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Great Britain or Judea Nova? National Identity, Property, and the Jewish Naturalization Controversy of 1753

  • Alan H. Singer

Abstract

In the September 1, 1753, issue of Jackson’s Oxford Journal, a song entitled Advice to the Freeholders appeared. The chorus, repeated four times, warned that for their sins, Britons were going to lose their “Liberties, Properties, and their Fore-Skins.”1 According to the lyricist, it was apparent that a national, Divine retribution was about to be unleashed, rendering the British people propertyless and circumcised slaves. The verses recounted the national transgressions that would bring such a stiff sentence. The primary sin was the ratification of the Jewish Naturalization Act the previous May. Advice to the Freeholders was one of the many pieces of propaganda designed to incite public opinion to effect the repeal or preservation of the legislation. Polemicists published dozens of pamphlets, broadsides, and newspaper articles in the spring and summer of 1753 attacking and defending the legislation.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century National Identity Jewish Immigration British Nation Christian Religion 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Thomas W. Perry, Public Opinion, Propaganda, and Politics in Eighteenth-Century England: A Study of the Jew Bill of 1753 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), 13.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Gerald Newman, in The Rise of English Nationalism: A Cultural History, 1740–1830 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987),Google Scholar
  3. and Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), have informed us that during the eighteenth century, the English, Welsh, and Scottish peoples invented an overarching national, or British, identity. Colley argues that Protestantism became the most important unifying force in the development of British nationalism. Protestants ultimately developed a national identity by creating others. Colley correctly believes that the main other group was the Catholics. The French and their co-religionist allies were a real threat, persistently challenging the British at home and abroad.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture (New York: The New Press, 1993), 9.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Hanway produced at least two important pamphlets against Jewish naturalization in 1753: A Review of the Proposed Naturalization of the Jews: Being anAttempt at a dispassionate Enquiry in to the present State of the Case, with some Reflections on General Naturalization; and Letters Admonitory and Argumentative from J. H———y, Merchant to J. S———r, Merchant. In Reply to Particular Passages and the General Argument, of a Pamphlet, entitled Further Considerations on the Bill, &. There is only one fairly recent biography of Hanway. James Stephen Taylor’s Jonas Hanway, Founder of the Marine Society: Charity and Policy in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London: Scolar, 1985), concentrates on Hanway as the most important philanthropist of the period. Taylor briefly mentions Hanway’s role in the controversy, correctly attributing Hanway’s opposition to a belief that the legislation threatened the necessity of the union between Church and State. These were indeed the crucial elements in the construction of the British nation.Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    The best works that argue this point are P. G. M. Dickson’s classic, The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development of Public Credit, 1688–1756 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1967),Google Scholar
  7. D. W. Jones’ War and Economy in the Age of William III and Marlborough (Oxford: Blackwell Ltd., 1988),Google Scholar
  8. and John Brewer’s, The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688–1783 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  9. 38.
    Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), 6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2008

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  • Alan H. Singer

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