French Revolution 1790
Source: Addresse de l’Assemblée des Représentants de la Commune de Paris à l’Assemblée Nationale sur l’Admission des Juifs à l’Etat Civil. Paris, Imprimerie Lottin ainé. 1790;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2009.
February 10, 1790, M. Godard having announced that the great majority of districts had expressed a favorable opinion concerning the granting to Jews of civil rights, and that all appeared to have the same intentions, observed that the Assembly of Representatives of the Commune had the right to approach the National Assembly, and that it shouldn’t delay in taking steps so honorable for itself if it wanted to act in a fashion both timely and effective.
Consequently, it has proposed an address to the National Assembly which was submitted to it for examination by the assembly of representatives of the Commune.
Three commissioners, to wit, M. Abbé Fauchet, M. Abbé Bertolio, and M. Duveyrier were chosen to receive this address, along with M. Godard and the assembly’s reporter.
February 24 M. Godard read the following address, which was unanimously adopted.
The fate of the majority of Jews of the kingdom is still undecided. Or rather, it is only too certain that they still remain charged with their irons, and their chains seem every day to become heavier in proportion as the enjoyment if Liberty increases around them.
Perhaps you are awaiting a strongly pronounced opinion to fortify your generous intentions and accelerate the moment of your justice. We congratulate ourselves for being the first to bring you this opinion. It is not ours alone; it is that of many districts of this capital, and it is all of Paris that speaks to you at this moment through us.
In this city there are quite a number of Jews.
Some are scattered in the different quarters of Paris.
The rest, and in larger numbers, in order to make their gathering together easier and to thus compensate for their isolation from other men, are attracted to particular quarters, where it was impossible for them to escape from public surveillance. Every one of them and everywhere they have been irreproachable in their conduct. No complaints have been raised against them. They have never troubled general order, and if they were the most unfortunate, they were perhaps also – what is quite extraordinary -the most peaceful of citizens.
At the moment of the Revolution their courage, their zeal, and their patriotism earned them the right to public gratitude.
We saw them among us, decorated with the national sign, assisting us in conquering liberty, and every day they aid us in preserving our common patrimony.
Ah, gentlemen: if they have contributed to the conquest of liberty can they be condemned to not enjoy their own work? If they are true citizens, under what pretext can the title be refused them? We dare say that they would deserve it as a reward, if it wasn’t owed them as an act of justice.
Their religion is not incompatible with this title and the rights that grow from it, since the Portuguese, Spanish and Avignonais Jews, who received from you the quality of active citizens, have the same religion, the same principles, and the same usages as the other Jews of the kingdom, designated under the titles Polish and German. You will thus not allow the simple difference in what is accessory in their denomination to have a different influence on the two classes of men who bear the same name, who are united by the same principles, and who must today be mixed together, even if ancient injustices and extraordinary pretentions separated them for a long period of time. You will not allow that in the same city, where exist Portuguese Jews and German Jews, the ones have all and the others nothing, and that, for example, in Paris, where Portuguese Jews live next door to German Jews, the former be treated to the favors of the nation, and the latter weighed down with its contempt.
Neither reason nor liberty can any longer tolerate so monstrously unequal a distribution.
Letters patent were obtained by the Portuguese Jews, and though founded on nature and justice, they were nevertheless only a preference of arbitrary authority. Can this alone be what will have determined you? To be sure, what letters patent did for the Jews of the south a national decree can, and with all the more reason, do for the other Jews of the kingdom.
Finally, gentlemen, when you erase all the distinctions among men, you must not allow them in a particular class and consecrate among the Jews a strong aristocracy that your generous efforts have managed to destroy among French citizens.
In the name of humanity and the Fatherland, in the name of the social qualities of the Jews, of their patriotic virtues, of their strong love for liberty, we ask that you give them the title and the rights which it would be unjust to any longer deprive them of. We look upon them as brothers; it is time we call them fellow citizens. Already we treat them as such, and it is in our interest to mingle together with them. Our interests give us the right to call for your justice, for themselves and for ourselves. Accelerate their happiness and ours.
Decreed by us commissioners named by the Commune. City Hall, February 24, 1790
The response of the Bishop of Autun to the address, made on February 25:
The National Assembly has made the rendering to all men of their rights a sacred duty. It has decreed the necessary conditions to be an active citizen. It is in this spirit, it is in comparing them with these conditions, that it will in justice examine the reasons you have so touchingly laid out in favor of the Jews.