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The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!


To discern likeness amidst diversity, it is well known, does not require
so fine a mental edge as the discerning of diversity amidst general
sameness. The primary rough classification depends on the prominent
resemblances of things: the progress is towards finer and finer
discrimination according to minute differences. Yet even at this stage
of European culture one's attention is continually drawn to the
prevalence of that grosser mental sloth which makes people dull to the
most ordinary prompting of comparison--the bringing things together
because of their likeness. The same motives, the same ideas, the same
practices, are alternately admired and abhorred, lauded and denounced,
according to their association with superficial differences, historical
or actually social: even learned writers treating of great subjects
often show an attitude of mind not greatly superior in its logic to that
of the frivolous fine lady who is indignant at the frivolity of her
maid.

To take only the subject of the Jews: it would be difficult to find a
form of bad reasoning about them which has not been heard in
conversation or been admitted to the dignity of print; but the neglect
of resemblances is a common property of dulness which unites all the
various points of view--the prejudiced, the puerile, the spiteful, and
the abysmally ignorant.

That the preservation of national memories is an element and a means of
national greatness, that their revival is a sign of reviving
nationality, that every heroic defender, every patriotic restorer, has
been inspired by such memories and has made them his watchword, that
even such a corporate existence as that of a Roman legion or an English
regiment has been made valorous by memorial standards,--these are the
glorious commonplaces of historic teaching at our public schools and
universities, being happily ingrained in Greek and Latin classics. They
have also been impressed on the world by conspicuous modern instances.
That there is a free modern Greece is due--through all infiltration of
other than Greek blood--to the presence of ancient Greece in the
consciousness of European men; and every speaker would feel his point
safe if he were to praise Byron's devotion to a cause made glorious by
ideal identification with the past; hardly so, if he were to insist that
the Greeks were not to be helped further because their history shows
that they were anciently unsurpassed in treachery and lying, and that
many modern Greeks are highly disreputable characters, while others are
disposed to grasp too large a share of our commerce. The same with
Italy: the pathos of his country's lot pierced the youthful soul of
Mazzini, because, like Dante's, his blood was fraught with the kinship
of Italian greatness, his imagination filled with a majestic past that
wrought itself into a majestic future. Half a century ago, what was
Italy? An idling-place of dilettanteism or of itinerant motiveless
wealth, a territory parcelled out for papal sustenance, dynastic
convenience, and the profit of an alien Government. What were the
Italians? No people, no voice in European counsels, no massive power in
European affairs: a race thought of in English and French society as
chiefly adapted to the operatic stage, or to serve as models for
painters; disposed to smile gratefully at the reception of halfpence;
and by the more historical remembered to be rather polite than truthful,
in all probability a combination of Machiavelli, Rubini, and Masaniello.
Thanks chiefly to the divine gift of a memory which inspires the moments
with a past, a present, and a future, and gives the sense of corporate
existence that raises man above the otherwise more respectable and
innocent brute, all that, or most of it, is changed.

Again, one of our living historians finds just sympathy in his vigorous
insistance on our true ancestry, on our being the strongly marked
heritors in language and genius of those old English seamen who,
beholding a rich country with a most convenient seaboard, came,
doubtless with a sense of divine warrant, and settled themselves on this
or the other side of fertilising streams, gradually conquering more and
more of the pleasant land from the natives who knew nothing of Odin,
and finally making unusually clean work in ridding themselves of those
prior occupants. "Let us," he virtually says, "let us know who were our
forefathers, who it was that won the soil for us, and brought the good
seed of those institutions through which we should not arrogantly but
gratefully feel ourselves distinguished among the nations as possessors
of long-inherited freedom; let us not keep up an ignorant kind of naming
which disguises our true affinities of blood and language, but let us
see thoroughly what sort of notions and traditions our forefathers had,
and what sort of song inspired them. Let the poetic fragments which
breathe forth their fierce bravery in battle and their trust in fierce
gods who helped them, be treasured with affectionate reverence. These
seafaring, invading, self-asserting men were the English of old time,
and were our fathers who did rough work by which we are profiting. They
had virtues which incorporated themselves in wholesome usages to which
we trace our own political blessings. Let us know and acknowledge our
common relationship to them, and be thankful that over and above the
affections and duties which spring from our manhood, we have the closer
and more constantly guiding duties which belong to us as Englishmen."

