HL Deb 01 July 1867 vol 188 cc746-51

rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Copies of any Correspondence which may have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Ottoman Porte, or the Hospodar of the Danubian Principalities, respecting Measures adopted by the Government of the latter for depriving the Jewish Residents in Moldavia of their Farms, and expelling many of them from the Country. It would be in their Lordships' recollection that the country which was the scene of the occurrences alluded to in the Motion of which he had given notice had been made an object of special care and benevolence by Her Majesty's Government and other Powers in alliance with Her Majesty. It appeared from information he had obtained that, in the Principality of Moldavia, a considerable proportion of the population had been from early times of the Jewish persuasion, and generally, with some occasional exceptions common to all parts of Europe, they had enjoyed tranquillity, and had been enabled to pursue their industrial avocations without annoyance. But a few weeks ago a sudden attack was made upon them, not only in consequence of religious prejudices on the part of the people, but also by a positive ordinance from the Home Department of the local Government. Many of the Jews had been considerable sufferers; they had made contracts, partly with the Government and partly with private persons, for the purpose of occupying farina, inns, and places of public reception, and they were in a condition to acquire property in various parts of the country. It would seem that this circumstance annoyed some classes of the population who had previously enjoyed a sort of monopoly in the management particularly of inns, and the Minister of the Home Department (M. Bratiano) issued an ordinance by which the Jews were dispossessed of their property and expelled from their holdings without any reason being given; and, at the same time, under the pretext that they were vagabonds, numbers of them were seized, put in fetters, and forcibly conveyed away by soldiers to be embarked on the Danube for transportation to some unknown land. Representations on behalf of the sufferers were made to the Emperor of the French, and that illustrious Sovereign expressed his sympathy with them, and engaged to send orders to his agent in Moldavia to make representations to the local Government, and to obtain all the redress he could. At the same time, representations were made to the English Government; and Lord Stanley, with his usual promptitude in attending to the public interests, wrote to the British Consul in Moldavia instructing them to apply to the local authorities for the purpose of obtaining relief for the unfortunate sufferers. In order to give their Lordships a more complete idea of the manner in which the Jews had been treated, he would read the translation he had made of a few sentences from a paper published in the Moldavian language in France, under the title of Les Archives Israelites. On the 22nd of May last that journal said— Bratiano, Minister of the Home Department, ordains that all persons of our religion should be immediately expelled from their farms, inns, and ale-houses in the country, annulling by a stroke of his pen the contracts which the Israelite farmers have concluded either with the Government or with private persons. The same Minister has signalized his recent arrival at Jassy by a decree still more barbarous, ordering the police to rush in upon the Jews as so many vagabonds; and the police, acting under the Minister's own eyes, collect in the streets from day to day numerous masses of Jews, without any judicial control, without distinction of rank or age, and, brutally loading them with irons, cause them to be transported beyond the Danube. Again, on the 25th of May the same journal said— The state of things has grown worse. Nothing is heard in the streets but cries of distress from the wives and children of the poor transported victims. They continue to hunt us down. They fetter even the old and infirm, and without pity drag them towards some unknown place of banishment. It is in vain that we appeal to the authorities. We are outlawed, and the populace is excited for our extermination. It was only natural that there should be some curiosity as to what had resulted from the intervention of France and of this country. All he could learn on the subject was that the public execution of the decree had not been persevered in, and although overt acts of oppression had—he would not say ceased—but had been suspended, secret persecution continued, and no redress appeared to have been given to those unhappy men who had been violently seized, chained, and transported. He presumed that the Jew was as much alive to the injuries of persecution as the very best Christian of us all, nor was difference of religion a circumstance calculated to make any change in the degree of sympathy which every one pretending to a grain of humanity ought to entertain for sufferers of this kind. On the contrary, he would say that in proportion as these people had been isolated and held up to reproach, and in proportion as persecution had been directed against them, they were entitled to our compassion and assistance. When a country had undertaken, as this had done, to procure for the people of another country institutions of a free and liberal character — when England had interfered to secure the Danubian Principalities from what was considered oppression at the hands of the Turkish authorities, it was highly irritating to see the Government of those Principalities—placed, as they were, under the protection of European benevolence—turning round upon a portion of its own subjects, whose only crime was difference of religion, and submitting them to the cruel treatment described in what he had read. Such a perversion of justice and duty must excite strong feelings of commiseration in favour of the Jews, strong feelings of indignation against the Government that could act in such a manner, and still stronger feelings of indignation against the Minister who could make himself the instrument of such persecution. He understood that M. Bratiano, the head of the Home Department in Moldavia, was a gentleman of extreme principles, verging on democracy—one who had not left himself without a witness in that respect; how then did it happen, being placed in a position of trust, he should act in a manner so wholly at variance with the principles he had professed? Such inconsistency could only be explained by a spirit of subserviency to popular prejudice and to the interests of a class. One would have thought that representations made by Powers such as France and England would have had some immediate effect; but he understood that M. Bratiano was still in office, and that the redress afforded to the sufferers, if any, had been very imperfect. It was therefore the more important for the country to know what was really taking place and to see the Correspondence, if any had passed, between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Principalities. It was surely a matter in respect of which their Lordships could not but feel a lively interest; and it was also a case upon which the other House of Parliament would naturally desire to express its opinion. He had no doubt that Her Majesty's Government had taken such steps as the circumstances required; but still it was desirable that Parliament should be made acquainted with the nature of those steps, and also with the footing on which they had left us, towards the Danubian and Turkish Governments. He wished to show by a quotation from the Treaty of 1858 in what position the Jews in the Principalities had been placed in virtue of that agreement. The words of the 45th Article of the Treaty were— Les Moldaves et les Valaques seront tous égaux devant la loi, devant l'impôt, et également admissibles aux emplois publics dana l'une et dans l'autre Principauté. Leur liberté individuelle sera garantie. Personne ne pourra être exproprié que légalement, pour cause d'intérêt public, et moyennant indemnité. Now the Jews were natives of the country, and, therefore, coming under the general denomination of Moldavians and Wallachians; they were entitled to the same rights in every respect as their Christian fellow-subjects. But a course the very reverse of that so justly marked out by the treaty had been adopted towards them. They had been deprived of their legal employments and driven from their farms for no reason but the jealousy of a class which had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly of those advantages, and was irritated by the now competition, which a Minister thirsting for popularity hastened to put down by a flagrant violation of law. There was another circumstance which he thought him- self at liberty to notice, and which furnished an additional motive for desiring that the representations of Her Majesty's Government should be urged with seriousness and efficient vigour. It was this—Prince Charles, on becoming a candidate for the throne, had received such powerful support; from M. Bratiano that he was naturally unwilling to treat that Minister with the degree of severity which his conduct to all appearance so richly deserved. If any additional reason were needed to explain why he wished this matter to be completely set at rest, it was that whenever Her Majesty's Government chose to interfere, even by way of exception, with the affairs of other countries, they incurred the obligation, and were bound by every consideration of humanity as well as of duty, to use their influence so that those who were placed in positions of authority under their sanction should be restrained from oppressing others by an unjust or illegal exercise of power. Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for Copies of any Correspondence which may have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Ottoman Porte or the Hospodar of the Danubian Principalities respecting Measures adopted by the Government of the latter for depriving the Jewish Residents in Moldavia of their Farms and expelling many of them from the Country.—(The Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe.)


