HC Deb 05 July 1867 vol 188 cc1136-41

said, in rising to call attention to the recent persecution of the Jews in Roumania, he wished to observe that the Jews in Moldavia were a very numerous body, being estimated at about 200,000. The great majority of them were supposed to be descended from ancestors who settled there many centuries ago. They had lived, on the whole, upon terms of amity with the bulk of the population of that Principality, and had little in the shape of persecution to complain of until about a year ago, when, on the occasion of the endeavour to obtain an express recognition of political rights for them under the new Constitution of the country, a party of agitators sought to make political capital out of a prejudice which was supposed to prevail against them among the nation. M. Bratiano, the present Minister of the Interior, one of the party which then attempted to assert the political rights of the Jews, had since taken the lead in subjecting them to the most cruel persecution. On the 22nd of last May, the hon. Member for the City (Baron de Rothschild), Sir Moses Montefiore, and himself received a telegram, which was to be found in the Papers then before the House. It was stated in that telegram that the Minister, M. Bratiano, putting a false interpretation on laws and regulations which had been long in disuse, and which were abrogated by the new Civil Code, had ordered the immediate ejectment of all Jews from the farms, inns, and village cabarets occupied by them; that a razzia was also directed to be made against the Jews in the streets of Jassy, under the pretext of vagabondage; and that the police had been engaged for some days previously in arresting the Jews in the streets, and transporting them with great brutality in troops across the Danube. The course which the Minister had taken was not only barbarous but illegal; and that was the case not only with regard to the ejectment of the Jews from their houses, but also with regard to the arrests for vagabondage; for it was provided by one of the Articles of the Constitution, that no one should be arrested as a vagabond until he had had a month's notice given to him, in order that he might within that time provide himself with a domicile, and in this case no such warning had been given. The telegram to which he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had referred implored him to do what he could in aid of the sufferers, and he had forwarded it to the noble Lord opposite (the Foreign Secretary), who immediately sent instructions to our Consul General at Bucharest to remonstrate against these proceedings, and to direct the Consul at Jassy also to remonstrate with the local officers. M. Crémieux, the eminent French advocate, obtained an interview with the Emperor of the French, who took up the matter in a like spirit, and his Government despatched similar instructions to its agents, while he himself sent a telegram of remonstrance to Prince Charles. On the 26th May, Mr. Green, the British Consul General, had an interview with the Prince on the subject, but the Prince, doubtless acting on the information of his Minister, M. Bratiano, intimated to Mr. Green that no persecutions against the Jews had been intended, and that certain hygienic and police measures only had been adopted; the Prince also manifested astonishment at the petition of the Boyards, because they had previously expressed to him opinions unfavourable to the Jewish community. He ought rather to have inferred that M. Bratiano's measures must have been most unjustifiable, since they shocked even those who were prejudiced against the Jews. The petition drew a striking picture of the anarchy produced in Jassy by the arbitrary proceedings of the Minister, and correctly remarked, that a course so lawless was a threat against the rights of the Roumans generally, to whom no security would remain if such a violation of all law were tolerated. Before the receipt of instructions from this country, our Consul at Jassy had made unofficial representations to M. Bratiano, who was then in that city, and similar representations were likewise made by the Russian and Austrian agents, when M. Bratiano promised that instructions should be immediately issued to reform these abuses; but it was found next day that the Minister had left Jassy without such instructions being issued, while the arrests were continued. The total number of Jews arrested in Jassy was eighty. Fifty of them remained in prison on the 7th of June; thirty were tried for vagabondage, fifteen were acquitted, and fifteen were condemned—who had to appeal to a higher Court. On the 14th of June the noble Lord sent a despatch to Mr. Green, instructing him to continue his friendly and earnest remonstrances. At the end of the Papers Consul General Green expressed an opinion that the persecution had ceased; but, unfortunately, that was too sanguine a conclusion. This was clear from a telegram of June the 16th, which stated the continued arrests of Jewish travellers furnished with regular passports (munis de passeports), not, as stated by a misprint in the Papers before the House, minus passports. Then, too, it appeared from a letter from Jassy, dated June the 18th, that in the town, persecution had ceased; but that Jews who were travelling were still seized and sent from one district to another; that the servants of Jewish farmers were turned out of the villages under the pretence that the farmers alone had the right to remain; and that in the whole country the tribunals refused to confirm the purchase of houses by Jews, so that it was impossible for them either to buy or to sell house property. The only favourable piece of information was the last which he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had received. This was the intelligence that the Court of Appeal at Jassy had reversed the decisions of the tribunals of First Instance, and had declared that three of the Jews taken up for vagabondage had been wrongfully arrested. A pamphlet had been published on the subject in Paris, which was attributed to M. Bratiano, and in which it was stated that the Jews had suffered because of their partiality to Russia; but that was most unlikely, inasmuch as the Russian Government was almost the only Government of a civilized State which had of late years exhibited any wish to persecute its Jewish subjects. In the pamphlet to which he referred, it was also set forth that the measures which were taken had reference to all vagabonds, whether Christians or not; but the fact was that they might be more correctly described as steps taken against the Jews, whether vagabonds or otherwise. If anything could aggravate the cruelty that had been shown towards the Jews, it was that that cruelty had been instigated by a gentleman who was the professed advocate of the most enlightened principles of liberty and the fullest rights of man. Those persecutions had excited in this country so much interest that his (Sir Francis Goldsmid's) venerable friend, Sir Moses Montefiore, although upwards of eighty years of age, had determined to make a journey to the spot with the view of seeing whether something could not be done towards their mitigation. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) knew so well the hatred of the House of Commons for all oppression, that he would feel sure of their sympathy, even if the rights of the Jews only were invaded or menaced. But this was not so. If the habit of persecution were allowed to gain ground, it would affect all Christians who were not of the dominant sect, as well as the Jews. In Lord Lyons' despatch of the 6th of May, in which he reported on the condition of the Christians in Turkey, he said— In short, very little progress has been made towards enabling the Christians to feel that the Ottoman Government is, as regards them, a national Government. They submit to it as a less evil than anarchy and confusion; and each Christian race seems to value it chiefly against what appears to be to each the great object of dread—the domination of any of the other Christian races in the empire. This paragraph well deserved the attention of those who fancied that the overthrow of the Turkish Government would be a panacea for the evils affecting its Christian subjects. The hon. Baronet concluded by asking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he had received any intelligence on the subject of the persecution of the Jews of Roumania since the presentation to Parliament of the Papers relating to it, and by moving for any subsequent Correspondence that might have taken place?

