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by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook


The political protest, which could not be uttered in Russia, was soon to be heard in England. During the very days on which the Russian Jews were weeping in their synagogues, their English coreligionists, in conjunction with prominent English political leaders, organized indignation meetings to protest against the horrors of Russian Judaeophobia. Already at an earlier date, shortly after the pogrom of Warsaw, the London _Times_ had published a series of articles under the heading "The Persecutions of the Jews in Russia," containing a heartrending description of the pogroms of 1881 and an account of the anti-Semitic policy of the Russian rulers. [1] The articles produced a sensation. Reprinted in the form of a special publication, which in a short time went through three editions, they spread far beyond the confines of England. Numerous voices were soon to be heard demanding diplomatic intercession in favor of the oppressed Jews and calling for the organization of material relief for the victims of the pogroms.

[Footnote 1: The author of these articles was Joseph Jacobs who afterwards settled in New York, where he died in 1916.]

Russian diplomacy was greatly disconcerted by the growth of this anti-Russian agitation in a country, whose Government, headed at that time by Gladstone, endeavored to maintain friendly relations with Russia. The organ of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the _Journal de St. Petersbourg_, published two articles, attempting to refute the most revolting facts contained in the articles of the _Times_; it denied that there had been cases of rape, and asserted that "murders were exceedingly rare." [1] The official organ further stated that "the Government has already begun, to consider new legislative measures concerning the Jews," without mentioning, however, that these "measures" were of a repressive character. The mouthpiece of Russian diplomacy asked In an irritated tone whether the pro-Jewish agitators wished "to sow discord between the Russian and the English people" and spoil the friendly relations between these two Powers which Gladstone's Government had established, reversing the contrary policy of Beaconsfield.

[Footnote 1: It is true that the account in the _Times_ contained a few exaggerations as far as the number of victims and the dimensions of the catastrophe in general are concerned, but the picture as a whole was entirely in keeping with the facts, and the cases of murder and rape, as, for instance, in Kiev, were, on the whole, stated correctly.]

However, these diplomatic polemics were unable to restrain the English political leaders from proceeding with the arrangements for the projected demonstrations. After a whole series of protest meetings in various cities of England, a large mass meeting was called at the Mansion House in London, [1] under the chairmanship of the Lord Mayor. The elite of England was represented at the meeting, including Members of Parliament, dignitaries of the Church, the titled aristocracy, and men of learning, A number of prominent persons who were unable to be present sent letters expressing their warm sympathy with the aims of the gathering; among them were Tennyson, Sir John Lubbock, and others.

[Footnote 1: On February 1, 1882.]

The first speaker, the Earl of Shaftesbury, pointed out that the English people did not wish to meddle in the inner affairs of Russia, but desired to influence it by "moral weapons," in the name of the principle of the "solidarity of nations." The official denials of the atrocities he brushed aside with the remark that, if but a tenth part of the reports were true, "it is sufficient to draw down the indignation of the world." It was necessary, in the opinion of Shaftesbury, to appeal directly to the Tzar and ask him "to be a Cyrus to the Jews, and not an Antiochus Epiphanes."

The Bishop of London, speaking in the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of the Anglican Church, reminded his audience that only several years previously England had been horrified by the outrages perpetrated by the Turkish Bashi-buzuks[1] upon the Bulgars, who were then defended by Russia, and it had now a right to protest against Christian Russia as it had formerly done against Mohammedan Turkey.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 253, n. 2.]

The most powerful speech was delivered by Cardinal Manning, the great Catholic divine. He pointed to the fact that the Russian Jews were not only the object of temporary pogroms but that they constantly groaned under the yoke of a degrading legislation which says to the Jew: "You may not pass beyond that boundary; you must not go within eighteen miles of that frontier; you must not dwell in that town; you must live only in that province." He caused laughter in the audience by quoting from Ignatyev's famous circular concerning the appointment of the gubernatorial commissions, in which, commenting upon the terrible atrocities recently perpetrated upon the _Jews_, the Minister lamented "the sad condition of the _Christian_ inhabitants of the southern provinces." Cardinal Manning concluded his eloquent address with the following words marked by a lofty, prophetic strain:

