James Kendall Hosmer.

The Jews, ancient, mediæval, and modern online

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in the distance, the dark, misty waves of the Dead
Sea. "

They drew near Jerusalem on the following day
in a magnificent cavalcade. The Turkish governor
led the way, attended by his of^cers, and an escort
in costly and brilliant dress mounted upon the finest
Arab steeds. It would have been impossible to pay
more honor to a king. Through the Gate of the
Tribes the city was entered, and, as the Jewish quar-
ter was reached, bands of music and choirs of singers
welcomed the arrival, while a vast crowd clapped
their hands in joy. Montefiore paid his first visit


to the synagogue, where, being called to the Sepher,
or sacred book, he offered prayer in the Jewish man-
ner for those present and also for English friends.
Judith Montefiore was allowed the honor of light-
ing four lamps in front of the shrine, and putting
the bells on the Sepher. During this sojourn, and
also at other times, for Montefiore has repeatedly
visited the Holy Land, charity was bestowed as
wisely as profusely, oppression was made to relax
its hold, and provision made for the education of
the Jews in intelligence and habits of thrift. " Fare-
well, Holy City ! " exclaims Judith Montefiore, at
last. " Blessed be the Almighty who has protected
us w^hile contemplating the sacred scenes which
environ thee ! Thankful may we ever be for his
manifold mercies ! May the fountain of our feel-
ings evermore run in the current of praise and entire
devotion to his will and his truth, till the time shall
arrive when the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy
upon their heads ! "

In reading the story of Montefiore's life, one feels
transported back to the days of the patriarchs, so
astonishing is his long-continued strength. After
reaching eighty, he undertook four of his great phil-
anthropic journeys — two to Jerusalem, one to Rou-
mania, and one to Russia. Of the feats of his age,
none is more interesting than his visit to the Sultan
of Morocco, whose half million Jewish subjects had
become exposed to persecution, largely, as in the
Damascus case, through the incitement of the repre-
sentatives of Christian powers resident among them.


A French frigate conveyed him from Gibraltar to
Tangier, where his landing had a touch of the comic.
" Our captain," writes one of his retinue, " had con-
trived a kind of car, in which, for want of a suitable
landing-place, Sir Moses might be borne over a con-
siderable extent of shallow water between the boat
and the shore. His porters, and a great many of the
laboring class of Israelites were wading, and his su-
perior size thus conspicuously moving over the water,
surrounded by a shabby amphibious group, appeared
to me like a travestied representation of Neptune
among the Tritons." When matters at Tangier
had been put to rights. Sir Moses set out once more
from Gibraltar, this time with an English frigate at
his disposal, to make his way to the city of Morocco.
Arriving with an imposing suite, he was received by
the Sultan with the utmost honor. The barbaric
prince, surrounded by the flower of his army, mounted
upon a charger whose white color indicated that the
highest deference was shown, met the strangers. An
important edict was issued, granting all for which
the guest had asked. Thus relief was afforded not
only to Jews, but to Christians also, for the catholic
intercessor had besought of the Mohammedan good
treatment for men of all confessions.

Sir Moses stood in Jerusalem for the last time in
his ninetieth year, on a mission for the improvement
of the Palestinian Jews. Something of the fervor of
the psalms pervades the pages of the old man's
diary. On the night before reaching the sacred
shore, " Myriads of celestial luminaries, each of them
as large and bright almost as any of the radiant


planets in the Western horizon, were now emittm^
their silvery rays of light in the spangled canopy
over us. Sure and steady our ship steered towards
the coast of the land so dearly beloved, summoning
all to sleep ; but few of the passengers retired that
night. Every one of them appeared to be in medi-
tation. It was silent all around us — silent, so that
the palpitation of the heart might almost be heard.
It was as if every one had the words on his lips : ' Ah,
when will our eyes be gladdened by the first glance
of the Holy Land ! When shall we be able to set
foot on the spot which was the long-wished for goal
of our meditations ! ' Such were that night the feel-
ings of every Gentile passenger on board. And what
other thoughts, I ask, could have engrossed the
mind of an Israelite? The words of Rabbi Jehuda
Halevi, which he uttered when entering the gates of
Jerusalem, now came into my mind : ' The kingdoms
of idolatry wnll all change and disappear; thy glory
alone, O Zion, will last forever ; for the Eternal has
chosen thee for his abode. Happy the man who is
now waiting in confiding hope to behold the rising
glory of thy light ! ' "

