F. H. Goldsmid and Archbishop Whately of Dublin: their significance in the emancipation debate

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A number of factors come to light in what amounts to the final stage of Jewish emancipation in Britain, in the period 1829 to 1858, which bear on the underly? ing issues of Parliamentary reform and the relations between Church and State. While de facto emancipation for Jews had hitherto been typified by a pragmatic process of precedent (since, unlike the situation in Europe generally, Jewish disabilities were not enshrined in specifically anti-Jewish law), in the case of their admission to Parliament, Jews found their position implicated, especially by their opponents, in questions concerning the fundamental character of Britain as a Christian country with an established religion. In broad terms the admission to Parliament of dissenting Christians and particularly of Roman Catholics had had the two-fold effect of creating a precedent essentially favourable to Jewish admission, while at the same time creating another precedent, which was to single the Jews out for a special disability. In this area the debate focused on both broad and specific religious considerations: namely the Christian 'character' of the country, whereby its laws are seen as deriving from Christian values, and also the role of Parliament as a Christian legislature controlling the Church of England. On the other side of the debate, those in favour of reform as a broader, progressive issue, generally, though not exclusively, viewed the exclusion of Jews as inconsistent with the rights of the electorate as well as an inconsistency per se.

Within this broad and often heterogeneous debate, an interesting alliance comes to light between Jewish interests and certain Church interests, articulated respectively by F. H. Goldsmid and Archbishop Richard Whately of Dublin. In their complementary positions, taken together, we find one of the more cogent strands in the argument in favour of Jewish emancipation. The significance of their arguments, however, lies perhaps less in their effect on the outcome of the parliamentary debates than in the light they shed on the pressure for institutional reforms, the principles underlying these reforms and some unexpected marriages of interest.

Indeed, examination of Goldsmid's and Whately's ideas highlights the ques? tion of the extent to which the debate over Jewish relief in fact is concerned with issues in which Jews are less the subject than certain principles of power and government, and more specifically, of the relationship between Church and State. That Goldsmid was conscious of straying, so to speak, into anti-Erastian politics is revealed both in some delicacy of language and in a reluctance to carry some of his arguments to their logical conclusions. Richard Whately effectively takes the baton from him and runs ahead.

Let us first consider F. H. Goldsmid's Remarks on the Civil Disabilities of British Jews of 1830.1

There were two approaches to the campaign, as Israel Finestein remarks: 'by creating in his own career individual practical grievances and appealing on the grounds of their respective injustices [David Salomons] was able in the end to procure complete and immediate emancipation . . .', whereas the Goldsmids hoped for 'quick and comprehensive legislation'.

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