Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Jews, Napoleon, and the Ottoman Empire: the 1797-9 Proclamations to the Jews (2023 edition), Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part monograph on Napoleon's connection to the theme of Jewish peoplehood and the right of Jews to self-determination in their aboriginal homeland.

While fighting in Israel in 1799 did Napoleon write one or more proclamations to the Jews? In our own century, historians are divided. But, the deeper story is not simply whether he did so in Israel. Before 1798, Napoleon was already known as a champion of Jewish emancipation in Europe. There was also his support for Jewish statehood in the Mideast, as expressed in his propaganda against the Ottomans. Thus, an important Ottoman-Turkish source says there was in the Muslim year 1212 (1797-8), a revolutionary proclamation inviting Jews to "establish a Jewish government in Jerusalem"
(قدس شريفده بر يهود حكومتى تشكيل). Napoleon's intention to make Jerusalem capital of a restored "Jewish Republic" (Еврейская Республика) is also affirmed in an August 1798 letter from the Russian Emperor Paul. April 1799 reports from Constantinople caused at least twenty European newspapers in May 1799 to describe Napoleon's proclamation inviting Jews to return to Jerusalem. His evocation of aboriginal restoration echoed for decades, about an age-old People that for millennia kept demographic and cultural ties to its ancestral home. For Napoleon, restoring the Jews was initially linked to his plan to soon start digging a deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez—in 1798, the clear strategic rationale for launching his Mideast campaign. Much evidence suggests that he perhaps wrote the anonymous June 1798 "Letter from a Jew to His Brothers." This calls on world Jewry to organize itself to ask France to negotiate with Turkey, so that the Jews could return to their native land. Finally, revealed only in 1940 was a 1799 translation, from Hebrew into German, of his letter (April 20, 1799) recognizing the hereditary right of the "Israelites" to "Palestine."

Allen Z. Hertz was senior advisor in the Privy Council Office serving Canada's Prime Minister and the federal cabinet. He formerly worked in Canada's Foreign Affairs Department and earlier taught history and law at universities in New York, Montreal, Toronto and Hong Kong. He studied European history and languages at McGill University (B.A.) and then East European and Ottoman history at Columbia University (M.A., Ph.D.). He also has international law degrees from Cambridge University (LL.B.) and the University of Toronto (LL.M.).


A. "The Great Nation" and the self-determination of Peoples

Jacques Godechot's important book, La grande nation, l'expansion révolutionnaire de la France dans le monde 1789-1799 (The Great Nation: The Revolutionary Expansion of France in the World) was first published in 1956. In a thoughtful review, University of Paris, Professor of French History, Marcel Reinhard observed with regard to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1958):
The rights defined in 1789 were those of every man, of every citizen, and they were, despite some opposition, also recognized as applying to Jews and Blacks. And as such, they also passed onto the world stage. Thus, the concept of national sovereignty wasn't simply the privilege of the French nation, but was a natural and imprescriptible right recognized for every nation.
Reinhard's international assessment was not just an ex post facto judgment, but was often expressed in the 1790s. Then, it was integral to the key notion of la grande nation. This referred to the great French People which was literally big, because numbering 27 million, at a time when the newborn United States had only 5.3 million, the British Isles 15.7 million, and the Habsburg Monarchy 24.5 million.

Ideologically, la grande nation was deemed to be, spiritually and materially, older brother to other fraternal Peoples, including the Jewish People. And, the Revolutionary French Republic was imagined as entitled to senior status in relation to other actual or imminent sister republics. These satellite States might potentially include the Еврейская Республика mentioned by the Emperor Paul. This would be the "Jewish Republic" with its capital in Jerusalem. This dovetails with "a Jewish government in Jerusalem" (قدس شريفده بر يهود حكومتى) as described in Ottoman-Turkish sources. Such a République judaïque or hébraïque, in the Holy Land, was entirely consistent with contemporary speculation about erecting friendly revolutionary regimes elsewhere; for example, in Ireland, and even in Canada. By contrast, newspapers of enemy States like Austria mocked the idea of la grande nation and its sister republics, as in biting satire in the Preßburger Zeitung (September 13, 1799).

Thomas Paine was a famous Anglo-American revolutionary who endorsed France's claim to be la grande nation. Though short of money, he contributed one hundred francs for the intended French invasion of England. One of the Directory's favorite mouthpieces, the Paris daily newspaper, Le Moniteur, printed Paine's January 28th letter, in both French and English (January 31, 1798):
There will be no lasting peace for France, nor for the world, until the tyranny and corruption of the English government be abolished, and England, like Italy, become a sister Republic... The mass of the people are friends to liberty; tyranny and taxation oppress them; but they merit to be free.

The 20th-century comparison is to the global leadership claimed by Soviet Russia among Communist countries. The Soviet Marxists judged the eventual, worldwide triumph of communism to be an historical necessity. So too, the 18th-century revolutionaries believed that—both domestically and internationally—the march of history was inevitably in their preferred direction. According to France's Minister of External Relations, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (February 14, 1798): "It is the spirit of liberty that spreads itself happily in all the States of Europe, and which, it seems to me, must entirely conquer them in a few years."

Consider the example of the Corsican-born, Greek Maniote, Dimo Stephanopouli, whom Napoleon sent as revolutionary emissary to the Morea (Peloponnese), then under Turkish rule. There, Dimo expounded at a late 1797 secret meeting, at Marathonissi in the Mani, with patriots from several parts of Greece. According to Dimo, the French Revolution had universal meaning that extended not only to the Greeks, but also to all the other subject Peoples of the Ottoman Empire (1799):
Learn what has happened in the new Athens. The French People has destroyed its tyrants and has given itself laws. These laws propagate themselves with regard to all the Peoples. Man, they say, was born and must live in freedom (libre). We [the Peoples] are all equal and must constitute nothing less than a single family of brothers. [...] Buonaparte will come all the way to Constantinople to plant the tree of liberty.

B. The French Revolution ends; Roman Catholicism returns

Just as China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) in 1978 brought an end to the First Chinese Communist Revolution, so in November 1799 Napoleon terminated the decade-long French Revolution which had been bitterly anti-Roman Catholic. In France, some Catholics had stubbornly sustained regional insurrections against the revolutionary regime, throughout the period of the Directory (1795-9). For both Deng and Napoleon, ending the revolution meant an astonishing ideological evolution over a relatively short period of time.

Historians are unable to find any evidence that teenage Napoleon had negative attitudes towards Jews. For example, Jews feature factually, in an entirely neutral way, in the youthful notes in his personal workbooks. During the revolutionary decade (1789-1799), he championed the right of Jews to equal citizenship domestically; and internationally recognized the peoplehood of the Jews, just as he did that of the Greeks. But, after he ended the French Revolution, his expressed views about Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish People gradually became sometimes less positive. Far worse was the serious discrimination against the Jews of eastern France, in his 1808 infamous decree (décret infâme).

Once the French Revolution was over, he mostly lost interest in Jews as a sovereign People with an ancient homeland. This was partly because ending the revolution famously meant reconciling with Roman Catholics. Certainly, Napoleon understood that the Roman-Catholic Church theologically despised Jews and has historically always wanted Jerusalem for itself. To the point, Catholics have for many centuries claimed that, by virtue of Jesus, they had become the real "people Israel." Thus, there was no longer any divine covenant with Jews for the Holy Land. This doctrine is known as "supersessionism."

The great Jewish People of world history was also much less in his mind after France lost Egypt in August 1801. Napoleon's Mideast game always focused on soon digging a deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez. This intended geo-strategic project was the starting point for his calculation of all the regional relationships, including with the Jewish People. No later than 1797, he began international propaganda to revolutionize the Jews. His intention was to exploit their return to their aboriginal homeland for his plans to seize Egypt; and immediately build a deep ship canal, from Suez to the Mediterranean.

C. Destruction of documents about Jews

Napoleon personally generated around 33,000 letters and myriad other papers. Although his product survives in great quantity, many items were lost in the normal course of events. In addition, for political and/or personal reasons, Napoleon was in the habit of purposely destroying or even falsifying documents. For example, First Consul Bonaparte ordered a great number of records removed from the archives in 1802. He gradually examined this material. While he was Emperor (1804-1815), some of these and other selected documents were famously burned at his command, as in September 1807. Many of those disappeared pieces related to the 1798-1801 Mideast campaign—probably including key documents about the Suez canal project, and also about Jews. Motive? Firstly, he urgently wanted to conceal his complete failure to follow explicit orders to build the canal. Secondly, his earlier expressions of revolutionary sympathy for Jewish peoplehood and homeland became, for the "Emperor of the French," an acute embarrassment to be cleverly spun, or even better, concealed and forgotten.

During the reign (1852-1870) of his nephew Napoleon III, some more of the uncle's documents were intentionally concealed or destroyed, including because they were judged to be strongly offensive to Roman-Catholic feeling. A Catholic (perhaps even ultramontane) perspective was consistently championed by the devout Empress Eugénie who regularly attended cabinet meetings. She would probably have seen any archival confirmation of Napoleon the Great's revolutionary proclamations, promising Jews Jerusalem, as seriously damaging the Bonaparte dynasty's brand among Catholics in France, Europe and the Mideast. If so, such a political calculation would have been rational. At that time, many Catholics worldwide still strongly believed that Jewish emancipation domestically and Jewish peoplehood internationally were subversive revolutionary principles attacking Christianity.

The very same logic had already been adopted by the Greek-Orthodox Church—not only with respect to Jewish emancipation, peoplehood and homeland—but also with regard to the popular rights of the Greeks and other Balkan Peoples. Thus, as early as 1798, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was energetically backing the Turks against pro-French, Hellenic revolutionaries like Rigas Feraios (Ρήγας Φεραίος). Let it be remembered that the reactionary Austrians (the Habsburg Monarchy) arrested Rigas for "serious political crimes" and then heartlessly extradited him to Ottoman Belgrade, where the Turks killed him in June 1798.

In Vienna, Rigas and other Hellenic revolutionaries had been printing anti-Ottoman propaganda in German, and also in several Balkan languages, including Greek, Serbian, and Turkish. "Seditious" publications in both Greek and Ottoman-Turkish are specifically mentioned in a February 7th report from Vienna that is found in Le Moniteur (February 26, 1798). Under the revolutionary slogan "liberty, equality and fraternity," the historic, inflammatory Rigas proclamation was printed—at the very least in Greek—by the thousands, and then widely read in the Balkan lands. But, not a single one of this original 1797 printing can be found today.

Several thousand of these proclamations were destroyed by the Habsburg authorities. And, the Orthodox Church systematically collected and burned the printed Rigas proclamations found in the Ottoman Empire. All that is now left to us of the text of the famous Rigas proclamation stems from one handwritten document. This is the police/judicial translation into German that is preserved in the Austrian State Archives. Can we be surprised if all the printed copies of Napoleon's proclamations to the Jews met a similar fate in the grim struggle between revolution and reaction?

Here our answer must also be informed by the Habsburg intelligence service, the Polizeihofstelle in Vienna. On October 7, 1806, the Imperial Court Chamberlain and Police Minister, the arch-conservative Baron Joseph Thaddäus von Sumerau, ordered local officials throughout the Habsburg lands to gather, for eventual burning, all materials relating to the invitations to the synagogues of Europe, to send delegates to Paris for Napoleon's Grand Sanhedrin (February 9, 1807). Did this special Austrian police operation perhaps also net some copies of Napoleon's earlier proclamations to the Jews? Or is this 1806 police effort just a contemporary example proving that, in those days, the Habsburg security services did in fact set about systematically collecting and destroying Napoleon documents addressed to the Jews?

Such historical considerations ought to remind that "absence of evidence" is logically not the same thing as "evidence of absence." Apart from anything else, "absence of evidence" may mean nothing more than that historical inquiry has hitherto been inadequate. This hypothesis is, for example, confirmed by modern search engines. Working across the ever expanding universe of digitized information, diligent computer searching now easily mines authentic 18th-century sources that, in many instances, did not yield their treasures to earlier generations. For example, secrets that Napoleon culled the French archives to suppress are sometimes stubbornly preserved here and there—in thousands of pamphlets, books, and especially newspapers from 1796-9. Thus, pertinent is Napoleon's own dictum: "Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets."


Napoleon was hungry for glory. From youth invoking the names of the great men of ancient history, he regularly included the storied Achaemenid ruler Cyrus the Great (d. 530 BCE) who famously sent Jews back to their ancestral homeland and authorized the building of the Second Temple. "I am Cyrus," said former USA President Harry Truman in 1953 when, five years after the fact, he was trying to take full credit for creating the State of Israel. Exactly like Truman, the Napoleon of 1797-9 felt the weight of both history and posterity.

This probably made it easy for him to grasp that helping the Jews return to the Holy Land would be the kind of deed likely to win him lasting fame. Pertinently, Napoleon claimed to have (December 19, 1798): "respect for Moses and the Jewish People, the cosmogony of which takes us back to the earliest times" (respect pour Moïse et la nation juive, dont la cosmogonie nous retrace les âges les plus reculés).

Such deference to biblical Jews was exact counterpart to his respect for the ancient Greeks. In exile on Saint Helena (1815-1821), he reminisced about his revolutionary enthusiasm for freeing the Greeks: "What glory to him who will liberate Greece! His name will be engraved beside that of Homer, Plato and Epaminondas. I nourished such a hope when [in 1796-7] I was fighting in Italy."

Significantly, the two different territories that had once been ancient Greece and the biblical "Land of Israel" (Heb: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬ Eretz Yisrael) were then both part of the Ottoman Empire, with its capital in Constantinople (İstanbul). Also called Turkey, this State then dominated most of the Near and Mideast. There, the principal language of government was normally Ottoman-Turkish, written in Arabic letters. This vast country was ruled by the Sultan who was importantly also the Sunnite Muslim caliph.

Though the Ottoman Sultans endured until 1922, Napoleon was (August 16, 1797) dead certain that their empire would fall during his lifetime. His expectation was shared by the Paris newspaper, La Clef du Cabinet des Souverains (August 19, 1797):
Turkey is no longer immune to revolutionary movements. Rebellions are starting to break out within its [Balkan] provinces that neighbour us. As one might expect, revolt is brewing among the Greeks who make up the population of this empire in Europe. They are fed up with their long suffering under the Ottoman yoke. At the same time, the Sublime Porte is threatened with dangers of another kind. Without speaking of the hordes of brigands which infest Rumelia, two other provinces—Syria and Palestine—have just been invaded by Küçük Ali Pasha (le pacha Kuschuk-Aly), who is in open revolt.
Napoleon's "imminent collapse" assessment was also confirmed by a seasoned French traveler to the Islamic World. This was physician, entomologist and naturalist, Guillaume-Antoine Olivier. At the request of the Directory, he had just made another Mideast trip—this time to Persia and the Ottoman Empire. From Constantinople, Olivier sent (December 8, 1797) a letter later described in the Journal de Francfort (May 4, 1798):
Finally passing to the current situation of Turkey, he concluded that this great State is visibly heading toward a very early fall, because of its depopulation; the great decrease in its revenues; and the desolation of the countryside, which grows each day due to the vexations, impunity and revolts of the pashas and the mutiny and indisciple of the janissaries.

Did the 19th century sometimes forget that Napoleon had issued a proclamation, inviting the Jews to return to their biblical homeland? If so, the story again became commonplace via the widely read, multi-volume, History of the Jews (Die Geschichte der Juden) by Heinrich Graetz. He devoted less than two pages to Napoleon's campaign in Egypt and Palestine. Graetz's low-key account of the proclamation certainly rested on knowledge that was limited to just one Paris newspaper report, Le Moniteur, dated May 22, 1799. Graetz asked (1870): What would have happened, if success had crowned Napoleon's plan to permanently conquer the Mideast, by waging war, all the way to Constantinople? Graetz's answer was the cautious guess that, in that event, Napoleon would perhaps have entrusted the Jewish People with "a role" in its ancestral homeland.

Perhaps relying on Graetz's famous history, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl sent the German Emperor William II a letter (March 1, 1899):
The idea I serve has already touched a great monarch in this century: Napoleon the First. The Paris Sanhedrin of the Jews in the year 1806 [sic], was to be sure, a last gasp of this idea. Was the matter not yet ripe at that time, was there no resolute representative of the Jews, was it due to the paucity of means of communication (Verkehr)? Our time, however, is under the sign of communication (unter dem Zeichen des Verkehrs)!—to use a phrase that has become a household word. The Jewish Question must be brought under this sign; this is how it can be solved. And what was not possible under Napoleon I is possible under Wilhelm II !
According to Herzl's diary, Italy's King Victor Emanuel III also knew about Napoleon's invitation. During an audience at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Herzl said (January 23, 1904): "Napoleon had ideas of restoring the Jewish nation, Sire!" To which, the King replied: "No, he only wanted to make the Jews, who were scattered all over the world, his agents. [...] It is an obvious idea."

During the last one hundred years, the astonishing progress of practical, political Zionism has given opponents strong partisan incentive to flatly reject the historicity of the one or more messages which the 29-year-old revolutionary general is said to have sent to the Jewish People, during his 1799 campaign in the Holy Land. This territory was then included within the 18th-century French understanding of Greater or Ottoman Syria, where Napoleon himself judged "Jews were quite numerous."

Posthumous portrait of Napoleon's father Carlo Buonaparte.
He graduated as a Doctor in Law from the University of Pisa.
The Buonapartes were a cosmopolitan, noble family that spoke

proper Italian and always kept ties with their ancestral Tuscany.

Man of the Mediterranean

Napoleon was born a subject of France's King Louis XV, because just before Napoleon's birth (August 15, 1769) in Ajaccio, the French took control of the Italian island of Corsica. Though closest to the coast of Tuscany, Corsica was for centuries ruled by the Republic of Genoa. At that time, politically, there was no unified, sovereign country called Italy. Nonetheless, that age-old toponym "Italy" was a very powerful, geographical, cultural, and linguistic expression.

For teenage Napoleon, Corsica is la patrie, his homeland. But, in the same breath, he salutes the island's national hero Pasquale Paoli, as (April 26, 1786): "among the bravest men of modern Italy" (au nombre des plus braves hommes de l'Italie moderne). During the 18th century, Tuscan Italian is the literary language of Corsica. For example, Paoli's groundbreaking, independence constitution (1755) is written in "good Italian." Paoli certainly wanted such mainland Italian to be the language of government and education on Corsica.

Napoleon is explicitly recognized as both Italian and Corsican in a whimsical pamphlet, printed in Paris probably in late 1797. The title is l'Entrevue du pape Sixte-Quint avec le général en chef Buonaparte (meeting between Pope Sixtus V and the Commander-in-Chief Buonaparte):
There could not have been a better choice than an Italian to subdue Italy... and a Corsican to bring the Genoese to reason (On ne pouvoit mieux choisir qu'un Italien pour soumettre l'Italie... et qu'un Corse pour mettre les Génois à la raison).
After the collapse of the First Empire, Talleyrand's provisional government specifically denies that Napoleon is French by ethnicity or nationality. In the first proclamation to the army, Napoleon is characterized as (April 2, 1814): "a man who is not even French" (un homme, qui n'est pas même Français). This revealing charge reappears in the proclamation to the people (April 4, 1814): "At least, out of gratitude, he ought to have become French like you. But, that he has never been." (il devait au moins par reconnaissances devenir Français avec vous. Il ne l'a jamais été).

Italian was his mother tongue

Under Louis XV and XVI, Corsica was not much distinguished from other parts of Italy, some of which were also under foreign rule. Thus, it is entirely fair to say that, by origin, little "Napoleone" was ethnically 100% Italian, though eventually he became the most prominent French Revolutionary. He was son of a noble family that was able to speak and write Tuscan Italian, and always kept ties to the Italian mainland. For example, his politically talented father Carlo and his older brother Giuseppe both graduated from the University of Pisa in Tuscany.

Around 1788, Napoleon's mother Maria Letizia Buonaparte writes to her son Giuseppe in Pisa, a letter in Italian. She asks him to locally recruit a middle-aged housemaid for their Ajaccio home. This turns out to be the long-serving Saveria, who significantly speaks Tuscan Italian, but no Corsican. This important evidence shows that the domestic language of the Ajaccio Buonapartes is Tuscan Italian, not Corsican.

The circumstance that the Buonapartes were generally sophisticated and cosmopolitan matches the role of Italian as the main Mediterranean language of diplomacy from the 15th to the 17th century. In the 18th century, Italian plays somewhat less of a role in diplomacy, but nonetheless remains the Mediterranean's principal, international language of navigation, coastal business, translation, and tourism.

In 1787, famous Mideast traveler Constantin Volney tells us that Arabs prefer the sounds of Italian to those of French. He also says that, in the public mind, the levantino has no distinction except the perceived ability to speak several languages, obviously including Italian. Approaching Jaffa in May 1832, poet and diplomat Alphonse de Lamartine discovers that, for the local inhabitants, Italian is the Western language of choice. The salience of Italian was even greater immediately after 1789, when France's trade, merchant marine, and naval power were diminished due to prolonged revolutionary turmoil. From the late Middle Ages until the early 19th century, Italian was the "foreign" tongue most widespread in the Eastern Mediterranean. There, it was certainly one of the languages commonly used by coastal Jews.

There is diglossia where two languages (or two dialects of a single tongue) are used in one geographical place, under different socio-linguistic circumstances, and often by the same speakers. The larger towns of 18th-century coastal Corsica were certainly diglossic, with Tuscan Italian as the oral and written expression of higher social status, literature, education, religion, and public affairs.

Napoleon always knew the Corsican dialect. But, his first language—as commonly spoken and written in his crowded family home in Ajaccio—was mostly Tuscan Italian. Into his tenth year, his primary-school education was also in such proper Italian. After seven years of nothing but French, he regained fluency in Italian from 1787, during successive periods of leave on Corsica. There, he read many sources in Italian, while doing research for a patriotic history of Corsica. On that same island, he spoke and wrote, also partly in Italian, during the revolutionary unrest of 1792.

During the War of the First Coalition (1792-7), Napoleon spends 1796-7 fighting in Italy, where he obviously has ample opportunity to speak and write Italian. For instance, first written in Italian is his order appointing members of the new Ancona municipality (February 10, 1797). By contrast, likely just for the official record is the later French translation (February 12, 1797) which carelessly omits two of the names. This evidence is key because the printed collections of Napoleon's correspondence generally fail to specify which documents are originally written in Italian. By 1798, Napoleon is bilingual. For example, he stipulates that secretary-interpreters in Egypt can write to him in either French or Italian (July 30, 1798).

In mid-April 1816, he significantly opts for Italian instead of French as the language for his communications with his harsh jailer, the trilingual British Governor of Saint Helena, Lieutenant-General Sir Hudson Lowe. On Saint Helena, Napoleon knows that he is talking to France and posterity. Thus, he characteristically chooses his words very carefully to rebut the claim that his Italian might be better than his French. Speaking in Italian, he cleverly says, with an eye to dissimulation (April 30, 1817):
I know that you English say that I speak Italian better than French. This is not true. Although I speak Italian frequently, it is not pure Tuscan. I cannot write a book in Italian. Nor do I speak it in preference to French.

Napoleon grows to manhood already knowing much about the many different Peoples, languages, and religions of the Mediterranean. His cast of mind is much like that of an anthropologist, sociologist or political scientist. Though he himself lacks a natural gift for learning foreign tongues, he is always acutely aware of their existence and political significance. As a native speaker, he is able to use Italian to communicate directly with Mediterranean Jews and coastal Greeks.

Initially, he is a fervent Corsican patriot. On April 26, 1786, he claims for his island countrymen, the inalienable right to opt for sovereign independence, arising from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's political doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples. Similarly, during the decade of Revolution (1789-1799), he sees Jews and Greeks as storied, age-old Peoples, living partly under Ottoman rule and partly in broader diaspora. As a revolutionary, he is doctrinally confident that, whether with regard to Jews or Greeks, the "spirit of liberty" ensures that national awakening is already on the horizon.

Rousseau taught Napoleon about Jews

Napoleon was importantly an outsider to France, because he was Italian and Corsican. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was an outsider to royal and Catholic France, because he was raised republican and Calvinist in Geneva. Rousseau was undeniably the dominant philosophical influence on both young Napoleon and the French Revolution. In Napoleon's young mind, Rousseau held a special place as teacher and guide.

As a teenager, Napoleon was already a Rousseau enthusiast. Young Napoleon was exceptionally well versed in Rousseau's various writings, some of which explicitly refer to Corsica. Napoleon's powerful memory allowed him to accurately quote Rousseau by heart. Napoleon experienced some disdain as a Corsican student in France. Such victimhood stimulated his childhood patriotism for the independence of his island homeland. Thus, he easily inferred from Rousseau's principles, the political doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples, internationally.

