The Jews in Limerick (Freeman’s Journal, 1904)

1.666-68. The Freeman’s Journal, (Dublin), Monday, 18 January, 1904, 5; Tuesday, 19 January, 1904, 4.

Two Extracts from The Freeman’s Journal on English anti-semitism.

On Monday the 18th of January, The Freeman’s Journal carried a letter to the Editor from Michael Davitt, condemning Father Creagh’s attack on the Jewish community in Limerick of the previous Wednesday:

Sir — I will ask you to allow me a little of your space to deal with a matter which is in my humble judgment one of public concern to all who love and revere the Catholic religion, and who have no less a degree of affection for the name and honour of Ireland.
¶¶It has been the unique glory of our country that its original conquest to the cause of Christianity was effected without bloodshed, while the sons of St. Patrick have truly upheld that reputation from then till now. Irish Catholics have suffered every possible form of religious oppression known to the perverted ingenuity of the authors of the Penal Code, but it is their proud boast that neither in Ireland nor in any land to which English rule has forced them to fly did they ever resort to a counter-religious persecution.
¶¶In the year 1747, or thereabouts, the Irish House of Commons, in rebuke to a then anti-Jewish outbreak in England, openly condemned such un-Christian violence, and extended a welcome to oppressed Jews to the shelter of the then laws of Ireland.
¶¶A few years ago, perhaps a dozen, the Chief Rabbi of London, on a visit to Dublin, declared that when he set foot on Irish soil he was in the only land in Europe in which his race had never suffered persecution.

Davitt’s letter then quotes a section of Father Creagh’s “sermon or speech” as reported in the Limerick papers, extreme in its anti-semitism in comparison with The Freeman’s Journal’s own earlier report. Condemning the dissemination of “these abominable stories” and the attempted introduction of a “spirit of barbarous malignity” into Ireland, and accusing Creagh of inciting the people of Limerick to “hunt the Jews from their midst,” Davitt reflects that:

Fortunately Limerick is a stronghold of true Nationalist sentiment, and cannot be induced to dishonour Ireland by any response to such unworthy and un-Catholic invitations.

On the following day, the paper’s daily ‘By The Way’ column expanded on Davitt’s assertion of the mutual exclusivity of Irishness and anti-semitism in a way that has a bearing on Haines’s use of the word ‘now’.

Mr. Michael Davitt’s protest against attacks on Jews as a class or religious body may render it of interest to recall recollection to the fact that O’Connell was an enthusiastic advocate of the relief of the Jewish disabilities. In a private letter written by O’Connell on the 16th February, 1831, there is appended the following significant protest ­­— “I will be, I hope, to-morrow evening in the House to vote for the Jews, if there be a division.” The Jewish Relief Act was not passed till 1858, nearly a generation after O’Connell had written these words. It is not, perhaps, generally known that a Jewish Relief Bill actually became law in the English Parliament in 1753; but the Parliament was compelled to repeal in the following year this just toleration, in deference to popular prejudices. The debates on this subject may be read, even after this lapse of time, with interest. One member of Parliament urged that to give the Jews a resting place in England would invalidate prophecy, and destroy one of the principal reasons for believing in the Christian religion. Another reminded the Government that after 430 years the Jews in Egypt had mustered 600,000 armed men, and that according to the Book of Esther, they had once, when they got the upper hand, put 76,000 of their enemies to death. The time might come, it was suggested, when, through another Esther, they might govern the destinies of England, or when they might even take their seats as members of Parliament

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Lord Beaconsfield, the late Tory Prime Minister, who was the grandson of a Venetian Jew, who settled in England at the time of George II, had Jewish connections in Ireland. His uncle, Benjamin Disraeli — the younger brother of Isaac Disraeli — from whom the statesman was named, was a working jeweller in Grafton street in this city. He died in 1805, the year his famous nephew was born, and was buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard. Between this Benjamin Disraeli and Mr Hume, of Humewood, County Wicklow, notwithstanding the difference in their stations in life, there was a close friendship, and Disraeli bequeathed to Mr. Hume some small property, part of which consisted in a house in Lower Fitzwilliam street. Mr. Hume’s son — Mr. Quintin Hume Dick — sat for many years in the House of Commons as Tory member for Wicklow. Disraeli, when Prime Minister, used frequently to ask him jocosely to settle with him and give him back that little property in Dublin which his father had obtained from his uncle and namesake.