expressed his strong disgust at the manner in which these unfortunate Jews appeared to have been treated. From all he had heard there was no adequate cause for the persecution to which they had been subjected; and, indeed, the only reason assigned was that the Jews, a very quiet and industrious part of the population, had been underselling the other inhabitants, and had thus brought upon them the jealousy and hostility of the middle classes. Under these circumstances, he thought Her Majesty's Government ought to exert all the influence it might have over the rulers of that country with the view of obtaining fair and just treatment for the Jewish population. Their Lordships would, he felt assured, agree with him that nothing could be more distressing at any time than persecution on religious grounds; and he trusted we were now entering upon a time when people of all religions would be allowed to worship the God of their own conscience without interference, and to have equal civil and political rights.


said, he was not astonished at the great interest taken by the noble Viscount (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) in the welfare of the inhabitants of a country with which he had been connected for so many years. At the same time it would not be desirable to discuss the matter to-night, because just previously to the noble Viscount's entering the House he had received Her Majesty's permission to lay upon the table the Papers for which the noble Viscount asked. Now, although he had no doubt that the statement of the noble Viscount was correct, as far as the persecution of these men was concerned, still it was an ex parte statement, and till their Lordships had read the Papers, which would be at once laid upon the table, they would hardly be able to judge fairly of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, nor of the treatment to which the Jews had been subjected. The difficulty was that this question was entirely one of internal government; and it was generally allowed that we ought to interfere as little as possible in the internal affairs of foreign countries. He would, however, say no more at the present time, because their Lordships were not yet in a position to judge of the facts of the case. Of course, if the noble Viscount wished to bring the matter forward on a future occasion, he should be prepared to enter into the discussion of it.


said, that after what had just fallen from the noble Earl he would withdraw his Motion, reserving liberty to himself to draw attention to the subject on a future occasion.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.