Rousseau’s assessment of the essential goodness of human nature was young Napoleon’s initial philosophy. However, his personal experience (1798-9) of the shocking horrors of the Mideast campaign, eventually darkened his opinion of both human nature and Rousseau. According to Stanislas Girardin's 1828 memoirs, First Consul Bonaparte said (August 28, 1800):
It would have been better for the tranquility of France if this man [Rousseau] had never existed. He's the one who prepared the French Revolution. (Il aurait mieux valu pour le repos de la France que cet homme n'eût pas existé. C'est lui qui a préparé la révolution française).
Moreover, the 1799-1806 journal of Pierre-Louis Roederer (first published 1909) records 32 year-old Napoleon explicitly rejecting the Jacobin notion of the noble savage—namely, virtuous man in the state of nature, by contrast to the moral defects of civilized man (January 12, 1803):
Up to the age of sixteen, I would have fought for Rousseau against all the friends of Voltaire. Today, it is the opposite. Since I have seen the East, Rousseau is totally repugnant to me. The wild man is a dog. (Jusqu’à seize ans, je me serais battu pour Rousseau contre tous les amis de Voltaire. Aujourd’hui, c’est le contraire. Je suis surtout dégoûté de Rousseau depuis que j’ai vu l’Orient. L’homme sauvage est un chien).

Readings from a translation of the Hebrew Bible were an everyday occurrence in Rousseau's Protestant childhood. Then, he imagined that he might perhaps become a preacher. He certainly knew the biblical history of the Jewish People. As an adult, he naturally recognized Jewish peoplehood. He also believed that—like other Peoples—the Jewish People had a right to self-determination in a State of its own. The clearly governmental phrase “a free State” (un État libre), notably with a capital É, appears several times across Rousseau’s writings. The startling hypothesis of "un État libre" for the Jews is explicit in his very widely read 1762 didactic novel, Émile ou de l'éducation (Emile or concerning pedagogy):
Those of us [John Calvin?] who have a chance to converse with Jews are hardly more advanced. The unfortunates feel at our discretion; the tyranny exercised over them makes them fearful; they know that Christian charity does not much reduce injustice and cruelty: what will they dare to say without exposing themselves to making us cry “blasphemy”? […] You will convert whatever [Jewish] wretch is paid to slander his own sect; you will easily make some vile second-hand clothes dealers talk. They will yield to flatter you; you will triumph over their ignorance or their cowardice, while their doctors will smile in silence at your ineptitude. But do you really think that, in places where they would feel safe, they could be had at such a cheap price? In the Sorbonne, it is clear as day that the predictions of the Messiah relate to Jesus Christ. But among the rabbis of Amsterdam, it is just as clear that they will have none of it. I will never believe that I have understood the reasoning of the Jews, until they have a free State (un État libre), schools, universities, where they can talk and argue without risk. Only then can we know what they have to say.
The persistence of Jewish peoplehood features in Rousseau’s 1772 Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne (considerations on the government of Poland). There, he describes the “corps de nation” (national body) created by Moses (first published 1782):
It is by this [Mosaic legislation] that this exceptional nation (cette singulière nation), so often subjugated, so often dispersed, and destroyed in appearance, always idolatrous of its rules, has nevertheless preserved itself until our own day, scattered among the others without mixing with them. And, its manners, its laws, its rites, subsist and will last as long as the world, in spite of the hatred and the persecution of the rest of the human race.
Rousseau’s salute to the "patriotic" solidarity of the Jews, as a People, reappears in a longtime unpublished “political fragment” in a Neuchâtel archive (first printed 1915):
An amazing and truly unique sight is to see an expatriate people having no place or land for almost two thousand years, an altered people, still burdened by foreigners… It is a scattered people, dispersed over the earth, enslaved, persecuted, despised by all nations, yet preserving its customs, its laws, its mores, its patriotic love and its first social union when all ties seem broken. The Jews give us this astonishing spectacle. The laws of Solon, of Numa, of Lycurgus are dead. More ancient still, those of Moses endure to this day. Athens, Sparta, Rome perished and left no more children on earth. Zion destroyed has not lost its own. They persist, multiply, throughout the world. They always recognize each other. They mingle among all peoples but do not assimilate with them. They no longer have leaders and are still a people. They have no more fatherland and are still citizens (ils n’ont plus de chefs et sont toujours peuple, ils n’ont plus de patrie et sont toujours citoyens).

"All the religions are equal"

European civilization had been literally synonymous with the Roman-Catholic Church. By contrast, the French Revolution (1789-1799) was all about ostentatiously rejecting the dark heritage of the Middle Ages. For example, the revolutionaries expropriated Church property; enabled divorce; and abolished French criminal offences for the religious sins of bestiality, sodomy, heresy, blasphemy, and witchcraft.

A true son of the Revolution, Napoleon in the 1790s was resolutely anticlerical. This mostly means that he strongly opposed the universalist pretensions of the Catholic Church. Thus, he vigorously championed the new idea that all the specific religions of mankind are equal, both internationally and domestically. This "equality" principle is cosmetic, but logically accommodates the three fundamental, revolutionary propositions that all the particular, historical religions are equally: subject to the civil power; mistaken; and destined to be corrected or canceled by progressive enlightenment.

As First Consul, Emperor, and then in exile, Napoleon became markedly more respectful of Catholicism. But, the younger, revolutionary Napoleon ideologically imagined that growing international enthusiasm for the "spirit of liberty" would eventually sweep away the prejudice of longstanding religious attachments (August 16, 1797):
The fanaticism for freedom, which has already started to spread in [Orthodox] Greece, will be more powerful there than the fanaticism of religion. There, le grand peuple [the Revolutionary French Nation] will find more friends than will the [Orthodox] Russian people.
But, this younger Napoleon had underestimated the endurance and hostility of Greek Orthodoxy. For example, consider the Republic's brief occupation and annexation (1797-9) of the (formerly Venetian) Ionian Islands, off the coast of Greece. There, French Revolutionaries openly scorned the illiteracy and superstitious, religious fanaticism of the mostly Orthodox population. And for their part, the Orthodox islanders were profoundly alienated by the sudden intrusion of revolutionary secularism. For example, they were scandalized that the French Revolutionaries regularly refused last rites and were buried without crosses.

Sincere outrage was also sparked by revolutionary emancipation of the islands' Jews who were deeply despised by the local Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic. Sent to the Ionian Islands to craft anti-Ottoman propaganda and to organize the provisional government, Antoine-Vincent Arnault reported back to Napoleon that antisemitism was exploited to spark reactionary resistance to French rule (September 16, 1797): "On Corfu, hatred for the Jews was used as a way to encourage the people to revolt" (à Corfou on avait tenté de porter le peuple à la révolte, en profitant de sa haine contre les juifs).

During the War of the First Coalition, Napoleon is (1796-7) General-in-Chief of France's Army of Italy, l'armée d'Italie. Then, he repeatedly points to the need for the Revolutionary French Republic to take control of Egypt. According to the London Evening Mail (July 15-18, 1798), Napoleon in 1797 borrows all the Mideast books from the Milan Public Library. Despite such extensive study in both Italian and French, he is gravely mistaken in optimistically anticipating that France will be able to win the loyalty of Muslims, via enlightened, revolutionary government. Consequently, he is also wrong to think that he will easily find large numbers of Muslim recruits for his future Army of the East, l'armée d'Orient (September 13, 1797):
With [revolutionary] armies like ours, for which all the religions are equal—Muslims, Copts, Arabs, idolators, etc.—all of that is completely irrelevant; we would respect the one just like the others.
"All the religions are equal" was still his principle aboard his flagship sailing from Malta to Alexandria. Then, he instructed his troops to be tolerant and respectful of Islam, with significant comparisons that by design thrice referred to Judaism ahead of Christianity (June 22, 1798):
Act toward them [the Muslims] as we have acted toward the Jews and the [Roman-Catholic] Italians; respect their muftis and their imams as you have the rabbis and the bishops. Have for the rites required by the Koran, for the mosques, the same tolerance that you have had for the convents, for the synagogues, for the religion of Moses and for that of Jesus Christ. The [ancient] Roman legions protected all the religions.
Just as in Greece, so too in the Mideast, Napoleon was eventually to learn some practical lessons about the stubborn staying power of religion. On July 1, 1798, he arrived in Egypt thinking that it would be easy to co-opt Muslims with philo-Islamic proclamations and letters, and public ceremonies celebrating the Prophet Muhammad. But hard experience soon proved otherwise—even though Napoleon: recognized a special role for Islam in the government of Egypt; repeatedly denied the divinity of Christ; and tried hard to convince Mideast Muslims and Jews that he was not just another Catholic Crusader.

Young, thin, intense, hyperactive, super-intelligent, inventive, irreverent,
cynical and ambitious, French Revolutionary General Napoleon Bonaparte
in Egypt and Ottoman Syria, 1798-9. Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1868).

Jews: a distinct People with a specific religion

Napoleon always saw Jews as fellow citizens practicing a particular religion, and simultaneously as a famous People of world history. In exile on Saint Helena, his Italian-speaking, Irish physician, Barry Edward O'Meara significantly asked Napoleon about "his reasons for having encouraged the Jews so much." Napoleon replied in Italian, "There were a great many Jews in the countries I reigned over."

As First Consul of the Republic, he had already told the Council of State (June 1801): "Quant aux juifs, c'est une nation à part" (as for the Jews, they are a nation apart). This was perhaps a quotation from the French philosopher Denis Diderot who died in 1784.  On Saint Helena, Napoleon replied to O'Meara in Italian, using the word "nation" (and also "tribe") to describe the Jews. But, Napoleon also saw them as fellow citizens who happened to practice the religion of Judaism.

Special attention is due to the treatment of Jews and Judaism in the revolutionary republics which Napoleon creates through the Italian victories of the Revolutionary French Army. Writing to Catholic priest, astronomer and scientist, Barnaba Oriani, Napoleon proclaims (May 24, 1796): "la pensée est devenue libre dans l'Italie. Il n'y a plus ni inquisition, ni intolérance, ni despotes" (thought has become free in Italy, where the inquisition, intolerance and tyrants are no more). In this new environment, Jews are soon emancipated and given the right to vote—for example, in the short-lived Cispadane Republic. This new jurisdiction is south of the Po River, including Modena, Bologna, Ferrara, and Reggio.

A December 18, 1796 report from Ferrara is printed in Le Moniteur (January 15, 1797):
The Jews of Ferrara, of Cento and of Lugo are re-established in the exercise of the rights of man, and will be able to participate in the [initial, primary, and parochial] assemblies via their representatives.
Notably, Judaism is mentioned in the Republic's constitution (March 27, 1797) which explicitly retains the Catholic religion. Expressly prohibited is the public exercise of any non-Catholic cult, with an exception for Judaism. The open practice of Judaism is specifically guaranteed by the Cispadane constitution.

However, the implications of shared citizenship soon spawned thoroughgoing secularism. In exile on Saint Helena, Napoleon discussed the topic of laïcisme, his revolutionary ideas about the separation of Church and State. Thus, O'Meara was privileged to listen to Napoleon, speaking in Italian, describe the secularist thoughts that best matched his anticlerical stance, with regard to Italy from 1796 to 1798 (first published 1822):
I wanted to establish a universal liberty of conscience. My system was to have no predominant religion, but to allow perfect liberty of conscience and of thought, to make all men equal, whether Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Deists or others. [...] My intention was to render everything belonging to the state and the constitution, purely civil, without reference to any religion. I wished to deprive the [Catholic] priests of all influence and power in civil affairs, and to oblige them to confine themselves to their own spiritual matters, and meddle with nothing else.

Le Courrier de l'Armée d'Italie (Courier of the Army of Italy) was Napoleon's own propaganda organ. In August and September 1797, it repeatedly opposed exclusive, dominant or special privileges for the Catholic Church which was tarred as fanatical and intolerant. In the same vein, Talleyrand (formerly a Bishop) explained to the Directory (November 5, 1797): "The disfavor in which the Catholic religion (le culte catholique) finds itself in [public] opinion is a natural consequence of the opposition which has always existed between it and the republican system."

Le Courrier de l'Armée d'Italie regularly advocated equality of all the particular "cults" (including Judaism) under the required supremacy of the secular law, as authorized by a republican constitution. This equality principle was also the cumulative effect of specific provisions that Napoleon had recently inserted in the Constitution of the Cisalpine Republic. With its capital in Milan, this new jurisdiction stretched across the central part of northern Italy (Lombardy), bordering with Piedmont on the west and with Venetia on the east. The Cisalpine Republic also extended southward to include the lands of the former Cispadane Republic.

Napoleon signed the Cisalpine constitution on July 8, 1797, as "Bonaparte, in the name of the French Republic." Therein, everybody had a new constitutional right to practice the religion of his own free choice. Compulsory financial contributions (tithing) to support any faith were prohibited. Religious ministers of all the cults were excluded from government, whether as legislators or officials. Nor could ministers of any faith exercise their religious functions, if by "demerit" they had lost the confidence of the revolutionary government. Ecclesiastical censorship was abolished. This last provision was extremely important in Italy. There, during the 18th century, the Catholic Inquisition was still arbitrarily banning, expurgating and revising Hebrew books and manuscripts.

Especially in the Italian context, these constitutional measures were breathtaking. Certainly, they provoked deep dismay and hot anger among many hundreds of thousands of reactionaries in Italy. The 1797 revolutionary reforms literally disempowered Italian Catholicism and thus suddenly enhanced the rights of Jews and Judaism. But, this first period of equal rights was just a short interlude. It ended with widespread pogroms (1798-9) of the triumphant counter-revolution in Italy. This political sea change flowed from France's Italian defeats, during the first two years of the War of the Second Coalition (1798-1802), when Napoleon was away fighting in the Mideast (1798-9).

This Italian story is covered in Hamburg's Politisches Journal nebst Anzeige von gelehrten und andern Sachen (political journal along with announcement of learned and other matters). Therein, the Italian counter-revolution is said to be (August 1799): "from the Alps to Mount Vesuvius, the outbreak of a general People's war against the French." Describing the fury and cruelty of this extremist movement, the Politisches Journal adds: "First and foremost, the Jews had to atone for their revolutionary fanaticism (Revolutionsfanatismus) which has been demonstrated in Italy, as everywhere else."

In the same reactionary vein is British Admiral, Lord Nelson. Sailing near Italy, he writes to the British Consul in Tunis a secret letter that includes false news about the capture of Ancona. Nelson here strongly blames Italian Jews for supporting revolutionary France (June 20, 1799): "Ancona has been taken by storm, and every Jew put to the sword for their infamous conduct."

1799 Sinigaglia pogrom

Nelson's massacre story was mistaken about Ancona, but tragically true for nearby Sinigaglia (Senigallia). A June 29th Vienna report was published in the London Observer (July 21, 1799): "A corps of Russians disembarked at Sinigaglia, and were well received by all except the Jews, who firing on the Russians, were put to the sword, and their houses destroyed."

Some contemporary Italian sources blamed the Sinigaglia pogrom on Cardinal Fabrizio Dionigi Ruffo's counter-revolutionary Sanfedisti. On June 18, 1799, the Sanfedisti launched a vicious pogrom that, in the course of five terrible days, killed thirteen Jews; and raped, injured, and robbed so many others.

All three of Russians, Turks, and Sanfedisti were indicted by "Republican printer" Domenico Bossi. He published in Spoleto, Enarazione di quanto è accaduto in Sinigaglia nell'invasione dei Turchi e Russi (narration of what happened in Sinigaglia upon the invasion of the Turks and Russians), Year VII (1799):
It is not possible to imagine how numerous was the crew of smugglers, policemen, villains, and rabble, together with the sailors. These hordes flooded all the city in an instant. Screaming and shooting, these scoundrels first made a small circuit throughout the streets, in order to incite fear. They then immediately hurled themselves against the ghetto. You cannot imagine a scarier idea! The greed of such an uncontrolled mob spared nothing. All that was precious there was instantly prey to the Turks, the Russians, and the leaders of the insurgents [the Sanfedisti]. All that was needed to have brought out into the open that which had been hidden away was for the peasants, the sailors, and the city porters to show the sabers and knives that they held in their hands. It was not possible for the Jews to hide the smallest thing. Nor was it enough for some to save their lives by revealing their secrets. The weasels, the riffraff of the streets, and of the surrounding villages did not want to hold themselves back, while the others plundered the objects of greater value. This gave rise to a sack of everything, not excluding the vilest shards and the rustiest nails. The people [Jews] remained mostly shirtless or completely naked. Their dwellings were left with only some straw scattered on the floor. Nothing else was left! The dead were scattered here and there. The wounded were dripping with blood. They all forced themselves to hold back their weeping so as not to provoke still more cruelty from the Turks, and the other scoundrels, who were angry at the slightest lament of the miserable. Without exaggeration, this is the tragic picture of the facts of the ghetto. The Jews were tormented even on the fourth day. They were made to buy a moment of quiet with the charity that they had been given so that they did not die of hunger.
According to contemporary Hebrew, Italian, and French accounts—the 500-600 surviving Jews, in great distress, boarded two leaky boats that sailed to nearby Ancona. There, Ancona Jews gave them food, clothing, and medical treatment. On November 29, 1799, six Sinigaglia Jews testified in a sworn deposition, before notary Carlo Celli. Their intention was to make known to the newly restored reactionary authorities, the terrible wrongs that had been done to Sinigaglia Jews and the desolation of the ghetto there. Such restored local authority included the aged Cardinal Bernardino Onorati. For two years, he helped protect these Jewish refugees in Ancona. In 1799, the Jews of Altona and Hamburg raised a lot of money for the victimized Jews of Sinigaglia. Altona native, Samuel Elias Warburg transferred the money to Jacob Vita Pacifico, who was the representative of the Jewish community of Ancona.

After Napoleon's spectacular reconquest of Italy (1800-1801), the Sinigaglia Jews returned home and repaired their synagogue, which still serves the local Jewish community to this day. Written by 1801 eyewitness Rabbi Itzhak Chayim Ben Yechiel Halevy, a Hebrew manuscript says that the Jew, Habakuk, then recruited a group of armed Frenchmen who took revenge by killing thirteen Sanfedisti in Sinigaglia. This primary source was published in Hebrew by Daniel Carpi in 1977.

Revolutionary foreign policy

France emancipated its own Jews in September 1791. Thereafter, the Revolution emphasized liberating Jews elsewhere. To the point, a renewed focus on Jewish rights in foreign countries emerged several years after revolutionaries had executed (January 21, 1793) Louis XVI, King of France. The larger context was the last two years of the War of the First Coalition (1792-7), followed by some months of peace, and then the first two years of the War of the Second Coalition (1798-1802).

The latter conflict pitted several European monarchies and the Ottoman Empire against the Revolutionary French Republic (la grande nation) and its satellite republics. Then, revolutionary and republican rhetoric still trumpeted the Rights of Man and the Citizen, and the new political principle of the self-determination of Peoples.

On September 4, 1797 (18 Fructidor), Napoleon saved the Directory. From Italy, he had sent troops to suppress royalists and moderates in Paris. Thereafter, he increasingly came to dominate French government and foreign policy, which generally tacked leftward, until his own right-wing coup of November 9, 1799. In the interim, there was enhanced Jacobinism and stronger anti-clericalism. Thus, Napoleon's 1797-9 messages for Jews were solidly part of his ambitious "policy of conquest and revolutionary propaganda" (politique de conquête et de propagande révolutionnaire).

The highly-partisan flavor of 1797 opinion on French foreign policy is reflected in lively critique of Napoleon's signature (October 17th) of the Campo-Formio Treaty with Austria. For example, such sharp criticism appears in the Paris newspaper La Sentinelle (late October 1797):
No faith ought to be attributed to the treaties that kings make with republics. Their [royal] envoys are nothing more than hypocrites and tricksters (perfides). All it takes is some good faith and common sense (de la bonne foi et du sens commun) to agree on this truth.
The distinctive quality of the international relations of that time is also expertly and authoritatively depicted in a memorandum to the Directory, from Talleyrand. He diplomatically projects on to monarchic States, an animus which revolutionaries harbored against the governments of kings (December 23, 1797):
We are a republic recently arisen in Europe. Despite all the monarchies, and on the wreckage of some of them, this newborn republic dominates by the terror of its principles and its arms. In this situation, could it not be said that the Campo-Formio Treaty [October 17, 1797], and all the other treaties that we have signed, are nothing but, more or less advantageous surrenders (capitulations militaires)? While the hatred persists, the quarrel only temporarily sleeps due to the astonishment and worry of the vanquished. However, our differences are not of a character to be definitely settled by fighting, because the outcome of combat changes from day to day. There is way too much heterogeneity separating the two contracting parties. Thus, our enemies see the treaties that they have signed with us, as nothing more than truces. This is similar to the agreements that the Muslims permit themselves to conclude with the enemies of their faith, without ever taking those treaties to be a definitive peace... Thus, they [the monarchic States] not only continue to be our secret enemies, but they remain in a state of coalition against us. We stand alone in Europe, alongside the five republics which we have created. And, those five republics are, for these [monarchic] powers, a new object of their worries.

Later we shall see abundant evidence that, exactly because revolutionaries were so deeply anti-Catholic and anti-monarchical, they were all the readier to view Jews as an age-old and famous People "bent under the yoke of princes." At the same time, there was renewed emphasis on the right of individual Jews to fair treatment (natural justice), and equality as citizens in the various revolutionary republics.

This international human-rights agenda was expressed in a highly ideologized French diplomacy that sometimes used force to intervene in other countries, including arbitrarily republicanizing their governments. A 1799 French observer implies that France's revolutionary foreign policy is a violation of the law of nations. He argues that surrounding States believe France's conduct to be overbearing and importantly linked to a "system of propagandism" (système de propagandisme), which in their eyes makes "the French nation suspect." His critique is expressed in an anonymous, multi-part article, entitled "Foreign Affairs: General Considerations" (affaires étrangères: considérations générales). This is published across several 1799 numbers of la Décade philosophique, littéraire et politique (the week in philosophy, literature and politics).

Therein, anonymous recalls that the revolutionary Convention had adopted a formal decree against interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries. The Constitution of the Year I has a section of four articles on "relations between the French Republic and other nations." This includes the following stipulations (June 24, 1793):
Article 118: The French nation is the friend and natural ally of free nations.

Article 119: It does not interfere with the government of other nations; it does not allow other nations to interfere with its own.
Anonymous regrets that this non-intervention principle is absent from the 1795 constitution. By way of remedy, he suggests that, in conformity with the law of war and of nations, France ought to make a solemn declaration. This would "define the scope of the right of conquest and, at the same time, establish the limits which it gives over vanquished peoples." The goal is to articulate a clear moral standard for the equitable treatment of other countries. Anonymous seeks "a code of fair foreign policy, a guarantee of the moderation of our principles" (un code équitable de politique extérieure, une garantie de la modération de nos principes).

France's international human-rights agenda

By contrast to Anonymous above, the Republic deemed itself entitled to champion human rights everywhere. An excellent example was the cause of political prisoners.

Democratic hero, the Marquis de Lafayette was held in an Austrian prison in Olmütz, Moravia. Apart from any other nationality, Lafayette was a naturalized citizen of the United States. Despite this "adopted" citizenship, President George Washington believed that under the law of nations—as it then was—the United States lacked the legal right to demand his release. Moreover, President Washington calculated that too vigorous, official American efforts on behalf of Lafayette might seriously harm relations with the French Directory and/or the United Kingdom Government.

Thus, George Washington, in his personal or "private" capacity, from Philadelphia, wrote (May 15, 1796) a confidential letter to the Habsburg Emperor Francis II. Portraying himself as the "organ" of the "mediation of humanity," Washington "entreated" Austria that Lafayette "be permitted to come to this country, on such conditions and under such restrictions, as your Majesty may think it expedient to prescribe." The draft text was probably written for Washington by former Secretary of State John Jay who was then Governor of New York State.

From a juridical viewpoint, there was nothing exceptional about France seeking to exercise abroad, a right of diplomatic protection to benefit a person born in France. By 1797, Directory moderates like François Barthélémy and Lazare Carnot wanted the release of Lafayette, whom they valued as a fellow moderate. To this end, Carnot wrote to the Army of Italy on May 5th and August 1st. Accordingly, the Commander-in-Chief of the victorious Army of Italy sought Lafayette's freedom. In connection with this diplomatic initiative, Napoleon gave (August 6th) the Austrian negotiator letters from both Barthélémy and Carnot calling for Lafayette's liberation. But circa August 10, 1797, Napoleon and General Henri-Jacques Clarke notably added the radical stipulation that Lafayette agree to remain outside France, for the present time. The full Directory ultimately ordered Napoleon to make Lafayette's release a precondition for further discussion of the terms of the bilateral Treaty of Campo-Formio. This was the key that finally opened the dungeon door. Lafayette was freed on September 19, 1797. To save face, the Emperor Francis II characterized such submission to Napoleon's military power, as a gesture of friendship for the United States of America.

