London: NP, 1787. First edition. Hardcover. Octavo. , 130pp. Original spotted calf with gold lettering and tooling on spine. Marbled endpapers and paper edges. Decorative head- and tailpieces. Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791) was a leader of the early stages of the French revolution. A noble, before 1789 Mirabeau was involved in numerous scandals that left his reputation in ruins. However during the early years (1789-91) of the French Revolution he rose to the top and became the voice of the people. A successful orator, he was the leader of the moderate position, favoring a constitutional monarchy built on the model of Great Britain. Mirabeau became interested in the Jewish question during his visits to Holland in 1776, England in 1784, and Prussia in 1786. Influenced by the enlightened members of the Jewish communities in the capitals of these three countries, he was particularly attracted by the image of Moses Mendelssohn.* In "Sur Moses Mendelssohn, sur la réforme politique des Juifs," a book resulting from the author's journey, Mirabeau argued that the faults of the Jews were those of their circumstances. Although his main reason for admiring Mendelssohn was that 'humanity and truth' seemed much clearer to him than 'the dark phantoms of the Talmudists', he did not consider Judaism an immoral faith, and he defended it against attacks both old and new. In the course of his argument, he repeated Christian Wilhelm von Dohm**'s assertion that 'the Jew is more of a man than he is a Jew'. Quoting from Turgot and Rousseau in support of his pro-Jewish arguments, Mirabeau affirms that history proves that 'the Jews, considered as men and as citizens, were greatly corrupted only because they were denied their rights'. Like Dohm he advocated preserving some measure of Jewish autonomy, a view he developed in his memorandum to Frederick the Great of Prussia, "De la monarchie prussienne" (1788), but he envisaged it as a transitory phenomenon; the organized Jewish community would wither away and die as the Jews entered fully into the economic and social life of the majority. Mirabeau continued to work for the emancipation of the Jews as he saw it. In the debate of Dec. 24, 1789, he denied Rewbell's assertion that 'they [the Jews] do not regard themselves as citizens', and followed Clermont-Tonnerre*** in stating that the very fact that the Jews were requesting equality was proof of their desire to cease being Jewish in any separatist way. Binding rebacked, but retaining most of its original spine. Calf darkened and partly cracked along edges. Front hinge starting. Previous owner's annotation in Latin along outer margin of page 68. Text in French. Binding in overall fair, interior in very good condition. g+. Item #38317
* Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the Haskalah (the 'Jewish enlightenment' of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) is indebted. Although himself a practicing orthodox Jew, he has been referred to as the father of Reform Judaism. Born to a poor Jewish family in Dessau and originally destined for a rabbinical career, Mendelssohn educated himself in German thought and literature and from his writings on philosophy and religion came to be regarded as a leading cultural figure of his time by both Christian and Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire.
** Christian Wilhelm von Dohm (1751-1820) was a German historian and political writer. Although a Christian, he was a staunch advocate for Jewish emancipation. In 1781, at the suggestion of his friend Moses Mendelssohn, Dohm published a two-volume work entitled "Über die Bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden" (On the Civil Improvement of the Jews), which argued for Jewish political equality on humanitarian grounds. It was widely praised by the Jewish communities in Berlin, Halberstadt, and Surinam.
*** Stanislas Marie Adélaïde, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre (1757-1792) was a French military officer, and a politician during the French Revolution. He was twice elected president of the National Constituent Assembly where he advocated a moderate liberal policy, especially in the matter of removing restrictions for the Jews and Protestants.