But while the heart of Sir Moses could thus rhap-
sodize, a cool and practical good sense was shown,
as always, in his conduct. On the way to Jerusalem
he inspected narrowly the farms which he had before
set in operation, counted the fruit-trees that had
been set out, saw to the efificiency of the machines
for irrigation, with prudent thrift refused the steam-
engines that were petitioned for, because he thought
fuel too scarce and skilled labor too scanty ; and


r/ f-ii V


when he reached at last Jerusalem, set all to work
to clean the city to prevent the spread of cholera.
Nothing so pleased him as the evidence he found
that the Palestinian Jews could be made to work.
In his appeal in their behalf he declares : " The Jews
in Jerusalem, in every part of the Holy Land, I tell
you, do work ; are more industrious even than many
men in Europe ; otherwise none of them would re-
main alive. But, when the work does not sufificiently
pay ; when there is no market for the produce of the
land ; when famine, cholera, and other misfortunes
befall the inhabitants, we Israelites, unto whom God
revealed himself on Sinai more than any other na-
tion, must step forward and render them help."
Practical suggestions follow, which were at once
acted upon. In late years the " Monteflore Testi-
monial Committee" has helped agricultural colonies,
established and loaned money to building societies,
and in particular made a beginning at Jerusalem of
a new and beautiful city outside the Jaffa gate, in
which there are already six hundred houses, whole-
some and modern, accommodating a population of
four thousand.

The generous hand of Sir Moses was a thousand
times stretched out in aid of the Gentile as well as
the Jew. He helped to build Protestant churches, to
found hospitals for the Turk and the Catholic, to lift
up the poor of all races and colors. Naturally and
properly, however, it was upon his fellow-Jews that
his beneficence was for the most part poured out.
It is quite possible that at the time of his death, no
man upon the face of the earth was more widely


known. The civilized world celebrated his hun-
dredth birthday, and many a barbarian city as
well; for his influence has been powerfully felt in
Bokhara and Samarcand, as well as in St. Peters-
burg and Rome, — in Timbuctoo and Pekin, as in
New York and San Francisco ; the Bedouin free-
booter, the Turkoman sheik, the Dahoman savage,
not less than Czar and Pope, have found their
ruthless hands stayed by his powerful intervention.

In face and form the old Hebrew was not less strik-
ing than in his years and deeds. He was six feet
three inches in height, and stooped but little even at
the last. His attire was of the fashion of sixty years
ago, — the high-collared coat, the huge white neck-
cloth and ample frill of the days of George IV.
There exists a fine portrait of him, in which things
incongruous strangely come together, but for him it
is all happily conceived. On a hill overlooking Jeru-
salem, with its walls and the mosque of Omar in the
background, stands his towering form in the costume
of a deputy-lieutenant of an English county.

It helps to the picturesqueness of this curious and
interesting figure of our times, that he remained a
thoroughly orthodox Jew. No one was more con-
stant at the synagogue until within a few years, and
even at one hundred he read daily every word of the
prescribed prayers. He fasted on the anniversary of
the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, and on the
Day of Atonement. The dietary laws of the Penta-
teuch he obeyed rigorously, and never tasted the
flesh of animals that divide not the hoof nor chew
the cud. For each Jewish man-child he would have


had the ancient rite of circumcision, — at the passover
time must be the feast of unleavened bread, — upon
occasion he wore the embroidered tcpliillin, the phy-
lacteries upon his front ; — he discharged in the syna-
gogue the functions of Gabay, Parnass, and long
filled the office of Lavadore, washer of the dead, con-
ductor of the solemn rites by which the bodies of
the chosen people are carefully made ready for the
sepulchre. The supporters on his arms hold aloft
banners on which the word "Jerusalem " is inscribed
in Hebrew characters, and Jerusalem has been the
watchword of his life. When questioned as to his
hope of a restoration of Israel, as expressed by the
rabbis and prophets, his reply was : '' I am quite cer-
tain of it ; it has been my constant dream ; Pal-
estine must belong to the Jews, and Jerusalem is
destined to become the seat of a Jewish empire."
Of this man it may, indeed, be said, following the
words of George Eliot, " he had Oriental sunlight in
his blood."