More clearly reflecting a universal human-rights agenda is the intervention of France's Minister of External Relations, Charles-François Delacroix, on behalf of foreign revolutionaries. For example, Delacroix writes to Napoleon and General Clarke about their ongoing negotiations with the reactionary Austrians in Italy. Delacroix says the Directory wants them to seek release from Austrian jails of another two political prisoners, neither French nor Jewish. The first is prominent Polish revolutionary, "Hugues Kolloutay" (Hugo Kołłątaj) who, like Lafayette, is held in Olmütz. According to Delacroix (July 6, 1797): "The second is [Scipione] Piattoli, a distinguished Italian man of letters, for six years imprisoned in Prague, for having written about the necessity to accord civil rights to Jews and to the third-estate."

Revolutionary foreign policy: Netherlands

The results of the January 1795 French conquest are sympathetically detailed in the London Free Masons' Magazine or, General and Complete Library (March 1, 1795):
A letter from Amsterdam says, that several of their mercantile and banking-houses have sent circular letters to their correspondents in foreign mercantile towns, wherein they give an account of the Revolution, and state among other things as follows: "The representatives of the French people at present in this place, have solemnly declared us, a free and independent nation, with promise of perfect security of persons and property, together with perfect liberty of the exercise of religion. The French troops who entered this place, and those of all other places, are observing the strictest discipline, without giving the least disturbance or trouble." The Jews in Holland are emancipated from all restrictions, and are to enjoy perfect freedom.
The Morning Chronicle of London (April 13, 1795) carries a March 22nd report from the Hague. This says that the French conquest of the Netherlands resulted in Jews joining the Batavian National Guard. British historian, Sir Simon Schama (Patriots and Liberators, 1977) judges that the progressive minority among Amsterdam Jewry had initially been seen by the French, "as the most dependable element of the local population."

According to unfriendly commentary in The St. James's Chronicle of London (May 14, 1795):
The Jews enjoy a temporary triumph at Amsterdam; the French, to console them for the loss of their Ducats, have admitted the Sons of Abraham into the National Militia. Several are elevated to the rank of Commanders.
By contrast, Le Moniteur is always ready to portray Jews positively, including as revolutionary soldiers and sailors. Thus, Le Moniteur prints an April 6, 1796 report from Amsterdam (April 29, 1796):
The naval committee has just adopted a resolution, the object of which is to facilitate the enrollment of Jews. Published by the Commander in Chief, the Vice-Admiral de Winter, this resolution stipulates that the Jews can eat together, separate from the Christians, and that they will be permitted to prepare their own meals, in conformity with their customs [kashrut].
The French Army's 1795 victory soon gave birth to a—two-thirds Jewish—revolutionary society called Felix Libertate (Latin: happy from freedom) which had about sixty members. Present for its first meeting (February 11, 1795) were the secretary of the Civil Commissioner of the French Army, several French army officers, and leaders of some of the other revolutionary societies of Amsterdam. To win the favor of the more than 20,000 Amsterdam Jews, there was bitter competition. On the one hand, there were the progressive Jews of Felix Libertate. On the other hand, there were the two chief rabbis (Sephardic and Ashkenazic) and the Parnassim. The latter were the traditional lay leaders of the Jewish community. They strongly opposed the Revolution and stubbornly supported the exiled House of Orange.

For example, Felix Libertate wanted to read the Yiddish version of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in the synagogues, but this was blocked by the reactionary rabbis and the Parnassim. Felix Libertate wanted Jews to serve in the Amsterdam city guard, but the two chief rabbis contrived a narrow religious ruling that Jews were forbidden to bear arms on the Sabbath.

Apart from Felix Libertate’s Jewish and gentile members, France's Minister of External Relations Delacroix, and its Ambassador François Noël, contributed the most to completing the emancipation of the Jews of the Batavian Republic. Moreover, Noël always kept in touch with the members of Felix Libertate.

Noël's persistent 1796 activity on behalf of Jewish rights was specifically confirmed by the famous French Abbé Henri-Baptiste Grégoire. In this regard, see his essay entitled, Observations nouvelles sur les juifs et particulièrement ceux d'Amsterdam et de Francfort (new observations on the Jews and especially those of Amsterdam and Frankfurt). This two-part article appears in the second volume (1807) of Amsterdam's Le Conservateur; Journal de littérature, de sciences et de beaux-arts (the conservative; journal of literature, sciences and fine arts).

Noël's exceptional efforts for the Jews are also retrospectively recognized in the letter (May 5, 1808) which former Felix Libertate member Carl Asser sent to Louis Napoleon, King of Holland (reigned 1806-1810). Therein, Asser also points to strong 1796 support for the Dutch Jews by the Abbé Grégoire. Achieving equal rights for Dutch Jews was thus a key expression of France’s revolutionary foreign policy.

Understandably, a tribute to France features in the petition for full citizenship and equal rights, which the Batavian National Assembly received (March 29, 1796) from six prominent Jewish members of Felix Libertate. This is printed in Le Moniteur (May 21, 1796):
The most enlightened and the most patriotic Jews of the Batavian Republic confided to divine providence, testimonies of their most fervent gratitude, on the occasion of the triumph of French arms.

As part of the revolutionary effort to promote the emancipation of the Jews of Germany, the Dutch government in 1797 sponsored publication in German of Actenstücke zur Geschichte der Erhebung der Juden zu Bürgern der Republik Batavien (documents on the history of the accession of the Jews to citizenship in the Batavian Republic). This printed propaganda piece highlights the key speech for full Jewish emancipation, made in the Batavian National Assembly on August 1, 1796, by Jacob George Jeronimo Hahn, who was a Christian.

Hahn includes reference to the principles of the American, French and Batavian Revolutions. He affirms that "Jews are also human beings." He also underlines "the truth" that Dutch Jews already participate as part of the "free Batavian People," vote in elections, and are represented by the deputies in the National Assembly.

Pointing to the authority of the precedent of the "very many Jews" in the Revolutionary French Army, Hahn lays to rest the canard that Jews cannot be citizens, because unfit for military service (August 1, 1796):
We already see many Jews in the Austrian camps; (in particular [the Habsburg Emperor] Joseph II enlisted many of them in the last war with the Turks). And, we ourselves have always had Jewish sailors in our fleet: also, since the [Batavian] Revolution, here and there, among our National Guards, are Jewish citizens who have conducted themselves very well. And finally, what decides everything here (was hier alles entscheidet), there are very many Jews among the French heroes.
In the same vein, Hahn emphasizes that the Jews "are definitely to be understood as included in the alliance with the French Republic.” This key point is equally clear in both the German translation and the original Dutch in the Dagverhaal der handelingen van de Nationale Vergadering (daily proceedings of the national assembly).

This reference to the requirements of the alliance with France was later corroborated by an opponent of full Jewish emancipation. Though himself a revolutionary, Deputy Ysband van Hamelsveld decried as "improper" (onbehoorlijk) Ambassador Noël's pressure on deputies to approve full citizenship for Dutch Jews. Hamelsveld spoke in the Batavian National Assembly on August 22, 1796:
I must only add here, on this occasion, that I am very much upset about the boldness of some, who—as has happened in this case—seek to hinder the Assembly, by speaking of wisdom, justice, prudence, and what goes further, by telling us that the French Minister Noël is interested in it, etc. As a Representative of the Batavian People, I declare such narratives to be improper. Here we must only look after our duty, and nothing else must be our motive and goal, but the salvation of the Batavian People.
With couriers standing by to rush the good news to Amsterdam, the Batavian National Assembly at the Hague, on September 2, 1796, unanimously affirmed the right to equal citizenship of the Jews of the Netherlands. This important human-rights victory to a large extent rested on the Revolutionary French Army. Writing to Delacroix, Noël reflected (June 14, 1796):
French arms delivered freedom (la liberté) not for a few families in each province, but rather to the whole nation, without distinction between patricians and the governed, between Jews and Christians, or between Catholics and Protestants.
Noël described for Delacroix how the issue of Jewish civil rights was progressing in the Batavian National Assembly (July 23, 1796):
But there are still many prejudices to conquer. Among this number is the one against the Jews. It is said that the constitutional committee wants to take this on. I am confident that sound reason will triumph. I will omit nothing to ensure that it will be victorious.
A month later, Noël again wrote to Delacroix. Therein, Noël reminds Minister Delacroix that he had given Noël “special orders” to further the emancipation of the Jews (August 22, 1796):
I felt it my duty to express the opinion of my government on the fate of a population of 50,000 souls; that it was high time to elevate them to the dignity of men and citizens, even if only to deprive the House of Orange of numerous and enthusiastic [Jewish] partisans. In this [emancipation] matter, I acted in conformity with your special orders which rest on the philanthropic principles which distinguish our current government.

Revolutionary foreign policy: poll-tax on Jews

Landmark was the emancipation of the Jews, first in France (1791) and then in the Netherlands (1796). But elsewhere in Europe, there was strong resistance to emancipating Jews; and also, for the most part, stubborn adherence to medieval discrimination, such as the corporeal- or poll-tax on Jews (Juden Leibzoll). In Austria, this invidious exaction had been abolished by the Emperor Joseph II in 1782; in France, by King Louis XVI in 1784; and, for local Jews in Prussia, by King Frederick William II in 1787.

The Abbé Grégoire described the Juden Leibzoll as (1806): "this infamous toll" (ce péage infâme) and "an outrage made to the human species" (un outrage fait à l'espèce humaine). Indeed, the poll-tax on Jews was purposely intended to be deeply humiliating, because identical to the head-tax on pigs and other livestock. This vexatious levy was also economically oppressive, because imposed by a multitude of petty, feudal jurisdictions. For example, see the 1798 testimony of Protestant pastor and publicist Andreas Riem in his anonymous Apologie für die unterdrückte Judenschaft in Deutschland (in defence of the oppressed Jewry of Germany):
It is the greatest outrage that a human being has to pay for the mere fact of his corporeal existence, five times over in one day’s travel out of Frankfurt; or even still worse, merely over one mile’s distance, if across five different princely jurisdictions.
Though Dutch Jews were fully emancipated at home, they were still compelled to pay the humiliating Juden Leibzoll, when traveling in the neighboring German principalities. This execrable levy and other kinds of discrimination were particularly irksome for Dutch Jews attending the important annual fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig.

Soon we shall see that the Revolutionary French Republic (May 10, 1797) demanded that French Jews be freed from paying Juden Leibzoll in the Swiss Cantons. This French move was applauded by the Amsterdam Jews of Felix Libertate. As citizens of the Batavian Republic, Dutch Jews wanted to enjoy the same Leibzoll exemption in Germany. If not, they expected imposition of a proportional payment by nationals of the discriminating German States, entering the Batavian Republic.

The following is taken mostly from the Dagverhaal der Handelingen van der Nationale Vergadering (November 16, 1797). Thirteen prominent Felix Libertate members signed in Amsterdam (November 14th) an "address" or request accusing many of the German States of using religion as a criterion for differential treatment of Batavian citizens. Here, Felix Libertate was not asking for the emancipation of the Jews of Germany. Rather, Felix Libertate wanted all Batavian citizens freed from humiliating discrimination in Germany.

For example, cited was the scandal of public signs in Germany, announcing, "Pigs and Jews Pay Toll Here" (hier betalen Zwynen en Joden Tol). These Amsterdam Jews argued that this was not only an injury to humanity, but also an insult both to Batavian sovereignty and to the "one and indivisble Batavian People" (EEN EN ONDEELBAAR BATAAFSCH VOLK).

On November 16, 1797, this request was submitted to the Batavian National Assembly, where it was referred to the Committee for External Affairs. The object was to get the National Assembly to pass a resolution, calling on the Batavian Directory to instruct Caspar Meyer, their Ambassador in Paris. He was to ask France's Minister of External Relations, Talleyrand, to ensure that the upcoming diplomatic congress at Rastadt be used as venue for ending discrimination against Dutch Jews in Germany.

The Batavian Republic was officially not party to the Rastadt negotiations, which were between France and Germany. Nonetheless, there were continuing Dutch efforts there. For example, papers were circulated on various topics, including the Jewish question. In November 1797, the National Assembly's Committee for External Affairs appointed a confidential agent to work with the French delegates to further the interests of the Batavian Republic at Rastadt. The assignment went to Carl Ludwig Buch, the receiver-general of Bentheim County. He got the job because he had successfully completed some earlier work for the Committee. Buch reported back about his meeting with French delegate, Jean-Baptiste Treilhard, at eleven o'clock in the morning (December 11, 1797): "Finally, I spoke with him [...] about the duties levied on the Jews (droits perçus sur les Juifs). He found all this to be very fair, without absolutely promising to be able to reply to your views."   

As described in Felix Libertate's follow-up request (February 27, 1798), the strategy to appeal to Talleyrand for France's diplomatic help was specifically contingent upon the approval of Charles Delacroix. Since December 1797, Delacroix was Noël's replacement as France's Ambassador to the Batavian Republic. Delacroix's support for the Batavian Jews in this matter was decisive. As French Ambassador, his real authority in Dutch politics was, at that time, tantamount to that of a viceroy. According to Le Moniteur (March 16, 1798):
[On March 6, 1798], the Batavian Directory informed the [Batavian] National Assembly that it had charged Minister Meyer to take the necessary initiatives with the French government, so that the treaty, under negotiation in Rastadt, would grant to the Jews, inhabiting this [Batavian] Republic, the same rights in Germany as enjoyed by Batavian Christians.
On March 23, 1798, Talleyrand heard Meyer's strong plea for French intervention to protect the rights of the Batavian Jews in Germany. Such a request fell on fertile ground. Starting no later than 1790, Talleyrand was a persistent champion of Jewish emancipation. Below, we shall see some evidence suggesting that the French delegation at Rastadt was already supporting the emancipation of the Jews of Germany, even before Meyer's meeting with Talleyrand.

Also indicative of Talleyrand's attitude toward the civil rights of Jews is his later readiness to use France's substantial leverage as a nearby Great Power—namely, his extraterritorial demand (1806) that, as French citizens, Jews be exempt from any obligation to pay Juden Leibzoll in Germany. From Paris, Talleyrand reports to French Jew, Mardochee Elie, that the Empire's Ministers Plenipotentiary at Dresden and Kassel have already been instructed to firmly insist that, as French citizens, Jews be exempt from the discriminatory droits de péage (March 12, 1806):
French law making no distinction between the adherents of the various religions, every French citizen, without reference to the religion to which he belongs, in a foreign country must enjoy the plenitude of rights, as specified by treaties for the subjects of the [French] Empire.

Revolutionary foreign policy: Switzerland

The indignity and injustice of the poll-tax on Jews waved a red flag for France’s revolutionary foreign policy. Longtime French Ambassador to the Confederation of the Swiss Cantons, François Barthélémy surely knew that hatred for Jews was common in Switzerland. As we shall see in more than one place below, Swiss elected representatives in 1798-9 sometimes stained the record of debates with crude antisemitic remarks.

Along with other reasons, stubborn Swiss hatred for Jews caused the French Directory to believe the Swiss to be an "ignorant and fanatical people" (un peuple ignorant et fanatisé). This Paris judgment was distilled from 18th-century archival sources by French historian Raymond Guyot (1911). He wrote that, in 1797-8, the Directory was certain that a few reasonable men, representing "the enlightened part" (la partie éclairée) of the Swiss nation, had a legitimate right to impose their revolutionary will upon the reactionary majority in Switzerland.

Barthélémy did his revolutionary duty by sending (May 10, 1797) the Canton of Zürich a letter, on behalf of the Directory. This document demands that Jews of French citizenship (les Juifs François de Nation) be exempt from poll-tax in all the Cantons, failing which there would be matching retaliation against all Swiss citizens entering France. This important account comes from a May 15th Basel report, published in the supplement to the Nouvelles Extraordinaires of Leiden (June 2, 1797):
This demand on the part of the French Government could not fail to throw more than one [Canton] into great embarrassment, especially the Canton of Bern, which for several years had prohibited all Jews from doing business there. [Barthélémy's letter] assured that, if the Helvetic Body (Corps Helvétique) refused to bow to this request, France would establish such a tax to be paid by all the Swiss there.

Barthélémy became a Director on May 26, 1797. According to a June 30th Basel report, the Swiss hoped that his relatively mild policies would influence the Directory to spare the Cantons the need to abrogate the Juden Leibzoll on French citizens. The Basel report judged the poll-tax on Jews to be relatively unimportant as revenue. But, the Juden Leibzoll was said to be significant in perpetuating praiseworthy Swiss antisemitism—namely, helping uphold "the noble principles of the Swiss to distance from their milieu all that which tended to detract from the ancient moral and civil order of the Cantons."

Here, the Swiss counted on Barthélémy's friendship and wisdom to deviate from the more revolutionary and philosemitic policies of Napoleon, who was already known as champion of Jewish emancipation in Italy. This is the unambiguous meaning of the June 30th report, as a whole. The text is printed in the supplement to the Nouvelles Extraordinaires (July 14, 1797):
We place our hope in the justice of the Directory, enlightened by the new member [Barthélémy]. His former connections with us render him more apt than anyone else, to appreciate the [Jew-hating] feelings, customs, and character of the Peoples of Helvetia. Already, it is being said here that, known for his wise and just principles, Barthélémy would be unlikely to approve the [Jew-friendly] conduct of policy that the French follow in Italy. In this connection, his way of thinking coincides with that which has been expressed in the Council of Five Hundred [France's lower chamber] and also with the demands, astonished cries, and unhappiness that arise in the breast of the [French] Nation itself. Such feelings probably will not delay the career which General Bonaparte has built for himself from the Alps to the Adriatic, from Lake Lugano to the tip of Calabria. Italy’s fate has already been determined by the system adopted by the majority in the Directory. But, the Helvetic Confederation is the oldest, most loyal, and most useful Ally of France. Thus, public opinion will ensure that France will spare the Confederation from the same revolutionary shocks, and all the ills that come with them.
This Basel assessment turned out to be correct, to the extent that the Revolutionary French Republic never succeeded in forcing the Swiss Cantons to grant Jews equal rights of citizenship. Swiss Jews were not fully emancipated until 1876. But, the Basel assessment was dead wrong about the Juden Leibzoll. We know that Barthélémy's 1797 request to exempt French Jews from the Juden Leibzoll was effective.

A May 1798 petition from the Jews of Endingen and Lengnau (Canton Aargau) asked the Helvetic Directory for abolition of the poll-tax on all the Jews living in Switzerland. In addition to citing the fundamental principles of the new Helvetic constitution (April 12, 1798), these Swiss Jews argued that, in 1797, French Jews had already been freed from paying the Juden Leibzoll at the fair in Zurzach (Canton Aargau).

Referring to "principles of liberty" and the new constitution, the Helvetic Senate discussed the urgency of abolishing the poll-tax. From Langnau in Emmental (Canton Bern), Senator Johann Ulrich Lüthi called for delay, though he too was a revolutionary (June 1, 1798):
What are the Jews as a type of human being? Until now, they have believed that they have God's commandment to steal from us and trick us. Why ought we to now give priority to favoring them? We ought not to rush to respect them, so long as they refuse to give our sons their daughters in marriage.
Despite such prejudice, the Juden Leibzoll was cancelled by the Helvetic Senate (June 1, 1798): “Henceforth to be abolished in all Helvetia, as a violation of the Rights of Man, are all corporeal taxes and duties which had been imposed upon Jews in particular.” This government news was also announced in the Neue Berner-Zeitung (June 12, 1798).

Apart from Juden Leibzoll, there were other forms of serious discrimination against Jews in Switzerland. For example, on May 8, 1798, the Helvetic Grand Council (lower house of the National Assembly) received a complaint against a regulation of the administrative chamber of Canton Aargau. This legislation prevented Jews resident in the Canton from carrying on trade as peddlers and hawkers in the countryside. This triggered "long and pretty debates about the Rights of Man."

Why were Jews without enjoyment of fundamental human rights? This question was raised by those arguing that Swiss Jews should immediately have full rights of citizenship. However, Jewish emancipation was strongly opposed, despite the non-discriminatory principles in the Helvetic constitution, which had been written by revolutionary Swiss Patriotes in Paris.

As reported in Bern's Eidgenössische Nachrichten, Senator Johann Wernhard Huber said that such inequality was due to the Jews themselves. He faulted them for stubbornly keeping their own laws and customs, which he saw as purposely separating them from the rest of the population (May 19, 1798):
A person who does not eat with me, does not drink with me, who does not give me his daughter in marriage, whose son does not take mine in marriage, that person cannot be my fellow citizen. So, I propose that Jews should also be citizens, but only when they do as other people do, and also do what the Constitution requires of them!
This prejudice notwithstanding, Huber suggested establishment of a Commission on the Reform of Helvetic Jewish Laws (Commission der Reformation helvetischer Judengesetze). This new body was an occasion for Samuel Fueter of Bern to say that "the Jew lacks moral enlightenment" (der Mangel moralischer Aufklärung des Juden) and therefore is not yet "ripe" for citizenship. Moreover, he said that Jews are (May 23, 1798):
a nation that stubbornly, and with insurmountable obstinacy, crawls around under a yoke of errors which are a satire of human reason and entirely in contradiction to the Enlightenment. [...] It would be very unfair to share a good which has certainly been won through much sacrifice and effort, with a People who were only idle spectators in all our moral and political revolutions, and therefore would probably misuse the offer of our brotherly love, merely to promote their own self-interest.

Reactionary Swiss hatred for Jews was repugnant to the Directory in Paris. There, a seasoned Jewish revolutionary and veteran of the National Guard was likely officially encouraged to write to condemn Swiss prejudice. Government circles in Paris were certainly familiar with the erudite Polish Jew, Zalkind Hourvitz. He was well known as a prize-winning essayist and an ex-employee of the prestigeous Bibliothèque Nationale. Thus, it happened that Hourvitz produced "À moi la parole pour les Juifs" (up to me to defend the Jews). This reasoned reply is notably the first item on the front page of the influential Paris newspaper l'Ami des Lois which was one of the Directory's preferred propaganda organs. Hourvitz's essay appeared on June 11, 1798, only three days after l'Ami des Lois had published the astonishing Lettre d'un Juif, to be discussed at length below.

Hourvitz patiently rebuts Huber's anti-Jewish claims. These had been published in the Paris newspaper Le Patriote Français, along with provocative, antisemitic commentary (May 23, 1798). Hourvitz also deems Huber's intolerance to be importantly an "indirect critique of the French constitution" (cette censure indirecte de la constitution française). This is Hourvitz's opening for bluntly delivering the Directory's intended message. Namely, the Swiss are required to conform with the universal, human-rights principles championed by the French Revolution (June 11, 1798):
Regarding this question of tolerance, it is to be hoped that the Helvetic National Assembly will consult humanity, justice, and the example and experience of la grande nation. Although the French government may have declared Switzerland to be absolutely independent, the Helvetic Assembly will surely not be so ungrateful as to confront "head on" the foundations of the French constitution. The Helvetic Assembly ought not to miss the point that the French did not generously sacrifice their blood in order to make converts for Christianity. Rather, the French wished the Swiss to be free, without distinction as to religion. Finally, the Helvetic Assembly ought to consider that there are many Jews among the defenders of Swiss freedom.

Solothurn Municipality writes to the Helvetic Directory to describe the sad condition of their community. There are many complaints against requistions and confiscations by the French Army. By way of conclusion, Jews coming from France are maligned (May 28, 1798):
To add to all these troubles, under the title of free citizens (unter dem Titel freier Staatsbürger), the Jews already flood our city and countryside. They deprive our citizens of their property with fraud and deception, and promote thefts which are becoming more common here.
In the same vein, the Bern Statthalter (Governor) Anton Ludwig Tillier writes (November 10, 1798) to the Helvetic Minister of the Interior. Tillier complains about the influx of French Jews who are said to be a threat to public security and morality. Tillier charges that these Jews do much "evil," and harm the "honest commerce" of the native Swiss. Tillier asks the Minister to issue orders to free the country from these people. For the Minister's information, Tillier attaches copies of old regulations prohibiting the wandering around of Jewish peddlers.

However, Tillier's anti-Jewish initiative is blocked by Jean-Jacques Rapinat, the principal French official in Switzerland. He is brother-in-law to the energetic French Director Jean-François Reubell, who plays a great role in framing France's foreign policy. To the point, Rapinat is also all-powerful as Civil Commissioner to the French Army in Helvetia (commissaire du gouvernement auprès de l'armée française en Helvétie). Decisive is Rapinat's firm stand that the rights of French Jews in Switzerland must be protected by virtue of the treaty of alliance between France and the Helvetic Republic (August 19, 1798).

[Unless otherwise noted, the Swiss information and quotations above are from 1798 documents in French and German, printed in volumes 2 and 3 of Actensammlung aus der Zeit der Helvetischen Republik (collected documents from the time of the Helvetic Republic), edited by Johannes Strickler and published in Bern, 1887, 1889.]

