the anti-Semitic pamphleteer Henri Labroue chose to publish in 1942 an anthology of Voltaire's quotations titled Voltaire antijuif, merely fuels the passion with which the legacy of the Enlightenment is debated.24
The essays submittedto the Metz Academy illuminate just how complex and ambiguous was the impact of the Enlightenment even on its contemporaries. Valioud, the secretary of the Agricultural Academy of Laon, for example, defended the Jews against the charge of deicide, suggested that the insulting prayers on Good Friday be modified and advocated religious pluralism. After arguing in seventeen articles that granting the Jews freedom and security were the means to insure their usefulness and happiness, however, he concluded that unless one acknowledged miracles, 'only the way we treat them will lead them little by little to convert'.25 Paradoxically, the abbe de la Lauze argued otherwise. 'Grant both the rich and the poor citizenship and let them enjoy their property and their freedom in peace. To live subjected to the laws of the country one inhabits, to contribute to the taxes of the state in which one is domiciled without being a citizen, is to have no homeland. What! Is happiness ever the lot of a man who is a foreigner in the midst of the nation in which he was born!'26
The public never heard mention of Valioud, the abbe de la Lauze or a number of the other contestants. For the Academy announced only the names of the three who had shared the palme - the abbe Grégoire, cure of Embermes-nil, Thiery, Protestant lawyer to the parlement of Nancy and the Polish Jew, Zalkind Hourwitz. In their prize-winning essays, published and reviewed in the important journals of the capital, they advocated welcoming the Jews 'as men' into the French nation. In return, they expected the Jews to resemble the French in dress and speech and to dwell alongside them instead of in Jewish quarters.
Both Gregoire and Thiery also made clear that they considered Judaism inferior to Christianity and the Jews in need of 'correction'. One should never lose sight, Gregoire warned, of the character of the people one proposes to correct. Hourwitz, on the other hand, vehemently denied that the faith of the Jews stood in the way of full equality, that their 'character' required regeneration, or that they need first demonstrate their worth: 'The means to make the Jews happy and useful? Here it is, cease to make them unhappy and useless, in giving them, or rather returning to them the rights of citizenship . .. Have we such an abundance of time and enlightenment that we can prostitute them in the investigation of foolishness and barbarity?'27
Investigation, however, was precisely the task given by the king to the French minister Chretien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes. Malesherbes had
Was this article helpful?