The astonishing deeds of men of Hebrew blood as
statesmen, partly because leadership here always im-
presses men powerfully, partly because it is not until
recently that we have seen Jews in this eminence,
affect the world more profoundly than the other dis-
tinctions. It is startling enough to see within one
decade this remnant of a race, a small fraction of the
population of Europe, so far forward that a few
years ago George Eliot could say : " At this mo-
ment 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 Conservatives of Eng-
land is a Jew " ; while, as others assert, the foremost
Spanish republican, Castclar, is of Jewish descent,
and the diplomacy of Russia is guided by minds of
the same race.

Upon the career of the eloquent and public-spirited
Castelar we will not here dwell. The name of Lasker,
though he died among us, is less well-known to Ameri-
can ears than that of Gambetta, and much less fa-
miliar than that of Disraeli. Lasker* was, in the Ger-
man Reichstag, or Parliament, the recognized leader
* " German Political Leaders," Tuttle.


of the great national liberal party (the majority of
the body), the ablest debater in Germany, a man
with a brave following. It was he who, in company
with his fellow-Hebrews, the Frankfort banker Bam-
berger, and Oppenheim, dared to put a hook into
the jaws of leviathan himself, the haughty Prince Bis-
marck, in his too cavalier dealing with the liberties of
the people. One reads with great satisfaction of the
triumph of this able, high-minded champion, over
the sneering, supercilious Junker party, the German
Squirearchy, which makes it its special work to
throw obstacles in the path of freedom. They, natu-
rally, beyond the rest of the nation, have felt the
traditional dislike of the Jews, and have been accus-
tomed to ask, when any financial scandal came out,
with elevated eyebrow and curled lip : " Well, who
is it this time, Isaac, or Abraham, or Moses ? " as
if a swindler must of necessity be a Jew. It was
a complete turning of the tables, when Lasker, with
adroitness and boldness equally remarkable, brought
home some most discreditable railroad delinquencies
directly to the doors of Count Itzenplitz and Prince
Puttbus, high-born functionaries in especial favor
with the great chancellor and the emperor. With
all their influence, there was no escape for them from
the exposures of the fearless deputy ; they hung gib-
beted in their fraud, and the scoffers were silenced.
A peculiarity of Lasker's oratory was that in his
enunciation the syllables were curiously detached,
as his speech flowed on in its fluent course. When
he rose in his place, a small unimpressive figure,
with a high piercing voice pouring itself out in



this singular staccato, all heads bent forward in re-
spectful listening; there was not a man in the em-
pire that could cope with the Hebrew in the intellect-
ual wrestle.

If it excites alarm in Germany that the Jews, not
two per cent, in the population, are elbowing them-
selves into all the best places, France perhaps has
scarcely less reason for fear. Those spiders, the
brothers Pereire, entangling France, then all Europe,
in a web of railroads, then sucking out the life and
forces of the ensnared in a revenue of millions, are
representatives of a class of great bankers. Much of
whatever success and glory the Second Empire can
lay claim to is due to the work of Achille Fould,
four times Finance Minister ; and in the times since,
how frequent upon the lips of men have been the
names of the republican deputies Cremieux and

Gambetta!'" A year or two since, there was per-
haps in the world no more interesting name. In the
humiliations of his country, in 1870, his efforts to
save her were colossal. He was afterwards, as
premier, virtual ruler of France, and was almost as
certain to become the real ruler had he lived as if the
unswerving primogeniture of the old regime were
still in force. He was descended from Jews of the
Italian city of Genoa. A curious story is told of him
in boyhood, Avhich is of interest as betraying in him
that strange characteristic intensity of the children
of Jacob, and which in Gambetta was manifested
constantly afterward in his career. His father sent

