall for a period be still considered Jews.

This policy, if it is truly described by those who suffer from its effects, and who are almost maddened with apprehension, is the greatest addition made in this century to the direct misery of mankind. The Jews of Russia have been settled on Slavic territory for centuries ; they know no other language except their own corrupted Hebrew ; and, wretchedly poor as most of them are, they earn by unceasing industry an income which in the aggregate must be very large, and which, at all events, keeps them clothed and sheltered and fed. They are condemned by rulers to whom they have paid every tax, and whom they have never resisted, to quit their homes, to sell their property at the depreciated price which follows on forced sales, to abandon all their means of livelihood, and with their wives and children to transport themselves to countries of which they know scarcely the names, there to obtain by un- accustomed labour, amidst unfriendly or jealous populations, the means of keeping alive. A million of men, a million of women, three millions of children, are to be slowly pressed out of a country in which they have lived for ages, and in which, by the universal practice not only of all civilised States, but of all States whatsoever, they have a right to remain. It may be said that they are bad citizens, and no doubt a people without faults could not be hated as they are hated by a good-tempered population ; but granting every charge which their enemies can prove or can invent, did any country in the world ever treat its condemned convicts thus,—that is, include wives and children in the sentence of banishment, and then leave the banished without means either of transport or of obtaining food P It may be said that every country, or every country with the solitary exception of India, treats its emi- grants thus, caring nothing for them when they have crossed the frontier, and that official compulsion to emigrate is no worse than the strong compulsion of hunger ; but the argu- ment is a mere invention to conceal the truth. The vast armies of European emigrants now swarming across the seas, not only move of their own choice, and have means to pay their passages, but they are composed of the fittest emi- grants,—that is, of the adventurous, the energetic, and those whom their previous environment least suits. An enor- mous majority of them settle among their own kinsfolk,. or at least people of habits akin to their own, and being either habituated to agriculture or acquainted with some common handicraft, they find a subsistence, even if it be a hard one, from the very first. The Jews of Russia, on the other hand, are singularly ill-fitted to emigrate. None of them know any language but their own, and a dialect which is of no more help to them outside their own tribe than Icelandic, or Bantu, or English thieves' patter would be in Spain. Very few of them know anything of agriculture, or are capable of field-labour; while their handicrafts are so limited that the arrival of a shipload affects in their market the whole rate of wages. They are, it is true, as a rule abnormally industrious, almost as industrious as Chinamen, who, if thrown on to the Sahara, would begin manuring the sand with seaweed until they had compelled a crop ; but their industry is never of the kind which can be absorbed and made profitable at once. Above all, the European emigrants land for the most part among friends, in States whose populations have decided that, whether pleasant guests or unpleasant, they at all events bring wealth. The unhappy Russian Jews are hated by those whose hospitality they seek. Something in their appearance, in their habits, in their stubborn exclusiveness, as immovable by misery as by success, in the very patience of their unflagging industry, irritates their hosts until hardly any country receives them willingly, and those nearest to Russia try bard not to receive them at all. Even London, mighty London, which receives all men and makes all invisible, London, which in the calmness of its majesty does not even know that it harbours citiesful of foreigners within its borders, frets under a small invasion of Russian Jews, and in presence of a large one would probably startle Parliament with riotous com- plainings. The Jews in masses are not welcome anywhere, un- less it be in Turkey or Morocco; and this fact alone, which is at this moment revealing itself on the Austrian frontier in terrible scenes of suffering, makes any policy of expulsion, and espe- cially any policy of expulsion in great numbers, singularly and exceptionally cruel. Its total result as regards human suffering must be worse even than the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, for not only are the numbers affected infinitely greater, but the Jews fled to sympathisers, the Mussulmans in Barbary and Turkey, who were accustomed to their presence, who thought them useful taxpayers, and who knew that they had for centuries fought to uphold the friendly Mussulman dynasties in Spain. We do not suppose the Russian Jews will perish, for the race has in it some quality which survives all calamities, and we do not doubt that, laws notwithstanding, crowds of them will creep back to reoccupy their old posts in the chinks of the social edifice in Russia itself ; but we do believe that a million families will suffer as, in this age of the world,. philanthropists have held it impossible that, except from famine, multitudes should ever suffer again.

We shall be told that our fears are unreasonable, that the Slav character is essentially kindly, that no Government hates

good taxpayers, and that the present persecution is but a passing outburst of anger not unprovoked by those who are its victims; and we wish to give their just force to all those considerations, but they do not really convince our minds. If the Jews are not to leave Russia, why concentrate them in dangerous multitudes, why irritate their kinsfolk all over the world, why lower the repute of Russia for civilisation, why, above all, deprive them of the means of paying taxes? We cannot forget that the Americans, who are at least as kindly as the Slave, have expelled the Chinese ; that Southern French- men have tried to expel Italian settlers; that our own over- philanthropic Londoners might, if a vast immigration of Russian Jews occurred, be easily worked up to demand what would practically be expulsion by violent means. We cannot forget entirely that on certain points all Continental nations are pitiless, as, for example, in enforcing the merciless punish- ments which prevent resistance to the conscription. Nor can we be blind to the fact that something in the Jews has for eighteen hundred years, ever since the days of the Flavian Emperors, roused against them a hatred which from time to time has brought on them exceptional and horrible outbursts of popular cruelty. We do not, as some of our Jewish friends foolishly imagine, count that to the Jews for sin, for we know quite well how often subject races have tried, in some spasm of futile disgust, to slaughter out the English, and are quite aware what, but for their strength, their fate would be throughout all Asia. We believe that the European hatred towards the Jew, like the Asiatic hatred towards the Englishman, is in a great degree based upon his virtue, upon the conviction, that is, that nothing save death or expulsion will make him cease to be what he thinks it his duty to remain. We simply quote the fact as a fact proved by all history, and therefore of the last importance when we are studying the chances that exist of a frightful calamity befalling the Jewish people. We cannot but think those chances are most serious, and require the grave attention of every Christian throughout the world. If the dice go wrong, as they may go wrong, and the Jews are expelled from Russia, the repute of Christianity as the one creed which softens men's hearts, will have received the deadliest blow it has sustained since the Crusades. Such a catastrophe is incredible,—and yet it is but a reduplication on a greater scale of the catastrophe which has already smitten down the Jews of Moscow and Sieff.