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Christian Wilhelm von Dohm, Concerning the Amelioration of the Civil Status of the Jews (1781)

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Our knowledge of human nature tells us that conditions of this our actual life here have a stronger influence on men than those referring to life after death. History proves also that good government and the prosperity all subjects enjoy under such a government weaken the influence of religious principles and abolishes the mutual antipathy which is only nourished by persecution. The belief of the Quakers seems to contain teachings which are obviously contrary to a general union of all in the state and which seem to make its adherents incapable of acting as good citizens. The defense of the state against attacks which endanger its existence is one of the first duties of each member of civil society. The Quaker negates this and affirms that he knows no motive which would allow him to fight. The oath seems to be one of the most essential supports that the state expects from religion; only by it, one believes, the loyalty of the subjects can be secured, only by it is an irrefutable judgement possible in lawsuits concerning their lives and possessions. The Quaker refuses to take an oath. Besides, he is against the generally acknowledged rules of accepted behavior and accentuates this by peculiar customs and different garb. And yet the Quakers and Mennonists are known as good and useful citizens in all states where they have been received. The Catholic seems by his dogmas, even more than adherents of other faiths, justified in exclusive opinions, since he regards his religion as the only and absolutely necessary condition for salvation and is charged with the duty to spread his belief. Still, Catholics are very good and patriotic citizens in England, Holland, Prussia and Russia. So are the Lutherans in Alsace, the Reformed and Socinians in Siebenburgen. So were the Moslems formerly in Spain before they were driven out by an unenlightened zealotism, and they still are today in the Austrian and Russian states. The Jews, too, were very loyal subjects of the Roman empire under the heathen as well as under the first Christian emperors. They were allowed to live according to their own laws and they had other special privileges. And in the present time, although they have enjoyed very few of the benefits of citizens in any of the states, they have already in many cases proved their warm sympathy for the welfare of these states, and have demonstrated patriotic readiness for sacrifice in danger. Certainly, also the Jew will not be prevented by his religion from being a good citizen, if only the government will give him a citizen's rights. Either his religion contains nothing contrary to the duties of a citizen, or such tenets can easily be abolished by political and legal regulations.

One might oppose to all these reasons the general experience of our states of the political harmfulness of the Jews, intending to justify the harsh way our governments are dealing with them by the assertion that the character and spirit of this nation is so unfortunately formed that on this ground they cannot be accepted with quite equal rights in any civil society. Indeed, quite often in life one hears this assertion that the character of the Jews is so corrupt that only the most restricting and severest regimentation can render them harmless. To these unfortunates, it is said, has been transmitted from their ancestors, if not through their most ancient Law, then through their oral tradition and the later sophistic conclusions of the rabbis, such a bitter hatred of all who do not belong to their tribe, that they are unable to get used to looking at them as members of a common civil society with equal rights. The fanatic hatred with which the ancestors of the Jews persecuted the founder of Christianity has been transmitted to their late posterity and they hate all followers of this faith. Outbreaks of this hatred have often shown themselves clearly unless held in check by force. Especially have the Jews always been reproached by all nations with lack of fairness and honesty in the one field in which they were allowed to make a living – commerce. Every little dishonest practice in commerce is said to be invented by Jews, the coin of any state is suspect if Jews took part in the minting, or if it went frequently through Jewish hands. One hears also in all places where they were allowed to multiply in numbers, the accusation that they monopolize almost entirely the branches of trade permitted to them and that Christians are unable to compete with them in these. For this reason, it is further said, the governments of nearly all states have adopted the policy, in an unanimity from which alone it can be concluded that it is justified to issue restrictive laws against this nation and to deviate, in its case alone, from the principle of furthering a continuous rise in population. They could not concede to these people who are harmful to the welfare of the rest of the citizens the same rights, and had to adopt the stipulation of a certain amount of property for those permitted to settle down, as guarantee for compliance with the laws and abstinence from criminal activities.

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