« VorigeDoorgaan »
bly tall and thin, and distinguished by the palor of their countenances, which seems more a characteristic of the race than the result of individual suffering. Their complexion is clear and transparent, their eyes dark, their features delicate and chiselled, and their hair and beards dark, curly and glossy, their hands being remarkable for great delicacy and elegance of shape. The contrast between the beauty and noble expression of the countenances of these men and the abjectness of their character and meanness of their pursuits, is a source of constant wonder to the stranger. As some one has strikingly remarked, it is as if you beheld King David or King Solomon engaged in the pursuits of hucksters and pedlars, or the patriarchs committing petty roguery. If nature be not a deceiver, how much nobler destinies might not these men have worked out for themselves, had not bigotry and persecution done their worst against them! In Lithuania, in particular, some travellers aver that every Jew is a handsome man; and the meekness, mildness, and gentle melancholy expressed in the countenances of the younger men especially, is described as singularly touching. As a general rule the women are less handsome, and are much inclined to a degree of embonpoint which oversteps the limits of the beautiful; however, their turban-like headdresses, formed of gaudy-colored handkerchiefs, give them a certain picturesqueness of appearance; and the rich coronets of pearls and precious stones with which the wealthy Jewish ladies encircle their brows on festive occasions, harmonize well with their dark hair and brilliant eyes. Altogether, however, the male attire, consisting of a long, dark caftan, fastened round the waist with a broad silk sash, and a high, conical fur cap, is more striking than that of the women. But when, in summer, the fur cap is exchanged for a low-crowned, broadbrimmed hat, the dignified Oriental sinks down into the common-place Jew. Says a traveller, who visited the country lately:
that enforce cleanliness; for the reverse of |
Even when not discriminated by their filth and rags, the Jews are distinguished from the rest of the population by their dress, which is of a decidedly Oriental character; but among themselves the similarity is so great, that in travelling through the Polish provinces from the Black Sea to the Baltic, one might fancy oneself pursued by the same individuals, the illusion being further encouraged by the similarity in the size and
The hundreds of thousands of the poorest Jews in Poland would afford an excellent study to any one who should desire to ascertain the minimum of nourishment on which the human body can be sustained, or to what perfection the art of making a whole garment out of innumerable rags can be carried, or in how far the air inhaled by human beings may be loaded with pestiferous smells withreared without clothes, without water, without out becoming deadly, or how children may be soap, without comb, without brush, without medfigure of the men, who are almost invaria-icine, without instruction, or without care of any
The misery, the want, the sick- Those among the Polish Israelites who, in ness, the hunger, the suffering of all kinds that
consequence of the partition were transferred reigns in the damp, filthy, pestiferous dwellings 1 to Prussian rule, were the most fortunate. of the poor Jews in Warsaw, Cracow, Lemberg, They have obtained many privileges they did Mittau, Wilna, and Odessa, where half-a-dozen families, all richly blessed with children, live in
not before possess; and they have in conseone wretched cellar, amid dirt and rags, with little quence abandoned their distinctive garb, and light and less heat-the squalid figures, the many have lost many of their distinguishing feacolored tatters, worthy of being exhibited in an tures. Under Austrian rule, the influence of ethnographical museum, which may be seen in the Jesuits, who had contributed so much to the Polish market places, only those can picture their sufferings and degradation in Poland, to themselves who have read descriptions of the continued to be felt; and the Jews of GalEsquimaux, of the New Hollanders, or of the in-licia still maintain all their characteristic feahabitants of Terra del Fuego.
tures. But it was the Israelites transferred This is a distressing picture, and it is not to Russian dominion that were the most to viewed with indifference in Poland; but the be pitied. They were left entirely at the hands of the nation are tied by the tyranni- mercy of the caprice of the governors of the cal despotism which weighs upon Christian provinces, and other ignorant, barbarous, and and Jew alike.
