PAR eine

THE BREAKING OF THE CHAIN.

CHAPTER XV.

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES.

THE total Jewish population of the world, at the present time, according to the latest estimates,* is 6,300,000, distributed as follows: To Europe 5,400,- 000, to Asia 300,000, to Africa 350,000, to America 250,000, to Oceanica 12,000. Of the different coun- tries of Europe, Russia has a Hebrew population of 2,552,000; Austria with Hungary, 1,644,000; Ger- many, 562,000; France, 63,000; and Great Britain, 60,000. Of the portion assigned to America, the United States contains 230,000.

It appears from these figures that there are no lands in which the Jews form a large element of the population; but for some reason an astonishing change from their old abasement is to be noticed in the position they have come to occupy. The medieval outcast is everywhere climbing into places of power, until it begins to seem possible that he may attain in the future an ascendancy as remarkable as his past abjectness. Cries, sometimes of admiration, but more often of dislike and alarm, are uttered over this fact in all parts of the civilized world,—all, however, whether laudatory or ill-natured, giving evidence of

* Reinach: ‘‘ Histoire des Israélites,” 1885.

236 THE STORY OF THE JEWS.

a deep-seated conviction, that this strange tribe, for- ever with us but never of us, is at any rate of quality most masterful.

Let us survey for a moment the various depart- ments of human energy, and obtain some compre- hensive idea of what the Hebrew is accomplishing.

In military life, we find that although in antiquity Israel fought many a stern fight under valiant cham- pions, it can claim sinee the dispersion no great note in war. Jews have fought, however, in the ranks of various armies, and have furnished good generals to various standards and causes. The most distinguished soldier of Hebrew descent that can be mentioned is probably Marshal Massena, whose real name is said to have been Manasseh,—the warrior whom Napoleon called “the favorite child of victory,” one of the most scientific as well as one of the most brave and tena- cious of the great chieftains whom the fateful Corsi- can summoned to fight at his side.

Turning to the employments of peace, the record of Hebrew achievements in agriculture and the handi- crafts will also be a short one. We have seen that there have been times when the Jew has figured as farmer and mechanic ; it is not so at present, and the fact that he so seldom works with his hands, really earns his bread by the sweat of his brow, is often made the basis of a harsh judgment against him. But really do we not find here an evidence of Israel- itish power? We should all prefer, if we could, to get on by our wits, rather than by labor of the hands; hence the crowding up everywhere into trade and the professions, away from the soil and the tool.

§) :

ISRAEL'S NEW MOSES. 237

We feel that the tendency ought to be discouraged ; and in the case of the Jew, we should like him better, if now and then he put to the wheel of life actual muscle, instead of, forever, that subtle power of his brain. (But when a whole race undertakes to live by its wits, and succeeds so remarkably, what ability it must possess!

It is indeed'‘% brilliant success. In the world of trade, it has in some way come about that a pre- eminence is everywhere conceded to the Jew. He is omnipresent and everywhere dreaded. It is of competition with him that the pedlar who deals in sixpence-worths stands most in fear; the same aggressive elbows are crowding cavalierly the mil- lionaire in the transactions of la haute finance. Keen indeed must the man be who can match him in the high or low places ; and as for Gentile accusations of meanness and knavery, shall the pot call the kettle black? There are exchanges in great cities of the world practically abandoned to all but Jews. In our new Western and Southern towns, there are some- times scarce any but Hebrew signs on the business streets. In trade, the Hebrew is ubiquitous and always at the front.

Turning to the fine arts, the Hebrews have rarely become famed as painters and sculptors, a result to which perhaps the ancient Semitic repugnance to the representation of the forms of living creatures has helped. In music, however, their glory is of the highest. Mendelssohn, Halévy, Moscheles, Meyer- beer, Rubinstein, Joachim, as composers and’ per- formers, are among the greatest. Wagner, indeed,

238 THE STORY OF THE FEWS.

wrote a diatribe against Jewish influence in music, and there is a story that he prepared a composition especially to vindicate against the Hebrews the superiority of a pure Teutonic taste; but when it came to the performance, lo, the patriotic master beheld the first violins all in the hands of the aliens, whose dark eyes were scanning serenely the tangled score that was to bring them to confusion! The fact was that none but Jews could be found skilful enough to take the burden of the performance. As actors, the Israelites have also been very illustrious. With Rachel and Bernhardt at the summit, it would _ be easy to mention a long and most distinguished list.