*" Certain Men of Mark : Gambetta," Towle=



him to a school which for some reason was distasteful
to him. He wrote home that if he were not taken
away he would put out one of his eyes. His father
laughed at the threat and disregarded the request,
and was presently shocked at hearing that the boy
had actually put out one of his eyes, at the same
time coolly writing that if he were not removed from
the hated place he would put out the other. Only a
Jewish boy could have resorted to such a measure,
so outre, so grotesque in the midst of its horrors, for
bringing his parent to terms. In 1868, the day came at
last when Gambetta, then an active, ambitious young
lawyer, was to take the first step toward a wide fame.
In defence of newspapers arbitrarily handled by the
censors of Napoleon III., he made a speech which,
for vivacity, strength of invective, and beauty, is said
to be almost without parallel in the French language.
It was delivered on a dull afternoon in December, in
a little police court of the city. Gambetta spoke for
several hours with an audacity and earnestness that
completely overawed the tribunal, and he was not
interrupted. What he uttered was the rankest
treason, a veritable thunderbolt upon the imperial
head. If it had been delivered by an ordinary man
in an ordinary way, imprisonment would have fol-
lowed at once. As it was, judge and people sat spell-
bound. Rumors ran through the city that a great
revolutionary address was in progress, till prudent
tradesmen got their shutters ready, and called their
children home from school, fearing there would be
riots in the streets. Police were on the alert ; the
cavalry were held ready as on days of barricade. The


daring advocate was, however, left untouched, and
next morning was famous.

News of his speech was breathed mysteriously from
town to town, though the government watched the
telegraph, and within a week printed copies were in
the hands of the electors of all France. He was then
just thirty years old, always carelessly dressed, ner-
vous, with olive complexion, and intense, brusque
ways. A speech soon followed at Toulouse, in which
hostility to the empire was more plainly shown, and
at once the republicans took him up as their cham-
pion. He soon appeared in the Corps Legislatif.
As the central figure of a group of men sworn to
oppose the empire, he pointed out unshrinkingly the
follies and knaveries of the imperialist policy, not
hesitating to declare his belief that a new order of
things was at hand. He once cried out to the min-
ister of Napoleon HI., Olivier: "We accept you and
your constitution as a bridge to the republic ; that 's
all." When at length those days of 1870 came, so dark
for France, like Frenchmen in general, he had no con-
ception of the abyss upon the brink of which they
stood. Not sympathizing with the cry for war with
Germany, he yet made no vigorous opposition, and
awoke overwhelmed with surprise at the afflictions
which prostrated his country. As the forces of the em-
pire were so dismally parried and beaten down, the
olive-skinned, one-eyed young deputy sprang to the
front with an astonishing vigor. Then first the world at
large began to read in the crowding despatches that
odd Italian name which afterwards became so fa-
miliar. He attained at once to prominence in the


Committee of National Defence, and presently was
Minister of the Interior. For some time after the
beginning of the Prussian siege, he was at his post
in Paris, acute and bold, always crying out against
inaction, lavishing upon his disheartened country-
men, as he lashed now the poltroons, now uttered
words of hope, such an eloquence as the French
chamber has seldom heard. The great Bossuet, in
the seventeenth century, was called " the eagle of
Meaux." In our time the eagle of France for soaring
speech was this impetuous son of the Jew ; and
appropriately enough, when he had tried in vain by
miracles in the forum to make good disasters in the
field, there came that picturesque balloon flight of
his, in which he sailed through the clouds above the
hostile belt of fire about Paris, and from a new eyrie
at Tours, while France lay for the most part beneath
the foot of the German, faced the danger with voice
and talon undismayed !

In those days there was such unheard of impotency
in ruler, in generals, in troops, that we knew almost
nothing of the few real heroes who fought against
fate with gigantic vigor — an astonishing struggle,
worthy of the best hearts in any age of that chival-
rous nation, though they were borne down. The
wrestle of Gambetta was prodigious. Paris for the
time was blotted out of France by the Prussian cor-
don. Elsewhere Gambetta was dictator, minister of
war and of peace. By wonderful speech and unfalter-
ing courage in the face of the desperate circum-
stances, he concluded loans, raised armies, appointed
generals, quelled dissensions and revolts, combining


in himself, as has been said, the executive faculties
of half a hundred ofificers. If he had known how to
handle the sword, those who studied the struggle
believe that even then, after Mctz and Sedan, he
might have saved France. Such armies and leaders
as were still left, he tried to make receptacles of his
own abounding enthusiasm. His voice was heard
everywhere in the southern provinces always coun-
selling advance. He hoped against hope that a little
experience would make solid troops out of raw peas-
ant levies, inspirited his colleagues with confident
despatches, fired the disheartened soldiers with pro-
clamations that were Napoleonic, to face again and
again the iron Prussians. He was undaunted even
to the end.

