From the time of the revolutions of 1830 onward, the question of Jewish emancipation was subject to increasing debate. The following two documents show in particularly explicit form the different and opposed conceptions of the nature of state and citizenship informing this debate. The first of the two documents contains excerpts from the pamphlet The Jewish National Distinctiveness, published in 1831 by H.E.G. Paulus (1761-1851), Professor of Theology at the University of Heidelberg from 1811 to 1834. A rationalist theologian whose commentary on the Gospels had created an enormous stir when he denied the resurrection of Jesus, Paulus was also politically active and frequently commented on public events. Opposing the proposal then before the parliament of the Grand Duchy of Baden for the emancipation of the Grand Duchy's Jews, Paulus asserted that Germany's Jews, by following their religious laws, were making themselves into a distinct and foreign nationality, different from other Germans. Therefore, they could only be protected subjects of the state, not equal citizens. The only way for Jews to become equal citizens, according to Paulus, was to change their laws and customs. In addition to making their religion more like Christianity, Jews would have to cease being commercial middlemen and peddlers, occupations he denounced as harmful to the public good. For Paulus, religion and nationality were integrally connected; Jews would have to demonstrate that they met standards – religious, moral, and occupational – set by Christians to become citizens of a German state.
The next document contains excerpts from a pamphlet written in response to Paulus, Defense of the Civic Equality of the Jews against the Proposals of Herr Dr. H.C.G. Paulus. The author was Gabriel Riesser (1806-1863), the most forthright proponent of Jewish emancipation among Germany's Jews. A Hamburg native trained in law, Riesser would have a distinguished political career: he was vice president of the Frankfurt National Assembly and, in 1859, was named as a justice on the Hamburg Court of Appeals, the first Jew in Germany to be appointed as a judge. Riesser's response to Paulus's arguments was less to defend Jewish religious rituals or to debate Jewish occupational structure than to argue that these were not the issue. In regard to Paulus's attacks on Jewish commercial activity, Riesser responded that middlemen were a normal part of commercial life, peddlers' activities were beneficial to consumers, and attacks on Jewish businessmen were largely the work of their competitors who, by limiting competition, would just harm consumers. Responding to Paulus's contention that Jews, by obeying their religious laws, set themselves outside the circle of citizenship, Riesser asserted that obeying Jewish religious law was a matter of religious conviction and individual conscience and not a precondition for citizenship, which was the obligation on the part of all citizens to obey the laws laid down by the government. Jews, Riesser pointed out, had fought in the wars of liberation against France and served in the armies of the German states, thus demonstrating that they were part of the German nation. By defining nationality, citizenship, and the role of the state very differently from Paulus, Riesser arrived at diametrically opposed conclusions about the emancipation of the Jews.
In 1846, the parliament of the Duchy of Nassau debated a motion calling on the government to grant the Jews equal rights with other citizens of the Duchy. Similar debates would be held in parliamentary bodies of other German states at this time, including Baden, Bavaria and Prussia, and in the Frankfurt National Assembly during the revolution of 1848. In the course of this debate, excerpts from which are reproduced here, both proponents and opponents of the emancipation of the Jews expressed their views on the nature of citizenship and whether the Jews fulfilled the criteria necessary to be citizens.