Revolutionary foreign policy: Italy

While other French generals are doing likewise in places in Western Germany, Napoleon implements key revolutionary ideology by emancipating Jews in some important Italian jurisdictions. Specifically, he abolishes the ghettos (1796-7), during his spectacular conquest of some countries on the Italian peninsula; and on the Venetian islands of the Ionian Sea, close to Greece. Suddenly, Jews in several parts of Italy, and on the Ionian Islands, get equal rights of citizenship. Immediately, they begin participating in the new order as soldiers, sailors, officials, envoys, emissaries, agents and spies.

A little-known example of a French foreign-policy effort to protect Italian Jews features in the Collected Documents of the Executive Directory (Recueil des actes du Directoire exécutif). In volume three, there is the—highly ideological—draft treaty which the Directory sends in August 1796 to its political commissars with Napoleon's Army of Italy. They are Pietro Anselmo Garrau and Antonio Cristoforo Saliceti. Their assigned role is to compel the Vatican to pay crippling contributions, and surrender priceless manuscripts and works of art. Significantly, their revolutionary mission also includes trying to protect the Jews of the Papal States and to publicly humiliate Pope Pius VI who was notoriously reactionary.

By edict in 1775, Pius VI had restored to the Holy Office of the Inquisition, responsibility for reviving enforcement of far-reaching 16th-century restrictions on Jews, in the Papal States. As a worldly or temporal ruler, the Pope's large and important Italian jurisdiction ran from sea-to-sea, diagonally across the middle of the peninsula. The perennial pontifical goal in the Papal States was to punitively press hard for conversion of the Jews, while maintaining their social isolation to prevent the "corruption" of Catholics (1775):
Among the pastoral solicitudes that occupy the soul of the Holiness of our Lord at the outset of his Pontificate, the foremost priority is that which guards the Catholic religion from corruption among the faithful. Considering, therefore, the need to protect the faithful from the danger of subversion that can result from excessive familiarity with the Jews, the exact observance of the measures taken by glorious predecessors is absolutely necessary.
Based on careful research in the newly opened Vatican archives of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, Brown University Professor David Kertzer (2001) presents the key quote above, and also authoritatively confirms details of the anti-Jewish legislation, renewed in 1775: (1) Jews must always wear a distinctive yellow badge. (2) To keep them in their proper place, Jews must not ride in carriages or buggies. (3) Jews must remain overnight in the ghetto, behind high walls and heavy gates. (4) For Jews, no shops or warehouses outside the ghetto. (5) A Jew can stay overnight outside the ghetto by special permit, to be granted only for good reason and limited time. (6) While outside the ghetto, Jews are forbidden to stay overnight in the same house with Christians. (7) Jews are forbidden to speak familiarly with Christians. (8) Jews are not to play, eat, or drink with Christians—nor Christians with Jews. (9) Innkeepers, bartenders and storekeepers shall not permit conversations between Christians and Jews. (10) Jews cannot keep Christian servants, whether male or female; nor make use of them even for the briefest moment; nor employ them to clean the ghetto; nor to light their fire; nor to wash their clothes; nor to do any other task for them. (11) Christians are forbidden to set foot in synagogue or to see any Jewish rite or ritual. (12) No public ceremonies permitted in taking the Jewish dead to the cemetery. (13) No inscriptions on Jewish tombstones, which must remain blank. (14) Jews must attend compulsory Catholic sermons denouncing Judaism and calling for their conversion to Christianity.

As an egregious affront to the Enlightenment, such draconian regulations were notorious in 18th-century Europe. This partly explains why the strongly anticlerical Directory wanted Garrau and Saliceti to force Pius VI to accept, as ruler of the Papal States, a treaty that mocked the Church and violated Catholic doctrine. This draft treaty was ultimately stillborn. Nonetheless, it is important to recall that draft treaty, article 16, required both freedom of religion and an end to castration to produce permanent choir boys (Ital: castrati).

Apart from Jews, there was then no other religious minority in the Papal States. Thus, via draft treaty, article 16, the Directory sought to protect the human rights of the many thousands of Jews there. They lived in Rome, Ancona, Sinigaglia, Ferarra, Lugo, Cento, Urbino, and Pesaro—the eight papal ghettoes under the direct rule of the Church (August 14, 1796):
Article 16: Desiring to terminate abuses which humanity and reason have for so long protested; and bowing to the invitation which is made to him in the name of the Republic, His Holiness undertakes to forbid—under the most severe penalties—throughout the breadth of his States, the castration of males, whether children or adults, and to abolish the Court of the Inquisition. In future, nobody there is to be deprived of his freedom or prosecuted for his religious opinions.

Napoleon's conquest (February 9, 1797) of the city of Ancona on the Adriatic coast of Italy is described in detail in Hebrew in the 1793-7 Book of Wonders (ספר מעשה נסים) of Rabbi Jacob Cohen. The scholarly English-language title for this Sepher Ma'ase Nissim is "Hebrew Chronicle About the Jews of Ancona During the Years 1793-1797." It was published in Hebrew in 1982 by Daniel Carpi.

Rabbi Cohen writes that, when Napoleon arrived, Jewish soldiers of the French Revolutionary Army were immediately sent to protect the local Jews, and to abolish the curfew and all the other demeaning restrictions of the ghetto, which was home to around 1,600 Jews. Established were Jewish freedom of movement at all hours and the valuable right to site a business outside the ghetto. Furthermore, these proud Jewish soldiers of France's Army of Italy got local Jews to wear the tricolor revolutionary cocarde, instead of the yellow "badge of disgrace" that had recently been rigorously reimposed by the reactionary Roman-Catholic Church. Encouraged by Brigadier-General Louis Emmanuel Rey, the Jews of Ancona planted a liberty tree.

To govern Ancona and the surrounding villages, Napoleon replaced oppressive papal rule with a new, fifteen-member municipal government (municipalità), to which he spectacularly appointed three local Jews from distinguished families (February 10, 1797). Like the other members of the municipalità, Sanson Costantini, and David and Ezzacchia Morpurgo had to swear allegiance to the Revolutionary French Republic. This they did at noon on February 11, 1797, in the presence of General Jean-Jacques Bernardin Colaud-de-la-Salcette.

Rabbi Cohen also records that, in the local synagogue, grateful Jews celebrated with the biblical "Song of the Sea," which thanks God for saving the Israelites from the Egyptians. "For the glory of the French army" a light was placed in the window of every Jewish home in Ancona. In early July 1797, General Claude Dallemagne, the town commandant, ordered the municipalità to admit young Jewish men to serve in the civil guard (guardia civica). For the first time, the children of Ancona Jews studied alongside those of the Christians.

In 1797, Napoleon repeatedly testified that Ancona was key in terms of strategy, logistics, and trade. For example, he wrote from Ancona to the Directory (February 10, 1797):
The city of Ancona is the only port along the Adriatic coast after Venice. From all viewpoints, it is very essential for our communications with Constantinople. Within 24 hours one can go from here to Macedonia. Even though they obeyed it, no government was so despised by the Peoples (les Peuples) as this [papal] one here. After the first emotion of fright that was caused by entry of an enemy army, there followed the joy of being delivered from the most ridiculous of governments.
Prominent among the various "Peoples" that Napoleon found in Ancona were the Jews. They were especially well-connected. Culturally and commercially, they were genuinely significant in 18th-century Italian and Mediterranean Jewry.

One variant of Rabbi Cohen's manuscript records that, after the Treaty of Tolentino (February 19, 1797) between France and the Holy See, representatives of the Ancona Jews went to Milan to thank Napoleon for all that he had done. They requested that Ancona never be restored to papal rule. Napoleon welcomed them with a banquet. Speaking in his native Italian, he told his Jewish guests: "You are free men, you are free men... I shall maintain your freedom. Be strong, don't fear and don't worry."

French defeats during the first two years of the War of the Second Coalition made Ancona a refuge for a great number of Patriotes and Jacobins, according to l'Ami des Lois (December 22, 1799). In 1798-9, Michel Ange Bernard Mangourit was doing propaganda, espionage, and consular work in Ancona. He had briefly been Minister of External Relations and then France's Ambassador to the United States. In the first volume of his detailed Défense d'Ancône (Defense of Ancona), Mangourit recalls that these revolutionary refugees included Jews from other parts of Italy. They quickly put on uniform and armed themselves (1802):
One did not ask those who presented themselves—what position did you occupy? What military rank did you hold? Are you of the white rose or the red rose? Are you Calvinist or circumcised? They were all admitted to serve as Italians, sons of Romulus by virtue of their courage. The disinherited sons of Adonai entered into the people of liberty (les fils déshérités d'Adonaï entrèrent dans le peuple de la liberté).
Ancona was finally taken after six months of siege by Austrian, Neapolitain, Russian, and Ottoman forces, in mid-November 1799. Brigadier-General Jean-Charles Monnier commanded the Division d’Ancône. From November 11th, he negotiated with the Austrians, an honorable surrender of the fortress and city of Ancona. Expressing revolutionary ideology, the French side drafted an article which characteristically ensured protection for the Jews. The November 13th capitulation is printed in various newpapers, including the Intelligenzblatt für Ungarn als Beilage zur Preßburger Zeitung (newsletter for Hungary as supplement to the Preßburg newspaper), Number 95 (November 29, 1799):
Article 8: This article applies to all persons, no matter what their religion or nationality might be, who are resident or otherwise present in Ancona, and namely the Jews (und namentlich die Juden). Neither they nor their families are to be in any way prejudiced, prosecuted or troubled because of suspicion—or actual expression—of their civic, religious or political opinions, during the period of the change of government [revolution] on Roman [Papal] territory. This provision applies in particular to those among them who took up arms or who discharged civic and other duties, during the aforementioned time, and in any event to those who might otherwise have been called to account by reason of their conduct of public affairs.
To this French capitulation proposal, the following reply was given by the Habsburg Feldmarschall-Leutnant, Baron Michael von Fröhlich:
Answer: The Austrian government will respect the law of nations with regard to all citizens without discrimination based on their opinions or religion, in so far as they now subject themselves to the laws and behave according to law.
A November 15th report from Venice is printed in l'Ami des Lois (December 22, 1799):
Ancona has surrendered on the 11th, after a terrible bombardment lasting 14 hours. The Russian and Turkish frigates could not cooperate in the blockade, because of bad weather. Now "prisoner of war" is the garrison which is composed mostly of Jews and of Cisaplines (La garnison, composée en grande partie de juifs et de cisalpins, est prisonnière de guerre).

Actively trading with Ancona to the west and with the Ottoman Empire to the east, Corfu's Jews numbered 1,500 to 2,000 out of the total urban population of circa 12,000. From June 28, 1797, these Jews were immediate beneficiaries of the new revolutionary regime. For example, the island's two principal rabbis were (July 10, 1797) appointed to the municipality, which was the newly created, French provisional government of the island of Corfu.

Aware that Napoleon was a great champion of Jewish emancipation, Arnault reported (July 11, 1797) to him that the right of the two rabbis to sit as council members was aggressively challenged by eighteen Orthodox Greek councillors. The latter hit the two Jews and shouted, "Vivent les Français. Point d'Hébreux!" (Long live the French! No Jews!) Troops were called to control this display of violent anti-Jewish prejudice.

There was also a mob of five hundred ruffians, outside on the square. "The Jews are dogs," roared the rioters, who demanded that Jews be excluded from the municipal body and prevented from sporting the revolutionary tricolor cockade on their hats. But Arnault stood firm, with the words: "The freedom (la liberté) brought by the French is the common property of all; a Jew is no longer to be a dog for a Greek, just as much as a Greek is no longer to be one for a Latin." Years later, Arnault reflected that the Greeks then mostly understood "freedom" (la liberté), as the right to oppress anybody who was not of their communion."

The revolutionary principle, "all the religions are equal," had to be strictly enforced. This was the job of the commissary-general of the Ionian Islands. General Antoine Gentili was Corsican. As a native speaker of Italian, he was able to talk directly with the local Jews, whose mother tongue and culture were also Italian. J.P. Bellaire was an officer of the Levant Division (la division française du Levant). In 1805, he recalled that Gentili, in 1797-8, made sure that children from some of the poorer Jewish families on Corfu were able to attend Mr. Vivotte's public, primary school together with the Catholic and Orthodox students. There, they studied "writing, arithmetic and the French language."

In 1797-8, Gentili also guarded the right to equality of the Jews on the islands of the neighboring Department of the Aegean Sea. The former commissary on Zante, Cerigo, Cerigotto and the Strophades, Charles Rulhière wrote that, during the long period of Venetian rule, the "fanatic" Orthodox Greeks had been violently hostile to the Jewish islanders. However, Rulhière proudly affirmed (1799): "During our stay, the peace was well kept, due to the measures taken by the civil and military authorities."

Around September 1798, the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople issued a proclamation that favored the Russians and the Turks, and condemned the French as "atheists." So, when a Russo-Turkish fleet neared Corfu, seven to eight thousand angry Orthodox Greek peasants came to town for a savage pogrom (October 24, 1798). Alongside the French garrison, the Corfiote Jews valiantly fought as soldiers trying to defend the fortress against combined attacks by reactionary Russians and Ottomans (1798-9). The Augsburgische Ordinari Postzeitung printed an Ancona report describing the March 2, 1799 victory of the counter-revolution on Corfu (May 3, 1799): "The most zealous Democrats, who are mostly Jews, were exiled."

The exciting revolutionary events of 1797, recorded for us by Rabbi Cohen in Ancona and by Arnault on Corfu, then ranked as sensational news for Jews everywhere. Joyful tidings of such extraordinary 1797 happenings certainly spread, within days, to the Jewish communities of the adjacent Balkan coast, and thereafter to Jews throughout the Ottoman Near and Mideast.

The Evening Mail of London prints a critical July 23rd report from French-occupied Venice. This makes it clear that the emancipation of the Jews is part and parcel of the required revolutionary package (August 14, 1797):
We continue to adopt all the Republican forms of Government, and put into practice all the maxims of the Modern philosophy. The Jews are incorporated with the body of the Nation, and the gates which divided the streets where they resided from the rest of the city, have been taken down and burnt with great solemnity.
Similarly disapproving is a July 28th report from Venice that is printed in The London Chronicle (August 17-19, 1797):
The gates of the Ghetto, or the Jewish quarter, have been taken down and burnt, the Israelites being in future to be esteemed as one and the same people with us. Our revolutionary friends have on this occasion danced the Carmagnole with the long bearded tribe, which has produced a spectacle absolutely novel and grotesque.
Reflecting the progress of the revolution, the Journal de Francfort (November 14, 1797) reports that, "the Jew Grego" (le juif Grego) is president of the Municipalità. This is the short-lived provisional, revolutionary government that, under French occupation, replaced the age-old Republic of Venice.

Without doubt, emancipating the Jews is understood as an essential part of the broader French revolutionary formula, as clearly described in a July 13, 1798 report from Rome, printed in the Nouvelles Politiques of Leiden (August 7, 1798):
The Roman Republic seriatim adopts all the laws and customs that characterize la Grande-Nation: For example, it has just transpired that, under grave penalties, it is forbidden to use any title except that of "citizen" or to display any noble coat of arms or mark of distinction. Another law stipulates that Jews, who satisfy the requirements for Roman citizenship, will be subject to no laws other than those which are common to all the citizens of the Roman Republic. Consequently, all the particular laws and customs pertaining to Jews, are for the future abrogated and annulled. By notification to take effect on 1 Vendémiaire, Year VII [September 22, 1798], the Tribunate has similarly ordered that the astronomical calculation of the hours and the republican calendar of the French will be received as the general usage of the Roman Republic. All printed publications and writings, whether public or personal, must be dated exclusively, according to the new French style.

Italian Jews protected by the French Revolutionary Army is a characteristic theme that is powerfully exemplified by an April 17, 1799 report from Parma. This describes the forced journey into exile in France of Pope Pius VI. This highly symbolic incident occurred in Piedmont which had been annexed by France in February 1799. The story is printed in the Journal de Francfort (May 3, 1799):

When the Pope was passing Borgo San Damiano, a Jew allowed himself to insult him with injurious disdain (un juif se permit de l'insulter par un dédain injurieux). When this affront became known to the local people, they were enraged. They would have stoned the Israelite to death, after the ancient fashion of the Jews. However, this fate was prevented by the [Revolutionary French] garrison commander who arrested him in order to protect him from the popular fury.

Revolutionary foreign policy: Germany

Around 20,000 Jews lived on the left bank of the Rhine. Fiercely Jacobin and anti-clerical, the French Revolutionary Army from 1794 dominated the Rhineland. There, it persistently countered feudalism, aristocracy, and Catholic "fanaticism" and "superstition." The Roman-Catholic Church was viewed as the enemy of Republicanism. For revolutionaries, the principle of equal citizenship for Jews was seen as integral to the abolition of the dark heritage of the Middle Ages.

For the mostly Catholic population on the left bank of the Rhine, the Revolution meant an end to tithing. There was also a ban on religious processions and symbols in the streets, where priests were required to wear secular garb. The revolutionary principle of the separation of Church and State was strictly applied. For local Jews and Protestants, there were fresh hopes for non-discrimination. The Rhineland communities which erected liberty trees and expressed a desire for Republican government were thereby also opting for abolition of the Juden Leibzoll. A September 24th Düsseldorf report is printed in the Journal de Francfort (October 3, 1797):
A proclamation about the formation of the Cisrhénane Republic has been published. This document has already been distributed as far as Uerdingen. Therein announced is the abolition of customary compulsory labor (corvées), and in general of all the feudal rights; the Jews too will enjoy all the same rights as Christians. The left bank of the Rhine will be divided into five départements...
These reforms took effect from the first day of Revolutionary Year VI, namely, 1 Vendémiaire. This corresponds with September 22, 1797. Ideological implications are even more explicit in a September 30th report from Düsseldorf. This is published in the Paris daily newspaper, La Clef du Cabinet des Souverains (October 21, 1797):
The proclamation of the establishment of the Cisrhénane Republic extends on the left bank of the Rhine as far as Uerdingen... A new Republic in the first effervescence of its formation; a Republic where already all the corvées are abolished, where the Jews are entirely assimilated to the Christians, and where successively to be destroyed are all the abuses that are incompatible to liberty and sound philosophy.
The newborn Cisrhénane Republic was soon jettisoned. Instead, the Rhineland was to be annexed to France. To this effect, Civil Commissioner François-Joseph Rudler issued a proclamation. Of greatest value to Protestants and Jews was the specific promise about freedom of religious belief under France's constitution (December 11, 1797):
You will only have to give an account of your religious beliefs to God. Your rights as a citizen will not depend on them. Be what they may, those religious opinions will be tolerated without distinction and will enjoy equal protection. Only he will make himself guilty who abuses his religious opinions to disturb the general unity, by spreading dissension in society.
Relative to the great power of the Revolutionary French Republic, some German jurisdictions were objectively weak—for example, the Imperial Free City of Frankfurt (Freie Reichsstadt Frankfurt). Thus, it was easy for the French to impose on Frankfurt, an extra-territorial requirement to respect Jews, as French citizens. This is the political lesson to be drawn from an April 7th Cleves report, printed in the Paris daily newspaper Le Conservateur (April 15, 1798) and also in Le Moniteur (April 17, 1798):
One learns from Frankfurt that the Jews there are jealous of their brothers at [French] Mayence [Mainz]. To the shame of humanity, it must be known that, at Frankfurt, no Jew dares to walk on the public promenade, and that they are only permitted to pass through certain designated city gates. Wearing the [French] national cockade, a Jew from Mayence, eight days ago, was walking on the Frankfurt city glacis. A Frankfurt baillif rudely told him to be off. The Jew lodged a complaint about this indignity, with the Mayence municipality, which raised the matter in a letter to the Frankfurt magistracy. The Mayence municipality declared that it took the baillif's act as an insult made to a French citizen. The Frankfurt magistracy ordered that henceforth Jews wearing the [French] cockade would be permitted to circulate freely.
Favored by Russian Emperor Alexander I, Nicolai Karamzin (1766-1826) was the father of modern Russian historiography. As a young man of 22, he visited the Frankfurt ghetto on July 31, 1789. His vivid impressions are recorded in Letters of a Russian Traveler, first published in Russian in Moscow in 1792 (1957, trans. Florence Jonas):
The Jews here number more than seven thousand. They are all obliged to live together in a single street [the Judengasse], which is so filthy that a person cannot walk through it without holding his nose. It is pitiful to see these miserable people so abased among men. Their dress consists mostly of grease-stained rags, through which their naked bodies show. On Sundays, at the hour when Christian services begin, their street is locked and the poor Jews sit like prisoners in their cells until the services are concluded. At night, too, they are locked up in the same way. In addition to this restriction, they are obliged, whenever a fire occurs in any part of the city, to bring water and extinguish it. There are some wealthy Jews in Frankfurt, but they live in the same filth as the poor.
Karamzin's account of the terrible conditions in the Frankfurt ghetto is foreshadowed in the Annales politiques, civiles et littéraires du dix-huitième siècle: ouvrage périodique pour servir de suite aux Annales de M. Linguet, Tome Premier (political, civil and literary annals of the 18th century: a periodical work to serve as sequel to the annals of Mr. Linguet, volume one). Published in London in 1781, this collection includes a remarkable essay, entitled "Ordonnance en faveur des Juifs" (legislation favouring the Jews). As part of a mostly unfriendly discussion of European Jewry, this important source has a detailed description of the plight of Frankfurt Jews (July 30, 1781) by Calvinist political journalist and polemicist, Jacques Mallet du Pan. He deplores Jewish superstition, including "their imbecilic hope of returning to Palestine" (leur imbécille espoir de rentrer dans la Palestine). Nonetheless, Mallet du Pan highlights positively the astonishing philosemitic reforms of the enlightened Habsburg emperor. In late May 1781, Joseph II perhaps heard Frankfurt Jewish grievances firsthand, when he toured the city informally, as Graf von Falkenstein. (Mallet du Pan will be further discussed below.)

The Abbé Grégoire's aforementioned 1807 essay describes various discriminatory measures then still stubbornly persisting against Frankfurt Jews. There is also Grégoire's 1806 essay entitled, Observations nouvelles sur les Juifs, et spécialement sur ceux d'Allemagne (new observations about the Jews, and especially about those of Germany). The latter work confirms that, in 1806, Frankfurt Jews are still prevented "from walking on the broad avenues which serve as promenades for Christians." Such discrimination ended only in late 1811, when Jews received full civic rights in the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt, created by Napoleon in 1810.

Mainz (Mayence) became the seat of the revolutionary central administration of the left bank of the Rhine in 1797. Le Moniteur explains how "Rue des Juifs" (Jews Street) will become "Rue de la Liberté (Freedom Street). This article foreshadows municipal authorization (September 12, 1798) of the removal of the ghetto gates which is to be effected under police supervision. Apart from anything else, this anticipatory news reveals the philosemitism of the revolutionary press. Around that time, premium is placed on highlighting what is perceived to be worthy Jewish conduct or viewpoint (June 1, 1798):
At either extremity of Jews Street, there are two great gates, which perhaps in earlier times served to confine the inhabitants of this street, during the ceremonies of the Catholic religion (le culte catholique). Claiming that these gates are monuments to despotism and intolerance, the Jews want them to be demolished; columns consecrated to freedom (liberté) to be erected in their place; and the name "freedom" to be given to the street, which up until now has been named after them.

The following is mostly from the "Leibzoll" entry in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. French General Léonard Cacatte, in early July 1798, addresses the administration of the principality of Nassau-Usingen, on the right bank of the Rhine. He points to orders from his commander, Général de Division François-Xavier Jacob Freytag. Thereby, all discriminatory taxes on Jews are to be immediately abolished, as repugnant to justice and humanity. Jews in this German territory, under French military occupation, were thus freed from payment of the Juden Leibzoll. However, the medieval poll-tax on Jews was reinstated there, when France withdrew from the principality, by virtue of the 1801 Treaty of Lunéville.

"Donnersberg" (thunder mountain) was the German name for the new Mont-Tonnerre Département, with Mainz as its capital. Der Beobachter von Donnersberg (the Donnersberg observer) was a republican newspaper founded in Mainz in 1798. Its publisher was the revolutionary Johann Friedrich Lehne (1771-1836). The paper was bitterly anti-clerical as in a September 8th Mainz report, printed in Number 52 (September 10, 1798):

It has long been known that, in Mainz, the republican government cannot do anything without it being defiled with the poisonous drool dripping from the fury of the priests (Pfaffenwut). To report incidents of this kind is to dirty oneself.
In Number 56 of the Beobachter von Donnersberg, the same anti-clerical theme is ventilated in an anonymous submission. This points to "the many-headed Hydra of the priesthood" (die vielköpfige Hydra der Priesterschaften) as the inevitable enemy of the Revolution. By contrast, there is praise for the local rabbi. Because of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, he supports the annexation of the Rhineland to the Revolutionary French Republic (September 18, 1798):
The rabbi of the local Jews seems to want to make an honorable exception [from the reactionary Catholic clergy]. On September 15th (29 Fructidor), he publicly urged his congregation, in the synagogue, to value the [French] constitution as a sacred pledge of loyal love. He said the constitution was a benefit, a gift from God, a liberation from previous slavery. But, he added that the constitution was to be treasured mainly as a "Messianic herald" (eine Heroldin von Messiaden). He said the Jews must be strictly religious, apart from anything else, if they want to enjoy the happiness that will come, if the [French] government's plans are crowned with victory.