To this view of our nationality most persons who have feeling and
understanding enough to be conscious of the connection between the
patriotic affection and every other affection which lifts us above
emigrating rats and free-loving baboons, will be disposed to say Amen.
True, we are not indebted to those ancestors for our religion: we are
rather proud of having got that illumination from elsewhere. The men who
planted our nation were not Christians, though they began their work
centuries after Christ; and they had a decided objection to Christianity
when it was first proposed to them: they were not monotheists, and their
religion was the reverse of spiritual. But since we have been fortunate
enough to keep the island-home they won for us, and have been on the
whole a prosperous people, rather continuing the plan of invading and
spoiling other lands than being forced to beg for shelter in them,
nobody has reproached us because our fathers thirteen hundred years ago
worshipped Odin, massacred Britons, and were with difficulty persuaded
to accept Christianity, knowing nothing of Hebrew history and the
reasons why Christ should be received as the Saviour of mankind. The Red
Indians, not liking us when we settled among them, might have been
willing to fling such facts in our faces, but they were too ignorant,
and besides, their opinions did not signify, because we were able, if we
liked, to exterminate them. The Hindoos also have doubtless had their
rancours against us and still entertain enough ill-will to make
unfavourable remarks on our character, especially as to our historic
rapacity and arrogant notions of our own superiority; they perhaps do
not admire the usual English profile, and they are not converted to our
way of feeding: but though we are a small number of an alien race
profiting by the territory and produce of these prejudiced people, they
are unable to turn us out; at least, when they tried we showed them
their mistake. We do not call ourselves a dispersed and a punished
people: we are a colonising people, and it is we who have punished
others.

Still the historian guides us rightly in urging us to dwell on the
virtues of our ancestors with emulation, and to cherish our sense of a
common descent as a bond of obligation. The eminence, the nobleness of a
people depends on its capability of being stirred by memories, and of
striving for what we call spiritual ends--ends which consist not in
immediate material possession, but in the satisfaction of a great
feeling that animates the collective body as with one soul. A people
having the seed of worthiness in it must feel an answering thrill when
it is adjured by the deaths of its heroes who died to preserve its
national existence; when it is reminded of its small beginnings and
gradual growth through past labours and struggles, such as are still
demanded of it in order that the freedom and wellbeing thus inherited
may be transmitted unimpaired to children and children's children; when
an appeal against the permission of injustice is made to great
precedents in its history and to the better genius breathing in its
institutions. It is this living force of sentiment in common which makes
a national consciousness. Nations so moved will resist conquest with
the very breasts of their women, will pay their millions and their blood
to abolish slavery, will share privation in famine and all calamity,
will produce poets to sing "some great story of a man," and thinkers
whose theories will bear the test of action. An individual man, to be
harmoniously great, must belong to a nation of this order, if not in
actual existence yet existing in the past, in memory, as a departed,
invisible, beloved ideal, once a reality, and perhaps to be restored. A
common humanity is not yet enough to feed the rich blood of various
activity which makes a complete man. The time is not come for
cosmopolitanism to be highly virtuous, any more than for communism to
suffice for social energy. I am not bound to feel for a Chinaman as I
feel for my fellow-countryman: I am bound not to demoralise him with
opium, not to compel him to my will by destroying or plundering the
fruits of his labour on the alleged ground that he is not cosmopolitan
enough, and not to insult him for his want of my tailoring and religion
when he appears as a peaceable visitor on the London pavement. It is
admirable in a Briton with a good purpose to learn Chinese, but it
would not be a proof of fine intellect in him to taste Chinese poetry in
the original more than he tastes the poetry of his own tongue.
Affection, intelligence, duty, radiate from a centre, and nature has
decided that for us English folk that centre can be neither China nor
Peru. Most of us feel this unreflectingly; for the affectation of
undervaluing everything native, and being too fine for one's own
country, belongs only to a few minds of no dangerous leverage. What is
wanting is, that we should recognise a corresponding attachment to
nationality as legitimate in every other people, and understand that its
absence is a privation of the greatest good.

For, to repeat, not only the nobleness of a nation depends on the
presence of this national consciousness, but also the nobleness of each
individual citizen. Our dignity and rectitude are proportioned to our
sense of relationship with something great, admirable, pregnant with
high possibilities, worthy of sacrifice, a continual inspiration to
self-repression and discipline by the presentation of aims larger and
more attractive to our generous part than the securing of personal ease
or prosperity. And a people possessing this good should surely feel not
only a ready sympathy with the effort of those who, having lost the
good, strive to regain it, but a profound pity for any degradation
resulting from its loss; nay, something more than pity when happier
nationalities have made victims of the unfortunate whose memories
nevertheless are the very fountain to which the persecutors trace their
most vaunted blessings.

These notions are familiar: few will deny them in the abstract, and many
are found loudly asserting them in relation to this or the other
particular case. But here as elsewhere, in the ardent application of
ideas, there is a notable lack of simple comparison or sensibility to
resemblance. The European world has long been used to consider the Jews
as altogether exceptional, and it has followed naturally enough that
they have been excepted from the rules of justice and mercy, which are
based on human likeness. But to consider a people whose ideas have
determined the religion of half the world, and that the more cultivated
half, and who made the most eminent struggle against the power of Rome,
as a purely exceptional race, is a demoralising offence against rational
knowledge, a stultifying inconsistency in historical interpretation.
Every nation of forcible character--i.e., of strongly marked
characteristics, is so far exceptional. The distinctive note of each
bird-species is in this sense exceptional, but the necessary ground of
such distinction is a deeper likeness. The superlative peculiarity in
the Jews admitted, our affinity with them is only the more apparent when
the elements of their peculiarity are discerned.