For a moment he retired, but was forced into pub-
lic life in 1871, being elected deputy by ten depart-
ments. After the return of quieter times, Gambetta
stood in the fore-front of the Republicans, with a
power of moving the masses beyond that of any
contemporary. He grew more moderate, passing
from a revolutionary leader into a prudent statesman.
In quiet times his eloquence is described* as "rich,
sensuous, full of heats, showers, lightnings, perfumes
of the south." He spoke with an infinity of gesture,
a constant play of thought and fancy in his mobile
face, leaving upon all an impression of reserved
power. But when the occasion called, there was a wild
passion in Gambetta absolutely indescribable. " His
hollow and resounding voice was like that of some
furious prophet of doom. His intense face would

* Towle.


sometimes fly out of the mass of listeners, the
more timorous of his side would catch him by the
clothing, but he could not be restrained. His arm
would be outstretched, and he would cry defiant con-
tradiction or hurl the lie in the teeth of those who
ventured to oppose him."

In fact there is nothing reported of those great
and burning spirits of the old Revolution, of Camille
Desmoulins, of Vergniaud, the Girondin, of the
golden-mouthed Mirabeau, indeed, which surpasses
what we hear of this towering descendant of the
Hebrew. Says a writer describing a stormy scene in
the Assembly : " Gambetta was astonishing in the
midst of the tumult. He went on with his hollow,
resounding voice, with a retort for every aggression,
his grand, powerful gestures knowing so well how to
give such terrific explosion to anger, such comic force
to irony. He went on in disorder, his hair falling
over his brow, shaking his head, throwing taunts at
his interrupters, distributing sledge-hammer blows,
sowing apostrophes and sarcasms broadcast."

Americans in general know little of the politics of
France. We have been inclined to belittle the na-
tion, though less of late than in 1870, when the brave
people were so strangely panic-struck and delivered
over. But down the dark future the wise reader of
the signs of the times seems to hear even now a new
clash of arms, a sudden, overwhelming spring upon
Alsace and Lorraine, an outpouring of molten zeal,
as in the revolutionary days, consuming, as it con-
sumed before, Teutonic power and prestige. There
was the other day, in France, a man of burning soul


and commanding intellect, fully determined, if occa-
sion served, to attempt this. The idol of masses of
his countrymen, with his hand already on the strings
of power, a soul perhaps scarcely less potent than
that of the other Italian, the earth-shaking man of
destiny. Had he lived, the Genoese might have re-
peated the career of the Corsican.

And now we take up the most singular and fasci-
nating of characters, the adventurer born among out-
casts, who had the address to make himself the lead-
er of the haughtiest and most conservative of
aristocracies, the Tories of Great Britain.^ Born a
Jew of the " Sephardim," the elite of the race, of a
family of Spanish derivation, which, after a sojourn
in Venice, came in the last century to England,
the Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli, when
twelve years old, through the instrumentality of
Samuel Rogers, the poet, who felt that the bright
boy ought to have a career, was baptized a Chris-
tian. f We shall, however, find no better type of
the Jew than he. His descent was written in every
trait of his character, as in every feature of his
face. The persistency with which he fought his way
upward, handicapped by limitations of every kind,
by outward circumstances, by personal peculiarities
which brought ridicule, his origin in the eyes of the
world so contemptible — it is that extraordinary Jew-
ish force. Without dwelling upon his lighter title
to fame, his literary career, let us take up at once the

* Brandes : " Life of Beaconsfield."
f His father was Isaac Disraeli, an author of some reputation.


story of his first speech in ParHament, into which he
at last pushed himself after disappointments and
labors that can scarcely be measured. At length he
stood there, the strange, fantastic figure, the olive skin,
the thick Jewish nose, the black curl on his forehead,
the Oriental passion for glitter and adornment in his
blood manifesting itself in excess of jewelry, finical

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Online LibraryJames Kendall HosmerThe Jews, ancient, mediæval, and modern → online text (page 18 of 23)