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Parliament, press and prejudice : the "Jewish question" in Britain, 1890-1905

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Chung, HD 1971 , 'Parliament, press and prejudice : the "Jewish question" in Britain, 1890-1905', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Part One attempts to outline the PROBLEM, for despite formal Emancipation, 'The Jewish Question' persisted in Britain in the 1890s. The term 'alien' was synonymous with 'Jew'. A prejudice clouded the attitude of natives towards the East European immigrants, whose forebears had recorded a long and chequered history in their country. At the same time, proud of Britain's heritage as the land of freedom, statesmen denounced the rampant anti-semitism of the Continent. But a comparison between their lenient immigration policy with the austere regulations governing 'The Jewish Treatment' elsewhere posed the question: was Britain therefore the dumping ground for the 'undesirables' of the world? "The Jewish People" considers the Jews themselves and the sometimes tenuous but insoluble bond uniting established Anglo-Jewry with their immigrant brethren. The dilemma confronting the former as individuals, in their religion and in their approach to Zionism, was reflected in Parliament and the Hebrew press.
Part Two, on the clash of ATTITUDE to the problem of immigration, is an analysis of conventional anti-alien warfare. The stereotype propaganda against "Aliens" alleged overwhelming numbers, poverty, disease, displacement and crime. All serious charges, they were either found exaggerated or misleading or they simply evaporated under scrutiny. "Anti-aliens" and "Pro-aliens" concentrates on the leaders of the campaign, in which traditional party roles were reversed, for Conservatives usually advocated reform while Liberals upheld the status quo. Although the Unionist Government showed initial reluctance to accept the anti-immigrant allegations, they ultimately fought for legislation. On the Opposition side, whilst some voted with the Government, the controversy gained virtual unanimity of support for tradition. Whereas the daily newspaper press divided between pro- and anti-alienism, with The Times leading Conservative opinion, the thoughtful journals fell more heavily towards the Liberal cause.
The OUTCOME of this conflict in attitude was firstly, intense and constant pressure for "Legislation"; secondly, "The Aliens Debate" which disrupted the Sessions of 1904 and 1905; and thirdly, "The Aliens Act" of 1905. The issue was raised each year from 1890, the agitation being excited primarily by Howard Vincent; and from 1898 by Evans-Gordon, whose East End constituency housed the majority of Jewish immigrants. Despite a barrage of questions, Amendments to the Address and four proposed Aliens Bills, the Government failed to implement restriction. Only in desperation did they finally decide to appoint a Royal Commission in 1902, almost as a pact with their resolute extremists. In a tacit agreement, the anti-aliens undertook to quieten their efforts on the understanding that legislation would result from the Royal Commission.
After what appeared to be an interminable delay, the Commissioners eventually presented a Report of over a thousand pages. It constituted a positive exoneration of Jews from the impeachment of anti-aliens, yet recommended control of the most stringent nature. This contradictory character was mirrored by the Commission's chairman, Lord James of Hereford who, before the House of Lords, refuted charges of Jewish destitution and crime yet voted for restriction. After years of vacillation, the Government seized the aliens question to introduce reform -- on the eve of the Elections. With the force of the 'guillotine,' they carried a Bill to establish elaborate and expensive machinery that opponents demonstrated would be futile in excluding the worst 'undesirables', but which would inevitably operate against Jewish refugees, the bulk of alien immigrants.
The General Elections of 1906 nevertheless proved an outstanding vindication of Liberal pro-alienism. With one exception, East End reformers were rejected for the guardians of tradition. The new Liberal Ministry was now compelled to administer an Act with few genuine supporters -- principally the outcome of a political manoeuvre by a defunct Conservative regime.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Chung, HD
Keywords: Jews, Antisemitism
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1969 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA) - University of Tasmania, 1971
Author has published under the name Helene Chung Martin

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