Daniel O’Connell by J. H. Foley. Click on image to enlarge it.

My dear Sir, I am much obliged to you for your kind congratulations on the event of the Clare Election. I also gladly avail myself of this opportunity to offer you my very sincere thanks for the great kindness which my son and I received from you and your amiable family while we were in London. I assure you I should be most happy, if any event should induce you to visit the "Green Isle," to show you my sense of your kindness in the best manner in my power. Ireland has claims on your ancient race, as it is the only Christian country that I know of unsullied by any one act of persecution of the Jews. I entirely agree with you on the principle of freedom of conscience, and no man can admit that sacred principle without extending it equally to the Jew as to the Christian. To my mind it is an eternal and universal truth that we are responsible to God alone for our religious belief and that human laws are impious when they attempt to control the exercise of those acts of individual and general devotion which such belief requires. I think not lightly of the awful responsibility of rejecting true belief but that responsibility is entirely between man and his Creator, and any fellow-being who usurps dominion over belief is to my mind a blasphemer against the Deity, as he certainly is a tyrant over his fellow-creatures. With these sentiments you will find me the constant and active friend to every measure which tends to give the Jews an equality of civil rights with all other the King's subjects -- a perfect unconditional equality. I think every day a day of injustice until that civil equality is attained by the Jews. Command my most unequivocal and energetic exertions in Parliament to do away with the legal forms and the Laws which now ensnare or impede the conscientious Jew in seeking for those stations to which other subjects are entitled. I have not ability to offer you, but I have zeal and activity. Allow me at once to commence my office of your advocate, and to begin by giving you advice. It is: Not to postpone your claim of right beyond the second day of the ensuing session. Do not listen to those over-cautious persons who may recommend postponement. Believe an agitator of some experience that nothing was ever obtained by delay, at least in politics. You must to a certain extent force your claims on the Parliament. You cannot be worse, recollect, even by a failure, and you ought to be better by the experiment. As far as you and your friends may entrust the measure to me, I will bring it forward in twenty different shapes if necessary to advance its success. Of course I wish your cause committed to more able and to infinitely more influential hands than mine. I only speak of myself to indicate the mode in which I think you ought to be served. Confided or not confided in, my course will be the same, that is, I will, on every practical occasion, struggle to extend the full effect and operation of the principle of freedom of conscience You must, I repeat, force your question on the Parliament. You ought not to confide in English liberality. It is a plant not genial to the British soil. It must be forced. It requires a hot-bed. The English were always persecutors. Before the so-styled Reformation the English tortured the Jews and strung up in scores the Lollards. After that Reformation they still roasted the Jews and hung the Papists. In Mary's days the English with their usual cruelty retaliated the tortures on the Protestants. After her short reign there were near two centuries of the most barbarous and unrelenting cruelty exercised towards the Catholics, a cruelty the more emaciating because it was sought to be justified by imputing to them tenets and opinions which they always rejected and abhorred. The Jews too suffered in the same way. I once more repeat, Do not confide in any liberality but that which you will yourself rouse into action and compel into operation. After all you are the best judges of your own affairs, and if you deem my advice unwise, you will not the less receive every assistance from me in my poor power. I have the honour to be, your obliged and faithful servant . . .” [151-53]


"Sir L. Goldsmid and the Admission of the Jews of England to Parliament."Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 4 (1899-1901): 116-76.

Last modified 12 July 2020