The sharp ideological and social divide between enlightened Mainz and reactionary Frankfurt is clear from Lehne's editorial note, deploring an advertisement that had just appeared in the Wöchentliche Frankfurter Frag- und Anzeigungs-Nachrichten (weekly Frankfurt questions- and advertisements-news). Therein, Medical Dr. Kohl reassures the public that he carefully segregates parts of his Frankfurt bathhouse, for strictly separate use by Christians and Jews respectively. In Number 150 of Der Beobachter von Donnersberg, Lehne writes (July 19, 1800):
It creates a very uncomfortable feeling when one sees that, in the arrangements for ordinary civic life, discriminatory distinctions are made based on religion. Whether the above notice ought ever to have been printed at the end of the 18th century, I leave to the decision of enlightened men of whatever faith. What sort of perverse public opinion prevails in Frankfurt? In that city, an entrepreneur feels himself obliged to publicly shame a whole class of people, who are certainly important in local commerce!

Emancipation effort at Rastadt Congress

Why does Napoleon's name appear in the early 1798 pamphlet entitled, Die Stimme der Menschheit an die Abgeordneten der europäischen Mächte in Rastadt (the voice of humanity to the delegates of the European powers in Rastadt)? This twenty-page paper has hitherto been entirely neglected by historians of the Jewish People. From a revolutionary perspective, it boldly argues for full emancipation of the Jews of Germany.

The 1797-9 Congress of Rastadt was principally between the Revolutionary French Republic and the various kingdoms, electorates, and principalities of the ramshackle "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation." The congress was convoked to convert the armistice between the Empire and the French Republic into a final peace. The intent was to implement the German parts of the Treaty of Campo-Formio (October 17, 1797). Signed by Napoleon and the Austrians, this bilateral treaty had posed the difficult, multilateral question of the cession to France of the German jurisdictions on the left bank of the Rhine.

Guarded by an officer and twenty-four hussars of the Austrian Veczay Regiment, Napoleon arrived in Rastadt, in a coach drawn by eight horses (November 25, 1797). He came directly from his glorious conquest of Italy. He was then president of the French delegation. On December 2, 1797, he departed Rastadt for Paris, after concluding a secret military convention with the Austrians and exchanging ratifications of the treaty of Campo-Formio. Napoleon wanted to create the impression that he would soon return to the congress. Thus, he left behind as observers his secrétaire de légation Camille Perret and his aide-de-camp Antoine-Marie de Lavallette.

Including the regicides, Jean-Baptiste Treilhard and Ange-Élisabeth-Louis-Antoine Bonnier d'Arco, the French delegation had very strong revolutionary credentials. And, these representatives of the Republic were certainly perceived in this stark ideological light, by the reactionary diplomats representing the various German rulers.

A true measure of French thought at Rastadt was provided by Camille Perret, who spoke German fluently and had studied at Jena and Leipzig. From Rastadt, he wrote (March 16, 1798) to his former philosophy professor, Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Perret told Fichte that, under permanent French rule, the German-speaking left bank of the Rhine would be a revolutionary base for freeing (affranchissement) the rest of Germany.

Apart from such radical doctrine—even the haircuts, cleanliness, clothing, hats, shoes, sociability, and manners of the French delegation set it apart from the civilization of the ancien régime. Precisely this is the eyewitness testimony in the Rastadt correspondence of young Klemens von Metternich (December 8, 1797):
Great God! How this nation has changed! From an extreme cleanliness, from an elegance that one could not manage to imitate, there has succeeded the greatest filth. The most perfect amiability has been replaced by a gloomy and sinister air. And, I think I say everything in pronouncing it to be revolutionary!
Moreover, Metternich goes so far as to describe Treilhard and Bonnier as "loups-garous" (werewolves) and "plus sauvages que des ours blancs" (wilder than polar bears).

The memoirs of Lavallette (1831) concur that, at Rastadt, the contrast between the French and the Germans was striking. But, Lavallette adds that the Germans were so frightened of the French Republic that they were always on their best behavior in the presence of Treilhard and Bonnier.

Stories about the Rastadt distribution of copies of Die Stimme der Menschheit are notably published in newspapers in France, and also in Germany. Here, we quote from the Paris newspaper, Le Publiciste. This refers to a memorandum given out at the March 21st session of the congress (March 30, 1798):
Among the various memoranda which were distributed to all the members of the delegation of the Empire, there was a pamphlet called, "The Cry of Humanity Addressed to all the Envoys of the Powers of Europe at Rastadt" (le cri de l'humanité adressé à tous les envoyés des puissances de l'Europe à Rastadt). Therein, it is requested that, in crafting the coming peace, the Congress will take up the improvement of the situation of the Jews.
Le Moniteur (April 1, 1798) says The Cry of Humanity was distributed at the March 22nd sitting. Like Le PublicisteLe Conservateur indicates March 21st as the circulation date, but significantly gives the pamphlet's title as (April 3, 1798): "Avis de l'humanité adressé aux envoyés des puissances de l'Europe à Rastadt" (humanity's "warning" addressed to the envoys of the European powers at Rastadt). Here, the meaningful variation of the title suggests a separate translation from an original text in German. Moreover, Le Conservateur concludes with a more specific reference to amelioration of "the civil status of the Jews" in Germany.

The Rastadt Congress never produced the anticipated treaty, due to the 1799 outbreak of the War of the Second Coalition. Nonetheless, The Cry of Humanity is clearly linked to the cause of Revolutionary France, by its: (1) extraordinary coverage in the Paris press; (2) circulation to all the German delegates, with no mention of French recipients; (3) forthright rejection of the political and geographical integrity of Germany; (4) celebration of the newfound freedom which Jews enjoy in France and her sister republics; (5) focus on liberating the Jews of Germany, rather than simply ending German discrimination against Jews, as citizens of the Batavian Republic; (6) consistent revolutionary ideology, such as solid secularism and emphasis on the human rights of Black slaves; (7) long, formal dedication to famous philosemite, Christian von Dohm, who at Rastadt was one of the delegates of France-friendly Prussia; (8) dire threat that Napoleon will cross the Rhine to impose Jewish emancipation, notably dovetailing with the fact that—outside Die Stimme der Menschheit—he was then threatening to resume hostilities to force quick agreement on cession to France of the left bank of the Rhine; (9) failure to indicate publisher, printer, and place of publication; (10) attribution of authorship to anonymous "Weltbürger" (citizen of the world); and (11) perceived ties to the French delegation, as indicated in two May 1798 German publications.

Christophe Grund taught literature and philosophy at the Thurn and Taxis Cadet Academy (Pagerie) in Regensburg. He sent to the Rastadt Congress, a sixty-page pamphlet, entitled "Is a civic improvement of the Jews in Germany in conformity with justice and wisdom?" (Ist eine bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden in Deutschland dem Recht und Klugheit gemäß?) "Yes!" answered Grund, despite his own rather negative assessment of the character, culture, and intellectual ability of the Jews of Germany. Grund believed that full citizenship for the Jews would gradually elevate their—alleged—unrefined taste and weak powers of reasoning. Thus, despite his strong antisemitic prejudices, Grund championed emancipation (May 1798): "The Jews are our brothers too! And, it would be a memorial of a great work of the Enlightenment to have this embodied in the immortal text of the current Rastadt Peace." For present purposes, it suffices that Grund began his peculiar essay, by saying that the French Delegation at Rastadt had received a specific text, about the unhappy lot of Jews in Germany, for use in negotiations with the German delegates.

The Cry of Humanity's connection to Revolutionary France is also suggested in a review of Die Stimme der Menschheit. This critique appears in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung of Jena (May 26, 1798). The reviewer supports emancipating the Jews of Germany, but decries the screed as a highly partisan piece, likely to harm the Jewish cause. Clearly, he believes that, in Germany, just arguments for Jewish emancipation are tarred by association with French revolutionary doctrine and practice.

Like Napoleon, the author of Die Stimme der Menschheit is an anti-clerical Deist. To the point, Die Stimme der Menschheit says a "citizen of the world" is indifferent to the particular historical religions (1798): "In allerley Volk, wer Gott fürchtet und Recht thut, jedem gleich angenehm seyn muß" (everyone must welcome equally whoever fears God and acts justly, without discrimination as to nation).

Consistent with revolutionary ideology, Die Stimme der Menschheit repeatedly affirms Jewish peoplehood. Jews are portrayed as a "numerous" and "oppressed People" (eine gedrückte Nation). "It remains a distinct nation under pressure and suffering" (es blieb eine eigene Nation unter Druck und Leiden). But, Die Stimme der Menschheit sidesteps the revolutionary doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples. We are assured that Jews are not seeking a separate Jewish State on some lands in Germany, but just asking for the ordinary rights of man.

Die Stimme der Menschheit is mainline revolutionary propaganda. The immediate diplomatic intent (subtext) is to scare the German rulers, so that they would be quicker to cede the jurisdictions, west of the Rhine River. But, whether in terms of its subtext or main message, the pamphlet is an instrument of the foreign policy of Revolutionary France. To the point, French generals and diplomats at that time seldom miss a chance to publicly champion equal rights for Jews. Thus, it is no accident that the paper is a full-blown polemic, arguing for the complete emancipation of the Jews of Germany.

The pamphlet warns that Jews already support the revolution. The German princes are put on notice that they have an important choice to make. They must quickly enact emancipatory decrees of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichs-schlüsse). Otherwise, they face the high cost of revolution. Napoleon will lead an army across the Rhine to impose laws that emancipate the Jews:
Weise und große Repräsentanten Deutschlands! Ihr habts in Euer Macht, gerechte Wünsche zu befriedigen, ohne daß sie so theuer zu stehen kommen, wie in Frankreich, in Italien, in Holland und jenseits des Rheins, ohne daß die Gesetzgebung Buonapartes auch in dem diesseitingen Deutschland geltend gemacht werden darf. Deutsche Reichs-schlüsse sind hinreichend noch jedes fehlende Glück zu ergänzen, und die Stimme der leidenden Menschheit in allgemeine Jubeltöne umzuwandeln.

[Wise and great representatives of Germany! You have it in your power to satisfy legitimate wishes, without having to pay such a high price, as in France, Italy, Holland, and on the other side of the Rhine. Furthermore, you can do so, without bringing Buonaparte's legislation into effect, also in Germany, on this side of the Rhine. Decrees of the Holy Roman Empire can still suffice to make up for any unlucky deficiency, and to transform the cry of suffering humanity into a general shout of joy.]

Die Stimme der Menschheit is anonymous. However, we know that "Cranz" is the name of its author, because an enterprising publisher prepared a well-designed and comprehensive congress handbook to serve the delegates and to inform the general public. Namely, Jacob Decker printed Handbuch des Congresses zu Rastadt (Rastadt-Basel, 1798). This includes a descriptive bibliography of the various works circulated at the congress.

No 69 is “Die Stimme der [sic] Menschlichkeit.” Here, we are told that copies of No 69 were “sent to the congress representatives under a seal, on which there was a wreath of roses” (wurde an die Congressgesandten unter einem Siegel geschickt, worauf sich ein Kranz von Rosen befand). Close by, No 71 is Andreas Riem's aforementioned, anonymous, Apologie für die unterdrückte Judenschaft in Deutschland. There, the Handbook offers a companion reference to No 69 which says (1798):
Hr. Kriegsrat Cranz hat in öffentlichen Blättern sich als Verfasser gennant und einen besonderen Nachtrag versprochen (Mr. War Councilor Cranz has in published papers named himself as author and has promised a special sequel).
This clearly refers to Hamburg-based August Friedrich Cranz (1737-1801) who was a Lutheran who never forgot that Jesus was a Jew. Mostly self-educated, Cranz was a fierce champion of the Enlightenment, but never a Jacobin. He opposed surviving medieval feudal rights that interfered with economic freedom. He strongly believed in the principle of the separation of Church and State. He was also specially interested in education, including making modern programs open to Jewish children.

This "Cranz" identification is confirmed in the “literary notices and news” of the 7th number of the 1798 Schleswig-Holsteinische Provinzialberichte (Schleswig-Holstein provincial reports), published in Altona and Kiel. There, the description of two polemic supplements suggests that Cranz is the author of Die Stimme der Menschheit (1798):

Heus und die Juden, oder Nachtrag zu der sämtlichen paciscirenden Abgeordenten in Rastadt insinuierten Schrift, die Stimme der Menschheit, von einem Weltbürger, betitelt, jetzt zur Publicität befördert von Cranz. Altona 1798. 16 S. 4.

[Heus and the Jews, or sequel to the text insinuated to all the peacemaking representatives in Rastadt, entitled, The Voice of Humanity, by a citizen of the world, now disclosed to the public by Cranz. Altona 1798. 16 pages. Quarto.]

Die Ehre hamburgischer Staatsbürger ohne Unterschied der Nationen, nebst einem Anhange: Hr. D. Niemann gegen die Juden. Zweiter Beitrag zur Stimme der Menschheit von Cranz. Altona 1798. 40 S. 8.

[The honor of Hamburg citizens without discrimination by nation, along with an appendix: Mr. {Johann Karl Nikolaus} Niemann, M.D., against the Jews. Second supplement to the Voice of Humanity by Cranz. Altona 1798. 40 pages. Octavo.]

These two Cranz pamphlets also fight for the civic equality of the Jews. Lively literary debate had been triggered by the antisemitic innkeeper, P.C. Heus. He had inserted, in the Altonaer Mercur and the Hamburger Zeitung, a public announcement that he would exclude Jews from his establishment in Eimsbüttel (April 1798):

Unable to amend the prejudice, I find myself obliged to indicate that I carry on no business for the Jewish Nation (Unfähig, das Vorurtheil zu berichtigen, finde ich mich genöthigt, anzuzeigen, daß ich für die jüdische Nation keine Wirtschaft halte).
Dr. Niemann replied to Cranz's pamphlet, Heus and the Jews. Niemann published, in Hamburg in 1798, a brochure entitled, Etwas zur Berichtigung der Urtheile des Publikums über die bekannte öffentliche Anzeige des Herrn Heus in Eimsbüttel (something to correct the public's judgments about the well known advertisement of Mr. Heus in Eimsbüttel). Therein, Niemann observed that, in Heus and the Jews, Cranz had casually declared himself to be author of Die Stimme der Menschheit. Moreover, Niemann argued that there was nothing new in excluding Jews (1798):
It is well known that the Jewish nation has, from time immemorial, been barred from visiting all the more respectable places of entertainment in the Hamburg area, and that even the most prominent merchants of this nation are denied entry to the coffee houses in the city.

News of Heus's offending advertisement spread to other parts of Germany. For example, in Heus and the Jews, Cranz pointed to the Berliner Zeitung (May 5, 1798) which deeply regretted that such a discriminatory newspaper announcement could still be made at the end of the 18th century. As a longtime public intellectual, Cranz—from bitter personal experience—knew a lot about the grounds for censorship in Germany. In Die Ehre hamburgischer Staatsbürger, Cranz reveals (1798):
In Leipzig, somebody wanted to have inserted, in the newspapers privileged by the Elector of Saxony, several advertisements for the [antisemitic] announcements of the friends of Heus. The Censor would not let it pass, for the specified reason that it would be too injurious to a Nation [the Jews] which contributed so essentially to the Leipzig Fair and the benefit of the country!!!
Die Ehre hamburgischer Staatsbürger has a twelve-page introduction which is nothing less than a 1798 meditation on the various causes of antisemitism. But, unlike many of his contemporaries, Cranz does not blame the victim. Apart from anything else, he offers much criticism of Voltaire's hatred for Jews. By contrast, Cranz praises William Wilberforce's contemporary campaign in England, for the abolition of the African slave trade. With reference to the Enlightenment, Cranz also explains how and why he embarked on twenty years of advocacy of civil rights for the Jews.

Cranz is anxious to dispel the allegation that he took up their cause, only for financial reward. Such a charge was made in 1798 by various supporters of innkeeper Heus, including Julius Friedrich Knüppeln. In 1798, Knüppeln anonymously published two pamphlets in Hamburg. The first is entitled, Verteidigung des Gastwirths P.C. Heus zu Eimsbüttel gegen die ungerechten Beschuldigungen einiger Skribenten und ein Wort über die Juden (defense of the innkeeper P.C. Heus at Eimsbüttel against the unjust accusations of several scribblers and a word about the Jews). The second is entitled, Über die Politische, Religiöse, und Moralische Verfassung der Juden von Einem Kosmopoliten (concerning the political, religious, and moral disposition of the Jews, by a cosmopolite). The first Knüppeln pamphlet reports "the rumor that the Jews have hired Cranz and that they have filled his purse" (das Gerücht, dass die Juden Cranz gedungen und seine Börse gefüllt hätten). The second Knüppeln pamphlet alleges (1798):
The Kreigsrat Cranz—who in his earlier works painted the Jews in dark colors—received in the year 1798 from Hamburg Jewry, a sum of money and became their great praiser (Lobredner), in the brochure Heus and the Jews.
By contrast, financial reward for Cranz was defended by philosemite Hans Velten. He judged that a distinguished writer like Cranz was fully entitled to be richly paid for writing Heus and the Jews. Velten referred to "the considerable sums" for which Cranz "sold his pen, for the benefit of the Jewish nation, to various wealthy members of Hamburg Jewry." Velten's assessment appeared in a forty-page pamphlet, entitled Hans Velten, Gastwirth zu Wandsbeck, an seinen Gevatter Heus, Gastwirth in Eimsbüttel (Hans Velten, innkeeper at Wandsbeck, to his godfather Heus, innkeeper in Eimsbüttel). This brochure was published in Wandsbeck in 1798.

Before 1785 in Berlin, it had also been said that Cranz was paid to write for the Jews. This explains why the introduction to Die Ehre hamburgischer Staatsbürger twice insists that less money is to be gained by defending the Jews than by attacking them, as did Voltaire. Cranz regrets that "the defence of the Jews is only welcome to the better, but also the smaller part of the public."

By contrast to Die Stimme der Menschheit, the two 1798 supplements by Cranz specify that they are printed in adjacent Altona, where he specifically says that he wrote Die Ehre. Altona was a Danish jurisdiction. Until stiffer enforcement began in November 1799, Altona was often chosen for printing and publishing to avoid the stricter censorship that prevailed in Hamburg and so many other places in Germany. According to l'Ami des Lois, the new Danish press edict included a total ban on printing anonymous works. L'Ami des Lois, added (October 16, 1799): "The authors of writings offensive to foreign powers will be locked up in houses of correction."

The topic of Jewish emancipation was then especially current in Hamburg, according to the Schleswig-Holsteinische Provinzial-berichte (late 1798):
In the last few months, in Hamburg and Altona, there have appeared lots of partly noteworthy and partly insignificant pamphlets, about the civil rights of the Jews, about their deserved or undeserved exclusion, about their abilities or disabilities to be put on an equal footing with the Christian citizens.
For example, look at Hamburg's Neueste Staats-Anzeigen, gesammelt und herausgegeben von Freunden der Publizität und der Staatskunde (current political news collected and published by friends of public information and political science). There, volume four has two articles favoring Jewish emancipation. The first is entitled, "Remarks on Herr Kriegsrat [Friedrich] Genz's Memorandum to His Majesty Frederick William III, respectfully submitted on his ascension to the Throne, on November 16, 1797" (Über die Schrift des Herrn Kriegsrath [Friedrich] Genz: Seiner Königl. Majestät Friedrich Wilhlem III bei der Thronbesteigung allunterthänigst überreicht, am 16. November 1797). This anonymous critique champions religious non-discrimination, separation of Church and State, and abolition of the poll-tax on Jews (1798):
As long as civic advantages in a country are still linked to the confession of certain religious opinions, and the followers of any other sect are excluded from them; as long as there are still some churches which are only tolerated; as long as Jews still pay poll-tax (Leibzoll); as long as there is still someone free to ask a citizen about his creed, and priests may, under certain circumstances, plunder him if he enters into marriage with a person from another church—for so long, it cannot be denied that, in such a country, there is still compulsion with regard to religion (Religionszwang).
The second item is an anonymous report entitled, "About the Jews in Denmark" (Über die Juden in Dännemark). This begins with a paragraph on the general situation for Jews in Europe (1798):
Little by little, we come to the point in time when people of the Jewish religion will be equated with people of the Christian religion, and when this equality will be generally accepted. Of course, the Jewish Nation is still very much disadvantaged, just as the situation of the peasant who is bound to the land is inferior to that of the free peasant. But, this fact does not prove that the Jew must be legally suppressed. [David] Friedländer, Moses Mendelssohn, and many others are eloquent evidence that Jews, just like Christians, can be learned men. Various officers in the French army have shown that Jews can distinguish themselves through bravery. If only Jews were given the opportunity, rather than held down by oppression! If only their spirit would not be discouraged by an ice-cold and scornful reception that is both crude and unethical!
The emancipation of the Jews of Denmark is also discussed by Cranz in Die Ehre hamburgischer Staatsbürger.

Cranz was mostly philosemitic, with an impressive track-record on Jewish topics. Aspiring to be the German Voltaire, he was a controversial Berlin critic and cutting satirist. He enjoyed both royal protection and a pension from the Prussian King Frederick the Great (d. 1786). Cranz notably succeeded in provoking a literary debate with Moses Mendelssohn (d. 1786), about whether the Jewish philosopher had adopted principles that put him on the road to conversion to Christianity. And for certain, Cranz and the humanitarian reformer Christian von Dohm were well known to each other. Including Die Stimme and Die Ehre, Cranz's writings generally contain abundant references to Prussia.

Especially in Hamburg, Cranz had to eke out a living by writing. But, whether in his Berlin period or later, Cranz was accused of accepting partisan commissions for producing polemical works to order. This aspect of a "work made for hire" deserves special consideration, if only because of the pamphlet's stunning threat that Napoleon will cross the Rhine to enforce the emancipation of the Jews. It is hard to imagine that Cranz acted on his own initiative and at his own expense. He must have had strong political and financial inducements. Powerful protection was probably prerequisite, before he dared to publicly threaten Germany's princes. Also audacious was sending such an inflammatory text to the Rastadt Congress, mistakenly expected to be a major event in European history.

The fact that Cranz wrote Die Stimme der Menschheit certainly does not exclude the probability that he did so for pay. If so, he might have accepted an attractive invitation from revolutionary Jews and/or French agents or spies. Neutral Hamburg then had very important commercial and political links to France. For centuries, France maintained spies, diplomats, and consuls in Hamburg. For example, Citizen Bilger—Bonnier's private secretary at Rastadt—came to the congress after consular work in Hamburg. That city was then notorious as Northern Europe's center for international intrigue and espionage. Moreover, there was a large Jewish community (circa 10,000) in both Hamburg and neighboring Altona.

For Jews, polemicists, publishers, and printers—freedom of religion and of expression were greater in Altona, which was under the more tolerant rule of the King of Denmark, as Duke of Holstein. For example, Paris tasked (February 16, 1798) Claude Roberjot, French Minister at Hamburg, with discovering the identity of the author of a recent pamphlet that had deeply insulted Napoleon and the French Republic. The offending brochure had been printed in Altona, and then distributed in Hamburg and beyond. If compelled to guess, I would say that Die Stimme der Menschheit was also printed in Altona.

France marches east!

"For the first time, the French flag flies on the banks of the Adriatic, facing ancient Macedonia which can be reached by sail in only 24 hours" (les couleurs françaises flottent pour la première fois sur les bords de l'Adriatique, en face et à 24 heures de navigation de l'ancienne Macédoine). These highly suggestive words are included in Napoleon's proclamation to the Army of Italy on March 10, 1797.

Legislator and diplomat, François Barbé-Marbois, on June 26, 1797, spoke to the Republic's upper chamber, le Conseil des Anciens, about secret agents and the conduct of France's foreign relations. His words are reported in Le Moniteur (July 2, 1797):
The most important operations are consummated, not in his [Minister of External Relations] offices, but rather under the tent of the generals of the Republic. That is to say, it is the bayonet that cuts the quills of our policies, and it is the War Department that picks up the expense of our negotiations.