If we follow graver paths we encounter, among philosophers, the great Spinoza, at whose work we have just glanced, and we shall presently consider still another most illustrious name. Franke is great in medicine, Bernays, of Bonn, is noted for erudition in Greek, Benfey the first of Sanscrit scholars, Auerbach at the head of German novelists, Heine the chief of German poets since the death of Goethe,—all men of the ancient Israelitish strain, though in the case of some of them the ancient faith was forsaken. When we look at the field of statesmanship, as we shall ~ presently do, what men of Jewish blood have done is as astonishing as their achievements elsewhere.

How is it that the wonderful transformation has been brought about? We have seen the poor Hebrew under the heel—a hundred nations trying to stamp the life out of him as if he were a venom- ous reptile. He makes the claim at the present

ISRAEL'S NEW MOSES. 239

hour that he has conquered the world,* and many are ready, with fear and dread, to concede it. Let us study certain great figures in various departments of effort, men whose genius and energy are thoroughly Jewish, so that they can well be regarded as types. In reviewing these careers, the p atanES will soon become explicable.

As we enter the eighteenth century, though the harshness of men has become somewhat modified, the chain that binds the Jew, nevertheless, through- out the civilized world is firmly fastened. The massacres and fierce bodily tortures are indeed for the most part things of the past, except perhaps in Spain, or in outlying regions where barbarism yields slowly. In many a city, however, the Jew’s presence in the streets is scarcely suffered, and with every night he is barred pitilessly into the dirt and discom- fort of Ghetto and Juden-gasse. Germany was especially narrow and cruel toward the Israelites. In many towns they could not live upon the street corners; in others only a certain small number could be married in the course of a year. In Berlin, the Hebrews, to whom, through their creed, swine’s flesh was accursed, were forced to buy the wild boars slain in the king’s hunts. Thus exposed to insult and hardship, the Jews of Germany, the “As- kenazim,” as they were called, were sunk among their co-religionists into an especial degradation ; progress was stopped, and wide views became lost. They had a language of their own, a jargon of Hebrew and Ger-

* Beaconsfield’s assertion : see p. 2.

240 THE-STORY (OF THES FEWS.

man. Their religion became corrupted through super- stitions; their rabbis came largely from among the Polish Jews, who were usually ignorant and debased. Under these teachers efforts to become enlightened were repressed ; to speak German correctly, or to read a German.book, was heresy. The handicrafts were forbidden them,—to a large extent even trade ; the professions were of course closed avenues; to sell old clothes, to wander about as pedlars, and to lend money at interest were almost the only occupations that remained.

From the midst of the German Jews, however, sprang at this time a man, who, if of less wonderful intellect than Spinoza, was yet of spirit most keen and enlightened. In magnanimity and broad charity he was not surpassed by the great outcast of Holland. In the story which we are following his figure has even a greater significance than that of Spinoza, from the fact that though persecuted he remained among his people, beneficently setting in motion reforms which have been felt by Jews in every land, and which in times following those in which we live, will bring about for Jews a happy future. As has been urged, the intolerance with which the Hebrew has been treated must not be ascribed solely to Christian narrowness. The persecutor has been pro- voked to clench his fist by the stern pride with which the victim has asserted his superiority and held himself aloof. Such modifications of prejudice in the oppressor as can be now seen, would be much less marked than they are had not a more concilia- tory spirit begun to manifest itself in the oppressed.

242 THE STORY OF THE FEWS.

In the year 1729, in the town of Dessau, was born the benign and far-seeing genius, Moses the son of Mendel, who, like Moses of old, the son of Amram, was to lead Israel to better things.

Moses Mendelssohn was a precocious child, de- vouring with passionate appetite the rabbinical husks upon which alone his mind was permitted to feed, until at length his premature labor brought upon him curvature of the spine, from which he never recovered. Asa boy of thirteen he followed to Berlin the rabbi who had been his teacher, his parents disapproving his course and withdrawing their support. The little humpback faced starvation with unshrinking persistence while he followed his bent, until, after much suffering, he won over friends who could help him. As the youth approached man- hood he broadened his acquirements, adding almost by stealth German, Latin, mathematics, French, and English to his Talmudic lore, soon beginning also to seize upon the thoughts of the great philoso- phers. As his culture widened his old friends became cold; as in Spinoza’s case his former teachers feared his heresies, and soon began to frown and threaten.

