Albie's Note: "Concerning the Jews" is a short essay by possibly America's all-time greatest author, Mark Twain. As a bit of a background, it should be said that Twain had lived in Austria during 1896, and had famously opined-- in Harper's Magazine, that the government there had gotten a lot of mileage out of what we today would call "Jewish scapegoats" for various national ills.
So... in 1898 he published a quite controversial article on the subject called "Stirring time in Austria."
Well, to make a pretty long story short... Twain’s accounting of Austrian politics generated several emotional letters from all sides, one of which was a remarkably poignant response from an American Jewish lawyer who asked Twain... and we quote:
"Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the golden rule?"
In response, Twain penned the following great article entitled "Concerning the Jews," which Harper’s also published in Year Of Our Lord 1898.
It is a fascinating look at the subject of anti-semitism as seen through the eyes of America's most famous skeptic and "smart alec." Although Twain says several things here I can't fully agree with-- as well as some strangely comical hyperbolic wisecracks [he was, of course, a humorist above all else], I am still nothing sort of PROUD to reprint it on my blog.
In fact, I sincerely wish that EVERY American would read it and ponder the things that it says. In my personal opinion, Twain-- for all his 19th century "hipness," not to mention his oft-times blatant posturing as a "shocker" and a literary rebel-- was clearly alluding, for his audience's sake, to things he had learned years and years prior in his Missouri Presbyterian Sunday School upbringing!
If you read nothing else of the whole article, I ask that you at least read Twain's final paragraph. It is comprised of some of the best words I have ever seen on this important, controversial and sensitive subject. Also, I should note that Twain was-- perhaps uncharacteristically-- more "optimistic than realistic" here when discussing his hope for the future, as only a mere 50 years of time lapsed would see the same nation of Austria produce a man named Adolf Hitler, who would render 6 million Jews dead in a worse fit of persecution than Twain's generation would have dared to imagine!
If you disagree with me about all this, you are certainly welcome to your opinion... but please, read on... and feel free to decide for yourself:
"CONCERNING THE JEWS"
Harper's Magazine, March 1898
I will begin by saying that if I thought myself prejudiced against the
Jew, I should hold it fairest to leave this subject to a person not
crippled in that way. But I think I have no such prejudice. A few years
ago a Jew observed to me that there was no uncourteous reference to his
people in my books, and asked how it happened. It happened because the
disposition was lacking. I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race
prejudices, and I think I have no colour prejudices nor caste prejudices
nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All
that I care to know is that a man is a human being--that is enough for
me; he can't be any worse. I have no special regard for Satan; but I can
at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that
I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All
religions issue Bibles against him, and say the most injurious things
about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for
the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this
is irregular. It is un-English; it is un-American; it is French.
Without this precedent Dreyfus could not have been condemned. Of course
Satan has some kind of a case, it goes without saying. It may be a poor
one, but that is nothing; that can be said about any of us. As soon as I
can get at the facts I will undertake his rehabilitation myself, if I can
find an unpolitic publisher. It is a thing which we ought to be willing
to do for any one who is under a cloud. We may not pay Satan reverence,
for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents.
A person who has during all time maintained the imposing position of
spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of
the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of
the loftiest order. In his large presence the other popes and
politicians shrink to midges for the microscope. I would like to see
him. I would rather see him and shake him by the tail than any other
member of the European Concert. In the present paper I shall allow
myself to use the word Jew as if it stood for both religion and race. It
is handy; and, besides, that is what the term means to the general world.
In the above letter one notes these points:
1. The Jew is a well-behaved citizen.
2. Can ignorance and fanaticism alone account for his unjust treatment?
3. Can Jews do anything to improve the situation?
4. The Jews have no party; they are non-participants.
5. Will the persecution ever come to an end?
6. What has become of the Golden Rule?
Point No. 1.--We must grant proposition No. 1, for several sufficient
reasons. The Jew is not a disturber of the peace of any country. Even
his enemies will concede that. He is not a loafer, he is not a sot, he
is not noisy, he is not a brawler nor a rioter, he is not quarrelsome.
