Monday, January 16, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: London Dreyfus Demonstrations - Sept 1899

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back in February of 2009, and since then, many others have joined in on the meme.  Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others. If you participate, feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments.
This week I transcribe a New York Times article from September 15, 1899 concerning demonstrations in London.  My Newmark ancestors were in London at the time, but I don't know if they were present at the demonstrations.

Jews Celebrate Atonement Day by Holding Demonstrations
Says Last Saturday’s Verdict Was a Disaster to France – The Paris Exposition Not Boycotted
Special to The New York Times

LONDON, Sept 14 – English indignation against France was strengthened to-day on account of the observance by all Jews of the Day of Atonment.

The day was celebrated here, especially in the East End, with Dreyfus demonstrations. A procession with a banner inscribed “Dreyfus, the Martyr, All the Civilized World Demands His Instant Release,” marched through Spitalfields.

The Great Synagogue in London presented a striking spectacle. It was crowded from 6 o’clock in the morning until 6 at night, and thousands were unable to enter.

Dr. Adler, the chief rabbi, delivered a sermon referring to the Dreyfus case. He said what was morally wrong could not be politically right. Right, justice, honor, and mercy belonged to the immutable law. Falsehood and injustice might prosper for a time, but certain retribution would follow those who forsook the path of right and justice. It had been so with the colossal empires of antiquity, and with Spain in our day.

Dr. Adler declared that Saturday was not, as had been said, the bitterest day in the history of modern Judaism on account of the Dreyfus verdict. It was a memorable penitential Sabbath, ever to be remembered with the keenest disappointment, in which all felt the deepest pity for the prolonged agony of Dreyfus and his wife, but it was not a day of unalloyed bitterness for Jews. To France it was a day more disasterous than Waterloo, more humiliating than Sedan. France, which first allowed to the Jews the rights of citizenship, had defiled the golden vessels of God’s temple, and branded an innocent man as an odious traitor to the country he loved so well. Even in France every one had not been hypnotized by the unholy blend of clericalism and militarism.

“Let the majesty of the law be vindicated,” he concluded, “and let them not seek a pardon, which should be rejected with scorn, for where no crime was committed, how can a pardon be granted?”

Yet this is the very course taken by the law in England, though this point was overlooked by Dr. Adler. The Dreyfus case still remains in the forefront of discussion. The opinion preponderates that the prisoner will be pardoned. On all sides one hears the question: How is it possible to pardon an innocent man? One answer to this is that he has been convicted. Another is that the custom is not confined to France. Many persons have been convicted and sentenced to penal servitude for life in England, and when one of them is discovered to be innocent the conviction is not annulled. The only reparation made to the convict being a free pardon. If such can be the case in free England, many persons say, why not in France?

Col. Jekyll, Secretary of the Royal Commission for the Paris Exposition, says that not more than a dozen firms have withdrawn their applications for space. Large numbers have been unable to obtain space, and the pending applications are far more numerous than the withdrawals. Over 2000 exhibitors will be represented. Col. Jekyll says only an extraordinary development of the boycott would justify a special meeting of the commission. This has not occurred.


1) My great great grandparents, Samuel and Rose Newmark, arrived in London in approximately 1893 with five children.  Three more were born in England. Their eldest, Sol, was married in the Great Synagogue in 1902.

2) Col. Sir Herbert Jekyll (1846-1932) is mentioned in the final paragraph.  His brother, Rev. Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson. (source)

3) This is an excellent example of the New York Times reporters correcting what they viewed as a factual error - explaining how one can pardon an innocent person.  At some point between 1899 and 2012, they seem to have forgotten how to do this.  Dreyfus was pardoned five days later on September 19th. While a pardon, as the NYTimes explains, is usually all one can expect in most countries after a conviction, in 1906 Dreyfus was exonerated by a military commission. (source)

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