as the 'infamous decree', subjected the majority of the Jews of France, for at least ten years, to onerous economic, geographical, and military restrictions. 'The evil done by the Jews', Napoleon explained to his Council of State, 'does not come from individuals but from the very temperament of this people'.36
By convening an Assembly of Jewish Notables and a Grand Sanhedrin, Napoleon also raised anew the question of citizenship for the Jews. Requiring from them doctrinal as well as concrete economic guarantees, he successfully redefined their emancipation and linked it - along with that of all the Jews of Europe - to the expectations, ambiguities and contingencies articulated throughout the eighteenth century.
On 28 January 1790, the revolutionary Jacques Godard had addressed a meeting of the General Assembly of the representatives of the Paris Commune. He had come to seek active citizenship for the Jews of Paris. Moved by Godard's impassioned address, the abbe Mulot, President of the Commune, turned to the Jews in attendance. 'The distance of your religious opinions from the truths that we profess as Christians cannot prevent us, as men, from bringing ourselves nearer to you, and if mutually we believe each other to be in error,... we are nevertheless able to love one another'.37 Voltaire had called himself tolerant, a leading journal would subsequently remark, but he could have learned something from the abbe Mulot.
Sixteen years later, Napoleon presented Jewish deputies from France and Italy with twelve questions. The fourth question, reversing the onus assumed by the abbe Mulot on behalf of his fellow Christians, asked if in the eyes ofJews, Frenchmen were considered as their brethren or as strangers. 'All Frenchmen are our brethren', the deputies responded, 'This glorious title, by raising us in our own esteem, becomes a sure pledge that we shall never cease to be worthy of it'.38
Despite a century and a half of liberalization, relations between Jews and Christians would continue to be both tenuous and vulnerable. Yet if the 'love' so eloquently articulated by the abbe Mulot was replaced by a contingency of acceptance, there was nevertheless a blunting of animus in the name of a shared brotherhood. Shylock's queries had been relegated, albeit not permanently, to the past.
1. Autobiography of a seventeenth-century Venetian Rabbi, ed. and trans. Mark R. Cohen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 6.
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