In the statistics of crime his presence is conspicuously rare--in all
countries. With murder and other crimes of violence he has but little to
do: he is a stranger to the hangman. In the police court's daily long
roll of 'assaults' and 'drunk and disorderlies' his name seldom appears.
That the Jewish home is a home in the truest sense is a fact which no one
will dispute. The family is knitted together by the strongest
affections; its members show each other every due respect; and reverence
for the elders is an inviolate law of the house. The Jew is not a burden
on the charities of the state nor of the city; these could cease from
their functions without affecting him. When he is well enough, he works;
when he is incapacitated, his own people take care of him. And not in a
poor and stingy way, but with a fine and large benevolence. His race is
entitled to be called the most benevolent of all the races of men. A
Jewish beggar is not impossible, perhaps; such a thing may exist, but
there are few men that can say they have seen that spectacle. The Jew
has been staged in many uncomplimentary forms, but, so far as I know, no
dramatist has done him the injustice to stage him as a beggar. Whenever
a Jew has real need to beg, his people save him from the necessity of
doing it. The charitable institutions of the Jews are supported by
Jewish money, and amply. The Jews make no noise about it; it is done
quietly; they do not nag and pester and harass us for contributions; they
give us peace, and set us an example--an example which he have not found
ourselves able to follow; for by nature we are not free givers, and have
to be patiently and persistently hunted down in the interest of the
These facts are all on the credit side of the proposition that the Jew is
a good and orderly citizen. Summed up, they certify that he is quiet,
peaceable, industrious, unaddicted to high crimes and brutal
dispositions; that his family life is commendable; that he is not a
burden upon public charities; that he is not a beggar; that in
benevolence he is above the reach of competition. These are the very
quintessentials of good citizenship. If you can add that he is as honest
as the average of his neighbours--But I think that question is
affirmatively answered by the fact that he is a successful business man.
The basis of successful business is honesty; a business cannot thrive
where the parties to it cannot trust each other. In the matter of
numbers the Jew counts for little in the overwhelming population of New
York; but that his honest counts for much is guaranteed by the fact that
the immense wholesale business of Broadway, from the Battery to Union
Square, is substantially in his hands.
I suppose that the most picturesque example in history of a trader's
trust in his fellow-trader was one where it was not Christian trusting
Christian, but Christian trusting Jew. That Hessian Duke who used to
sell his subjects to George III. to fight George Washington with got rich
at it; and by-and-by, when the wars engendered by the French Revolution
made his throne too warm for him, he was obliged to fly the country. He
was in a hurry, and had to leave his earnings behind--$9,000,000. He had
to risk the money with some one without security. He did not select a
Christian, but a Jew--a Jew of only modest means, but of high character;
a character so high that it left him lonesome--Rothschild of Frankfort.
Thirty years later, when Europe had become quiet and safe again, the Duke
came back from overseas, and the Jew returned the loan, with interest
The Jew has his other side. He has some discreditable ways, though he
has not a monopoly of them, because he cannot get entirely rid of
vexatious Christian competition. We have seen that he seldom
transgresses the laws against crimes of violence. Indeed, his dealings
with courts are almost restricted to matters connected with commerce. He
has a reputation for various small forms of cheating, and for practising
oppressive usury, and for burning himself out to get the insurance, and
for arranging cunning contracts which leave him an exit but lock the
other man in, and for smart evasions which find him safe and comfortable
just within the strict letter of the law, when court and jury know very
well that he has violated the spirit of it. He is a frequent and
faithful and capable officer in the civil service, but he is charged with
an unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier--like the
Now if you offset these discreditable features by the creditable ones
summarised in a preceding paragraph beginning with the words, 'These
facts are all on the credit side,' and strike a balance, what must the
verdict be? This, I think: that, the merits and demerits being fairly
weighed and measured on both sides, the Christian can claim no
superiority over the Jew in the matter of good citizenship.