When he had reached twenty-one, however, a rich silk-manufacturer of Berlin became his patron, made him the tutor of his children, also his business assist- ant, and at last his partner; henceforth, then, Men-

delssohn was free to follow his own path, unannoyed

by the wolf of hunger, and, later, even in affluence. The young man became a member of a circle of brilliant minds, among whom ruled as chief one of

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ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 243

the mightiest gods of the German Olympus, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and henceforth, to the day of Lessing’s death, Mendelssohn was held in the heart of hearts of that courageous striver. The slender silk- merchant, while with Hebrew thrift he managed to seize upon gold in the ways of commerce, possessed at the same time strength for the sublimest flights. He early became known as an able writer for the literary periodicals, and at length found himself growing famous. One day the frank and hearty Lessing came with a laugh to Mendelssohn’s desk in he counting-room, holding in his hand a volume fresh from printer and binder. To the amazement of Mendelssohn, it was a manuscript of his own, which he had modestly withheld from the press; his friend, however, had taken it without his knowl- edge, and was spreading it far and wide in an ample edition. Its success was so marked that he was henceforth a maker of books. In literature he was fruitful and always beneficent, doing much toward the spread in Germany of an elegant culture and taste, in the years immediately preceding the glori- ous sun-burst, when with Goethe and Schiller the great day of German letters begins.

At first known as a writer upon esthetic subjects, the excellence of his thoughts was scarcely more re- markable than the beauty of his style; but at length in his forty-second year came the book which has given him a note of a far grander kind, and placed his name among the chief helpers of his age and country. This was his Phedo,” a work upon the immortality of the soul. In this book Mendelssohn

244 THE STORY OF THE FEWS.

translated the dialogue of Plato, of the same name, but enlarged and developed the consideration in the spirit of the later philosophy. As an introduction to the work, a picture of the life and character of Socrates was given, full of the highest love and veneration for the master-sage. The tone of the Phzxdo of Mendelssohn is most exalted, and soon excited in the world general admiration. Edition followed edition; it was translated into most Euro- pean languages. Inasmuch as so many German thinkers have hidden their speculations within a thorny and forbidding entanglement which renders them quite inaccessible except to minds of excep- tional power of penetration, it is worth while to speak of the admirable clearness and beauty of Mendelssohn’s method of presentment.» The work is a series of the sublimest thoughts, fitly framed, pervaded with the broadest and noblest spirit.*

Like Maimonides, the grand Hebrew of the thir- teenth century,—like Spinoza,—in the spirit, too, of that higher and holier soul that came forth from Zion, the supernal Christ, Mendelssohn, looked and worked toward the broadest tolerance and human brotherhood. In the truest spirit of charity he labored with his people, trying to raise them from their ignorance, and to smooth away from the Jewish countenance the arrogant frown and lifting of the eyelid with which through the ages they have stub- bornly faced the Gentile. Of one of his books writ- ten for his co-religionists, called Jerusalem,” Im- manuel Kant wrote in such terms as these: With

* Kurz: Geschicte der deutschen Literatur.”

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 245

what admiration I have read your ‘Jerusalem’! I regard this book as the announcement of a great though slow-coming reform, which will affect not only your nation, but also others. You have man- aged to unite with your religion such a: spirit of freedom and tolerance as it has not had eredit for, and such as no other faith can boast. You have so powerfully presented the necessity of an unlimited freedom of conscience for every faith, that at length on our side, too, the church must think about it. The Christians must study whether in their creeds there are not things which burden and oppress the spirit, and look toward a union which, as regards essential religious points, snall bring together all.”

As Judaism spurned forth its nobler spirits in the - earlier time, so the effort was made to put under ban this later liberalizing genius. He, however, though looked at askance by all the stricter mem- bers of the synagogue, who to this day have not ceased to oppose the fruitful influence that proceeded from him, clung tenaciously until his death to his Jewish birthright. One finds something most pa- thetic in the story of a certain grave embarrassment into which he was thrown by an over-zealous Chris- tian friend. Lavater, the Swiss clergyman, well known in the world for his writings upon physiognomy, was a most earnest upholder of the faith. Having trans- lated from the French a work upon the Christian evidences which he felt to be unanswerable, he dedi- cated it to Mendelssohn, summoning him, as he did so, either to show that the positions of the work were groundless, or to renounce the Jewish creed.