  There is a book which is common to the race of Israel and to us   Christians. That book is the bond between us, and in that book I   read that the people of Israel are the eldest people upon the earth.   Russia and Austria and England are of yesterday, compared with the   imperishable people, which, with an inextinguishable life and   immutable traditions, and faith in God and in the laws of God,   scattered, as it is, all over the world, passed through the fires   unscathed, trampled into the dust, and yet never combining with the   dust into which it is trampled, lives still, a witness and a warning   to us. [1]

[Footnote 1: In reproducing the quotations I have followed in the main the account of the Mansion House Meeting contained in the pamphlet published In New York under the title _Proceedings of Meetings held February 1, 1882, at New York and London, to Express Sympathy with the Oppressed Jews in Russia_. The account of the _Jewish Chronicle of_ February 8, 1882, offers a number of variations.]

After several more speeches by Canon Farrar, Professor Bryce,[1] and others, the following resolutions were adopted:

[Footnote 1: James Bryce, the famous writer and statesman, subsequently British ambassador at Washington.]

  1. That, in the opinion of this meeting, the persecution and the   outrages which the Jews in many parts of the Russian dominions have   for several months past suffered are an offence to Christian   civilization, and to be deeply deplored.

  2. That this meeting, while disclaiming any right or desire to   interfere in the internal affairs of another country, and desiring   that the most amicable relations between England and Russia should   be preserved, feels it a duty to express its opinion that the laws   of Russia relating to Jews tend to degrade them in the eyes of the   Christian population, and expose Russian Jewish subjects to the   outbreaks of fanatical ignorance.

  3. That the Lord Mayor be requested to forward a copy of these   resolutions to the Right Honourable W.B. Gladstone and the Right   Honourable Earl Granville, in the hope that Her Majesty's Government   may be able, when an opportunity arises, to exercise a friendly   influence with the Russian Government in accordance with the spirit   of the preceding resolutions.

Finally a resolution was adopted to open a relief fund for the sufferers of the pogroms and for improving the condition of Russian Jewry by emigration as well as by other means. The committee chosen by the meeting for this purpose included the Lord Mayor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Manning, the Bishop of London, Nathaniel de Rothschild, and others.

A few days after the Mansion House Meeting the English Government responded to the resolutions adopted on that occasion. The following dispatch, dated London, February 9, appeared in the Russian papers:

  In the House of Commons, Gladstone, replying to an interpellation of   Sir John Simon, stated that reports concerning the persecutions of   the Jews in Russia had been received from the English consuls, and   could not but inspire sentiments of the utmost pain and horror. But   the matter being an internal affair of another country, it could not   become the object of official correspondence or inquiry on the part   of England. All that could be done was to make casual and unofficial   representations. All other actions touching the question of the   relations of the Russian Government to the Jews were more likely to   harm than to help the Jewish population. [1]

[Footnote 1: On this occasion Gladstone merely repeated the words of the Russian official communication which had been published on the eye of the Mansion House Meeting in the hope of scaring the organizers of the protest: "The Russian Government, which has always most scrupulously refrained from interfering in the inner affairs of other countries, is correspondingly unable to allow a similar violation of international practice by others. Any attempt on the part of another Government to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people can only have the result of calling forth the resentment of the lower classes and thereby affect unfavorably the condition of the Russian Jews." In addition to this threat, the _Imperial Messenger_ endeavored to prove that the measures adopted by the Government against the pogroms "were not weak," as may be seen from the large number of those arrested by the police after the disorders, which amounted to 3675 in the South and to 3151 in Warsaw.]

Another telegram sent from London on February 14 contained the following communication:

  In the House of Commons, Gladstone, replying to Baron Worms, stated   that no humane purposes would be achieved by parliamentary debates   about the Jews of Russia, Such debates were rather likely to arouse   the hostility of a certain portion of the Russian population against   the Jews and that therefore no day would be appointed for the   debate, as requested by Worms. [1]

[Footnote 1: Compare the _Jewish Chronicle_ of February 17, 1882.]

In this way matters were smoothed over, to the great satisfaction of Russian diplomacy. The public and Government of England confined themselves to expressing their feelings of "disgust" at the treatment of the Jews in Russia, but no immediate representations to St. Petersburg were attempted by Gladstone's Cabinet. For the same reason the English Prime Minister refused to forward to its destination a petition addressed to the Russian Government by the Jews of England, with Baron Rothschild at their head. Count Ignatyev had no cause for worry. The misunderstanding with the friendly Government had been removed, and the fiery protests at the English meetings interfered but little with his peace of mind. He pursued his course, unabashed by the "disgust" which it aroused in the whole civilized world.