Yet in all countries, from the dawn of history, the Jew has been
persistently and implacably hated, and with frequency persecuted.
Point No. 2.--'Can fanaticism alone account for this?'
Years ago I used to think that it was responsible for nearly all of it,
but latterly I have come to think that this was an error. Indeed, it is
now my conviction that it is responsible for hardly any of it.
In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii.
We have all thoughtfully--or unthoughtfully--read the pathetic story of
the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph,
with that opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of
the poor, and human liberty--a corner whereby he took a nation's money
all away, to the last penny; took a nation's live stock all away, to the
last hoof; took a nation's land away, to the last acre; then took the
nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by
child, till all were slaves; a corner which took everything, left
nothing; a corner so stupendous that, by comparison with it, the most
gigantic corners in subsequent history are but baby things, for it dealt
in hundreds of millions of bushels, and its profits were reckonable by
hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was a disaster so crushing that
its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day, more than
three thousand years after the event.
Is it presumably that the eye of Egypt was upon Joseph the foreign Jew
all this time? I think it likely. Was it friendly? We must doubt it.
Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would survive long
in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be familiarly used to
express that character--like Shylock's? It is hardly to be doubted. Let
us remember that this was centuries before the Crucifixion?
I wish to come down eighteen hundred years later and refer to a remark
made by one of the Latin historians. I read it in a translation many
years ago, and it comes back to me now with force. It was alluding to a
time when people were still living who could have seen the Saviour in the
flesh. Christianity was so new that the people of Rome had hardly heard
of it, and had but confused notions of what it was. The substance of the
remark was this: Some Christians were persecuted in Rome through error,
they being 'mistaken for Jews.'
The meaning seems plain. These pagans had nothing against Christians,
but they were quite ready to persecute Jews. For some reason or other
they hated a Jew before they even knew what a Christian was. May I not
assume, then, that the persecution of Jews is a thing which antedates
Christianity and was not born of Christianity? I think so. What was the
origin of the feeling?
When I was a boy, in the back settlements of the Mississippi Valley,
where a gracious and beautiful Sunday school simplicity and practicality
prevailed, the 'Yankee' (citizen of the New England States) was hated
with a splendid energy. But religion had nothing to do with it. In a
trade, the Yankee was held to be about five times the match of the
Westerner. His shrewdness, his insight, his judgment, his knowledge, his
enterprise, and his formidable cleverness in applying these forces were
frankly confessed, and most competently cursed.
In the cotton States, after the war, the simple and ignorant Negroes made
the crops for the white planter on shares. The Jew came down in force,
set up shop on the plantation, supplied all the negro's wants on credit,
and at the end of the season was proprietor of the negro's share of the
present crop and of part of his share of the next one. Before long, the
whites detested the Jew, and it is doubtful if the negro loved him.
The Jew is begin legislated out of Russia. The reason is not concealed.
The movement was instituted because the Christian peasant and villager
stood no chance against his commercial abilities. He was always ready to
lend money on a crop, and sell vodka and other necessities of life on
credit while the crop was growing. When settlement day came he owned the
crop; and next year or year after he owned the farm, like Joseph.
In the dull and ignorant English of John's time everybody got into debt
to the Jew. He gathered all lucrative enterprises into his hands; he was
the king of commerce; he was ready to be helpful in all profitable ways;
he even financed crusades for the rescue of the Sepulchre. To wipe out
his account with the nation and restore business to its natural and
incompetent channels he had to be banished the realm.
For the like reasons Spain had to banish him four hundred years ago, and
Austria about a couple of centuries later.
In all the ages Christian Europe has been oblige to curtail his
activities. If he entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to
retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he
took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to
get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete
with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian
from the poor-house. Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by
statute till practically none was left. He was forbidden to engage in
agriculture; he was forbidden to practise law; he was forbidden to
practise medicine, except among Jews; he was forbidden the handicrafts.