246 THE STORY OF THE EWS.

Circumstances forced Mendelssohn to take some notice of the challenge. To renounce Judaism of course he was not ready, believing, as he did, that it was capable of expansion into a faith most benefi- cent. On the other hand, he was scarcely more ready to controvert Christianity; for he hated strife, felt no desire to proselyte, and hoped for some reconciliation of the jarring creeds by other than polemic means. In his trouble he wrote and published a letter to Lavater, in which was unfolded all the beauty of his soul, and which gained for him the approval of all intelligent men. Without trans- gressing moderation, he convinced all fair-minded readers, overcoming even the proselyter himself.

A passage from this famous letter of Mendelssohn will be interesting *:

For all I cared Judaism might have been hurled down in every polemical compendium, and triumph- antly sneered at in every academic exercise, and I would not have entered into a dispute about it. Rabbinical scholars and rabbinical smatterers might have grubbed in obsolete scribblings, which no sen- sible Jew reads or knows of, and have amused the public with the most fantastic ideas of Judaism, with- out so much asa contradiction on my part. It is by virtue that I wish to shame the opprobrious opinion commonly entertained of a Jew, and not by contro- versial writings.

Pursuant to the principles of my religion, 1am not to seek to convert any one who is not born accord- ing to our laws. This proneness to conversion, the

* From ‘‘ Memoirs of M. Mendelssohn,” by M. Samuels, p. 54, etc.

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 247

origin of which some would fain tack on the Jewish religion, is, nevertheless, diametrically opposed to it. Our rabbis unanimously teach that the written and oral laws which form conjointly our revealed religion, are obligatory on our nation only. ‘Moses com- manded usa Law, even the inheritance of the congre- gation of Jacob.’ We believe that all other nations of the earth have been directed by God to adhere to the laws of nature. Those who regulate their conduct according to this religion of nature and of reason, are called virtuous men of other nations, and are the children of eternal salvation.

Our rabbis are so remote from desiring to make proselytes, that they enjoin us to dissuade by forcible remonstrances, every one who comes forward to be converted. We are to lead him to reflect that by such a step he is subjecting himself needlessly to a most onerous burden ; that in his present condition he has only to observe the precepts of nature and reason, to be saved; but the moment he embraces the religion of the Israelites, he subscribes gratui- tously to all the rigid rules of that faith, to which he must then strictly conform, or await the punishment which the legislator has denounced on their infrac- tion. Finally, we are to hold up to him a faithful picture of the misery, tribulation, and obloquy in which our nation is now living, in order to guard him from a rash act which he might ultimately re- pent. i “Thus you see the religion of my fathers does not wisk to be extended. We are not to send abroad missions. Whoever is not born conformable to our

248 THE STORY OF THE FEWS.

laws has no occasion to live according to them. We alone consider ourselves bound to acknowledge their authority ; and this can give no offence to our neigh- bors. Suppose there were amongst my neighbors a Confucius or a Solon. I could, consistently with my religious principles, love and admire the great man; but I should never hit on the extravagant idea of converting a Confucius or a Solon. What should I convert him for? As he doesnot belong to the Con- .gregation of Facob, my religious laws were not legis- lated for him ; and on doctrines we should soon come to an understanding. ‘Do I think there is a chance of his being saved ?’ (certainly believe that he who - leads mankind on to virtue in this world cannot be damned in the next, < at ce 5 “T am so fortunate as to count among my friends many a worthy man who is not of my faith. We love each other sincerely, notwithstanding we pre- sume, or take for granted, that in matters of belief we differ widely in opinion. I enjoy the delight of their society, which both improves and solaces me. Never has my heart whispered: ‘Alas, for this ex- cellent man’s soul!’ He who believes that no sal- vation is to be found out of the pale of his own church must often feel such sighs rise in his bosom.” The candid Lavater wrote Mendelssohn a public letter, acknowledging that he had been thoughtless and indelicate, and begging his pardon. This trial, however, and another, in which he was obliged to defend the fame of Lessing, as he thought, unjustly aspersed, proved, for his sensitive nature, too severe a strain. He fellill, and at length, in 1786, came death.