rapacious officials, who all hoped to make Towards the close of the last century, their fortunes by despoiling the Jews, whose when the Polish nobles were in every way riches they conceived to be boundless. If exerting themselves to retrieve the errors of the victims refused to deliver up the gold the past, while their weak king, the minion which in reality they did not possess, the of the worst enemy of his country, was un- tyrants put them to the torture to wrest it consciously preparing his downfall, strenu- from them. The underlings imitated the exous efforts were also made to ameliorate the ample of their superiors ; even the Russian condition of the Jews; and a “project of soldiers--poor miserable slaves, ill-treated reform” relating to this subject was drawn and trampled upon themselves--when they up in a most just and liberal spirit, by a met with a Jew, played the masters for a member of the Diet, and would no doubt while, and added their share to the misery have passed into law, had not the partition that weighed down this unhappy people. of the country intervened. According to this The government also oppressed them in every project of reform, the Jews were once more way, by advancing every pretext to squeeze to be admitted to all the rights of citizens, money out of them, by the creation of mowhile their duties to the country were not nopolies, by increased taxation, and by illegal made to interfere with their liberty of con- persecutions, while at the same time it descience. It was enacted that as citizens of nied them all rights. They were not allowthe State they should learn the language of the ed to hold real property, or to frequent the country, and should send their children to the schools of the country ; entrance into the national schools, but at the same time their capital was entirely denied to them, as also religious rights were secured, and all honor the right of lengthened sojourn in any of the able careers were opened to them. But the populous cities. vultures that were to rend Poland asunder, In 1807, when the Grand-duchy of Warwere already hovering over the doomed land, saw was constituted, equality before the law and these noble efforts at self-regenaration, was proclaimed for all citizens, and the Jews which might have served as an example to among the rest; but this liberal constitution the freest and most enlightened nations of remained a dead letter under the rule of the the times, only hastened the action of its en- House of Saxony, and the Jews continued to emies, lest the nation should grow too strong be burdened with exceptional taxes, adminbefore the blow that was to fell it to the istrative decrees depriving them of the rights ground was levelled. The Israelites, fully which the organic law accorded to them. aware of the sincerity of the intentions of the All attempts to transform the Jews into Polish patriots in their favor, proved their Polish citizens were abandoned, and, except gratitude in 1794, when the people flew to that the additional hardship of performing arms in despair, by freely mingling their military service was added to their other burblood with that of their Christian compatriots; dens, they remained what they had been for and they fought with bravery for the inde centuries. To relieve themselves from this, pendence of the country wbich promised to them most hateful service, they offered to once more to become a true home to them,
pay an annual sum of 700,000 Polish florins
to the Government, and under pretext of raising this sum, a tax called kosher* Was imposed in 1810 on all meat consumed by the Jews. This odious and vexatious tax, which weighs most heavily on the poor, is farmed out every year (for the Russian government most unjustly continues the tax, though the exemption from military service, for which it was a commutation, has been withdrawn) to the highest bidder; and it is but too often Jewish speculators who come forward to bid, in the hope of enriching themselves by the oppression of their brethren. However, the extraordinary tenacity and perseverance of the Hebrew character has frequently been exhibited in resistance to this tax, whole communities having for six months together abstained from eating meat, thus reducing to bankruptcy the heartless farmer of the tax. At the same time that this tax was imposed, the right of keeping taverns or public-houses in the villages, was withdrawn from the Jews, and a great number of families thus reduced to a state of perfect destitution.
other citizens, and to take up their abode in distinct quarters of the town; and, upon the whole, their condition became more intolerable than ever.
An incident, closely connected with an arbitrary measure, from which the Jews, in particular, suffered very severely, will suffice to show how constitutional government was understood by the Russian masters of Poland. Monopoly in the distillation and sale of spirits and beer was suddenly introduced by the Minister of Finance, Lubecki. The monopoly being, however, restricted to the towns, the price of the two commodities soon rose enormously in Warsaw, and other populous cities, as compared with the price in the villages; and many poor Jews, who had been deprived of every honest means of subsistence, were induced to smuggle spirits into the towns, though many lost their lives in conflict with the custom-house officers. At length the citizens of Warsaw finding themselves great sufferers by the enhanced price of the two necessary articles, drew up a petition to the Emperor, couched in the most respectful terms, but representing that the introduction of this monopoly was a violation of the rights guaranteed to the Polish people by the charter. The day after the petition had been sent in to the government office at Warsaw, the six respectable citizens, whose names stood first among the signatures, were dragged from their homes, conducted to an open square in the city, and there made to cart earth in wheelbarrows, like common malefactors, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, who looked on in profound and melancholy silence. One of the sufferers on this occasion, a venerable old man with silver hair, was Mr. Czynski, who had served as captain under Kosciusko, and whose son has distinguished himself among the Polish emigrants in Paris, by his generous efforts in behalf of the Polish Jews. Among the means resorted to, at this period, for extorting money from the Jews, were also threats of displacing their cemeteries, and of pulling down their synagogues; and the unhappy people, already reduced to great privations, imposed long and severe fasts upon themselves in order to raise the sums required to bribe the authorities to desist from these plans. So great was the terror inspired by the Grand Duke Constantine, that it has been observed, that not a single Israelite at that time ventured to inform his coreligionists abroad of the dreadful oppression they were subjected to in Poland.
