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The Swiss and the Jews


It is nothing new in the moral world to find those who are the most cruelly unjust to others to be of all men the loudest to complain when their rights are invaded. And, perhaps, no country on the face of the earth is more liable to this animadversion than the Helvetian Republic. Composed as it is of small cantons, forming literally various minor confederations, and claiming as they do the fullest liberty to maintain their own internal organization, and resisting often the federal legislature, if their particular interests are at stake, they have never yet reached that point of political wisdom as to declare men of all religious sentiments free in the eyes of the law, or to permit them to settle wherever it seems best to them. The Jew as such, is excluded from several of the cantons, as the respective states are called, and even to strange Israelites these favoured spots are interdicted ground. And still, notwithstanding this crying injustice, the Swiss are constantly complaining of the attempt of European powers to infringe on their rights, and to interfere in their domestic affairs whereas, in truth, they have no claim to the sympathy of the liberal-minded of other nations, till they have themselves learned to respect the inherent right of every man to worship God after the dictates of his own conscience; and had other countries acted as the illiberals in Switzerland do to this day, we Israelites would not have found a spot to rest thereon the weary sole of our foot.

Whilst, however, these strange republicans confined their illiberality to those who are natives of their country, or to others who might wish to claim citizenship with them, Israelites resident abroad, though indignant at such inconsistent illiberality, would have had no right to interfere. The case, however, has lately assumed a different aspect, inasmuch as a diplomatic agent of the United States, within the past few months, concluded a treaty with the Helvetians, which, according to the report in the newspapers, contains a clause that the right of establishment, which is mutually conceded, shall be confined, as regards Switzerland, to Christian citizens of America, though the cantons need not act upon the restriction. Wonderful liberality!—there shall be no compulsion on the part of the exclusionists to exclude the Israelites from their territory, though, should they be so inclined, they may tell an American citizen that he shall not be permitted to transact his lawful business in the tabooed districts. Had the treaty been confirmed, it would have <<614>>established an unconstitutional religious distinction between the citizens of this Republic, who have all the self-same duties, and hence the same prerogatives.

It is surprising how any American diplomatist could be so ignorant of this country’s institutions as to sanction, even in a mere draught of a treaty, the spirit of discrimination between those who are alike his sovereigns, and help to elect even the chief-magistrate and mediately the senators from whom he holds his appointment. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the gentleman in question may have leave to spend the remainder of his days in retirement from public life, that he may have leisure to study the institutions of his country, which such blundering is apt to disgrace in the opinion of the liberal of all nations, more even than an aggressive war waged against a defenceless state, should the country ever be unfortunately involved in such a one; for it might be owing to uncontrollable circumstances and powerful state-policy, neither of which can excuse the step which the diplomatist in Switzerland has been guilty of.

There is, however, one consolation, that there is in this Republic a conservative body, always ready to watch over the constitutional guarantees, and to secure the rights of the people. We allude, of course, to the Senate, the constitutional advisers of the President of the United States. Our attention having been called, by a friend at Baltimore, while a guest at his house, to the existence of the treaty in question, and seeing that steps ought to be taken to defeat its ratification, we thought the most advisable plan to be to enter into correspondence with one or more senators, in order to call their attention to the illiberal clause, which alone could be needed to defeat it.

In consequence of this, we addressed Mr. Pearce of Maryland, Mr. Mason of Virginia, Mr. Butler of South Carolina, Mr. Berrien of Georgia, and Mr. Foote of Mississippi. We have been favoured with a reply from Mr. Pearce and Mr. Berrien, wherein both express themselves hostile to the ratification of the provision which excludes the Jews from equal rights. Mr. B. says, among other things: “I have conversed with the chairman of the Committee of Foreign Relations on the subject, and from him I understand that the treaty will probably be submitted to the Senate with a recommendation to amend it in the particular of which you complain. As this is all we need, there is no farther cause of dissatisfaction, and we have no doubt that not alone the senators personally addressed by us and others, but the whole body likewise, will concur in the recommendation of the committee, and thus show the world that America <<615>>knows how to protect all its citizens, even in a matter which it is possible might in practice never have inconvenienced a single one of them; and this will teach a lesson to European nations, both monarchical and others, which they would do well to imitate.

For our person, we return the honourable senators our sincere acknowledgment for the kind promptness with which they replied to our notes, which found them no doubt in the midst of a vast amount of business claiming their attention during the short session of Congress, when every one is anxious to have. his favourite measure receive the action of the legislature. It is but justice to state that, judging from Mr. Pearce’s words, we should infer that the attention of senators had been drawn to the objectionable features of the treaty before any remonstrance had reached them. This is the more honourable to their liberality and faithfulness, and proves that the watchmen of the liberty of the land are not asleep on their posts.