The voice of protest against the Russian barbarities which resounded throughout England was seconded in far-off America. Long before the accession of Alexander III. the Government of the United States had repeated occasion to make representations to the Russian Government with reference to its treatment of the Jews. These representations were prompted by the fact that American citizens of the Jewish faith were subjected during their stay in Russia to the same disabilities and discriminations which the Russian Government imposed upon its own Jews. [1] Yet, actuated by broader humanitarian considerations, the United States Government became interested in the general question of the position of Russian Jewry, and invited reports from its representatives at St. Petersburg on the subject. [2] On April 14, 1880, the Secretary of State, William M. Evarts, responding to a petition of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, who had complained about "the extraordinary hardships" which the Jews of Russia were made to suffer at that time, directed the United States Minister at St. Petersburg, John W. Foster, to bear in mind "the liberal sentiments of this Government" and to express its views "in a manner which will subserve the interests of religious freedom." [3] Acting upon these instructions, Foster took occasion to discuss the Jewish question in his conversations with leading Russian officials about which he reported fully to his Government. [4]

[Footnote 1: See the correspondence between the United States and Russia collected in _House of Representatives, 51st Congress, 1st Session. Executive Document_ No. 470, dated October 1, 1890.]

[Footnote 2: A "memorandum on the legal position of the Hebrews in Russia" was transmitted by the American legation to the Secretary of State on September 29, 1872 (_loc. cit_. pp. 9-13). An abstract from a Russian memorandum on the Jewish right of residence was forwarded in the same manner on March 15, 1875 (_loc. cit_., pp. 25-28). The circular of Tolstoi against the pogroms (see later in the text, p. 314) is reproduced in full, _loc. cit_., p. 68 et seg.]

[Footnote 3: _loc. cit._, p. 33.]

[Footnote 4: An account of Foster's conversation on the problem of Russian Jewry with de Giers, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Loris-Melikov, the Minister of the Interior, and "the Minister of Worship" is found in his dispatch of December 30, 1880, _loc. cit._, p. 43 et seq.]

On May 22 of the same year a resolution was passed by the House of Representatives requesting the President to lay before it all available information relating to the cases of expulsion of American citizens of the Jewish faith from Russia, and at the same time "to communicate to this House all correspondence in reference to the proscription of Jews by the Russian Government." [1]

[Footnote 1: Compare _Congressional Record_, Vol. 13, part 7, _Appendix,_ p. 651. The same request for information was repeated by the House of Representatives on January SO, 1882 (_loc. cit._., Vol. 13, p. 738; see also p. 645). In reply to the latter resolution President Arthur submitted, under date of May 22, 1882, all the diplomatic papers on the subject which were printed as _Executive Document_ No. 192. These papers were reprinted on October 1, 1890, as part of _Executive Document_ No. 470, under President Harrison]

The pogroms of 1881, and the indignation they aroused among the American people induced the United States Government to adopt a more energetic form of protest. In his dispatch to the United States Minister at St. Petersburg, dated April 15, 1882, the new Secretary of State, Frederic T. Frelinghuysen, takes account of the prevailing sentiment in the country in these words: "The prejudice of race and creed having in our day given way to the claims of our common humanity, the people of the United States have heard with great regret the stories of the sufferings of the Jews in Russia." He therefore notifies the Minister "that the feeling of friendship which the United States entertains for Russia prompts this Government to express the hope that the Imperial Government will find means to cause the persecution of these unfortunate beings to cease." [1]

[Footnote 1: _Executive Document_ No. 470, p. 65.]

A more emphatic note of protest was sounded in the House of Representatives by Samuel S. Cox, of New York, who, in his lengthy speech delivered on July 31, 1882, scathingly denounced the repressive methods practiced by the Russian Government against the Jews, and, more particularly, the outrages which had been perpetrated upon them during the preceding year. [1] He makes the former directly responsible for the latter. In his opinion the pogroms were not merely a spontaneous and sudden outburst of the Eussian populace against the Jews, but rather the slow result of the disabilities and discriminations which are imposed upon the Jews by the Russian Government and are bound to degrade them in the eyes of their fellow-citizens:

[Footnote 3: _Congressional Record_, Vol. 13, part 7, _Appendix,_ p. 651 et seq. The speech is accompanied by an elaborate tabulated statement of the pogroms and a map of the area in which they had taken place.]