From whatever point of view the writings of the Old Testament may be
regarded, the picture they present of a national development is of high
interest and speciality, nor can their historic momentousness be much
affected by any varieties of theory as to the relation they bear to the
New Testament or to the rise and constitution of Christianity. Whether
we accept the canonical Hebrew books as a revelation or simply as part
of an ancient literature, makes no difference to the fact that we find
there the strongly characterised portraiture of a people educated from
an earlier or later period to a sense of separateness unique in its
intensity, a people taught by many concurrent influences to identify
faithfulness to its national traditions with the highest social and
religious blessings. Our too scanty sources of Jewish history, from the
return under Ezra to the beginning of the desperate resistance against
Rome, show us the heroic and triumphant struggle of the Maccabees, which
rescued the religion and independence of the nation from the corrupting
sway of the Syrian Greeks, adding to the glorious sum of its memorials,
and stimulating continuous efforts of a more peaceful sort to maintain
and develop that national life which the heroes had fought and died for,
by internal measures of legal administration and public teaching.
Thenceforth the virtuous elements of the Jewish life were engaged, as
they had been with varying aspects during the long and changeful
prophetic period and the restoration under Ezra, on the side of
preserving the specific national character against a demoralising fusion
with that of foreigners whose religion and ritual were idolatrous and
often obscene. There was always a Foreign party reviling the National
party as narrow, and sometimes manifesting their own breadth in
extensive views of advancement or profit to themselves by flattery of a
foreign power. Such internal conflict naturally tightened the bands of
conservatism, which needed to be strong if it were to rescue the sacred
ark, the vital spirit of a small nation--"the smallest of the
nations"--whose territory lay on the highway between three continents;
and when the dread and hatred of foreign sway had condensed itself into
dread and hatred of the Romans, many Conservatives became Zealots, whose
chief mark was that they advocated resistance to the death against the
submergence of their nationality. Much might be said on this point
towards distinguishing the desperate struggle against a conquest which
is regarded as degradation and corruption, from rash, hopeless
insurrection against an established native government; and for my part
(if that were of any consequence) I share the spirit of the Zealots. I
take the spectacle of the Jewish people defying the Roman edict, and
preferring death by starvation or the sword to the introduction of
Caligula's deified statue into the temple, as a sublime type of
steadfastness. But all that need be noticed here is the continuity of
that national education (by outward and inward circumstance) which
created in the Jews a feeling of race, a sense of corporate existence,
unique in its intensity.

But not, before the dispersion, unique in essential qualities. There is
more likeness than contrast between the way we English got our island
and the way the Israelites got Canaan. We have not been noted for
forming a low estimate of ourselves in comparison with foreigners, or
for admitting that our institutions are equalled by those of any other
people under the sun. Many of us have thought that our sea-wall is a
specially divine arrangement to make and keep us a nation of sea-kings
after the manner of our forefathers, secure against invasion and able to
invade other lands when we need them, though they may lie on the other
side of the ocean. Again, it has been held that we have a peculiar
destiny as a Protestant people, not only able to bruise the head of an
idolatrous Christianity in the midst of us, but fitted as possessors of
the most truth and the most tonnage to carry our purer religion over the
world and convert mankind to our way of thinking. The Puritans,
asserting their liberty to restrain tyrants, found the Hebrew history
closely symbolical of their feelings and purpose; and it can hardly be
correct to cast the blame of their less laudable doings on the writings
they invoked, since their opponents made use of the same writings for
different ends, finding there a strong warrant for the divine right of
kings and the denunciation of those who, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram,
took on themselves the office of the priesthood which belonged of right
solely to Aaron and his sons, or, in other words, to men ordained by the
English bishops. We must rather refer the passionate use of the Hebrew
writings to affinities of disposition between our own race and the
Jewish. Is it true that the arrogance of a Jew was so immeasurably
beyond that of a Calvinist? And the just sympathy and admiration which
we give to the ancestors who resisted the oppressive acts of our native
kings, and by resisting rescued or won for us the best part of our civil
and religious liberties--is it justly to be withheld from those brave
and steadfast men of Jewish race who fought and died, or strove by wise
administration to resist, the oppression and corrupting influences of
foreign tyrants, and by resisting rescued the nationality which was the
very hearth of our own religion? At any rate, seeing that the Jews were
more specifically than any other nation educated into a sense of their
supreme moral value, the chief matter of surprise is that any other
nation is found to rival them in this form of self-confidence.

