The Occident and American Jewish Advocate (August 1, 1867)
House of Lords, July 1st
Lord Stratford De Redcliffe rose to move that an [sic] humble address be presented to Her Majesty for copies of any correspondence which might have taken place between Her Majesty’s government and the Ottoman Porte, or the Hospodar of the Danubian Principalities, respecting measures adopted by the government of the latter for depriving the Jewish residents of Moldavia of their landed property and expelling them from their farms, and many of them from the country. He said it would be in their lordship’s recollection that the country, which was the scene of the occurrences alluded to in the motion of which he had given notice, had been placed under the special care of Her Majesty’s government and several powerful allies.
It seemed from information he had obtained that in the principality of Moldavia a large proportion of the population had been from early times of the Jewish persuasion, and, generally, with some occasional exceptions, common to all parts of Europe, they had enjoyed tranquility, and had been enabled to pursue their industrial avocations without molestation.
But a few weeks ago, a sudden attack was made upon them, not only through the religious prejudices of a part of the people, but also by a positive ordinance from the Home Department of the local government. Many of them had made contracts, partly with the government and partly with private persons, for the purpose of carrying on farms, inns and places of public reception, and they were in a condition to acquire property.
It would seem that this circumstance annoyed those who had hitherto enjoyed a sort of monopoly in the conduct of inns, and the Minister of the Home Department, Mr. Bratiano, issued an ordinance by which the Jews were dispossessed of their property and expelled from their holdings without any reason being given, but under the pretext that they were vagabonds. Numbers of the Jews were seized, put in fetters, and forcibly conveyed away by troops to be embarked on the Danube for transportation to some unknown land.
Representations were made to the Emperor of the French, who expressed his sympathy with the sufferers, and engaged to send orders to his agents in Moldavia to make representations to the local government, and to obtain all the redress he could.
At the same time, representations were made to the English government, and Lord Stanley, with his usual promptitude in attending to the public interests, wrote to the British Consul at Moldavia and to the authorities, for the purpose of obtaining relief for the sufferers.
In order to give their lordships an idea of the manner in which the Jews had been treated, he would read a translation which he had made of a few sentences from a paper published in the Moldavian language in France, the Archives Israélites. On the 22d of May last that journal said:
“Bratiano, Minister of the Home Department, ordains that all persons of our religion should be immediately expelled from their farms, inns and ale-houses in the country, annulling, by a stroke of his pen, the contracts which the Israelite farmers have concluded either with the government or with private persons. The same minister has signalized his recent arrival at Jassy by a decree still more barbarous, ordering the police to rush in upon the Jews as so many vagabonds; and the police, acting under the Minister’s own eyes, collect in the streets from day to day numerous masses of Jews, without any judicial control, without distinction of rank or age, and brutally loading them with irons, have them transported beyond the Danube.”
Again, on the 25th of May the same journal said:
“The state of things has grown worse. Nothing is heard in the streets but cried of distress from the wives and children of the poor transported victims. They continue to hunt us down. They fetter the old and infirm, and without pity drag them towards some unknown place of banishment. It is in vain that we appeal to the authorities. We are outlawed, and the populace is excited for our extermination.”
It was only natural that there should be some curiosity as to what had resulted from the intervention of France and of this country. All that he could learn on the subject was that the public execution of the decree had not been persevered in, and although overt acts of oppression had—he would not say ceased—but had been suspended, secret persecution continued, and no redress appeared to have been given to those who had suffered through being violently seized, chained and transported.
He presumed that the Jews were as susceptible to persecution as the very best Christian, and difference of religion was not a circumstance calculated to make any change in the degree of sympathy which one would entertain for sufferers of this kind.
On the contrary, he would say, that in proportion as these people had been isolated and held up to reproach, and in proportion as persecution had been directed against them, they were entitled to our sympathy.
When a country had undertaken, as this had done, and could actually carry out its undertaking, to give institutions of a free and liberal character to the Principalities on the Danube, and to secure them from what they considered oppression at the hands of the Turkish government; it was irritating to see the government of those Principalities, so placed, as it were, under the sanction of a European benevolence, turning round upon a people of a different religious persuasion, and subjecting them to the treatment described in what he had read.