Even the seats of learning and the schools of science had to be closed
against this tremendous antagonist. Still, almost bereft of employments,
he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich. Also ways to invest
his takings well, for usury was not denied him. In the hard conditions
suggested, the Jew without brains could not survive, and the Jew with
brains had to keep them in good training and well sharpened up, or
starve. Ages of restriction to the one tool which the law was not able
to take from him--his brain--have made that tool singularly competent;
ages of compulsory disuse of his hands have atrophied them, and he never
uses them now. This history has a very, very commercial look, a most
sordid and practical commercial look, the business aspect of a Chinese
cheap-labour crusade. Religious prejudices may account for one part of
it, but not for the other nine.
Protestants have persecuted Catholics, but they did not take their
livelihoods away from them. The Catholics have persecuted the
Protestants with bloody and awful bitterness, but they never closed
agriculture and the handicrafts against them. Why was that? That has
the candid look of genuine religious persecution, not a trade-union
boycott in a religious dispute.
The Jews are harried and obstructed in Austria and Germany, and lately in
France; but England and America give them an open field and yet survive.
Scotland offers them an unembarrassed field too, but there are not many
takers. There are a few Jews in Glasgow, and one in Aberdeen; but that
is because they can't earn enough to get away. The Scotch pay themselves
that compliment, but it is authentic.
I feel convinced that the Crucifixion has not much to do with the world's
attitude toward the Jew; that the reasons for it are older than that
event, as suggested by Egypt's experience and by Rome's regret for having
persecuted an unknown quantity called a Christian, under the mistaken
impression that she was merely persecuting a Jew. Merely a Jew--a
skinned eel who was used to it, presumably. I am persuaded that in
Russia, Austria, and Germany nine-tenths of the hostility to the Jew
comes from the average Christian's inability to compete successfully with
the average Jew in business--in either straight business or the
In Berlin, a few years ago, I read a speech which frankly urged the
expulsion of the Jews from Germany; and the agitator's reason was as
frank as his proposition. It was this: that eighty-five percent of the
successful lawyers of Berlin were Jews, and that about the same
percentage of the great and lucrative businesses of all sorts in Germany
were in the hands of the Jewish race! Isn't it an amazing confession?
It was but another way of saying that in a population of 48,000,000, of
whom only 500,000 were registered as Jews, eighty-five per cent of the
brains and honesty of the whole was lodged in the Jews. I must insist
upon the honesty--it is an essential of successful business, taken by and
large. Of course it does not rule out rascals entirely, even among
Christians, but it is a good working rule, nevertheless. The speaker's
figures may have been inexact, but the motive of persecution stands out
as clear as day.
The man claimed that in Berlin the banks, the newspapers, the theatres,
the great mercantile, shipping, mining, and manufacturing interests, the
big army and city contracts, the tramways, and pretty much all other
properties of high value, and also the small businesses, were in the
hands of the Jews. He said the Jew was pushing the Christian to the wall
all along the line; that it was all a Christian could do to scrape
together a living; and that the Jew must be banished, and soon--there was
no other way of saving the Christian. Here in Vienna, last autumn,
an agitator said that all these disastrous details were true of
Austria-Hungary also; and in fierce language he demanded the expulsion of
the Jews. When politicians come out without a blush and read the baby
act in this frank way, unrebuked, it is a very good indication that they
have a market back of them, and know where to fish for votes.
You note the crucial point of the mentioned agitation; the argument is
that the Christian cannot compete with the Jew, and that hence his very
bread is in peril. To human beings this is a much more hate-inspiring
thing than is any detail connected with religion. With most people, of a
necessity, bread and meat take first rank, religion second. I am
convinced that the persecution of the Jew is not due in any large degree
to religious prejudice.
No, the Jew is a money-getter; and in getting his money he is a very
serious obstruction to less capable neighbours who are on the same quest.