More exceptional--less like the course of our own history--has been
their dispersion and their subsistence as a separate people through ages
in which for the most part they were regarded and treated very much as
beasts hunted for the sake of their skins, or of a valuable secretion
peculiar to their species. The Jews showed a talent for accumulating
what was an object of more immediate desire to Christians than animal
oils or well-furred skins, and their cupidity and avarice were found at
once particularly hateful and particularly useful: hateful when seen as
a reason for punishing them by mulcting or robbery, useful when this
retributive process could be successfully carried forward. Kings and
emperors naturally were more alive to the usefulness of subjects who
could gather and yield money; but edicts issued to protect "the King's
Jews" equally with the King's game from being harassed and hunted by the
commonalty were only slight mitigations to the deplorable lot of a race
held to be under the divine curse, and had little force after the
Crusades began. As the slave-holders in the United States counted the
curse on Ham a justification of negro slavery, so the curse on the Jews
was counted a justification for hindering them from pursuing agriculture
and handicrafts; for marking them out as execrable figures by a peculiar
dress; for torturing them to make them part with their gains, or for
more gratuitously spitting at them and pelting them; for taking it as
certain that they killed and ate babies, poisoned the wells, and took
pains to spread the plague; for putting it to them whether they would be
baptised or burned, and not failing to burn and massacre them when they
were obstinate; but also for suspecting them of disliking the baptism
when they had got it, and then burning them in punishment of their
insincerity; finally, for hounding them by tens on tens of thousands
from the homes where they had found shelter for centuries, and
inflicting on them the horrors of a new exile and a new dispersion. All
this to avenge the Saviour of mankind, or else to compel these
stiff-necked people to acknowledge a Master whose servants showed such
beneficent effects of His teaching.

With a people so treated one of two issues was possible: either from
being of feebler nature than their persecutors, and caring more for ease
than for the sentiments and ideas which constituted their distinctive
character, they would everywhere give way to pressure and get rapidly
merged in the populations around them; or, being endowed with uncommon
tenacity, physical and mental, feeling peculiarly the ties of
inheritance both in blood and faith, remembering national glories,
trusting in their recovery, abhorring apostasy, able to bear all things
and hope all things with the consciousness of being steadfast to
spiritual obligations, the kernel of their number would harden into an
inflexibility more and more insured by motive and habit. They would
cherish all differences that marked them off from their hated
oppressors, all memories that consoled them with a sense of virtual
though unrecognised superiority; and the separateness which was made
their badge of ignominy would be their inward pride, their source of
fortifying defiance. Doubtless such a people would get confirmed in
vices. An oppressive government and a persecuting religion, while
breeding vices in those who hold power, are well known to breed
answering vices in those who are powerless and suffering. What more
direct plan than the course presented by European history could have
been pursued in order to give the Jews a spirit of bitter isolation, of
scorn for the wolfish hypocrisy that made victims of them, of triumph in
prospering at the expense of the blunderers who stoned them away from
the open paths of industry?--or, on the other hand, to encourage in the
less defiant a lying conformity, a pretence of conversion for the sake
of the social advantages attached to baptism, an outward renunciation of
their hereditary ties with the lack of real love towards the society
and creed which exacted this galling tribute?--or again, in the most
unhappy specimens of the race, to rear transcendent examples of odious
vice, reckless instruments of rich men with bad propensities,
unscrupulous grinders of the alien people who wanted to grind _them_?

