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Caroline Warman

24. Abbé Grégoire, ‘New Observations on the Jews and in Particular on the Jews of Amsterdam and Frankfurt’, 18071

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  • 1 Abbé Grégoire, ‘Observations nouvelles sur les juifs, et spécialement sur ceux d’Amsterdam et de Fr (...)

1A representative of the clergy sent to attend the Estates General in 1789, Abbé Grégoire was a man of faith who was also influenced by Enlightenment philosophy. He was an abolitionist who espoused the notion that every individual should be free and recognised as a citizen, irrespective of his origins. Here he reflects on the situation of the Jews, particularly those of Frankfurt. When he looks back on the liberties Jews have enjoyed in France for seventeen years, he is referring to the rights conferred on them by the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

2The question comes down to whether Jews are human beings. How contemptible and disgraceful are those individuals who offend against the dignity of the human race when they offend against the person of an Israelite! Have these Christians who persecute others not, then, read the Gospel? That would be a crime. They certainly do not follow it, which is another. These Christians to whom St Paul commends as necessary virtues faith, hope and charity, pointing out that the greatest of these is the last. These Christians whose pastors frequently remind them of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and of Jesus Christ’s saying ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. These Christians who find this precept in a book revered by both themselves and the Jews: ‘Turn from evil and do good’. Turn from evil; the many people who restrict their morality to that first part have only fulfilled half their duties. […]

3The strict observance of justice is in the true interests of all, but particularly of our rulers. To deprive one part of the people of their social benefits is to legitimise their discontent and justify their complaints. All members of the body politic should be judged by the same laws, exercise the same rights and fulfil the same duties. The esteem accorded each individual should be measured out according to his usefulness, virtue, and the use he makes of his talents. […]

4Aside from some lingering prejudices which will disappear, France has for seventeen years now been the country with which the Jews may be most satisfied, particularly at the current time. The supreme authority has pronounced in their favour, and they will justify its hopes. The Jews were the pariahs of Europe. The fact that a great injustice against them has been redressed is the promise that one day others will be also. People will feel that if it was iniquitous to banish individuals on account of their religious beliefs, it is no less so to banish others because of the colour of their skin. Public opinion, chief among powers, since in the last analysis it brings down or props up all the others, is gradually clearing away the rubble of feudalism, and leading Europe towards a new order of things. […]

5Gradually a pit is opening up, which will swallow up – along with Dom Ramon-Joseph de Arcé, Archbishop of Burgos and his tortures which are no longer anything but political tools – the Inquisition whose very existence is a calumny to the Catholic religion. Jovellanos and other renowned victims whom despotism destined to its furies, will go to join Las Casas, Savonarola, Carranza, Yériqui etc. in a better world. Their tombs are heaped with tributes of love and admiration, while the memory left by Torquemada, Eymeric, Sepúlveda is reviled. Persecutors of every rank and nation, such is the fate which awaits you. And if the names of some among you do come down to posterity, you will find yourself consigned with horror to the sewers of history. If it is a consolation to think that virtue must be purified by the trials of this world, and if justice is sometimes late in coming, then at least crime can never escape the justice of God, and only rarely that of men.

Read the free original text online (facsimile), 1807 edition:​books?id=wOFaAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA391


1 Abbé Grégoire, ‘Observations nouvelles sur les juifs, et spécialement sur ceux d’Amsterdam et de Francfort’, La Revue philosophique, littéraire et politique, XVI, 1 June 1807, pp. 391-394.

Table des illustrations

Titre Portrait of Abbé Grégoire, by unknown artist (1801)
Fichier image/jpeg, 90k


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