From mid 1797, General Bonaparte became the Ottoman Empire's next-door neighbor in the region of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas—pertinently including Ancona (Italy); the Ionian Islands; and enclaves on the Balkan coast at Butrinto, Parga, Preveza and Vonizza. There, la division française du Levant was under the command of Napoleon as General-in-Chief of the Army of Italy. Napoleon shared his strategic insight with the Directory (August 16, 1797):
The islands of Corfu, Zante and Cephalonia are of greater interest for us than all of Italy combined. I believe that, if we were forced to choose, it would be better to restore Italy to the [Habsburg] Emperor and keep the four islands which are a source of wealth and prosperity for our commerce. The empire of the Turks is crumbling day by day; the possession of these islands will put us in a position to support it as long as that will be possible, or to take our share of it.
At the end of the War of the First Coalition, Napoleon's mouthpiece Le Courrier de l'Armée d'Italie describes his signature (October 17, 1797) of the Treaty of Campo-Formio with Austria (November 4, 1797):
It is said that the French Republic also acquires Corfu, Zante, Cephalonia, Cerigo and several parts of the territory of Venetian Albania, adjacent to these islands. This new situation opens more than a hope for the future.

Revolutionaries target the Ottoman Empire

From Mombello Monferrato near Milan, Napoleon orders his fellow Corsican, the Italian-speaking, General Antoine Gentili to mount a secret expedition to quickly seize the Venetian island of Corfu. He also suggests that Gentili take along five or six Corsican officers, also able to speak the local language of government (Italian) and accustomed to dealing with Mediterranean islanders (May 26, 1797):
If the inhabitants of the country are well disposed to independence [from Venice], you are to flatter their taste. Do not fail to speak of [ancient] Greece, Athens and Sparta in the various proclamations which you will make.
Napoleon adds that he is sending "distinguished man of letters" Arnault to Corfu to: provide Napoleon with detailed reports about the situation of the Ionian Islands and the adjacent Balkan coast; help organize the civil administration; and, assist Gentili in "the production of manifestos." The aim of these proclamations is to stir revolutionary feeling in the Ottoman Balkans. To the point, Napoleon wrote from Milan to Arnault (July 30, 1797):
I want you to start Greek-language printing on Corfu, from where you will establish your communications with the Maniotes, and with Albania via the enclaves that we possess there. In this way, we can from time to time circulate there, some writings that might enlighten the Greeks and prepare the renaissance of freedom (la liberté) in this most interesting part of Europe.
Napoleon's request for propaganda in Greek is highly significant as recognizing that language for use in politics and government, after a hiatus of several centuries. But, preparing "the renaissance of freedom" required, not just Greek, but some other languages too. Thus, in conformity with his orders, a press dispatched to Corfu began printing in Greek, French and Italian. For example, a proclamation printed in both Greek and Italian announced that "with the establishment of a press, those kings still sitting on their shaky thrones tremble, their iron yoke has been lifted from off the necks of the people by revolution."

That same press was soon used to print, pertinently in Italian, the lectures (discorsi) delivered in the synagogue on Corfu. Italian was one of the languages commonly used by the Jews of the Adriatic and Italy. Essential for the conduct of trade and international business, Italian was also easily read by many Jews of Salonika, the Aegean Islands, and other places of the Eastern Mediterranean.

For sure, the Greeks were not the only target of French revolutionary propaganda. This is clear from careful reading of an October 25, 1797 letter from Constantinople, first published at Wesel (Rheinland Prussia) in the newspaper Courrier du Bas-Rhin, then reprinted in the Journal de Francfort (December 15, 1797):
The warnings which the Sublime Porte continues to get from the Pashas, commanding in Albania and in its Western possessions, absolutely contradict the assurances which the ambassador of France has again given to it recently, on the subject of the spread of revolutionary principles. Their reports in this regard are very alarming for the [Ottoman] government. They positively announce that it is sought to incite the peoples (soulever les peuples) by means of propagandists whose number and audacity increase more and more. [...] Some of the Sultan's ministers appear to be persuaded by the protests of the ambassador, but others claim to know that the French are trying to ignite Greece (soulever la Grèce), in order to get for themselves considerable support in the Archipelago, in the event of war. Whatever it might be, it is most certain and even proven by the fact that the French principles are already spread in the capital of the Sultans, and even much closer to the walls of the palace (Sérail) than the Ottoman ministers imagine. They are propagated among all the classes of the inhabitants (parmi toutes les classes des habitans), and their progress, although silent, cannot fail to become deadly for a government as despotic as that of the Turks. Most of the Greeks, among others (entre autres), are so imbued with these new principles, that when they compare their present state to freedom (la liberté) and equality, they are practically ecstatic, and even ready to pass from ecstasy to frenzy.
To radicalize the various Peoples of the Ottoman Empire, Napoleon and his agents were regularly using printed proclamations, pamphlets, brochures, leaflets, letters, poems, songs, music, dances, engravings; and also symbols like red caps, tricolor cockades, and liberty trees. The Near East was then swarming with French agents, and awash in revolutionary propaganda. This was confirmed by repeated 1797-8 regional reports to Constantinople, written in Ottoman-Turkish by senior local officials.

In 1797-8, Livorno, Rome, Pisa and Venice had Hebrew-language presses and Jewish typesetters ready to meet the needs of the new revolutionary order. Moreover, Napoleon was then directing the positioning of presses, equipped with characters for printing propaganda in French; German; Hungarian; Italian; Greek; Arabic; and also in Ottoman-Turkish, which for at least four centuries was notably the predominant language of government across the Near and Mideast.

Sultan Selim III's worst fears would have been confirmed by Le Moniteur (February 13, 1798): "Sudden revolution [in the Ottoman Empire] will be the fruit of Greek-language writings which arrive in profusion and which are distributed among the People to prepare them for a great change." Consistent was the assessment of the Journal de Francfort (March 2, 1798): "At Constantinople, there is no longer any doubt that the French are the secret instigators of the insurrection which has broken out in European Turkey, and which threatens the Porte with the greatest dangers."

Propaganda to justify seizing Egypt

During early 1798, Napoleon was mostly in Paris. On February 23rd, he secretly suggested that "an expedition to the Levant to threaten the trade of the Indies" might perhaps be more feasible than an invasion of England. On March 5th, the Directory secretly agreed that he would undertake the campaign in Egypt. On April 12th, he was secretly ordered to seize Egypt and cut a ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, he was appointed General-in-Chief of "the Army of the East" (l'armée d'Orient). This, the official name of his command, was initially kept secret, to conceal his final destination. From late winter into spring, he was already in charge of every aspect of this secret project, likely including preparation of the pertinent propaganda. This communications effort was simultaneously aimed at advancing both his own political career and the foreign-policy goals of the Revolutionary French Republic.

Under the government of the Revolutionary Directory, the influential Paris weekly La Décade philosophique was, ideologically, France's premier periodical. It was religiously read by the Republic's leadership and most certainly by Napoleon, who for a time carefully cultivated close relations with its editors and writers. Many of them were identified as among the outstanding intellectuals dubbed "les idéologues."  They were also prominently represented in the new Institut National, where Napoleon was proudly a member from 1797.

Formerly a Roman-Catholic monk, Joachim Le Breton
was one of the editors of the highly influential journal
La Décade philosophique.

Most likely party to the great secret that the French army would soon set sail for Alexandria was the former Catholic monk, Joachim Le Breton. From 1796 to 1802, he was head of the Fine Arts Office (Bureau des Beaux-Arts) of the Ministry of the Interior. He was also a member of the Institut National, and one of the editors of La Décade philosophique. He was then playing a key part in handling the exquisite art treasures that Napoleon had looted during his first campaigns in Italy (1796-7). Le Breton enthusiastically supported Napoleon's coup d'état that ended the French Revolution (November 1799). Under the Consulate, Le Breton was a legislator in the Tribunate. With the fall of Napoleon's regime, Le Breton fled to Brazil, where he died in 1819.

Long specializing in Beaux-Arts, this senior official of the Ministry of the Interior, so conveniently in April 1798, twice prominently publishes the same principal, public-policy piece about the Mideast. He seems to suggest French occupation of Egypt and Ottoman Syria, whether "by force or by negotiation" (occuper par force ou par négociation l'Égypte et la Syrie). And surely, from this disjunctive formula, it is no great leap to "force and negotiation" which, as discussed below, was already Napoleon's secret Mideast plan. So, we have to wonder: Just how do these extraordinary publications happen? We can well guess that Napoleon asked Le Breton to hurry to write "Considerations on Egypt and Syria and the Power of the English in India."

In the normal course, Napoleon might have tried to entrust this important propaganda task to a more famous member of the Institut National. That is to point to Napoleon's revered mentor, the great Mideast expert and philosopher of history, Constantin Volney. However, Volney had not yet returned from a three-year stay in the United States. (Volney's name reappears several times later in this study.)

"Considerations on Egypt and Syria"

"Considerations on Egypt and Syria and the Power of the English in India" is a two-part article, signed "L.B." for Le Breton. It was published in April 1798, both in La Décade philosophique on the 9th and the 19th, and in La Clef du Cabinet des Souverains on the 16th and the 30th. This lengthy essay is based on geopolitical ideas that had long been discussed by 18th-century French diplomats.

In "Considerations," Le Breton offers nothing less than a strategic and moral justification for the intended invasion and colonization of Egypt and Greater Syria. The moral rationale is the famous, French "civilizing mission" (la mission civilisatrice), though that important term is absent from the text. Those two regions are identified as new venues for large-scale European settlement, instead of the Americas. Napoleon too then thought that those two Mideast places ought to be extensively colonized by Europeans. In this colonial connection, Le Breton believes that Jews have special attributes that could significantly help France in its global struggle against England (April 19, 1798):
Everywhere, they [Jews] display sobriety, persistence, industry, activity. They have capital and commercial connections. These qualities and these means are not utilized as efficiently as they might be for their own benefit and for the broader society. It is therefore worthy of the attention of an enlightened government to consider whether it would be easy to do better in this regard, and thereby get for itself both advantage and glory.
Le Breton fantasizes that Jews are so rich that they are capable of underwriting the cost of regenerating not only Ottoman Syria but Egypt too: "Their fortunes are easy to transport; men and gold will flow; they will supply enough, not only to make industry flourish, but to meet the expenses of the revolution in Syria and Egypt."

With greater accuracy, Le Breton highlights the Jewish People's longevity; and its enduring love for its aboriginal homeland, for the city of Jerusalem and for the site of the Temple. Indicting Christian bigotry, he portrays the Jews as a long-persecuted People of perhaps three million. Referring to "the destiny of this people," Le Breton judges Jews capable of forming "the body of a nation" in "Palestine." To that place, "they would rush from the four corners of the globe if given the signal." They will be won over to "our Revolution" and forever grateful to France. Here, Le Breton is clearly inspired by the then prominent idea of la grande nation, though that particular phrase does not appear in the text.

Le Breton is perhaps following the playbook of the French philosopher Voltaire. On July 6, 1771, Voltaire had written a letter (published 1784) to the Empress Catherine of Russia, who was waging war (1768-1774) against the Ottomans. Therein, Voltaire suggests that she use her influence with her Egyptian partner, the Mamluk potentate Ali Bey, "to have the temple of Jerusalem rebuilt, and there to recall all the Jews." Normally, Voltaire is sharply critical of both Jews and Judaism. Thus, in his letter to Catherine the Great, his real intention is more likely to spite the Catholic Church, his usual target. Though Le Breton does not refer to Voltaire, he mentions Ali Bey's willingness to sell Jerusalem to the Jews of Livorno.

As an ex-monk, Le Breton had to have known that, in returning devout, practicing Jews to their aboriginal homeland, the Revolutionary French Republic would (apart from anything else) be joining the revered Voltaire in mocking Catholic doctrine. This stipulated that mass conversion to Christianity was the prerequisite to the restoration of the Jews. For revolutionaries, it was a bonus that sending hundreds of thousands of authentic, unconverted Jews back to Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬) would outrage Catholics, by contradicting key Christian prophecy about the end of days.

The Paris daily l'Ami des Lois (June 8, 1798).
This newspaper was reputed to express the views of the
Revolutionary-French Government and to be
sometimes financed by the Ministry of the General Police.

"Lettre d'un Juif à ses frères"

(The full French-language text of "Lettre d'un Juif à ses frères" is transcribed in the Appendix in Part 2.) The anonymous "Letter from a Jew to His Brothers" was written either by Napoleon or by someone else who had either read, or knew the contents of, the Executive Directory's closely guarded instructions for the Egyptian campaign—namely, the top-secret, Arrêté du Directoire exécutif du 23 germinal an VI (April 12, 1798).

Lettre d'un Juif attracted much attention in both France and beyond, partly because it occupied (June 8, 1798) the whole front page of the daily newspaper l'Ami des Lois, known to be especially close to the Directory, and sometimes financed by the Ministry of the General Police. For example, l'Ami des Lois was recognized as "halb-offizielle" (semi-official) by the Allgemeine Zeitung of Munich (May 13, 1799).

The subject matter is governmental. The style is terse and energetic. The tone is assertive, urgent, statesmanlike. World Jewry is told to quickly organize itself to ask France to negotiate with Turkey for establishing a Jewish government in Jerusalem. That is the crux of this rather strange article, which is almost certainly official propaganda, principally designed to prepare the public for eventual receipt of the astonishing news of the French invasion of Egypt. Able to write in Italian, the unknown author is a clever, lateral thinker, who is skillfully able to kill four birds with one stone. Namely, the rhetoric here speaks to the dreams of France, revolutionaries, Christians and Jews.

We shall see that revolutionaries are the primary audience. However, Lettre d'un Juif is designed to simultaneously appeal to Jews and Christians, both of whom are expected to enjoy the reference to Jerusalem as "this sacred city" (cette cité sacrée). Also with some resonance among Jews is the mostly Christian concept, "l'empire de Jérusalem" (the empire of Jerusalem). This millenarian expression is exploited to ensure that the imminent news of the French landing in Alexandria will spark thoughts, among Jews about return to Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬), and among Christians about the onset of the end of days.

Lettre d'un Juif was not completed before mid-April 1798. We reach this conclusion from its reference to the birth of the Revolutionary Roman Republic (February 15th), and because it too perfectly dovetails with the Directory's top-secret orders (April 12th): (i) to maintain friendship with Sultan Selim III, while conquering Ottoman Egypt; (ii) to soon start digging a ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez; and (iii) to dominate the Red Sea, as the gateway to India.

Lettre d'un Juif is undoubtedly companion to this great official secret. This is hardly surprising, because at that time it was common to find, inserted in various Paris newspapers, anonymous articles that had been written by government officials, ministers, or even by one of the Directors. In addition, the Directory then had a small Bureau politique of official writers who rapidly produced timely propaganda, according to need.

As for Napoleon himself, he had been writing and publishing propaganda since the age of twenty-one. For example, there is his 1791, Lettre de M. Buonaparte à Matteo Buttafuoco, député de la Corse à l'Assemblée nationale (letter of Mr. Buonaparte to Matteo Buttafuoco, Deputy of Corsica in the National Assembly). Also noteworthy is his 1793, Le Souper de Beaucaire (the supper at Beaucaire). Le Courrier de l’Armée d’Italie and La France vue de l’Armée d’Italie (France seen from the Army of Italy) were two newspapers which Napoleon had created, in summer 1797, to spread his own ideas and to advance his political ambitions.

With regard to anonymity, Napoleon on Saint Helena confessed to O'Meara that he could not recall ever telling anybody about his secret authorship of Le Déjeuner de trois amis (the lunch of three friends)Is this a reference to The Supper at Beaucaire? In any event, Napoleon speaking Italian, told O'Meara that Le Déjeuner de trois amis had "produced great effect in France."

The long history of Napoleon's propaganda reveals that he liked experimenting with various literary genres and voices. To the point, he relished role playing, including writing both for and from the parochial viewpoint of particular religions or nationalities. He occasionally penned anonymous letters or articles for insertion in various newspapers. Based on the generous personal attention that Napoleon had given to such anonymous newspaper propaganda in Italy, we can guess that a key, strategic, government item like Lettre d'un Juif is maybe from his pen or perhaps prepared under his control, at some time before he sailed from Toulon on May 19th.

Readers of l'Ami des Lois are specifically told: "Be assured that the philosophy which guides the leaders of this sublime nation [the Revolutionary French Republic] would cause them to welcome our request." If not Napoleon, who is Anonymous that he can so authoritatively promise that France's rulers would approve the plan for Jewish return to the ancestral homeland?

This is a question that probably occurred to one or more of the wary governments of Austria, Prussia, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. These were the States where the overwhelming majority of the world's circa three million Jews then lived. When Lettre d'un Juif was published on June 8th, none of these countries was yet at war with Revolutionary France. Nonetheless, they looked toward Paris with great suspicion. This constellation helps us understand why the French official who wrote Lettre d'un Juif remained anonymous.

Lettre d'un Juif highlights both "Israelites" and "Jews." Shifting terminology as to the name of this People does not distance us from Napoleon. To be noted is a March 1789 workbook where, in the space of a single page, young Napoleon uses all three of the terms: Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews.

Why does Lettre d'un Juif specifically say that it is "translated from the Italian" (traduite de l'italien)? This explicit translation claim has been dismissed as a device for concealing the supposed fact that the original version is the French text, just as published on June 8, 1798.

A possible motive for falsely alleging a translation from a foreign language might perhaps be to suggest that the writer is truly at arm's length from the Directory and Napoleon. But, this explanation does not make much sense. The salient reference to Italian, if anything, points to Napoleon. His mother tongue is Italian and he has just played a spectacular role in Italy. In the European imagination of spring 1798, Napoleon is inextricably linked to the topic of Italy.

Furthermore, if the translation claim is a pure invention, why arbitrarily choose Italian? Hebrew would so obviously be a cover story more pertinent and plausible, and also more distant from both the Directory and Napoleon. By contrast to such linguistic speculation, there is fair certainty that Napoleon was by 1798 practically bilingual, and therefore fully capable of writing Lettre d'un Juif, whether in French or Italian.

So, why would Napoleon opt to write the original version of Lettre d'un Juif in Italian? Firstly, he cannot write in Hebrew. Secondly, he knows from personal experience that many Mediterranean Jews are able to read Italian which, in the 18th century, is still the commercial, coastal language of international business, all the way from Gibraltar to ConstantinopleThirdly, he does not intend Lettre d'un Juif to be exclusively for Jews, which also explains its prominent publication in French translation.

Both above and below, we can see evidence that, starting no later than 1797, Napoleon is aiming revolutionary propaganda at all the subject Peoples of the Ottoman Empire. In this "communications" context, revolutionary agents in May 1798 are perhaps already circulating printed leaflets of the Italian original of Lettre d'un Juif, including to Jews of Italy, the Adriatic and the Ottoman Empire.

This important conjecture is supported by the Paris newspaper La Feuille Universelle which says (June 9, 1798): "A Jew named Mathéo has just published in Italian a letter addressed to his brothers, in which he proposes to them to re-establish the Empire of Jerusalem." Drawn from La Feuille Universelle, this same Mathéo story about a letter in Italian is reprinted in the Journal de Francfort (June 16, 1798) and the Evening Mail (June 15-18, 1798). So perhaps, there may well have been an original version of Lettre d'un Juif in Italian. If so, do we believe some obscure "Mathéo" to be the author? No, because Lettre d'un Juif 's essential logic is solidly predicated on knowledge of State secrets then still closely held within the French government. To the point, Anonymous has either read, or knows the contents of, the Directory's top-secret instructions to Napoleon.

When Lettre d'un Juif was published in Paris on June 8th, it was widely known that Napoleon's invasion fleet was already at sea. But, its final destination was still a puzzle, with European speculation intense. According to the Swiss Neue Berner-Zeitung (June 15, 1798): "...the whole army consists of about 42,000 men. Its destination is still a secret. Some claim that it will sail into the Black Sea to fight the Russians and conquer the Crimea." For sure, on June 8th the general public did not yet know that Napoleon's ships were then poised to take Malta, and thereafter destined for Alexandria. This news blackout was confirmed by the Neueste Weltkunde of Tübingen (July 24, 1798):
Two months have passed since Buonaparte set sail: and the world's expectation, the lack of knowledge about his real plan, is now just as great as at the moment of his departure. All that we can say to date, and even this only partially, is where he is not going—not to Portugal, not to the British Isles: but the real target of his undertaking, which should astonish Europe, is still the best kept mystery.

Understanding Lettre d'un Juif requires sharp focus on the precise extent of the land at issue in the text. There, the word "Palestine" does not appear, though countless readers have falsely imagined that Lettre d'un Juif focuses on Palestine. Rather, the territory Anonymous discusses is just a part of "this Holy Land" (cette terre sainte) together with all the Sinai Peninsula; and "lower Egypt" (la basse Égypte), notably including the Isthmus of Suez. There, Napoleon intends to soon dig his deep ship canal from the Red Sea directly to the Mediterranean. From the get-go, this navigation project is the key strategic rationale for the Mideast campaign.

Partly from sheer ignorance and partly from a desire to justify their plans for imperial aggression, Napoleon and late 18th-century French observers tended to significantly denigrate the very real religious, social, economic, political, and administrative links between Egypt and the other provinces of the Ottoman Empire. By 1798, the self-serving French imagined Egypt to be a virtually autonomous Ottoman province ruled by Mamluk Beys, under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan in Constantinople. According to Lettre d'un Juif (June 8, 1798):
The territory which we [Jews] propose to occupy will include, subject to arrangements that will be agreeable to France, lower Egypt (la basse Égypte), with the territory bounded by a line that will depart from Ptolémaïde or Saint-Jean d'Acre to the Lake of Asphalt, or the Dead Sea, and from the southern point of this lake as far as the Red Sea.
Lettre d'un Juif's striking inclusion of two key elements, namely "la basse Égypte" and proposed Franco-Ottoman negotiations reveals an underlying truth. Anonymous is a powerful, regime insider who writes Lettre d'un Juif inspired by the top-secret knowledge that the Nile Delta is the French fleet's final destination, and that the invasion is expected to trigger early Constantinople talks for Ottoman approval of France's permanent rule in Egypt.

At that time, Talleyrand was already secretly telling the Directory that, in return for Egypt, France could promise to help the Turks reconquer the Crimea from Russia. Before leaving France (May 19, 1798), Napoleon sincerely believed that Talleyrand would soon go to Constantinople to convince the Turks that the French role in Egypt served the true interests of the Ottoman Empire. Rumors that Talleyrand would soon resign to become the Republic's Ambassador to the Sultan were included in a May 25th Paris report, reprinted in the Journal de Francfort (June 3, 1798).

Maybe written by Napoleon himself, Lettre d'un Juif is fully auxiliary to a complex French plan of attack, and subsequent diplomacy. Its ostensible purpose is to revolutionize Jews generally, and to get them to financially support France's Mideast project. But, the urgent subtext is finding some additional revolutionary justification, for what otherwise could be tarred as a cynical scenario for French gain in Egypt—including an early start on digging a deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez, and exclusive control of the Red Sea.

Another revolutionary pretext is to "ameliorate the fate of the natives of Egypt." This argument is explicit in the Directory's secret instructions to the General-in-Chief of the Army of the East (April 12, 1798). In the same vein, Napoleon later trumpets this "good government" and "social improvement" theme in his initial proclamation to the population of Egypt (July 1, 1798). Moreover, some of Volney's famous writings had already suggested that the French Revolution could importantly contribute to the "regeneration" of the Peoples of the Mideast. With regard to Egypt and Ottoman Syria, the same key "regeneration" point is explicitly highlighted by Joachim Le Breton (April 1798). All these arguments imply a civilizing duty (mission civilisatrice), though that famous phrase appears in neither Le Breton's article nor Lettre d'un Juif. Nonetheless, Lettre d'un Juif clearly aims at portraying France's Egyptian expedition as morally praiseworthy.

An extra dose of moral justification was all the more necessary, because there had been sharp criticism of the Treaty of Campo-Formio (October 17, 1797) as an example of cynical Realpolitik. Therein, Napoleon had bought peace with France's hereditary enemy, the Habsburgs, via extinction of the age-old Republic of Venice and the partitioning with Austria of the various Venetian territories. Was that not brazen betrayal of revolutionary principle? Did it not contradict the new political doctrine of the sovereignty and self-determination of Peoples? Napoleon not only destroyed the ancient Venetian Republic, but also betrayed local revolutionaries who, ahead of his May 1797 arrival, had already established a radical regime in Venice.

Paris learned about the April 18th Leoben Peace Preliminaries with Austria and Napoleon's May 17th conquest of Venice. In late June 1797, French legislator Joseph-Vincent Dumolard criticized the Directory and "General Buonaparte." The latter was said to act contrary to revolutionary principle and the law of nations. Dumolard argued that both of these required non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States. "Europe and posterity will reproach France for this manifest contradiction with the principles that she has claimed for herself." To the point, Dumolard complained that "Buonaparte" confused France's undoubted right to wage war, with an imagined right of regime change; namely, a purported right to replace the established political institutions of independent countries.