I think that that is the trouble. In estimating worldly values the Jew
is not shallow, but deep. With precocious wisdom he found out in the
morning of time that some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some
worship power, some worship God, and that over these ideals they dispute
and cannot unite--but that they all worship money; so he made it the end
and aim of his life to get it. He was at it in Egypt thirty-six
centuries ago; he was at it in Rome when that Christian got persecuted by
mistake for him; he has been at it ever since. The cost to him has been
heavy; his success has made the whole human race his enemy--but it has
paid, for it has brought him envy, and that is the only thing which
men will sell both soul and body to get. He long ago observed
that a millionaire commands respect, a two-millionaire homage,
a multi-millionaire the deepest deeps of adoration. We all know that
feeling; we have seen it express itself. We have noticed that when the
average man mentions the name of a multi-millionaire he does it with that
mixture in his voice of awe and reverence and lust which burns in a
Frenchman's eye when it falls on another man's centime.
Point No. 4--'The Jews have no party; they are non-participants.'
Perhaps you have let the secret out and given yourself away. It seems
hardly a credit to the race that it is able to say that; or to you, sir,
that you can say it without remorse; more, that you should offer it as a
plea against maltreatment, injustice, and oppression. Who gives the Jew
the right, who gives any race the right, to sit still in a free country,
and let somebody else look after its safety? The oppressed Jew was
entitled to all pity in the former times under brutal autocracies, for he
was weak and friendless, and had no way to help his case. But he has
ways now, and he has had them for a century, but I do not see that he has
tried to make serious use of then. When the Revolution set him free in
France it was an act of grace--the grace of other people; he does not
appear in it as a helper. I do not know that he helped when England set
him free. Among the Twelve Sane Men of France who have stepped forward
with great Zola at their head to fight (and win, I hope and believe)
the battle for the most infamously misused Jew of modern times, do you
find a great or rich or illustrious Jew helping? In the United States he
was created free in the beginning--he did not need to help, of course.
In Austria and Germany and France he has a vote, but of what considerable
use is it to him? He doesn't seem to know how to apply it to the best
effect. With all his splendid capacities and all his fat wealth he is
to-day not politically important in any country. In America, as early as
1854, the ignorant Irish hod-carrier, who had a spirit of his own and a
way of exposing it to the weather, made it apparent to all that he must
be politically reckoned with; yet fifteen years before that we hardly
knew what an Irishman looked like. As an intelligent force and
numerically, he has always been away down, but he has governed the
country just the same. It was because he was organised. It made his
vote valuable--in fact, essential.
You will say the Jew is everywhere numerically feeble. That is nothing
to the point--with the Irishman's history for an object-lesson. But I am
coming to your numerical feebleness presently. In all parliamentary
countries you could no doubt elect Jews to the legislatures--and even one
member in such a body is sometimes a force which counts. How deeply have
you concerned yourselves about this in Austria, France, and Germany? Or
even in America, for that matter? You remark that the Jews were not to
blame for the riots in this Reichsrath here, and you add with
satisfaction that there wasn't one in that body. That is not strictly
correct; if it were, would it not be in order for you to explain it and
apologise for it, not try to make a merit of it? But I think that the
Jew was by no means in as large force there as he ought to have been,
with his chances. Austria opens the suffrage to him on fairly liberal
terms, and it must surely be his own fault that he is so much in the
As to your numerical weakness. I mentioned some figures awhile ago
--500,00--as the Jewish population of Germany. I will add some more
--6,000,000 in Russia, 5,000,000 in Austria, 250,000 in the United States.
I take them from memory; I read them in the 'Encyclopaedia Brittannica'
ten or twelve years ago. Still, I am entirely sure of them. If those
statistics are correct, my argument is not as strong as it ought to be as
concerns America, but it still has strength. It is plenty strong enough
as concerns Austria, for ten years ago 5,000,000 was nine per cent of the
empire's population. The Irish would govern the Kingdom of Heaven if
they had a strength there like that.