No wonder the Jews have their vices: no wonder if it were proved (which
it has not hitherto appeared to be) that some of them have a bad
pre-eminence in evil, an unrivalled superfluity of naughtiness. It would
be more plausible to make a wonder of the virtues which have prospered
among them under the shadow of oppression. But instead of dwelling on
these, or treating as admitted what any hardy or ignorant person may
deny, let us found simply on the loud assertions of the hostile. The
Jews, it is said, resisted the expansion of their own religion into
Christianity; they were in the habit of spitting on the cross; they have
held the name of Christ to be _Anathema_. Who taught them that? The men
who made Christianity a curse to them: the men who made the name of
Christ a symbol for the spirit of vengeance, and, what was worse, made
the execution of the vengeance a pretext for satisfying their own
savageness, greed, and envy: the men who sanctioned with the name of
Christ a barbaric and blundering copy of pagan fatalism in taking the
words "His blood be upon us and on our children" as a divinely appointed
verbal warrant for wreaking cruelty from generation to generation on the
people from whose sacred writings Christ drew His teaching. Strange
retrogression in the professors of an expanded religion, boasting an
illumination beyond the spiritual doctrine of Hebrew prophets! For
Hebrew prophets proclaimed a God who demanded mercy rather than
sacrifices. The Christians also believed that God delighted not in the
blood of rams and of bulls, but they apparently conceived Him as
requiring for His satisfaction the sighs and groans, the blood and
roasted flesh of men whose forefathers had misunderstood the
metaphorical character of prophecies which spoke of spiritual
pre-eminence under the figure of a material kingdom. Was this the method
by which Christ desired His title to the Messiahship to be commended to
the hearts and understandings of the nation in which He was born? Many
of His sayings bear the stamp of that patriotism which places
fellow-countrymen in the inner circle of affection and duty. And did the
words "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," refer only to
the centurion and his band, a tacit exception being made of every Hebrew
there present from the mercy of the Father and the compassion of the
Son?--nay, more, of every Hebrew yet to come who remained unconverted
after hearing of His claim to the Messiahship, not from His own lips or
those of His native apostles, but from the lips of alien men whom cross,
creed, and baptism had left cruel, rapacious, and debauched? It is more
reverent to Christ to believe that He must have approved the Jewish
martyrs who deliberately chose to be burned or massacred rather than be
guilty of a blaspheming lie, more than He approved the rabble of
crusaders who robbed and murdered them in His name. But these
remonstrances seem to have no direct application to personages who take
up the attitude of philosophic thinkers and discriminating critics,
professedly accepting Christianity from a rational point of view as a
vehicle of the highest religious and moral truth, and condemning the
Jews on the ground that they are obstinate adherents of an outworn
creed, maintain themselves in moral alienation from the peoples with
whom they share citizenship, and are destitute of real interest in the
welfare of the community and state with which they are thus identified.
These anti-Judaic advocates usually belong to a party which has felt
itself glorified in winning for Jews, as well as Dissenters and
Catholics, the full privileges of citizenship, laying open to them every
path to distinction. At one time the voice of this party urged that
differences of creed were made dangerous only by the denial of
citizenship--that you must make a man a citizen before he could feel
like one. At present, apparently, this confidence has been succeeded by
a sense of mistake: there is a regret that no limiting clauses were
insisted on, such as would have hindered the Jews from coming too far
and in too large proportion along those opened pathways; and the
Roumanians are thought to have shown an enviable wisdom in giving them
as little chance as possible. But then, the reflection occurring that
some of the most objectionable Jews are baptised Christians, it is
obvious that such clauses would have been insufficient, and the doctrine
that you can turn a Jew into a good Christian is emphatically retracted.
But clearly, these liberal gentlemen, too late enlightened by
disagreeable events, must yield the palm of wise foresight to those who
argued against them long ago; and it is a striking spectacle to witness
minds so panting for advancement in some directions that they are ready
to force it on an unwilling society, in this instance despairingly
recurring to mediaeval types of thinking--insisting that the Jews are
made viciously cosmopolitan by holding the world's money-bag, that for
them all national interests are resolved into the algebra of loans, that
they have suffered an inward degradation stamping them as morally
inferior, and--"serve them right," since they rejected Christianity. All
which is mirrored in an analogy, namely, that of the Irish, also a
servile race, who have rejected Protestantism though it has been
repeatedly urged on them by fire and sword and penal laws, and whose
place in the moral scale may be judged by our advertisements, where the
clause, "No Irish need apply," parallels the sentence which for many
polite persons sums up the question of Judaism--"I never _did_ like the
Jews."

It is certainly worth considering whether an expatriated, denationalised
race, used for ages to live among antipathetic populations, must not
inevitably lack some conditions of nobleness. If they drop that
separateness which is made their reproach, they may be in danger of
lapsing into a cosmopolitan indifference equivalent to cynicism, and of
missing that inward identification with the nationality immediately
around them which might make some amends for their inherited privation.
No dispassionate observer can deny this danger. Why, our own countrymen
who take to living abroad without purpose or function to keep up their
sense of fellowship in the affairs of their own land are rarely good
specimens of moral healthiness; still, the consciousness of having a
native country, the birthplace of common memories and habits of mind,
existing like a parental hearth quitted but beloved; the dignity of
being included in a people which has a part in the comity of nations
and the growing federation of the world; that sense of special belonging
which is the root of human virtues, both public and private,--all these
spiritual links may preserve migratory Englishmen from the worst
consequences of their voluntary dispersion. Unquestionably the Jews,
having been more than any other race exposed to the adverse moral
influences of alienism, must, both in individuals and in groups, have
suffered some corresponding moral degradation; but in fact they have
escaped with less of abjectness and less of hard hostility towards the
nations whose hand has been against them, than could have happened in
the case of a people who had neither their adhesion to a separate
religion founded on historic memories, nor their characteristic family
affectionateness. Tortured, flogged, spit upon, the _corpus vile_ on
which rage or wantonness vented themselves with impunity, their name
flung at them as an opprobrium by superstition, hatred, and contempt,
they have remained proud of their origin. Does any one call this an evil
pride? Perhaps he belongs to that order of man who, while he has a
democratic dislike to dukes and earls, wants to make believe that his
father was an idle gentleman, when in fact he was an honourable artisan,
or who would feel flattered to be taken for other than an Englishman. It
is possible to be too arrogant about our blood or our calling, but that
arrogance is virtue compared with such mean pretence. The pride which
identifies us with a great historic body is a humanising, elevating
habit of mind, inspiring sacrifices of individual comfort, gain, or
other selfish ambition, for the sake of that ideal whole; and no man
swayed by such a sentiment can become completely abject. That a Jew of
Smyrna, where a whip is carried by passengers ready to flog off the too
officious specimens of his race, can still be proud to say, "I am a
Jew," is surely a fact to awaken admiration in a mind capable of
understanding what we may call the ideal forces in human history. And
again, a varied, impartial observation of the Jews in different
countries tends to the impression that they have a predominant
kindliness which must have been deeply ingrained in the constitution of
their race to have outlasted the ages of persecution and oppression.
The concentration of their joys in domestic life has kept up in them the
capacity of tenderness: the pity for the fatherless and the widow, the
care for the women and the little ones, blent intimately with their
religion, is a well of mercy that cannot long or widely be pent up by
exclusiveness. And the kindliness of the Jew overflows the line of
division between him and the Gentile. On the whole, one of the most
remarkable phenomena in the history of this scattered people, made for
ages "a scorn and a hissing" is, that after being subjected to this
process, which might have been expected to be in every sense
deteriorating and vitiating, they have come out of it (in any estimate
which allows for numerical proportion) rivalling the nations of all
European countries in healthiness and beauty of _physique_, in practical
ability, in scientific and artistic aptitude, and in some forms of
ethical value. A significant indication of their natural rank is seen in
the fact that at this moment, the leader of the Liberal party in Germany
is a Jew, the leader of the Republican party in France is a Jew, and the
head of the Conservative ministry in England is a Jew. And here it is
that we find the ground for the obvious jealousy which is now
stimulating the revived expression of old antipathies. "The Jews," it is
felt, "have a dangerous tendency to get the uppermost places not only in
commerce but in political life. Their monetary hold on governments is
tending to perpetuate in leading Jews a spirit of universal alienism
(euphemistically called cosmopolitanism), even where the West has given
them a full share in civil and political rights. A people with oriental
sunlight in their blood, yet capable of being everywhere acclimatised,
they have a force and toughness which enables them to carry off the best
prizes; and their wealth is likely to put half the seats in Parliament
at their disposal."