  Is it said that the Russian peasantry, and not the Government, are   responsible, I answer: If the peasantry of Russia are too ignorant   or debased to understand the nature of this cruel persecution, they   have warrant for their conduct in the customs and laws of Russia to   which I have referred. These discriminate against the Jews. They   have reference to their isolation, their separation from Russian   protection, their expulsion from certain parts of the Empire, and   their religion. When a peasant observes such forceful movements and   authoritative discriminations in a Government against a race, it   arouses his ignorance, and inflames his fanatical zealotry. Adding   this to the jealousy of the Jews as middlemen and business-men, and   you may account for, but not justify, these horrors. The   Hebraic-Russian question has been summed up in a few words:   "Extermination of two and one-half millions of mankind because they   are--Jews!" [1]

[Footnote 1: loc. _cit_., p. 653.]

After giving an elaborate account of the horrors which had taken place in Russia during 1881, he wound up his speech with the following eloquent appeal:

  This people is one of the survivors, with Egypt, China and India, of   the infancy of mankind. It is at the mercy of the cruel despot of   the North. With a lineage unrivalled for purity, a religious   sentiment and ethics drawn out of the glory and greatness of Mount   Sinai ... with an eternal influence from its law-givers, prophets,   and psalmists never vouchsafed to any language, race or creed, It   outlives the philosophies and myths of Greece and the grandeur and   power of Rome. It is this race, broken-hearted and scattered, to   which the Czar of all the Russias adds the enormities of his rule   upon the victims of the ignorance and slander of the ages. The   birthright of this race is thus despoiled; and, Sir, have we no word   of protest? Struggling against adversities which no other people   have encountered, do they not yet survive--the wine from the crushed   grape? [1]

[Footnote 1: _loc. cit_., p. 656.]

The resolution introduced by him on that occasion was to the following effect:

  Whereas the Government of the United States should exercise its   influence with the Government of Russia to stay the spirit of   persecution as directed against the Jews, and protect the citizens   of the United States resident in Russia, and seek redress for   injuries already inflicted, as well as to secure by wise and   enlightened administration the Hebrew subjects of Russia and the   Hebrew citizens of the United States resident in Russia against the   recurrence of wrongs; Therefore

  Resolved, That the President of the United States, if not   incompatible with the public service, report to this House any   further correspondence in relation to the Jews in Russia not already   communicated to this House." [1] [Footnote 1: _Congressional Record_,   Vol. 13, p. 6691.]

The resolution, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, was finally passed by the House on February 23, 1883.

The sentiments of the broad masses of the American people had found utterance somewhat earlier at a big protest meeting which was held in February, 1882, in the city of New York, where the first refugees from Russia had begun to arrive. [1] A resolution was adopted protesting "against the spirit of medieval persecution thus revived in Russia" and calling upon the Government of the United States to make energetic representations to St. Petersburg. One of the speakers at the New York meeting, Judge Noah Davis, said, amidst the enthusiastic applause of the audience:

[Footnote 1: The meeting was held on Wednesday, February 1, 1882, on the same day as the Mansion House Meeting in London. The chair was occupied by the Mayor, William R. Grace. See the _American Hebrew_ of February 3, 1882, p. 138 et seq.]

  Let them come! I would to Heaven it were in our power to take the   whole three million Jews of Russia. The valley of the Mississippi   alone could throw her strong arms around, and draw them all to her   opulent bosom, and bless them with homes of comfort, prosperity, and   happiness. Thousands of them are praying to come. The throne of   Jehovah is besieged with prayers for the powers of escape, and if   they cannot live in peace under Russian laws without being subject   to these awful persecutions, let us aid them in coming to us. [1]

[Footnote 1: See _Proceedings of Meetings held February 1, 1882, at New York and London, to Express Sympathy with the Oppressed Jews in Russia_. New York, p. 20 et seq.]

These words of the speaker, uttered in a moment of oratorical exultation, voiced the secret wish cherished by many enthusiasts of the Russian ghetto.

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