I have some suspicions; I got them at second-hand, but they have remained
with me these ten or twelve years. When I read in the 'E.B.' that the
Jewish population of the United States was 250,000 I wrote the editor,
and explained to him that I was personally acquainted with more Jews than
that in my country, and that his figures were without a doubt a misprint
for 25,000,000. I also added that I was personally acquainted with that
many there; but that was only to raise his confidence in me, for it was
not true. His answer miscarried, and I never got it; but I went around
talking about the matter, and people told me they had reason to suspect
that for business reasons many Jews whose dealings were mainly with the
Christians did not report themselves as Jews in the census. It looked
plausible; it looks plausible yet. Look at the city of New York; and
look at Boston, and Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and Chicago, and
Cincinnati, and San Francisco--how your race swarms in those places!--and
everywhere else in America, down to the least little village. Read the
signs on the marts of commerce and on the shops; Goldstein (gold stone),
Edelstein (precious stone), Blumenthal (flower-vale), Rosenthal
(rose-vale), Veilchenduft (violent odour), Singvogel (song-bird),
Rosenzweig (rose branch), and all the amazing list of beautiful and
enviable names which Prussia and Austria glorified you with so long ago.
It is another instance of Europe's coarse and cruel persecution of your
race; not that it was coarse and cruel to outfit it with pretty and
poetical names like those, but it was coarse and cruel to make it pay for
them or else take such hideous and often indecent names that to-day their
owners never use them; or, if they do, only on official papers. And it
was the many, not the few, who got the odious names, they being too poor
to bribe the officials to grant them better ones.
Now why was the race renamed? I have been told that in Prussia it was
given to using fictitious names, and often changing them, so as to beat
the tax-gatherer, escape military service, and so on; and that finally
the idea was hit upon of furnishing all the inmates of a house with one
and the same surname, and then holding the house responsible right along
for those inmates, and accountable for any disappearances that might
occur; it made the Jews keep track of each other, for self-interest's
sake, and saved the Government the trouble.
If that explanation of how the Jews of Prussia came to be renamed is
correct, if it is true that they fictitiously registered themselves to
gain certain advantages, it may possible be true that in America they
refrain from registered themselves as Jews to fend off the damaging
prejudices of the Christian customer. I have no way of knowing whether
this notion is well founded or not. There may be other and better ways
of explaining why only that poor little 250,000 of our Jews got into the
'Encyclopaedia'. I may, of course, be mistaken, but I am strongly of the
opinion that we have an immense Jewish population in America.
Point No. 3--'Can Jews do anything to improve the situation?'
I think so. If I may make a suggestion without seeming to be trying to
teach my grandmother to suck eggs, I will offer it. In our days we have
learned the value of combination. We apply it everywhere--in railway
systems, in trusts, in trade unions, in Salvation Armies, in minor
politics, in major politics, in European Concerts. Whatever our strength
may be, big or little, we organise it. We have found out that that is
the only way to get the most out of it that is in it. We know the
weakness of individual sticks, and the strength of the concentrated
twig. Suppose you try a scheme like this, for instance. In England
and America put every Jew on the census-book as a Jew (in case you have
not been doing that). Get up volunteer regiments composed of Jews
solely, and when the drum beats, fall in and go to the front, so as to
remove the reproach that you have few Massenas among you, and that you
feed on a country but don't like to fight for it. Next, in politics,
organise your strength, band together, and deliver the casting-vote where
you can, and, where you can't, compel as good terms as possible. You
huddle to yourselves already in all countries, but you huddle to no
sufficient purpose, politically speaking. You do not seem to be
organised, except for your charities. There you are omnipotent; there
you compel your due of recognition--you do not have to beg for it. It
shows what you can do when you band together for a definite purpose.