There is truth in these views of Jewish social and political relations.
But it is rather too late for liberal pleaders to urge them in a merely
vituperative sense. Do they propose as a remedy for the impending danger
of our healthier national influences getting overridden by Jewish
predominance, that we should repeal our emancipatory laws? Not all the
Germanic immigrants who have been settling among us for generations,
and are still pouring in to settle, are Jews, but thoroughly Teutonic
and more or less Christian craftsmen, mechanicians, or skilled and
erudite functionaries; and the Semitic Christians who swarm among us are
dangerously like their unconverted brethren in complexion, persistence,
and wealth. Then there are the Greeks who, by the help of Phoenician
blood or otherwise, are objectionably strong in the city. Some judges
think that the Scotch are more numerous and prosperous here in the South
than is quite for the good of us Southerners; and the early
inconvenience felt under the Stuarts of being quartered upon by a
hungry, hard-working people with a distinctive accent and form of
religion, and higher cheek-bones than English taste requires, has not
yet been quite neutralised. As for the Irish, it is felt in high
quarters that we have always been too lenient towards them;--at least,
if they had been harried a little more there might not have been so many
of them on the English press, of which they divide the power with the
Scotch, thus driving many Englishmen to honest and ineloquent labour.

So far shall we be carried if we go in search of devices to hinder
people of other blood than our own from getting the advantage of
dwelling among us.

Let it be admitted that it is a calamity to the English, as to any other
great historic people, to undergo a premature fusion with immigrants of
alien blood; that its distinctive national characteristics should be in
danger of obliteration by the predominating quality of foreign settlers.
I not only admit this, I am ready to unite in groaning over the
threatened danger. To one who loves his native language, who would
delight to keep our rich and harmonious English undefiled by foreign
accent, foreign intonation, and those foreign tinctures of verbal
meaning which tend to confuse all writing and discourse, it is an
affliction as harassing as the climate, that on our stage, in our
studios, at our public and private gatherings, in our offices,
warehouses, and workshops, we must expect to hear our beloved English
with its words clipped, its vowels stretched and twisted, its phrases of
acquiescence and politeness, of cordiality, dissidence or argument,
delivered always in the wrong tones, like ill-rendered melodies, marred
beyond recognition; that there should be a general ambition to speak
every language except our mother English, which persons "of style" are
not ashamed of corrupting with slang, false foreign equivalents, and a
pronunciation that crushes out all colour from the vowels and jams them
between jostling consonants. An ancient Greek might not like to be
resuscitated for the sake of hearing Homer read in our universities,
still he would at least find more instructive marvels in other
developments to be witnessed at those institutions; but a modern
Englishman is invited from his after-dinner repose to hear Shakspere
delivered under circumstances which offer no other novelty than some
novelty of false intonation, some new distribution of strong emphasis on
prepositions, some new misconception of a familiar idiom. Well! it is
our inertness that is in fault, our carelessness of excellence, our
willing ignorance of the treasures that lie in our national heritage,
while we are agape after what is foreign, though it may be only a vile
imitation of what is native.