Moreover, Dumolard pointed to Venice's extensive "terra firma." He told the Upper Chamber that the invasion and partition of the Venetian mainland could be "destined to figure in history as a worthy counterpart to the partition of Poland." According to Dumolard (June 23, 1797):
[For the sake of obtaining] peace...  Europe ought not to be offered the scandal of the combined oppression and partition of weak States [and] the revolting contrast of a nation [France] equitable and great in its maxims, but usurpatory and perfidious in its treaties.

However, much worse was Napoleon's plan for 1798. This reiterated Realpolitik would not be buying peace, but rather mounting a mostly unprovoked French attack on distant Egypt. Thus, maximum revolutionary pretext was urgently needed to paint this imminent aggression as something other than a reprehensible land grab. Certainly to be avoided at all costs were comparisons with the infamous partitions of Poland, the last of which had occurred as recently as 1795.

The shocking extinction of Poland still features as blameworthy in Talleyrand's arguments for the Directory (February 13, 1798). This must have occurred to Napoleon too, because thousands of veterans of the failed Polish revolution joined his Army of Italy. According to Napoleon (June 1, 1797): "The [Habsburg] Emperor is very worried about the Poles. The plain truth is that, from the depths of Poland, there come many officers and soldiers who see their Polish uniform with a pleasure that doubles their abilities."

In Milan, there had been "a gathering of Poles around Buonaparte," wrote Le Conservateur (September 28, 1797). Therein articulated is the sacred, revolutionary goal, "Poland rendered free and a republic." In Lettre d'un Juif, Anonymous wants readers to view his plan for return of the Jews, as a laudable revolutionary aim, just like the idea of restoring Polish independence. In the text, Poland only features factually as "the former Poland" (la ci-devant Pologne). It is nonetheless key revolutionary context for the international politics of the 1790s.

Chock full of judaica is the April 19th article in La Décade philosophique, by ex-monk Le Breton. By contrast, Lettre d'un Juif  boldly doubles the world's Jewish population to an improbable six million. (This same exaggerated estimate of six million also appears in the contemporary writings of the Abbé Grégoire.) Truth be told, Anonymous offers little current information about Jews and Judaism. The period from mid 1795 until early 1798 is mostly an emancipating moment for many of the Jews of Western Europe. But, adhering to the contemporary revolutionary ideology, Lettre d'un Juif purposely portrays Jews as little more than a cardboard caricature of unrelenting victimhood.

We know that some readers were fooled. But, Lettre d'un Juif is unlikely to have been written by a Jew. To the point, what 1798 Jew would write an appeal to world Jewry in Italian instead of Hebrew? Pen a document bisecting the sacred, historic territory of Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬), with a straight line running from Acre to the Dead Sea? And, describe Jews as possessing "immense riches," but outwardly pretending to be poor and miserable in order to guard their wealth?

Like Napoleon, Anonymous has a passion for antiquity that prompts him to thrice salute the "courage" of the ancient Jews (66-73 CE) who were finally forced to yield "this Holy Land" (cette terre sainte) to the Romans. This reiterated compliment matches Napoleon's penchant for publicly praising Classical heroes. "This courage is only dormant, the hour of awakening has arrived." Here, Anonymous shares Napoleon's firm belief that the Peoples of the world are now being roused from sleep by the spirit of liberty, which revolutionaries regard as the great force of the age.

Napoleon's writing frequently invokes Classical antiquity as a companion to expressions of patriotic and revolutionary enthusiasm. In the same way, Lettre d'un Juif segues to fervent commitment to the notion of France as la grande nation, though that specific phrase is lacking. "Generous", "sublime" and "loyal" are adjectives which Anonymous selects to flatter France. He sees global relations, with France as the "invincible nation which now fills the world with its glory."

Anonymous suggests that, to its great financial and commercial advantage, France should mediate between Turks and Jews and, via smart diplomacy, win the consent of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III for the return of the "Israelites." Based in both Egypt and the Holy Land, "Jews" are expected to play a great role in international trade, and to importantly help France blunt England's worldwide economic advantage. We shall soon see some proof (in connection with Ancona, Alexandria and France) that Napoleon too thought Jews to be an important stimulus to international trade.

In this three-party transaction, Anonymous imagines world Jewry to be represented by a proposed council of fifteen Jews who would meet in Paris. They would be deputies selected by the various Jewish communities "in Europe, in Asia, in Africa." Such rhythmic invocation of the continents recalls Napoleon whose writing repeatedly has such exciting references to expansive geography.

The electoral franchise would be exercised by Jews, "whatever their sect" (quelle que soit leur secte). How is "sect" understood by Anonymous? We can only speculate. But directly pertinent are Napoleon's youthful workbooks which say (1788-9): "Judaism has two branches, the Jewish and the Samaritan. There are many Jews in Asia, in Africa, few in Europe. As for the Samaritans, they still survive in Nablus."

Not counting 20,000 Jews on the left bank of the Rhine, there were (1798) more than 40,000 Jews in France. Napoleon's youthful notes reveal that, in 18th-century France, rather strong distinction is made between "Portuguese" Jews (Sephardim) and the other Jews ("le reste du peuple juif"). In France, the latter would be Ashkenazim, i.e. German Jews. However, young Napoleon does not explicitly refer to them as such. He also jots down some details about differences in the respective Jewish teachings of Rabbis Hillel and Akiva, and the "school of Shammai." (To be explored later are some other possible meanings of "Jews, whatever their sect.")

Including three Jews was the Ancona municipal council that Napoleon had invented in February 1797. It also had fifteen members. Moreover, Anonymous's plan for a Paris-based Jewish council, empowered to make binding decisions, was strikingly similar to Napoleon's later blueprint for the Grand Sanhedrin, which he initially (August 23, 1806) wanted open to Jews of all countries. On February 9, 1807, the Sanhedrin began with a service in Hebrew, French and Italian.

Just like Le Breton and Napoleon too, Anonymous prejudicially presumes that Jews possess "immense riches" and the ability to generate still more wealth to share with France and its traders (June 8, 1798):
Situated in the center of the world, our [Jewish] country will become the entrepot for all that is rich and precious. If France furnishes us with the help that will be necessary for us to return to and remain in our homeland, the [Jewish] council will offer the French government, firstly, financial compensations, etc. And, secondly, to share only with French merchants the trade of the Indies.
Reading almost like treaty text, these stipulations are notably in no way inconsistent with the Directory's top-secret instructions to the General-in-Chief for the Egyptian campaign (April 12, 1798):
Article 2: Wherever he can reach, he will drive the English from all the possessions of the East, and in particular he will destroy all their trading posts on the Red Sea.
Article 3: He will cut the Isthmus of Suez (il fera couper l'isthme de Suez), and he will take all the measures necessary to guarantee to the French Republic free and exclusive possession of the Red Sea.
Article 5: He will maintain, to the extent that it depends on him, a good understanding (une bonne intelligence) with the Sultan and his immediate subjects.

Mediating in Constantinople for control of Egypt and creation of a Jewish government in Jerusalem makes some sense when Lettre d'un Juif is published. Then, both Napoleon and Talleyrand are still calculating that the imminent seizure of Mamluk Egypt can be achieved, without the Ottomans declaring war against France. Thus, the Directory's top-secret instructions (April 12, 1798) require the General-in-Chief to seize Egypt, build the ship canal, dominate the Red Sea, and yet maintain "a good understanding with the Sultan and his immediate subjects."

Before August 1-2, 1798, who could foresee that Sir Horatio Nelson would, within seventeen hours of fierce battle, almost completely annihilate the French Fleet in Aboukir Bay? Nelson's naval victory was a staggering blow not only to France's prestige, but also to its capability in the Mediterranean. The Sultan's strategic calculus was dramatically altered. After Aboukir Bay, Turkey dared to actively wage war against France, with the aid of Russia and Britain.

But, in the first half of 1798, Napoleon and Talleyrand were rational in judging that Selim III would likely go to great lengths to avoid fighting France. They knew that the Ottoman ruler feared France's ability to project power all the way to Constantinople. Napoleon and Talleyrand also felt confident that the Turkish Sultan was way too busy trying to suppress the great Balkan revolt of the populist Pasha of Vidin. According to Le Moniteur (February 17, 1798), the stubborn rebel Osman Pazvantoğlu commanded 30,000 men.

Lettre d'un Juif has an underlying agenda more focused on Egypt than the Holy Land. The Directory, Napoleon, and Anonymous all think geopolitically. Just like Napoleon, Anonymous understands the Holy Land as, strategically and commercially, part of the larger land bridge between the Red and Mediterranean Seas, and between the Asian and African continents. From youth into manhood, Napoleon is always fascinated by the ancient history of a canal across the Isthmus of Suez. This is a channel that he wants to dig out afresh. All of this means that, for both Anonymous and Napoleon, the Holy Land is the key eastern gateway to Egypt. Though France had long coveted Egypt, Lettre d'un Juif slyly reverses everything by cleverly subordinating Egypt to the Holy Land.

Readers are thoroughly distracted with the striking, apocalyptic term l'empire de Jérusalem. This millenarian expression is eminently convenient, because no such entity ever existed. Thus, there are no historic boundaries. This particular aspect of borderlessness is key for Anonymous, who spectacularly also includes Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula within l'empire de Jérusalem. He thereby associates his plan for restoration of the Jews with the main underlying idea—namely, France will negotiate with the Ottomans about the future of Egypt, including the Isthmus of Suez. There, Napoleon intends to soon begin digging his deep ship canal. His further goals are mastery of the Red Sea and opening a fast route for both international trade and an eventual attack on British India.

The crucial point about subsequent negotiation in Constantinople dovetails with the great State secret of the spring of 1798. Just like the Directory and Napoleon, Anonymous knows that France will negotiate with Turkey, perhaps after first seizing Egypt by force of arms. For sure, Anonymous understands France's firm intent to colonize Egypt, and hold it permanently as a revolutionary republic, satellite to la grande nation.

Anonymous shrewdly senses that Egypt also has heavy prophetic weight. To the point are the portentous events generally seen to herald the Redemption of the Jews and/or the Second Coming of Christ. The first prophetic sign is France's toppling of the Papal power. This Rome story is probably the single biggest news item of the first half of 1798. Octogenarian Pope Pius VI is carried away from the Vatican.

Anonymous thus cleverly presumes that many across Europe are ready to receive news of the French invasion of Egypt as the second prophetic sign; namely, the end of Muslim rule in the Mideast. For rabbis, these two omens are harbingers of Redemption; and for Protestant theologians, of the Second Coming. For example, see what "X" writes to the editor of the Gentlemen's Magazine of London about Egypt (September 1799):
It seems of little consequence whether we look for the rivers of Cush to the East or West of Judea, if the nation, by whose instrumentality the Jews are to be restored to the land of their forefathers, ... shall, at the time of the fulfilling of this prophecy, have the dominion over Egypt, and all those countries where Mahometanism is at present established.

Calling for l'empire de Jérusalem, Anonymous is probably savvy about Christian eschatology. He is likely aware that l'empire de Jérusalem features mostly in Christian millenarian discussion about the end of days. Thus, he purposely uses l'empire de Jérusalem to suggest to Christians everywhere that France would be doing God's work, by realizing famous prophecies about the restoration of the Jews. In Christian doctrine, the conversion and return of the Jews is prelude to the Second Coming of Christ, the parousia (παρουσία).

In a discreet bow to Christianity, Anonymous skillfully uses four spaced dots to avoid having to reveal that an appreciable number of observant Jews are already living in Jerusalem and the other Jewish communities in the Holy Land: "14. Tribu Asiatique. Ceux qui habitent la Turquie d'Asie . . . ." (14. Asian Tribe. Those who inhabit Turkey in Asia . . . .). Significantly, no such spaced dots for omission, mark the sometimes detailed descriptions of the fourteen other constituencies for electing the proposed Jewish deputies.

Anonymous is confident that revolutionaries do not care whether or not some practicing Jews are already living in Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬). He also knows that Jews themselves will automatically fill in the dots, with their own knowledge of the Holy Land Jews who for centuries were supported by the halukka (Heb: חלוקה) regularly paid by diaspora Jews, almost everywhere.

The author of Lettre d'un Juif is sure that Jews will devour his text with minds firmly focused on their millennial dream of return to their ancestral homeland, "la patrie." For Jewish readers, this is presumed to be identical to Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬). Thus, Anonymous declaims (June 8, 1798):
We are going to return to our homeland. We are going to live under our own laws. We are going to see the sacred sites that our ancestors made famous by their courage and their virtues.

As for revolutionaries, they are expected to see l'empire de Jérusalem, as birth of a new republican jurisdiction—the inauguration of some sort of local Jewish rule, dominion or government. Anonymous relies on revolutionaries to faithfully interpret l'empire de Jérusalem as a sister Jewish Republic, la République judaïque. This startling term "Jewish Republic" does not appear in Lettre d'un Juif, but features in Le Moniteur (August 3, 1798). Such a République judaïque would invariably follow the lead of la grande nation, because entirely dependent on France.

Egyptian and Jewish Republics would not be the only French satellites helping to guard the intended deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez. Later we shall see much proof that a desire to effect early construction of this geostrategic waterway, across the isthmus, was the precise purpose that gave birth to the Egyptian campaign. Moreover, here and (from Mallet du Pan) below, there is evidence showing that, when Lettre d'un Juif was published, consular and other efforts were already underway in the Lebanon to exploit the strong ethno-religious feelings of Maronites, Druze, and Shia Twelvers or Motouâly (pejorative, Ottoman-Turkish: Mute'evvile متأوله). Napoleon intended to use the Jews, and these three proud mountain Peoples, to further enhance the security of the deep ship canal which France was planning to build.

In this connection, the famous mathematician and revolutionary statesman, Gaspard Monge sent Napoleon a letter covering a petition from Rome-based Maronite monks (March 28, 1798):
You will see, Citizen General, just how useful it may be for the interests of the French Republic to keep friends in Mount Lebanon, and whether the Directory might now do for them more than we thought permitted to us in the past.
At that time, Napoleon was a well-known enemy of the Catholic Church. However, Mideast Catholics like the Maronites were practically an exception, because still regionally essential as traditional protégés of France. Thus, the rigorous anti-Catholicism normally required by revolutionaries is expressed in Lettre d'un Juif's relatively tactful indictment of "barbarous and intolerant religions" for preaching hatred towards Jews.

The revolutionary response to such persistent persecution is, for Anonymous, a national program of liberty that would see the Jewish People return to its ancestral homeland (June 8, 1798):
The generous constancy with which we have preserved the faith of our ancestors, far from attracting to us the admiration which was our due, only increased the unjust hatred which all the nations hold against us. [...] It is finally time to shake off such an unbearable yoke, it is time to resume our rank among the nations. [...] The hour of awakening has come. Oh my brothers! Let us reestablish the empire of Jerusalem (l'empire de Jérusalem).

Lettre d'un Juif makes waves 

Pointing to nothing more than Lettre d'un Juif, the Paris newspaper Le Propagateur concludes (June 9, 1798): "The Jews regard Bonaparte as their Messiah." By contrast, the résumé in La Feuille Universelle (June 9, 1798) describes a letter published in Italian by the Jew Mathéo. This false attribution prompts the Journal de Francfort (June 16, 1798) and the Evening Mail (June 15-18, 1798) to initially miss the key aspects of the Directory, Napoleon, and Egypt. Otherwise, Lettre d'un Juif is in 1798-9 mostly taken seriously, and generally linked to Napoleon and the Directory.

For example, the Hamburgische Neue Zeitung (June 20, 1798), via juxtaposition, implies that Jews financed Napoleon's Toulon expedition. Lettre d'un Juif is understood as detailing "a new, great project to be undertaken by the Jews." Those particular words, plus a detailed account of Lettre d'un Juif, suggestively follow directly after a few lines describing a boast, by Napoleon in Paris, that enough money for the Toulon expedition is available five times over.

The Paris press was regularly scrutinized in London. There, Lloyd's Evening-Post offered some canny analysis that directed a prescient eye to Egypt. However, specifically rejected was the inflated six million world Jewish population, described by Lettre d'un Juif (June 25-27, 1798):
A report has lately circulated, with some degree of credit, that the intention of the French, in the late expedition from Toulon, is to attempt the restoration of the Jews. The idea has probably originated in a curious article contained in one of the last Paris Journals, purporting to be a plan for the re-establishment of the Empire of Jerusalem, under the aid and protection of the French: From this plan it is made to appear, that, in defiance of all the oppressions endured by the Jews, their population has lately been estimated at 3,000,000: it is proposed that they shall occupy Lower Egypt, with the addition of a country from Ptolemais to the Asphaltic Lake [...] They are to receive their country from the Great Nation, and to become its tributaries. The conquest of Egypt was always a favourite idea, even under the old Government of France; it was at one time actually debated in Council, and was only negatived by the Count de Vergennes [Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1774-1787].
There is no doubt about Lettre d'un Juif's official character in the Morning Chronicle and the Evening Mail, both of which (July 16, 1798) reprint verbatim the following paragraph from the St. James's Chronicle of London (July 12-14, 1798):
The French project of a Jewish Republic, however absurd and impracticable it may appear at the first blush, requires the utmost vigilance of the European Governments. The wealth and numbers of the Jews in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and England, if put into political motion, would be felt throughout Europe. It fortunately happens that the Jews are too sagacious a people to place their property under French protection.
Lettre d'un Juif not written by a Jew is the quick, contemporary verdict of volume seven of the Annales de la Religion, edited by Abbé Henri-Baptiste Grégoire and others (Paris, 1798):
You can imagine that we do not attribute the character of authenticity to this letter. Nonetheless, it is a proven fact that, among the Jews, a certain number experience a confused sentiment of admiration and hope, in the light of the political movements that now shake the world. Equally certain is the fact that many genuine Christians meditate with heartfelt emotion on these consoling promises, and on the prospect of seeing the Church gather in the remnants of Israel, who would finally recognize as Messiah, he who was crucified by their ancestors. Perhaps the moment approaches when these children of Abraham will console the Church for the defection of the Gentiles.

Lettre d'un Juif is translated as "Restoration of the Jews: Letter from a Jew to his Brethren" in the St. James's Chronicle (July 14-17, 1798). This integral text convinces the astute Anglican preacher Henry Kett that "re-establishing the Jews in their own land" is well and truly a French government project. Therefore, he writes, History, the Interpreter of Prophecy. This three-volume bestseller, from Oxford University Press, wrestles with the possibility that the Revolutionary French Republic might unwittingly be Divine instrument for "the restoration of the ancient chosen people of God to the land which He gave to their fathers" (1799):
Granting therefore that the Power of France should execute this project, instead of invalidating, it will confirm the truth of Prophecy, and afford another signal example of the over-ruling providence of God. The wicked and blaspheming Assyrian was the rod of His anger and executed [721 BCE] His judgments upon His people. The tremendous Anti-Christian Northern Power [France] which has been raised up to be the scourge of nations, shall "fulfill His will, though in his heart he means not so." The restoration of the Jews may be a part of their commission; and there are some reasons which make this not a very improbable supposition...

Ignoring Egypt, but indicting the Directory, the following paragraph is printed verbatim in the Evening Mail (July 18-20), The London Chronicle (July 19-21), and the St. James's Chronicle (July 19-21, 1798):
The project of the French to assemble the Jews in Palestine, with a view of restoring their ancient Republic, and of re-building Jerusalem, is not quite so absurd as it may appear at first sight. It will supply the Directory with many a specious pretense for extorting money, not only from those of that Nation, who believe in the re-establishment of the ancient Republic of the Jews, but also from those who, more attached to their private interest, or less credulous than the former, do not wish to quit their establishments in the land of the infidels. For who knows whether France does not intend to force all the Jews resident in her vast dominions, to proceed to Palestine, or to sell them the permission of remaining where they are. This measure would be perfectly analogous to the whole Directorial system of plunder. 
Such sharp critique prompts the Neueste Weltkunde (August 11, 1798) to astonishment that "the English ministerial press" take Lettre d'un Juif so seriously (für vollen Ernst). Thus, the Neueste Weltkunde judges that Lettre d'un Juif is nothing more than banter (Persiflage). By contrast, in London, the Morning Post and Gazetteer dissents (September 26, 1798): "Who will now treat the idea of restoring the Jews with ridicule? Buonaparte has already conquered Egypt and Palestine, and the slightest effort would reduce Palestine under his power."

Lettre d'un Juif gets an even more millenarian character in volume four of the Monthly Visitor, and Pocket Companion of London. The August 1798 item is "Letter, Recently written from a Jew to his Brethern, Concerning the Establishment of a new Jewish Republic." Therein, the crucial phrase, "Let us rebuild the Empire of Jerusalem!" is most significantly altered to read: "Let us rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem!" This very important change is subsequently repeated in some contemporary Protestant prophetic writings.

This Christian insertion of "Temple" caused lasting confusion that, for example, deceived Nahum Sokolow, in his 1918 History of Zionism. Moreover, the "error" in the Monthly Visitor was unjustifiably touted as a "strict translation from the Italian" in the 1975 book, Napoleon and the Jews. This work is attributed to the Austrian-Jewish émigré, Franz Kobler. However, he had already died a decade earlier, in 1965. The 1975 book is suspiciously inferior to the higher quality of Kobler's other historical writings. These are demonstrated in his several pertinent manuscripts, which are readily available on line.

Citing "English papers" about the Temple of Jerusalem is the detailed "communication," printed in the Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. Here, the "letter from an Italian Jew" is seen as "a new clue to the discovery of the object for which Buonaparte and his army was dispatched to Egypt." This USA interpretation four times points to Napoleon in connection with Lettre d'un Juif (January 30, 1799):
The blind avidity with which that nation [France] seizes at every thing which it is supposed will contribute either to their glory, or their emolument, the events that have taken place in the course of the last year, the inexplicable mystery of Buonaparte's warlike mission, and the golden lures that are held out by the artful Hebrews, are considerations which render this conjecture more than probable. The philosophy of the present French chiefe [Napoleon] would certainly give a favorable reception to demands which implicated the destruction of the English East India trade; and to this enviable source of British wealth and glory, the Jews have secured their attention, by flattering their expectations.
It is, notwithstanding, a little astonishing, that these Israelites, should discover in the French nation a spirit favorable to the re-establishment in their ancient dominions, or that under the superintendance of 'robbers' [the French] they should ever expect to drive from the Holy Land, a people [the Ottoman Turks], numerous, hardy, and inured to war! That the French, of all the world, should be called to succeed Solomon, to patronize the laws of Moses, and to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, for the worship of the true Deity, can only be accounted for by supposing that the Jews meant, as implicated in the foregoing extracts, to purchase their [French] services, and relying on the influence of their immense [Jewish] wealth, hoped thereby to render the mad ambition of the invincible nation [France] subservient to the restoration of Jewish splendour.—Had Buonaparte succeeded, he would indeed have become the now expected Messiah.

In the same Messianic vein is the late 1799 Pest periodical Magyar Könyv-Ház (Hungarian Book House). This writes about "the Jewish hope placed in Bonaparte." Magyar Könyv-Ház refers to Joachim Le Breton's article in La Décade and also reports in detail on Lettre d'un Juif. Editor Matyas Trattner poses the possibility that, "perhaps in time, Bonaparte will become Messiah for the Jews, their anointed and awaited liberator." Referring to the anonymous author of Lettre d'un Juif, Trattner writes about the 13,282 Jews of Lemberg (Lviv) which was the capital of Austrian Galicia (1799):
Already having an impact on Lemberg Jews is the zealot who wrote the [June 1798] letter exhorting the Jews to win the throne of Jerusalem. They are busy searching the newspapers made available by the local innkeepers. It is nice to see these Jews running to the inns to read the news and knocking their heads together in debate about their trip to Jerusalem.

Conquest of Malta stirs Jews

Shortly after publication of Lettre d'un Juif, Napoleon astonished the Mediterranean world by taking the mighty island fortress of Malta from the Roman-Catholic Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem (June 10, 1798). The impact was all the greater because, for centuries, the Knights had been infamous slavers capturing Muslims, Orthodox Greeks, and Jews. These unfortunates were sold, ransomed or kept to row the Maltese galleys.

Erfolgte Kapitulation zwischen dem General Bonaparte und dem Groß Meister
von Maltha, Vor der Hauptstadt Waletta zu Maltha, am 10. Juni 1798

[Successful surrender between General Bonaparte and the Grand Master
of Malta, in front of the capital Valletta on Malta, on June 10, 1798.]