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 249

Moses Mendelssohn was undersized and always badly deformed. A habit of stammering, also, made conversation difficult. He possessed, however, a personal charm, which overcame all impediments. Lavater, who so disquieted him, was an enthusiastic friend, and has left a description of his face, which, as coming from the famous physiognomist, has great interest. ‘I rejoice to see these outlines. My glance descends from the noble curve of the fore- head to the prominent bones of the eye. In the depth of this eye resides a Socratic soul. The de- cided shape of the nose, the magnificent transition from the nose to the upper lip, the prominence of both lips, neither projecting beyond the other,—oh! how all this harmonizes and makes sensible and . visible the divine truth of physiognomy !”

A pleasant story is told by Auerbach of the woo- ing of Moses Mendelssohn.

He was at the baths of Pyrmont where he be- came acquainted with Gugenheim, a merchant of Hamburg. ‘Rabbi Moses,’ said Gugenheim one day, we all admire you, but my daughter most of all. It would be the greatest happiness to me to have you for a son-in-law. Come and see us in Hamburg.’

Mendelssohn was very shy in consequence of hissad deformity, but at last he resolved upon the journey. He arrived in Hamburg and called upon Gugenheim at his office. The latter said : “Go up-stairs and see my daughter; she will be pleased to see you, I have told her so much about you.”

He saw the daughter, and the next day came to

250 THE STORY OF THE JEWS.

see Gugenheim, and presently asked him what his - daughter, who was a very charming girl, had said of him.

“Ah, most honored rabbi,” said Gugenheim, shall I candidly tell you?”

Of course.”

“Well, as you are a philosopher, a wise and great man, you will not be angry with the girl: She said she was frightened on seeing you, because you

“Because I have a hump?”

Gugenheim nodded.

“T thought so; but I will still go and take leave of your daughter.”

He went up-stairs and sat down by the young

_lady, who was sewing. They conversed in the most friendly manner, but the girl never raised her eyes from her work, and avoided looking at him. At last, when he had cleverly turned the conversation in that direction, she asked him:

“Do you believe that marriages are made in heaven?” :

-“Ves, indeed,” said he; ‘and something espe- cially wonderful happened to me. At the birth of a child, proclamation is made in heaven: He or she shall marry such or such a one. When I was born, my future wife was also named, but at the same time it was said: Alas! she will have a dreadful hump- back.’ ‘O God,’ I said then, ‘a deformed girl will become embittered and unhappy, whereas she should be beautiful. Dear Lord, give me the hump-back, and let the maiden be well formed and agreeable.’”’

Scarcely had Moses Mendelssohn finished speak-

: ———

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 251

ing when the girl threw herself upon his neck: she afterwards became his wife; they lived happily to- gether, and had good and handsome children.”

Pleasant pictures of the life of Mendelssohn with his wife and children have been drawn. But the shadow: of their origin was always about them. “I sometimes go out in the evening,” he once wrote, “with my wife and children. Papa,’ inquires one of them, in innocent simplicity, ‘what is it that those lads call out after us? Why do they throw stones at us? What have we done to them?’ ‘Yes, dear papa,’ says another, ‘they always run after us in the streets and shout, Jew-boy! Jew- boy.” Is ita disgrace in the eyes of the people to bea Jew? What is that to them?’ I cast down my eyes and sigh to myself: ‘Poor humanity? To what point have things come!’ ”’

The data for this sketch have been derived from Mendelssohn’s. great-grandson, Sebastian Hensel, from the literary historian Kurz, and other biog- raphers. We have also a beautiful and graphic portrait, drawn by the man who perhaps possessed as sharp powers of discrimination as any mind which the world has known. Mendelssohn, as we have seen, early became the friend of Lessing, and it was under the influence of that benign atmosphere that _ the latter created his ‘‘ Nathan the Wise,” in the con- ception of the Syrian Jew, establishing a memorial of the reforming genius which the world will never forget.

When Lessing * selected a Jew to be the hero of

* See the writer’s ‘‘ Short History of German Literature.”