This marring of our speech, however, is a minor evil compared with what
must follow from the predominance of wealth--acquiring immigrants, whose
appreciation of our political and social life must often be as
approximative or fatally erroneous as their delivery of our language.
But take the worst issues--what can we do to hinder them? Are we to
adopt the exclusiveness for which we have punished the Chinese? Are we
to tear the glorious flag of hospitality which has made our freedom the
world-wide blessing of the oppressed? It is not agreeable to find
foreign accents and stumbling locutions passing from the piquant
exception to the general rule of discourse. But to urge on that account
that we should spike away the peaceful foreigner, would be a view of
international relations not in the long-run favourable to the interests
of our fellow-countrymen; for we are at least equal to the races we call
obtrusive in the disposition to settle wherever money is to be made and
cheaply idle living to be found. In meeting the national evils which are
brought upon us by the onward course of the world, there is often no
more immediate hope or resource than that of striving after fuller
national excellence, which must consist in the moulding of more
excellent individual natives. The tendency of things is towards the
quicker or slower fusion of races. It is impossible to arrest this
tendency: all we can do is to moderate its course so as to hinder it
from degrading the moral status of societies by a too rapid effacement
of those national traditions and customs which are the language of the
national genius--the deep suckers of healthy sentiment. Such moderating
and guidance of inevitable movement is worthy of all effort. And it is
in this sense that the modern insistance on the idea of Nationalities
has value. That any people at once distinct and coherent enough to form
a state should be held in subjection by an alien antipathetic government
has been becoming more and more a ground of sympathetic indignation; and
in virtue of this, at least one great State has been added to European
councils. Nobody now complains of the result in this case, though
far-sighted persons see the need to limit analogy by discrimination. We
have to consider who are the stifled people and who the stiflers before
we can be sure of our ground.

The only point in this connection on which Englishmen are agreed is,
that England itself shall not be subject to foreign rule. The fiery
resolve to resist invasion, though with an improvised array of
pitchforks, is felt to be virtuous, and to be worthy of a historic
people. Why? Because there is a national life in our veins. Because
there is something specifically English which we feel to be supremely
worth striving for, worth dying for, rather than living to renounce it.
Because we too have our share--perhaps a principal share--in that spirit
of separateness which has not yet done its work in the education of
mankind, which has created the varying genius of nations, and, like the
Muses, is the offspring of memory.

Here, as everywhere else, the human task seems to be the discerning and
adjustment of opposite claims. But the end can hardly be achieved by
urging contradictory reproaches, and instead of labouring after
discernment as a preliminary to intervention, letting our zeal burst
forth according to a capricious selection, first determined accidentally
and afterwards justified by personal predilection. Not only John Gilpin
and his wife, or Edwin and Angelina, seem to be of opinion that their
preference or dislike of Russians, Servians, or Greeks, consequent,
perhaps, on hotel adventures, has something to do with the merits of the
Eastern Question; even in a higher range of intellect and enthusiasm we
find a distribution of sympathy or pity for sufferers of different blood
or votaries of differing religions, strangely unaccountable on any other
ground than a fortuitous direction of study or trivial circumstances of
travel. With some even admirable persons, one is never quite sure of any
particular being included under a general term. A provincial physician,
it is said, once ordering a lady patient not to eat salad, was asked
pleadingly by the affectionate husband whether she might eat lettuce, or
cresses, or radishes. The physician had too rashly believed in the
comprehensiveness of the word "salad," just as we, if not enlightened by
experience, might believe in the all-embracing breadth of "sympathy with
the injured and oppressed." What mind can exhaust the grounds of
exception which lie in each particular case? There is understood to be a
peculiar odour from the negro body, and we know that some persons, too
rationalistic to feel bound by the curse on Ham, used to hint very
strongly that this odour determined the question on the side of negro
slavery.

And this is the usual level of thinking in polite society concerning the
Jews. Apart from theological purposes, it seems to be held surprising
that anybody should take an interest in the history of a people whose
literature has furnished all our devotional language; and if any
reference is made to their past or future destinies some hearer is sure
to state as a relevant fact which may assist our judgment, that she, for
her part, is not fond of them, having known a Mr Jacobson who was very
unpleasant, or that he, for his part, thinks meanly of them as a race,
though on inquiry you find that he is so little acquainted with their
characteristics that he is astonished to learn how many persons whom he
has blindly admired and applauded are Jews to the backbone. Again, men
who consider themselves in the very van of modern advancement, knowing
history and the latest philosophies of history, indicate their
contemptuous surprise that any one should entertain the destiny of the
Jews as a worthy subject, by referring to Moloch and their own
agreement with the theory that the religion of Jehovah was merely a
transformed Moloch-worship, while in the same breath they are glorifying
"civilisation" as a transformed tribal existence of which some
lineaments are traceable in grim marriage customs of the native
Australians. Are these erudite persons prepared to insist that the name
"Father" should no longer have any sanctity for us, because in their
view of likelihood our Aryan ancestors were mere improvers on a state of
things in which nobody knew his own father?

