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Last revised:
23 August 2000

French Canadians and Jews

A Typical XIXth Century View of Jews?
"The Jewish Question". Editorial by A.-D. Decelles in L’Opinion Publique Thursday, December 1, 1881, p. 563 [from the original French, translated by Claude Bélanger]

Old Europe is presently agitated by many difficulties that might result in war or revolution: the Orient, Russian and Greek questions, religious and social issues; there are problems for all tastes, and enough to worry anybody who focuses on the tomorrows. There are more problems in Europe than anywhere else. Europe is also the most civilized part of the world. Does this mean that problems increase with the level of civilisation? Does it show that the more civilised a people is, the more difficult to govern it is? If that is so, woe to modern progress! On the other continents we only see questions of appetites, and means to satisfy them. Yet, these other people are easy to satisfy.

Among the many preoccupations that attract the attention of Europeans, none is older than the Jewish question. It dates from the Medieval period, and it presents itself today in much the same terms it did in these earlier days. During the Middle Ages, Jews made their fortune at the expense of those who lacked foresight and were neglectful. As is the case today, from time to time, the creditors complained and demanded that governments throw out the Jews. This was a sure and fast way of getting rid of debts, but one that created embarrassment. Our century, so rich in expedients, has not found anything better. What is the expulsion of usurers compared to bankruptcy!

Nowadays, people continue to be upset by Jews. Still today, thousands of people in Germany and Russia beg their governments to expell them. In France, some financial institutions were specifically created to combat Jewish capital. It is said that L’Union-Générale, a financial institution of which we informed you a few days ago, and one that has had incredible success, had as its main purpose to replace the influence of Jewish capital with that of Catholic funds. It is a religious war waged with millions. Many Jewish financial institutions have already suffered enormous losses: l’Union-Générale is the Samson that vanquished that victors of the Philistines.

It is now a little late to begin this crusade, as Jewish influence, based on the wealth of Jews, is immense. Jews control a large part of the press of Europe, in Austria as much as in Russia, in Germany as well as in France. Jews will be found among the financial backers of a large number of important newspapers. The financeers of the wandering tribes are among the most solid of the world. They bankroll governments, and of the best known of them it has been said that he is the King of Jews and the Jew of Kings. They encroach upon everything; they are now entertained in the drawing-rooms of the most celebrated. Once they have loaned money to monarchs, they are given hospitality. They have intermarried with the most powerful of families, and this made a clever wit state that not long from now the descendants of the crusaders will also be the sons of Abraham. The Baron James of Rotschild, who died a short time ago, lived in the Abbey of Vaux de Cerny, where Blanche of Castille, once upon a time, came in pilgrimage. These antique ruins were restaured with artistic taste to receive this prince of finance. Despite the evident success of Jews, many prejudices are held against them. They are held in such aversion that even their money is powerless to overcome it. In American society, otherwise so welcoming, Jews have been barred from hotels in Saratoga Spring, and an insurance company refuses to insure their properties. On this, Americans have not been any more exclusive than the British or the French. This tends to demonstrate that clannishness is found everywhere and that it is often stronger than institutions.

We know the manners and customs of Jewry throughout the world, as well as the characteristic traits that make them recognisable everywhere, and distinguishable from the other people of the world. Within a few years of their settlement in the countryside of Russia, Germany or Poland, all of the properties were encumbered with debts. In the large urban centres, we see them, here and there, among sordid shops, speculating on human misery, hoarding the profits achieved from petty loans at usury rates. Then, after a few years at this regimen, a new man emerges, in good clothes and covered with diamonds: the Jew has enriched himself, and once covered with gold the Hebrew has become an Israelite. The ugly caterpillar has been transformed into a vivid butterfly. This is a daily occurrence, repeated over centuries.

Though descendants of shepperds, nowhere do Jews till the soil; neither do they develop industries. They are rarely found in the liberal professions and the arts. In the last few years, many have had brilliant careers in theatre. Such were the cases of Sarah Bernhardt and Rachel. They are born moneylenders, live off the misery of other nations and are the parasites of civilisation. It has been observed that they are found in the greatest numbers in the poorest of countries. While absent from Scotland, and relatively few in France and England, they are numerous in some parts of Germany, Russia and Austria.

Despite their defects, Jews display scads of qualities that Christians who despise them should emulate. They accumulate gold but do not fritter it away. Their thriftiness is well known. When one of them is in need of help, the others come to his help, something that Christians rarely do for fellow Christians. They have a keen tribal and family sense, and one rarely sees a Jew, although that is not the case for Israelites, intermarry with other people. It is the people that has best preserved itself throughout the ages. Where are the Romans, their conquerors? Where are the Greeks who were their contemporaries? All have disappeared throughout history without leaving traces. The Jews have preserved themselves intact for two thousand years, with their distinctive character and physiology. Other people from the Orient, and of Semitic origins, still exist but they have been as frozen in time and place, and have remained sheltered from the overriding influence of European civilisation. Jews have maintained themselves despite being scattered throughout Europe.

Is this extraordinary phenomenon of the preservation of a race, its immutability, with its own character and physiology, at a time and place that has seen other nations transformed in so many ways, simply a result of rather ordinary factors or is it the consequence of an extraordinary cause? History teaches us that the Jewish people have committed a great crime for which they have accepted responsability for themselves and their descendants. Has it not gone though the ages as the living witness, always renewed, of the death of the Just, having to atone for the sentence it itself pronounced and accepted to bear? "His blood be on us and on our children!".

© 1999, Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College