Such a state of things must excite strong feelings of sympathy in favor of the Jews, strong feelings of indignation against the government that could act in such a manner, and still stronger feelings of indignation against the Minister who was the instrument of such persecution.
He understood that Mr. Bratiano, the head of the Home Department at Moldavia, was a gentleman of extreme principles, verging on democracy, and had given proof of his principles in that respect; and, therefore, being placed in a position of trust, it was something almost inconceivable that he should act in the manner he had done. One would have thought that representations made by powers such as France and England would have some immediate effect; but he understood that Mr. Bratiano was still in office.
It would, therefore, be the more interesting to know what was taking place and to see the correspondence, if any had passed, between this government and that of the Principalities. It was surely a matter in respect of which their lordships should have information, and it was also a case upon which members of the House of Commons would desire to express their opinions.
He had no doubt that Her Majesty’s government had done what was right; but still it was desirable that Parliament should know what steps had been taken and what was the present state of the relations between this government and that complained of.
He should wish to show by a quotation from the treaty of 1858 what was the position of the Jews in the Principalities. The words of the forty-fifth article of the treaty were:
“Les Moldaves et les Valaques seront tous égaux devant la loi, devant l’impôt et également admissibles aux emplois publics dans l’une et dans l’autre Principauté. Leur liberté individuelle sera garantie. Personne ne pourra être exproprié que légalement, pour cause d’intérêt public, et moyennant indemnité.”
The Jews were natives of the country, and were classed as Moldavians and Wallachians; but a course the very reverse of that indicated had been adopted towards them. They had been deprived of their legal employments and property, and that solely on account of the jealousy of a class who had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly, and were irritated at a new competition, and whose jealousy was seconded by a Minister who, for the sake of popularity, joined in the cry to put down the new competitors.
There was another circumstance to which he might likewise refer, and which called for representations on the part of Her Majesty’s government, and that was, that Mr. Bratiano had been instrumental in obtaining certain advantages for the country, and the Prince had consequently hesitated to deal with his Minister so severely as he ought to have done. He hoped the subject would be more completely cleared up than it had been hitherto, and that there would be some more direct and efficient interference on the part of Her Majesty’s government. In conclusion, he begged to move the address of which he had given notice.
The Earl of Denbigh expressed his strong disgust at the manner in which these unfortunate Jews had been treated. From all he had heard there was no adequate cause for subjecting them to such treatment; and, indeed, the only reason assigned was that the Jews, a very quiet and industrious part of the population, had been underselling the other inhabitants. It was this upon which had brought upon them the jealousy and hostility of the middle classes. Under the circumstances, he thought Her Majesty’s government ought to exert all the influence it might have over the rulers of that country with the view of obtaining fair and just treatment for the Jewish population. Their lordships would, he felt assured, agree with him, that nothing could be more distressing at any time than persecution on religious grounds, and he trusted we were now entering upon a time when people of all religions would be allowed to worship the God of their own conscience without interference, and to have equal civil and political rights.
The Earl of Malmesbury was not astonished at the noble lord taking great interest in the welfare of the inhabitants of a country in which he had resided for so many years. At the same time it would not be desirable to discuss the matter to-night [sic], because just previously to the noble viscount’s entering the House he had received Her Majesty’s permission to lay upon the table the papers for which the noble viscount asked.
Now, although the statement of the noble lord was no doubt correct, as far as the persecution of these men were concerned, still it was an ex parte statement, and till their lordships had read the papers which would be at once laid upon the table they would hardly be able to judge fairly of the conduct of Her Majesty’s government, and also the treatment to which the Jews had been subjected.
The difficulty was, that this question was entirely one of internal government, and it was generally allowed that we ought to interfere as little as possible in the internal affairs of foreign countries. He would, however, say no more at the present time, because their lordships were not yet in a position to judge of the facts of the case. Of course, if the noble lord wished to bring the matter forward on a future occasion, he should be glad to enter into the discussion of it.
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe said, that after what had just fallen from the noble lord, he would withdraw his motion, reserving liberty to himself draw attention to the subject on a future occasion.
The motion was then withdrawn.—Jewish Chronicle.