For less theoretic men, ambitious, to be regarded as practical
politicians, the value of the Hebrew race has been measured by their
unfavourable opinion of a prime minister who is a Jew by lineage. But it
is possible to form a very ugly opinion as to the scrupulousness of
Walpole or of Chatham; and in any case I think Englishmen would refuse
to accept the character and doings of those eighteenth century statesmen
as the standard of value for the English people and the part they have
to play in the fortunes of mankind.

If we are to consider the future of the Jews at all, it seems
reasonable to take as a preliminary question: Are they destined to
complete fusion with the peoples among whom they are dispersed, losing
every remnant of a distinctive consciousness as Jews; or, are there in
the breadth and intensity with which the feeling of separateness, or
what we may call the organised memory of a national consciousness,
actually exists in the world-wide Jewish communities--the seven millions
scattered from east to west--and again, are there in the political
relations of the world, the conditions present or approaching for the
restoration of a Jewish state planted on the old ground as a centre of
national feeling, a source of dignifying protection, a special channel
for special energies which may contribute some added form of national
genius, and an added voice in the councils of the world?

They are among us everywhere: it is useless to say we are not fond of
them. Perhaps we are not fond of proletaries and their tendency to form
Unions, but the world is not therefore to be rid of them. If we wish to
free ourselves from the inconveniences that we have to complain of,
whether in proletaries or in Jews, our best course is to encourage all
means of improving these neighbours who elbow us in a thickening crowd,
and of sending their incommodious energies into beneficent channels. Why
are we so eager for the dignity of certain populations of whom perhaps
we have never seen a single specimen, and of whose history, legend, or
literature we have been contentedly ignorant for ages, while we sneer at
the notion of a renovated national dignity for the Jews, whose ways of
thinking and whose very verbal forms are on our lips in every prayer
which we end with an Amen? Some of us consider this question dismissed
when they have said that the wealthiest Jews have no desire to forsake
their European palaces, and go to live in Jerusalem. But in a return
from exile, in the restoration of a people, the question is not whether
certain rich men will choose to remain behind, but whether there will be
found worthy men who will choose to lead the return. Plenty of
prosperous Jews remained in Babylon when Ezra marshalled his band of
forty thousand and began a new glorious epoch in the history of his
race, making the preparation for that epoch in the history of the world
which has been held glorious enough to be dated from for evermore. The
hinge of possibility is simply the existence of an adequate community of
feeling as well as widespread need in the Jewish race, and the hope that
among its finer specimens there may arise some men of instruction and
ardent public spirit, some new Ezras, some modern Maccabees, who will
know how to use all favouring outward conditions, how to triumph by
heroic example, over the indifference of their fellows and the scorn of
their foes, and will steadfastly set their faces towards making their
people once more one among the nations.

Formerly, evangelical orthodoxy was prone to dwell on the fulfilment of
prophecy in the "restoration of the Jews," Such interpretation of the
prophets is less in vogue now. The dominant mode is to insist on a
Christianity that disowns its origin, that is not a substantial growth
having a genealogy, but is a vaporous reflex of modern notions. The
Christ of Matthew had the heart of a Jew--"Go ye first to the lost
sheep of the house of Israel." The Apostle of the Gentiles had the heart
of a Jew: "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom
pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the
giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are
the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." Modern
apostles, extolling Christianity, are found using a different tone: they
prefer the mediaeval cry translated into modern phrase. But the
mediaeval cry too was in substance very ancient--more ancient than the
days of Augustus. Pagans in successive ages said, "These people are
unlike us, and refuse to be made like us: let us punish them." The Jews
were steadfast in their separateness, and through that separateness
Christianity was born. A modern book on Liberty has maintained that from
the freedom of individual men to persist in idiosyncrasies the world may
be enriched. Why should we not apply this argument to the idiosyncrasy
of a nation, and pause in our haste to hoot it down? There is still a
great function for the steadfastness of the Jew: not that he should
shut out the utmost illumination which knowledge can throw on his
national history, but that he should cherish the store of inheritance
which that history has left him. Every Jew should be conscious that he
is one of a multitude possessing common objects of piety in the immortal
achievements and immortal sorrows of ancestors who have transmitted to
them a physical and mental type strong enough, eminent enough in
faculties, pregnant enough with peculiar promise, to constitute a new
beneficent individuality among the nations, and, by confuting the
traditions of scorn, nobly avenge the wrongs done to their Fathers.

There is a sense in which the worthy child of a nation that has brought
forth illustrious prophets, high and unique among the poets of the
world, is bound by their visions.

Is bound?

Yes, for the effective bond of human action is feeling, and the worthy
child of a people owning the triple name of Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew,
feels his kinship with the glories and the sorrows, the degradation and
the possible renovation of his national family.

Will any one teach the nullification of this feeling and call his
doctrine a philosophy? He will teach a blinding superstition--the
superstition that a theory of human wellbeing can be constructed in
disregard of the influences which have made us human.


THE END.

George Eliot