One only of Alexander's benevolent and
The treaty of Vienna brought a new change in the state of Poland. Again a charter was given ensuring the rights of the citizens, Jewish as well as others, and again the people were delivered over to arbitrary rule, and this time to that of a capricious and tyrannical despot; for, while the Emperor Alexander at St. Petersburg planned benevolent reforms for Poland, the Grand Duke Constantine, nominated commander-in-chief in the kingdom, was grinding the people under his heel. The burdensome taxes and restrictions weighing on the Jews were not relieved, while the prohibitive commercial system of Russia further injured them in their trading relations. Some sought relief in smuggling, in spite of the heavy penalties attending detection. This led to the establishment of a regular system of extortion, having for its object to despoil the rich Jews for the benefit of their denouncers, who shared their gains with General Rozniecki, the Chief of the Secret Police. The word of a single spy was sufficient to cause the incarceration of the most respectable citizen, and whether in nocent or guilty, there was no escape from such captivity except through means of a golden key. The poor Jews, against whom no political plottings could possibly be invented, were made to follow their Polish fellow-citizens to Siberia, under pretext of being guilty of smuggling. At this time also (1823) the Jews were again forced to separate from the
*The word kosher signifies permitted food.
wise measures in favor of Jewish reform was one of indescribable hardship and privation. carried out, at least partially. A commission He is badly fed, badly paid, badly housed, was instituted at Warsaw to inquire into the and ill-treated by his superiors from the sercondition of the Jews, and to propose ameli- geant to the commander-in-chief ; but added orations ; but the only permanent fruits of to this the Jewish soldier has to bear the its labors, was the establishment of a school hatred and contempt of his comrades in arms, in Warsaw for Jewish rabbis, with a view to who look upon him with abhorrence as beforming tolerant and enlightened teachers, longing to the race who crucified their God;
, capable of exercising a salutary influence on and such being the case, it is no wonder that their co-religionists; and the suppression of these unhappy creatures resort to the most the Jewish authoritative bodies called cahal, desperate expedients to evade a service which who exercised a most despotic and tyranni- is also most repugnant to their unwarlike tastes cal rule over their fellows by means of the and habits. A few years ago, a sledge with anathema which they had the power
pro- ten corpses was brought into Wilna one nouncing. These two measures have at least morning : they were the bodies of ten young emancipated a great number of the younger Jews, who had preferred death from cold and generation of Polish Jews from the thraldom hunger in the forest, to life among the barof ignorant orthodoxy in which the rigorous barous Russian soldiers and officers. Such Talmudists endeavor to keep their people. tragedies are of daily occurrence in Russia ;
For the Emperor Nicholas was reserved but in 1843, a tragedy of a new character, the distinction of levelling against his Jewish and on a grander scale than bad ever before subjects the most cruel blow which has ever been witnessed, was got up by order of the yet fallen upon this much-oppressed people. Emperor. In that year an ukase was pubShortly after his accession, being desirous of lished ordering all the Jews dwelling on the creating a powerful navy, and being advised frontiers of Prussia and Austria to remove that the Jews, hitherto exempt from military fifty wersts further into the interior ; and service, possessed peculiar aptitude for naval thus a population of no less than 200,000 service—by the stroke of a pen he caused souls were suddenly uprooted from the soil 30,000 children to be torn from the arms of on which their fathers had been established their parents and transported to the coasts of for many centuries, and cut off from their acthe Black Sea during a most rigorous season. customed sources of livelihood. The Jews Many perished on the road, others succumbed exerted themselves to the utmost to avert to the cruel discipline of the Russian navy; this dreadful calamity. They sent deputaand, if we are to believe the Jewish archives, tions to St. Petersburg to prove to the Gova few years afterwards there remained only ernment that not one in a thousand of them 10,000 young men alive of this first levy of had been guilty of the smuggling which Israelites. From one point of view the mili- served as a pretext for this tyrannical meastary service imposed upon his Jewish subjects ure; they offered to renounce entirely all by the Emperor Nicholas may be considered participation in the frontier trade, or,