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of further Correspondence relating to the persecution of Jews in Moldavia,"—(Sir Francis Goldsmid,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that doubtless the young Prince who ruled over the district in question was well disposed to prevent anything like the persecution to which the hon. Baronet had called attention. It must at the same time be admitted that, reigning, as he did, over a country which scarcely came within the limits of civilization, and which was troubled by domestic dissensions, it was extremely difficult for him to realize his wishes in that respect. He was happy to find that the period over which the alleged outrages extended did not appear of very long duration, and was inclined to think that Mr. Green would not have sent so satisfactory a report on the subject if their severity had not been considerably mitigated. The persecution of the Jews should not be tolerated in the present day, and there was no reason why the existence of that creed should be considered hostile to Christianity. On the contrary its existence had been of benefit to Christianity. They were indebted to the Jews for the preservation of the language in connection with which the Christian religion was founded. No part of the literary efforts of a right hon. Gentleman who held a prominent position in that House was more interesting or more to his credit than the defence he had opened for that race. He thought it was necessary that means should be devised for giving the House an opportunity to express its opinion upon engagements made by the Crown of a diplomatic nature previous to ratification.


said, he desired to express his grateful thanks to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office for the course he had taken in reference to these persecutions. There was no doubt that the interference of England and France had saved these people from much heavy persecution, and that many persons had been released from imprisonment owing to the exertions of the Governments of the two countries. He believed that not only Jews but Christians in all parts of the world would bless the noble Lord for the course he had taken.


said, he had no objection whatever to place the Papers asked for by the hon. Baronet on the table of the House. They, however, contained very few details beyond those which had already been published. The latest intelligence on the subject had been received that morning. Mr. Green, the Consul, writing from Bucharest, stated that Mr. St. Clair, the Consul at Jassy, had had an interview with Prince Charles, and had received an assurance from him that these persecutions would be put a stop to. Whether the promise would be kept he (Lord Stanley) could not undertake to say, but as far as the matter rested with the Prince, he believed that he was perfectly sincere in what he said, for he had acted very fairly in all these matters. With respect to the persons by whom the administration of the country was carried out, it was impossible to say how far they originated and traded on, for purposes of their own, the popular agitation, or how far it had its root in popular feeling. No doubt the country, taken as a whole, was superstitious, and under ecclesiastical influence; and, probably, a good deal of that feeling existed there which prevailed in Europe three or four centuries ago, when men thought that a little persecution of others atoned for much immorality on their own part. Then again, they must consider that the population had only been recently emancipated; only the other day they were in a position of inferiority, and he was afraid that the first impulse of persons so circumstanced, was to assert, in an unpleasant manner, their superiority over persons of another race who might be in their power. He did not think the persecutions had been directed against the Jewish community solely on account of their wealth. It was a matter of popular prejudice. If that prejudice was really strong and general, he could not hold out a hope that it would be entirely removed by diplomatic action, and in that case they must trust to time and the moral pressure of the civilized communities of Europe. At any rate, the English Government would do all that was reasonable and possible; and the French Government were acting cordially with them in the matter, He need not say that in a case of this kind, the more discussion there was and the more publicity was given to the subject the better.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.