And then from America and England you can encourage your race in Austria,
France, and Germany, and materially help it. It was a pathetic tale that
was told by a poor Jew a fortnight ago during the riots, after he had
been raided by the Christian peasantry and despoiled of everything he
had. He said his vote was of no value to him, and he wished he could be
excused from casting it, for indeed, casting it was a sure damage to him,
since, no matter which party he voted for, the other party would come
straight and take its revenge out of him. Nine per cent of the
population, these Jews, and apparently they cannot put a plank into any
candidate's platform! If you will send our Irish lads over here I think
they will organise your race and change the aspect of the Reichsrath.
You seem to think that the Jews take no hand in politics here, that they
are 'absolutely non-participants.' I am assured by men competent to
speak that this is a very large error, that the Jews are exceedingly
active in politics all over the empire, but that they scatter their work
and their votes among the numerous parties, and thus lose the advantages
to be had by concentration. I think that in America they scatter too,
but you know more about that than I do.
Speaking of concentration, Dr. Herzl has a clear insight into the value
of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of
the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own--under
the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne,
last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was
received with decided favour. I am not the Sultan, and I am not
objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the
world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it
would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let that race find
out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any
Point No. 5.--'Will the persecution of the Jews ever come to an end?'
On the score of religion, I think it has already come to an end. On the
score of race prejudice and trade, I have the idea that it will continue.
That is, here and there in spots about the world, where a barbarous
ignorance and a sort of mere animal civilisation prevail; but I do not
think that elsewhere the Jew need now stand in any fear of being robbed
and raided. Among the high civilisations he seems to be very comfortably
situated indeed, and to have more than his proportionate share of the
prosperities going. It has that look in Vienna. I suppose the race
prejudice cannot be removed; but he can stand that; it is no particular
matter. By his make and ways he is substantially a foreigner wherever he
may be, and even the angels dislike a foreigner. I am using this world
foreigner in the German sense--stranger. Nearly all of us have an
antipathy to a stranger, even of our own nationality. We pile grip-sacks
in a vacant seat to keep him from getting it; and a dog goes further, and
does as a savage would--challenges him on the spot. The German
dictionary seems to make no distinction between a stranger and a
foreigner; in its view a stranger is a foreigner--a sound position,
I think. You will always be by ways and habits and predilections
substantially strangers--foreigners--wherever you are, and that will
probably keep the race prejudice against you alive.
But you were the favourites of Heaven originally, and your manifold and
unfair prosperities convince me that you have crowded back into that snug
place again. Here is an incident that is significant. Last week in
Vienna a hailstorm struck the prodigious Central Cemetery and made
wasteful destruction there. In the Christian part of it, according to
the official figures, 621 window-panes were broken; more than 900
singing-birds were killed; five great trees and many small ones were torn
to shreds and the shreds scattered far and wide by the wind; the
ornamental plants and other decorations of the graces were ruined, and
more than a hundred tomb-lanterns shattered; and it took the cemetery's
whole force of 300 labourers more than three days to clear away the
storm's wreckage. In the report occurs this remark--and in its italics
you can hear it grit its Christian teeth: '...lediglich die israelitische
Abtheilung des Friedhofes vom Hagelwetter ganzlich verschont worden war.'
Not a hailstone hit the Jewish reservation! Such nepotism makes me
Point No. 6.--'What has become of the Golden Rule?'
It exists, it continues to sparkle, and is well taken care of. It is
Exhibit A in the Church's assets, and we pull it out every Sunday and
give it an airing. But you are not permitted to try to smuggle it into
this discussion, where it is irrelevant and would not feel at home.
It is strictly religious furniture, like an acolyte, or a
contribution-plate, or any of those things. It has never intruded into
business; and Jewish persecution is not a religious passion, it is a
To conclude.--If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one
per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star-dust
lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be
heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as
prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial
importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his
bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in
literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning
are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has
made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it
with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be
excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose,
filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and
passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and
they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for
a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have
vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always
was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his
parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive
mind. All things are mortal to the Jew; all other forces pass, but he
remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
Albie's final note: "What, indeed??"
This text is the one found in:
THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG AND OTHER STORIES, first published by Harper & Brothers, 1900.