Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Jew Law

A lecture was given by Yoel Sheridan at Netanya AACI focussing on the so-called "Jew Law" or the "Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753." You might wonder why the British Parliament would need to pass such an act? Although Jews had been allowed to return to England as a result of the intervention of Oliver Cromwell in 1645, it turned out that there was actually no official edict of expulsion signed by King Edward II in 1290, and neither is there an official edict or act of Parliament allowing Jews to return to Britain (see blog "Cromwell and the Jews" Nov 14, 2013). However, for Jews to become naturalized citizens of Britain was another matter.

As a result of the gradual increase in affluence in Britain thru trade, the number of Jews, mainly Ashkenzi Jews from Europe, who moved to Britain gradually increased with time. Jews who were born in Britain were actually considered British, but immigrants were not allowed to become naturalized British citizens and were considered aliens or denizens, meaning they were residents although with limited rights. In 1750, only ca. 85,000 people actually voted out of a British population of approximately 6 million, including ca. 6,000 Jews. The acts extending universal suffrage were in the future.

Thru the influence of Gideon Samson, a wealthy Jew who was a broker in the Stock Exchange, who lent money to the British Government and who converted to Christianity in order to own land, and others like him, the British Government under George II and his Prime MInister Henry Pelham, decided to introduce the "Jewish Naturalization Act" into Parliament in 1753. This was supported by the Whigs but opposed by the Conservatives. One reason some Christians supported this act was that they believed that for the second coming of Christ, Jews had to be spread all over the world. This act was passed against strong, highly anti-Semitic opposition. The act required that for a foreign (alien) Jew to become a naturalized British citizen he had to apply to Parliament and be approved, then he had to wait three years, and pay a fee, an expensive process. Without the Jew Law a person had to take several oaths, including swearing allegiance to the Crown and the Church of England (although this was intended to prevent Catholics becoming British citizens).

But, following the passage of this act, the tone and extent of anti-Semitic propaganda in Britain increased significantly, and within 6 months after it had been passed, this act was repealed by the British Parliament. Jews were not accepted as equal citizens in Britain for another hundred years after this (see blog, "Emancipation of the Jews of England" Jan 26, 2014). A strong residue of anti-Semitism remained in Britain up to and including WWII and even until today, when all Jewish institutions in Britain have to be protected by guards against attack.


Post a Comment

<< Home