252 THE STORY OF THE FEWS.

his grandest play, the innovation was so unheard of as to mark his courage more strikingly perhaps than any act he ever performed—and he was the most in- trepid of men. “Nathan the Wise” was written late in life, when Lessing’s philosophy had ripened, and when his spirit, sorely tried in every way, had gained from sad experience only sweeter humanity. Judged by rules of art, it is easy to find fault with it, but one is impatient at any attempt to measure it by such a trivial standard. It is thrilled from first to last by a glowing God-sent fire—such as has appeared rarely in the literature of the world. It teaches love to God and man, tolerance, the beauty of peace.

In Nathan, a Jew who has suffered at the hands of the Crusaders the extremest affliction—the loss of his wife and seven children—is not embittered by the experience. He, with the two other leading figures, Saladin and the Templar, are bound together in a close intimacy. They are all examples of no- bleness, though individualized. In Nathan, severe chastening has brought to pass the finest gentleness and love. Saladin is the perfect type of chivalry, though impetuous and over-lavish, through the pos- session of great power. The Templar.is full of the vehemence of youth. So they stand, side by side, patterns of admirable manhood, yet representatives of creeds most deeply hostile. Thus, in concrete presentment, Lessing teaches impressively, what he had often elsewhere inculcated in a less varied way, one of the grandest lessons, that nobleness is bound to no confession of faith.

It was his thought—and here miany will think he

ISRAEL’S NEW MOSES. 20

went too far—that every historic religion is in some sense divine, a necessary evolution, from the condi- tions under which it originates. What a man believes is a matter of utter indifference if his life is not good. 3

Goldwin Smith, ina paperin the Wineteenth Century, in which some injustice is done to the Jewish charac- ter and the facts of Jewish history, declares that Nathan the Wise is an impossible personage, the pure creation of the brain of the dramatist. Lessing, however, as is well known, found the suggestion for his superb figure in Moses Mendelssohn, and as I have given with some detail the facts of the life of the grand Israelite, it must have appeared that there are abundant data for concluding that Lessing’s Jew was no mere fancy sketch. It may be said, in truth, that the character is exceptional, and that Jews, as the world knows them, are something quite different. But among the votaries of what creed, pray, would not sucha character be exceptional! If exceptional, it is not unparalleled, as we shall hereafter see. Judaism is capable of giving birth to humane and tolerant spirits, even in our time, and such spirits are not at all unknown in its past annals.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE MONEY KINGS.

IN no department at the present day will the con- spicuous ability of the Jew be so readily conceded as in that of business. Whether as great practical operators, or as political economists, like Ricardo, no class of men have so close a hold of both theory and practice. It seems strange enough to us that trade, in all its various forms, than which no human trans- actions are now considered more honorable and legitimate, was once held to be disgraceful, to a large extent unlawful. It was indispensable to the on- going of society, and therefore, of necessity, toler- ated. The agents of business, however, have, for the most part, been held in ill-repute, or at least in low regard, from antiquity almost to the present day.

Says Cicero: Those sources of emolument are condemned that incur the public hatred; such as those of tax-gatherers and usurers. We are likewise to account as ungenteel and mean the gains of all

_hired workmen, whose source of profit is not their art, but their labor; for their very wages are the consideration of their servitude. We are also to despise all who retail from merchants goods for prompt sale, for they never can succeed unless they

THE MONEY KINGS. 255

lie most abominably. All mechanical laborers are by their profession mean, for a workshop can contain nothing befitting a gentleman.” Toward commerce

on a large scale, indeed, Cicero is somewhat more ©

lenient : “‘ As to merchandizing, if on asmall scale it is mean, but if it is extensive and rich, bringing nu- merous commodities from all parts of the world, and giving bread to numbers without fraud, it is not so despicable.” Still the moralist thinks it is in a meas- ure despicable, for he straightway proceeds to com- mend the course of the merchant who, in good time, abandons his calling: ‘If, satiated with his profits, he shall from the harbor step into an estate and lands, such a man seems most justly deserving of praise ; for of all gainful professions, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture.” *

This view of trade, held by one of the wisest of the ancients, has prevailed almost to our own time. The ill-repute accorded to the agents of commerce has of course fallen abundantly upon the Jews. Ac- cusations of exceptional sordidness and avarice brought against them we may be sure are often un- founded. How different from the view of our prede- cessors has come to be modern judgment with respect to taking interest for money? To take interest is the unquestioned right of every lender, and whether this interest be large or small, four per cent. or forty per cent., is a matter, as most sensible men now be- lieve, which should be left to take care of itself, un- restricted by law. If the risk is great the borrower expects to pay correspondingly ; if the risk is small,

* Offices, I, 42.