any a step in advance, as it places them on an of their members took part in it, to make all equal footing with the Christians, and as responsible for each ; but the Emperor, who such it is indeed represented; but we must no doubt bad ulterior objects in view, renot forget that this equalization as to burdens mained inflexible. Animated by the reformhas not been accompanied by any equaliza- ing spirit of bis great ancestor, Nicholas has tion as to rights, and that the Jews continue also declared war against the beards and cafto be excluded from serving the country in tans of the Jews, as Peter did against those any other capacity, and to be burdened with of his Boyars. It is not, however, European many exceptional imposts. But should the civilization which Nicholas wishes to introTzar ever sincerely desire to place the Jews duce, but that perfect uniformity which on a level with his Christian subjects of the would render the power of his colossal em: same rank, he would only be making them pire more easy to wield. The idea of a the equals of serfs and slaves. However, the wholesale conversion of the Jews is not either sufferings the Jews are exposed to by being foreign to Nicholas, for he can not renounce subject to military conscription are also of an the hope of embracing these too and a-half exceptional character. By far the greater millions of his subjects also within the arms number of the Jews born in the Polish prov- of the orthodox Russo-Greek Church, which inces do not understand the Polish language, are eventually, according to his plan, to enand much less the Russian ; the position of circle all the nations that dwell within the the Russian soldier, as is now well known, is shadow of the Muscovite sceptre. That the
Russians are fully aware that hitherto persecution and oppression have only strengthened the faith of the Jews, is proved by the oath that is administered to them on entering the
army or the navy: they are made to swear not to abandon the Emperor's banners even when the Messiah appears.
From Sharpe's Magazine.
TUNIS, the capital of the regency of the same name, is situated on the coast of Barbary, North Africa. Its climate is considered extremely salubrious, though the heat in summer is very oppressive. During the hottest months the thermometer generally stands at about 86 degrees in the shade; but the greatest difference in the temperature is caused by the prevalence of the south-east wind, called sirocco, which passes over the burning sands of the Sahara, or Great Desert, and is on that account so warm, as to appear almost like the breath of a furnace.
The country is exceedingly fertile, but is left almost without cultivation, owing to circumstances which I can not here detail. In summer no rain falls, and on that account, as well as by reason of the great heat, the ground is completely parched and brown; but in spring and autumn, when the former and latter rains moisten the earth, and the scorching sun has less power, the country appears robed in green and smiling in verdure.
The Bey of Tunis is nominally subject to the Sublime Porte, and possesses despotic power in his own regency.
Tunis is famous as having been one of the strongholds of the corsairs, or pirates, of whose dark deeds and bold exploits so much has been written; but the place derives its principal interest from its close vicinity to the site of ancient Carthage, once the great rival of Rome, but of which scarcely a vestige now remains to witness to the reality of its former grandeur. In the second century Christianity flourished in Carthage, and shed its benign influence over the regions around; but, alas! the darkness of night prevails where once the Sun of righteousness shone resplendent. Mahommedanism, propagated
and maintained by the sword, is now the religion of these once-favored districts.
The streets of Tunis are narrow, crooked, and dirty. It is impossible to form a correct estimate of the number of its Moorish inhabitants, as the Mahommedan religion forbids the numbering of the people. The town, however, is large and over-populated; and is said to contain, exclusively of the followers of the false prophet, about 30,000 Jews, 5000 Maltese, and a vast number of Europeans, principally French and Italian. There are nine European consuls and one American, resident in the town; and the flags hoisted on the different consulates on the Sabbath, or on any particular occasion, present a very lively appearance as they wave in the breeze.
The Mahommedans and the Jews know of no other Christianity than that exhibited to their view in the form of Catholicism, and the more idolatrous worship of the Greek church. They therefore imagine that all Christians observe the same ceremonials; and those among them who were brought into contact with ourselves or other Protestants, could with difficulty be persuaded that we did not worship idols, to which practice they have the greatest possible aversion. I well remember, some time after my school was established, the Jews, being anxious to know whether Christianity was taught in it, sent a person to ascertain the fact. The messenger walked into the school room, looked round in search of a crucifix, and not seeing one, asked the children if we had any images for worship, and being told, No, went away perfectly satisfied that no Christianity was taught: whereas, at the same time, the girls were reading the New Testament daily, and learning with great interest those prophecies relating to the first advent of the Messiah,