7 6%

256 THE STORY OF THE JEWS.

the lender contents himself with a trifle. The pic- ture which has been drawn of Jewish avarice is far from being an entire fiction, but let the circum- stances be always remembered. If the Jew grew greedy in his money-lending, the world often closed to him every avenue of effort except the one narrow, sordid channel. The Christian set himself against him like flint. Can the Jew be blamed that he skinned the flint ?

In some ways, men who in the past have been re- garded with abhorrence, are seen by our fuller light to have been benefactors. The cautious creditor who looks narrowly at the borrower, who forecloses the mortgage promptly and firmly when the due payment fails, and who exacts to the last cent the principal and interest,—has not the time gone by for calling such men only hard-souled money-getters, and for accusing them of grinding the faces of the poor? Ought we not rather to look upon them as agents of the greatest value in the discipline and education of society? What lessons they enforce upon the idle, the unpunctual, the improvident ! The thrifty and industrious have nothing to fear from them ; the influence of such lenders in a com- munity is to drive out shiftlessness—to make all careful and diligent. It may be affirmed that the Jews, through the long ages when they have been vilified as so sordid and covetous, administered to the world a most important schooling. No doubt they have been sometimes rapacious, but it could not well have been otherwise. While all.other avenues were closed to the Jew, the jealousy of artisans on

| THE MONEY KING. 257

the one hand excluding them from the handicrafts much more strictly than American mechanics shut out negroes and Chinese,—on the other hand the higher professions and public life being quite inac- cessible, there was no path for them but in the one despised direction. What wonder that there was sometimes overreaching, and that a habit of taking the largest advantage of the hard world which mal- treated them so cruelly, should have sprung up and become hereditary ?. When his prejudices have not acted, the Jew has been charitable and generous. Among themselves there has not usually been mean withholding of aid.. Even where his prejudices have stood in the way, the number of instances is not small where the Jew has nobly surmounted them, rising into a charity extended even toward his per- secutors.

In trade and exchange, the Jew in the darkest times. has had sufficient vigor and shrewdness to flourish ; as society has become humane and estab- lished,—as the rights of property have been recog- nized and made secure, straightway the childrén_ of Jacob step to the front, become the kings of market and bourse, and by the might of money make a way for themselves. Men like Spinoza and Moses Men- delssohn, with their great intellectual power and beautiful spirit, have caused the world to respect their race. Israel, however, has brought to bear coarser instruments, which have been more effective; perhaps, in breaking for her a path to a better place. And now let us glance at the career of a remarkable family.

258 THE STORY OF THE JEWS.

The streets in the Juden-gasse at Frankfort are dark even by day ; the worn thresholds are still in place that. have been stained with blood in the old massacres ; the houses are furrowed and decrepit as if they had shared in the scourgings which their owners have undergone. A picturesque, gabled dwelling rises not far from the spot where once stood the gate within which the Jews were barred at night- fall, and behind which they sometimes sought to shelter themselves when the wolves of persecution were upon their track. Here lived one hundred years ago Meyer Anselm, whose surname, derived from the sign above his door, was Rothschild. The money-changer had raised himself from a low posi- tion by unusual dexterity.* By a touch of the finger he could tell the value of any strange coin; at the same time he had won a name as an honest man. At length into the Rhine region, in the year 1793, came pouring the legions of the red republicans from France. The princes fled in terror from the inva- sion, and the landgrave of Hesse Cassel, driving up to the door of the Jew, in the confusion, surprised him with this address: ‘I know of old your trusti- ness. I confide all I have in the world to you. Here is my treasure; here are the jewels of my family. Save the jewels if you can, and do with the money as you choose.” The landgrave became a fugitive, and within an hour or two the sans culottes, taking possession of the city, were plundering high and low. Neither Jew nor Christian escaped, Meyer Anselm suffering with the rest.

* Several interesting facts in this sketch are derived from a letter of ‘«Junot’s in the Philadelphia Press.

IN THE FRANKFORT JUDEN-GASSE,

260 THE STORY OF THE JEWS.

Ten years later, with the coming of Napoleon into power, stability was again restored. The landgrave, returning, called at the Red Shield in the Juden-gasse of Frankfort, with small hope of receiving a good re- port. Well, here I am, friend Meyer, escaped with nothing but life.” To his astonishment, the faithful trustee had been able through all the trouble of the time to conduct affairs prosperously. While his own means had been plundered, he had saved in-some hiding-place in the cellar-wall the treasure of the prince. The heirloom jewels were untouched ; with. the money he had made a million; and he now re- stored all to the wondering landgrave, principal and interest. This was the beginning of the marvellous career of the great house of Rothschild. The prince spread far and wide the story of his rescue from ruin. One may well suspect that the shrewd old hawk of the Juden-gasse had had all along a careful eye toward the comfortable feathering of his own nest. At any rate, no better policy for the advancement of his interests could have been hit upon than this honesty in the affairs of the distressed prince. In ten years he was the money king of Europe, trans-

mitting to his able sons, when he himself died in |

1812, a proud inheritance which they welt knew how to improve.

Heinrich Heine has left an interesting account of being conducted by Ludwig Bérne through the Juden-gasse of Frankfort, both of them at the time poor Jewish boys, but destined in after years to become the most famous writers of Germany. It was the evening of the Hanoukhah,” the feast of

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THE MONEY KINGS. ov GN

lamps. The story has been told how Judas Mac- cabzeus, after a victory over the oppressor of his race, had caused the altar of the true God to be recon- structed. It was necessary that the lamps in the sacred porches should be rekindled, to the sound of instruments and the chant of the Levites. Only one vial of oil, however, could be found in the Temple, but, miraculously, the one poor vial sufficed to feed the golden candlestick fora week. This wonder it is which the children of Jacob commemorate in the feast of lamps. Meyer Anselm had gone to his account, but his wife survived, ‘a personality as marked as the old money-changer himself. ‘‘ Here,” said Bérne to Heine, pointing to the weather-beaten house, dwells the old woman, mother of the Roths- childs, the Letitia who has borne so many financial Bonapartes. In spite of the magnificence of her kingly sons, rulers of the world, she will never leave her little castle in the Juden-gasse. To-day she has adorned her windows with white curtains in honor of the great feast of joy. How pleasantly sparkle the little lights which she has kindled, with her own hands, to celebrate a day of victory! While the old lady looks at these lamps, the tears start in her eyes, and she remembers with a sad delight that younger time when her dear husband celebrated the Hanou- khah with her. Her sons then were yet little chil- dren, who planted their silver-branched lamps upon the floor, and, as is the custom in.Israel, jumped over them in childish ecstasy.”

On his death-bed Meyer Anselm made his five sons bind themselves by an oath that they would

262 THE STORY OF THE $YEWS.

remain faithful Jews, that they would always carry on business in company, that they would increase money as much as possible, but never divide it, and that they would consult their mother on all affairs of importance. The old mother long survived her hus- band. She had a singular reason for never sleeping away from her poor home in the Juden-gasse; she felt that her remaining there was in some way con- nected with the fortune of her sons. H.C. Ander- sen draws a picturesque scene, the open door of the house of one of her sons at Frankfort, when he had become a financial prince, rows of servants with lighted candles on heavy silver candlesticks, between them the old mother carried down stairs in an arm- chair. The son kisses reverently the mother’s hand as she nods genially right and left, and they bear her to the poor lodging in the despised quarter. The luxury of sovereigns was prepared for her, but that the good fortune of her sons depended upon her remaining where she had borne them was her superstition.

The wish of the father was conscientiously ful- filled. The house abounded in wealth, and in children and grandchildren. The five sons, Anselm, Solomon, Nathan, Charles, and James, divided among them- selves the principal exchanges of the world, were diplomatically represented in foreign lands, regulating all their affairs, their dowries, marriages, and inherit- ances, by their own family laws. Nathan Meyer, the third son of Anselm, who became head of the London house early in the present century, was the leader of the family. He went to England a youth

THE MONEY KINGS. 263

of twenty-one, with a portion of about $100,000. Establishing himself in Manchester as manufacturer, merchant, and banker, he became a millionaire in six years. Removing then to