"May its name be wiped out!" was the accustomed rabbinic malediction for the Malta of the Knights of Saint John. From the 17th century, there was a Jewish prophecy that the final defeat of these Catholic Knights would be the first sign of Redemption. Such messianic thoughts were naturally stimulated by Napoleon's quick victory; his expulsion of the Knights from Malta; his dramatic freeing of the galley slaves, Jews too; and his establishment of Jewish civic rights. However, Maltese Catholics were dead certain that Jewish emancipation was a revolutionary attack on Christianity. To the point, they took deep umbrage at Napoleon's order (June 17, 1798): "Protection will be accorded to Jews wishing to establish a synagogue" (Il sera accordé protection aux Juifs qui voudraient établir une synagogue).

A Napoleon letter in Italian

From Malta, Napoleon wrote in French to the commissary of the Revolutionary Republic in the newly annexed, and so provocatively named, French Département de la Mer-Égée (Department of the Aegean Sea). This French official was specifically ordered to inform the people of the département about the great victory of the Republic (June 14, 1798): "Also don't forget any means to publicize it to the Greeks of the Morea and the other [Ottoman provinces]."

An identical June 14th order from Napoleon on Malta took exactly six days to reach the central administration on Corfu. There, it provoked immediate issuance of a proclamation, as quoted in French in the Journal Politique de l'Europe of Mannheim (August 11, 1798):
The genius of victory, the hero of liberty has led the republican army to Malta, where he has hoisted the tricolor flag. The Order of the Knights of Malta is destroyed. This event is announced in General Bonaparte's letter which arrived today [June 20] at the central administration [of the Ionian Islands]. The Republic will cover the Mediterranean with victories. Also among us, we will see the hero who has established the happiness of these départements. French Greeks, Greeks of the Morea, descendants of the heroes of antiquity! Answer freedom's call which rings out along your shores! Bonaparte is in the Mediterranean: What is it that you cannot hope and obtain? Long live the Republic!
Prince Constantine Ypsilantis was the Grand Dragoman (head interpreter) of the Porte. This means that he held the second most important post in Ottoman foreign affairs. Ypsilantis showed to Michel Ange Louis Dantan, the Dragoman (interpreter) of France's Embassy in Constantinople, a printed Napoleon letter written in Italian. The Embassy reported to Paris (July 25, 1798):
Prince Ypsilantis showed to Citizen Dantan an Italian letter which this general wrote from Malta to the Greeks of the Département of the Aegean Sea, and in which he invites them to announce the freedom (la liberté) of the Maltese, to the Greeks of the Peloponnese as a prelude to their own. "As dragoman of the divan," he added, "I cannot approve of the ambitious views of Citizen Bonaparte regarding Ottoman territory; but as a Greek, I curse a boastfulness that will cost the lives of more than 10,000 Greeks, ready to be massacred by the Turks."
On September 16, 1797, Arnault had written to Napoleon that printed propaganda had very limited influence on solidly illiterate ethnic groups (e.g., Albanians, Greeks), with a literate clergy deeply hostile to the Revolution. Thus, we can guess that this published letter had small impact among Greeks, and even less so, if only available to them in Italian. By contrast, literacy was way higher among Adriatic, Balkan, and Aegean Jews. They were often multilingual. Many of them probably found it easy to read this Napoleon letter in Italian.

Canning on Napoleon's Jewish Republic

Destined to be UK Prime Minister (1827), George Canning was just a few months younger than Napoleon. In 1795, Canning (age 25) became Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, under 36-year-old Prime Minister William Pitt, who was his close friend. In late 1797, while still at the Foreign Office, Canning and associates created The Anti-Jacobin. He wanted this satirical weekly "to be full of sound reasoning, good principles, and good jokes, and to set the mind of the people right upon every subject."

Whether Whitehall officials in London or Horatio Nelson in the Mediterranean, the British were by mid-June 1798, fairly certain that Napoleon was heading for Egypt. On June 25th, Canning used this secret, government intelligence for his parody of a Napoleon letter to the Directory, said to be dated June 6th, from the Aegean island of Salamis in Ottoman Greece.

According to Le Publiciste (September 15, 1798), reliable reports of Napoleon's safe arrival in Egypt (July 1st) reached Paris no earlier than September 14th, when the news was officially confirmed by the Directory. Thus, Canning's satirical letter jumps far into the future, to creatively imagine what might be happening in the Eastern Mediterranean. The fake news in The Anti-Jacobin is nonetheless solid evidence that, in the public mind, Napoleon was already linked with the idea of restoring the Jews and creating a Jewish Republic, with its capital in Jerusalem (June 25, 1798):
Baraguay D'Hilliers, with the Left Wing of the Army of Egypt, has fixed his Head-quarters at Jerusalem. He is charged to restore the Jews to their ancient Rights. Citizens Jacob Jacobs, Simon Levi, and Benjamin Solomons, of Amsterdam, have been provisionally appointed Directors. The Palace of Pontius Pilate is re-building for their residence. All the vestiges of Superstition in Palestine have carefully been destroyed.

Hopes sky high till French fleet sunk

Among Mediterranean Jews and Greeks, Napoleon's string of stunning victories increasingly triggered a soaring expectation that only climbed still further with his conquest of Ottoman Egypt from the local Mamluks (July 1798). Widespread adulation of Napoleon is described by Hamburg's Politisches Journal nebst Anzeige andern Sachen (February 1799):
Few men have had so much good fortune in war, as lucky Buonaparte up until now. Amazement is the companion of good fortune. It is exactly the way in which luck bestows its favor. Enough that Buonaparte is the idol (Götze) of our time. But, his campaign in Egypt places him on a still higher level, in the imagination of his worshippers. The thing is novel and bold. An increment of astonishment. Now the news from Egypt is awaited, just as the Jews await the appearance of the Messiah (Nun sahe man den Nachrichten aus Aegypten, wie die Juden der Erscheinung des Meßias, entgegen). [...] And, Buonaparte goes to [Ottoman] Syria for further conquests. Already read is the Proclamation to the Inhabitants of Syria [discussed below]. Via ancient prophecies, it is proved that the French would be the lords of the Orient—and so, the infidel French believe in Nostradamus, Paul Lucas, and other wretched prophets.
National dreams of early arrival of "liberty and equality" were fast rising until news spread of the virtual annihilation of Napoleon's fleet at Aboukir Bay (August 1-2, 1798). Judging from Lloyd's Evening-Post (October 1, 1798), it took two months for Nelson's victory to be known in London. In the interim, Le Moniteur carried a July 21st London report (August 3, 1798):
The Jews see the French Republic as the veritable messiah that was promised to them. In this regard, they cite Isaiah who revealed that, upon appearance of such and such signs, there would be rebirth of the Jewish Republic (République judaïque) and of the new architecture of the city of truth [Jerusalem], as the solemn meeting place of all the oppressed beings of the universe.
Such revolutionary enthusiasm is also described in an August 28th report from Vienna that is printed in Le Publiciste (September 10, 1798):
It is no longer possible to doubt the arrival of the French in Alexandria. The Macedonian cotton merchants who are here, are getting letters both from their homeland and from Constantinople which inform them of this news. They do not dare to express their joy, but at the bottom of their hearts, they are counting on their deliverance, almost like the Jews count on the coming of the Messiah.
The French naval disaster in Egypt ended an exceptional period of growing anticipation when Napoleon was seen by many Jews as Messiah and by many Greeks as a second Alexander, destined to soon conquer Constantinople and liberate Turkey's subject Peoples. During that interval of heightened excitement, keen revolutionary hopes were purposely fed by Le Moniteur which persistently published reports of real or imagined rebellions, and several times predicted the imminent fall of the Ottoman Empire.

George Arnald (1827), end of the French flagship l'Orient
at the Battle of Aboukir Bay, August 1-2, 1798.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Napoleon targeted all the Ottoman Peoples

Despite more than two hundred years of friendship between France and the Ottomans, Napoleon had scant respect for the Sultan's sovereignty. Napoleon imagined the Ottoman Empire to be already collapsing, so he wanted to give it a bit of a push himself. Naturally, he presumed that France would always keep supremacy as la grande nation. But beyond that, he regarded the Ottoman corpse as big enough to satisfy the national dreams of a long list of fraternal Peoples—including Jews, Greeks, Maronites, Armenians, Druze; and also Muslim Albanians, Turks, and Arabs.

This kind of thinking dovetails with his plan to occupy Ottoman Egypt and soon begin building the deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez. It also resulted in his policy of encouraging the separatist ambitions of the Sultan's actual or potential Muslim rivals like Tepedelenli Ali Pasha in Yanina and Osman Pazvantoğlu in Vidin. The latter was famously friendly to the Hellenic revolutionary Rigas. Pazvantoğlu's finances were run by a Vidin Jewish banker who put Pazvantoğlu's current monthy expenditure at 1,500,000 livres, as reported in Le Moniteur (February 17, 1798). This same source says Pazvantoğlu models himself after the French, and wants to be "a second Bonaparte" (il veut être un second Bonaparte). French revolutionaries found Pazvantoğlu particularly attractive, for reasons explained in a December 25, 1797 letter from Constantinople, printed in the Gazette des Deux-Ponts (February 7, 1798):
Pazvantoğlu's revolt seems to aim at a vast plan of insurrection for Turkey in Europe; a plan in which he is seconded by the Jews and by the Greeks, who form the majority of the population in this country, and doubtless also by the hope of getting some foreign assistance.

Always close to Napoleon's revolutionary ethos were his concerted efforts to spread the "spirit of liberty" among the Sultan's non-Muslim, tribute-paying subjects, the raya (Ottoman-Turkish: رعايا). Starting no later than 1797, he repeatedly aimed propaganda at all the subject Peoples of the Ottoman Empire. French, Italian, Greek, Ottoman-Turkish, and Arabic were certainly all used. However, there was likely some of his product available in Hebrew; and maybe also in Syriac, because he had at least one translator expert in that Mideast language. Conceivably, there might also have been some Napoleonic ephemera in Armenian or Armeno-Turkish. To be sure, exactly such a wide-ranging campaign of sedition had been specifically commanded by the Directory, via a letter to Napoleon from Talleyrand (August 23, 1797):
Nothing is more important than that we put ourselves on a good footing with Albania, Greece, Macedonia and other provinces of the Turkish empire in Europe and even with all those that are bathed by the waters of the Mediterranean, notably Egypt which one day could become of great utility to us. The Directory, in approving the ties which you have established with Ibrahim Pasha and the Albanian nation, desires that you make the French people known to the remainder of the Turkish provinces, in a way that sooner or later could turn out to their benefit and to ours, and to the disadvantage of our common enemies.

Meeting Napoleon at Passariano, at the eastern extremity of Italy, General Louis Desaix described in his diary what he then learned about Napoleon's plan to bring down the Ottoman Empire (September 1797):
The general has a great and skillful policy: it is to give to all of these folks there a grand idea of the French nation. He has received the Directory's command to spread that idea throughout all of Africa, Greece, via printing presses, proclamations. He wins the hearts of all these nations; he reminds them of their ancient glory, their ancient name; he instructs them about the astonishing and prodigious feats of the French. And, they are all surprised to find out what they learn; they are very thirsty for news; they come in great numbers to Ancona to equip themselves with merchandise and one of their greatest pleasures is to take these proclamations to read and to carry them back to their country.

Compelling Sept. 1797 testimony about Napoleon's proclamations to
the various Peoples of the Ottoman Empire is provided in the
Journal de voyage du Général Desaix, Suisse et Italie, 1797
(Paris, 1907), p. 256.

Jewish traders traveled to Ancona

Desaix refers to proclamations picked up by foreign merchants trading to Ancona. Like Napoleon, those familiar with 18th-century Adriatic trade would immediately know that Jews played an important role in the commerce between Ancona and the Ottoman east. Napoleon's native understanding of the Mediterranean included awareness that Jews were often part of transnational, commercial networks, based on kinship; shared religion, languages, culture; and strong economic synergy. On this Jewish point, the Directory received a pertinent report from Napoleon in Macerata (February 15, 1797):
Ancona is a very good port. From there, you can reach Macedonia within twenty-four hours and Constantinople within ten days. My intention is to collect there as many Jews as possible (mon projet est d'y ramasser tous les juifs possibles). I will have the fortress there put into the best state of defense. In the general peace, we must keep the port of Ancona, and make sure that it always belongs to France. This will enable us to have a great influence on the Ottoman Porte and make us masters of the Adriatic Sea.

Further examples? Two months after Napoleon withdrew his army from the Holy Land, his Memoire on Internal Administration (August 1799) similarly recommended using all means to attract a large Jewish population to Alexandria, which he thought ought to be the Egyptian capital instead of Cairo. Later, on Saint Helena, Napoleon in Italian told O'Meara that heavy Jewish immigration would likewise be a way to make France wealthy. Thus, Napoleon clearly shared a contemporary view that had already been described by Le Breton in La Décade (April 19, 1798):
The Jews locate themselves in stages all the way from the Batavian Republic [Netherlands] to the Indies; just as it would be necessary to establish them, if one wished to make use of them to revive the trade of yesteryear. They are in the ports of Italy, on the islands of the Archipelago, at Salonika, at Constantinople, in Cairo, at Alexandria, at Damascus, at Aleppo, and at Basra. They are rich and numerous in [North] Africa. They administer the finances, the coinage and the customs in the regencies of Algiers, of Tunis, of Tripoli and in the Empire of Morocco.

On Saint Helena, Napoleon prepared a history of his first Italian campaigns. Therein, he offers the specific phrase "droits de l'hospitalité" (laws of hospitality). This suggests that, in his view, some of the Jews at Ancona are merchants visiting from the Balkan lands, exactly like the Muslim traders there, who also come from the Ottoman Empire (circa 1819):
The Jews, numerous at Ancona, along with the Muslims of Albania and Greece, were there subjected to longstanding practices which were both humiliating and contrary to the laws of hospitality (contraire aux droits de l'hospitalité). One of the first cares of Napoleon was to emancipate them.
On this particular topic, the Journal de Francfort (September 4, 1797) prints the full text of an August 16th decree favoring subjects of the Ottoman Empire. This legal category most certainly includes East-Mediterranean Jewish merchants heading to Ancona. From Milan, "Buonaparte" orders "the generals commanding the various places of commerce occupied by the French in Italy to accord special protection to Ottoman subjects." He also stipulates that henceforth Ottoman subjects have the right to rent residential premises as they see fit, without any requirement to live together in the same house or to go home at a fixed hour.

The True Briton publishes an August 23rd Milan report indicating that the local newspapers believe that Napoleon's plan (September 18, 1797): "is no less than the revolutionizing of ancient Greece, and the Turkish Provinces; the spirit of Liberty having strongly displayed itself in the Morea, and the Isle of Candia."

Moreover, General Desaix unequivocally tells us that Napoleon was in 1797 already running a major, anti-Ottoman propaganda operation out of Ancona. This specific revolutionary activity was later entrusted (November 14, 1798) to the Republic's agence d'Ancône, officially tasked with secretly preparing popular insurrections in the Ottoman Empire. Mangourit was head of the subversive agence d'Ancône. In the first volume of his Défense d'Ancône (Defense of Ancona), Mangourit says that most of the city's industry, commerce and trade was in the hands of 1200 Jews, with a "junior" role played by 300 Greeks (1802):
Ancona makes a rich trade with the islands of the Levant and Ragusa, in textiles, leathers, metals, and canvas which it obtains directly from France, Russia and England; [in return] it receives cottons, dyes and drugs from the Levant.

Make no mistake—Desaix's revealing passage cannot reasonably be read so as to exclude the many Jewish merchants who regularly went to trade in Ancona, where there was also a vibrant Jewish community, wild for the revolution and Napoleon. Nor can Desaix's quote be reasonably read so as to exclude the Jewish People from the phrase "all these nations," as used by Desaix to describe the various Peoples of the Ottoman Empire. This great State then stretched all the way from North Africa through Western Asia into the Balkan lands.

This spacious Ottoman geography is important for understanding Desaix's shorthand reference to "all of Africa, Greece." Looking at the map of the Ottoman Empire is also helpful for grasping the meaning of several subsequent citations that will speak of "Africa and Asia" or "Asia and Africa." In the pertinent 18th-century context, this continental couplet clearly points to the territory of the Ottoman Empire. This importantly included Turkey in Europe, which notably was home to a full one half of the Sultan's subjects.

The Ottoman Empire in 1801 (Cambridge University Press, 1913).
During the 18th century, Turkey stretched from Algiers, eastward along the coast
of North Africa, via Western Asia, to include almost all of the Balkan Peninsula.
Thus, the contemporary Habsburg diplomat and statesman Klemens von
Metternich quipped, "Asia begins at the Landstraße" in Vienna.

"Inventing" a revolutionary prophecy

A popular prophecy foretelling the 1799 fall of the Ottoman Empire is mentioned in the widely read, Le Propagateur (June 9, 1798). Simultaneous to the printing of Lettre d'un Juif, this same theme is laid out at length in an article published verbatim in La Clef du Cabinet des Souverains (June 8) and Le Moniteur (June 10, 1798).

The "prophecy" story is alleged to be embodied in a May 31, 1798 report from Frankfurt. This commonly means copied from the pages of the Journal de Francfort. But, no such news item appears in the Journal de Francfort, during the first half of 1798. Including the stipulated Frankfurt publication date, there is absolutely nothing in the "prophecy" tale that could not have been written earlier in 1798, as part of Napoleon's advance preparation of propaganda, for use on the eve of the French attack on Egypt.

The subtlety and skill of political argument powerfully point to Napoleon. The text showcases revolutionary Greeks, while smartly avoiding explicit confirmation that France has turned against the Ottoman Empire. For example, savor the mastery of the smooth evasion here (June 8, 1798):
Until recently, the Greeks did not like the French because of France's ties to the Turks, their oppressors. But now that the Latin clerics no longer have any influence on French policy, this aversion ought to easily disappear, to be replaced by the affection that arises for those that are seen and awaited as their liberators.
Exactly as in this "prophecy" tale, Napoleon is characteristically attracted to the theme of "destiny." This topic notably features, along with false prophecies, in some of his 1798-9 Mideast propaganda, aimed at Muslims and Jews. One way or another, his fingerprints are all over this carefully written "prophecy" piece. It is designed: firstly, to advance his own political career; secondly, to encourage rebellion against the Sultan; and thirdly—like Lettre d'un Juif—to help prepare public opinion for imminent receipt of the news of the French attack on Ottoman Egypt (June 8, 1798):
Some Greeks who have recently traversed several provinces of the Ottoman Empire have observed that in Macedonia there has circulated for a few years a prophecy to the effect that: in 1799 a great empire will be overthrown. The Greeks claim that this prophecy announces their manumission (affranchissement).
From this arises the respect, approaching adoration, which they feel towards Bonaparte, whom they regard as the instrument designated by destiny for this great operation. They have already composed several songs about this general; and almost two years ago a single Greek merchant at the Leipzig fair bought 300 engravings of Bonaparte's portrait for distribution in the county of Larissa, one of the most enlightened regions of Macedonia. [...]
We know what we are supposed to think about prophecies, even when it is well attested that they have not been concocted, after the fact. But sometimes, it is by inventing them (en les inventant), and in adding belief in them, that they are prepared and assured of fulfillment.

More than one year later, Lloyd's Evening-Post (August 7-9) and the Evening Mail (August 9-12) both offer a fascinating, brief, virtually identical news item that is key for understanding the authorship, meaning, and pan-Ottoman scope of this fake prophecy, about early fall of the Sultan's empire (August 7-9, 1799):
From Smyrna [İzmir] it appears that, among some suspected goods lately stopped near Adrianople [Edirne], consigned to some Jews at Constantinople [İstanbul], a vast number of printed copies of prophecies, in Arabic, Turkish, and the language of the Franks, were found, all portending the immediate downfall of the Turkish Empire—the manifest fabrication of some French agents at Widdin or Wallachia.
This short London passage yields rich information: firstly, within the four corners of the document, it distinguishes between "Franks" and "French"; secondly, it seems to derive from an Ottoman account, by reason of the striking reference to "the language of the Franks"; thirdly, it links Constantinople Jews to the diffusion of this revolutionary propaganda; and finally, it confirms that the printings were not just in Greek—as would be presumed from the Paris reports above—but importantly in Arabic and Ottoman-Turkish, and also in "the language of the Franks." This last tongue is clearly not French. Had the author intended to refer to the French language, he would certainly have done so.

Here, the 1799 English ethnonym "Franks" points to the Ottoman-Turkish word Firenkler (فرنكلر) which means "Europeans." Precisely this usage is corroborated by the intrepid 18th-century Mideast explorer, James Bruce who wrote five volumes, entitled Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (London, 1790). In volume one, Bruce explicitly says "Franks" means "Europeans." Moreover, he writes (1790): "Nothing can be kept secret at Cairo. All nations, Jews, Turks, Moors, Cophts, and Franks, are constantly upon the inquiry, as much after things that concern other people's business as their own."

In the same vein is a November 9, 1798 letter from an anonmyous member of Napoleon's Egyptian Institute. With an eye to "divide and conquer," he comments favourably on the advantages for France of the mixed, ethnic character of the local population, for frustrating the secret political schemes of the Muslim majority. This appears in the Journal Politique de l'Europe (January 22, 1799): "Fortunate that this nation [Egypt] finds itself mixed with Greeks, Jews, Copts, Franks."

In this Mideast context, "the language of the Franks" can easily refer to Italian, which was the "foreign" language then most widespread in the Eastern Mediterranean. The pertinent linguistic logic is exactly as in the case of the adjective "franco" in the famous Mediterranean term lingua franca. This was the name for an international, maritime and port patois that was mostly drawn from the dialects of Genoa and Venice. In the same way, "the language of the Franks" can be understood as proper Italian or rather "Levant Italian" (italiano levantino). This conclusion is entirely consistent with the circumstance that the 18th-century Ottoman-Turkish expression for "Frenchmen" is not "Franks" (Firenkler فرنكلر), but rather Fransızlar (فرانسزلر). And for the "French language," the Ottomans then say Fransızca (فرانسزجه) or Fransız lisanı (فرانسز لسانى).

The likelihood of such "prophecy" printings in Italian invites return to the topic of the linguistic range of coastal Jews of the 18th-century Eastern Mediterranean. Many of them were probably unable to read Greek, and perhaps had difficulty understanding much French. By contrast, many coastal Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean would then have been able to quickly read the fake prophecy in Italian.

Consider the example of Jerusalem-born Rabbi Hayim Yosef David Azulai (1724-1806). Apart from anything else, he was occasionally a credentialled shaliah (שָלִיחַ), twice making fund-raising missions to Europe to solicit halukka (חלוקה) donations for the Jewish community of Hebron. His letters of credence were partly written in Italian which was one of the languages that he could speak fluently. Journeying from the Hague to Amsterdam, he was happy to meet two Piedmont Christians, because he was able to speak to them in Italian.

The Nouvelles Politiques of Leiden offers a later version of the "prophecy" story. This understandably confuses "the language of the Franks" with French, but pertinently places more emphasis on Jews as revolutionaries (September 20, 1799):
From Constantinople, July 28th. Syria has been completely delivered from the invasion of the French. Bonaparte is in full retreat. [...] By his withdrawal, the plans to revolutionize Asia Minor have disappeared. Especially at Smyrna, there was disseminated a number of predictions, printed in four languages—in Turkish, in Arabic, in modern Greek, and in French—all predicting the imminent collapse of the Ottoman Empire: the Jews were the most active in spreading them, as they usually are in opening the pathways to a Revolution; but one does not do them the honor of having invented these pieces, which are said to derive from a European source.
Here we are dealing with ephemera. Thus, there should be no surprise that no authentic original, or even copy, of these printed prophecies from "Widdin or Wallachia" survives into the 21st century. Nonetheless, taken together, the cited Paris, London and Leiden newspapers conclusively prove that such propaganda printings were indeed circulating, perhaps as early as 1797.  Not just aimed at Greeks, these fake prophecies were designed to subvert all the Ottoman Peoples, including the Jews.

Let there be no doubt about the French attempt to revolutionize Mideast Jews, and also about the Mediterranean distinction between the ethnomyms "François" and "Franc." Both points are explicit in an extract from an August 10th letter from Constantinople. This is printed in Leiden's Supplement aux Nouvelles Politiques (September 20, 1799):
At the first success of the French in Syria, Smyrna was the venue for an attempt to get the Greeks, the Franks, and the Jews to rise in revolt, by prophecies fabricated to that end. (A Smyrne, où aux premiers succès des François dans la Syrie, l'on avoit tâché de soulever les Grecs, les Francs, et les Juifs, par des prédictions fabriquées à dessein...)

Inflaming the Mideast: a royalist view 

A pioneer of modern political journalism, Calvinist Jacques Mallet du Pan was a protégé of Voltaire. Mallet du Pan was first a professor of classics, but ultimately a well-connected and influential anti-revolutionary publicist, with ties to the British Foreign Office. In London, he produced the French-language Mercure Britannique, where in Volume 3 (1799), there is a remarkable essay on "Turkey."

Therein, his treatment of the Jews seems to reflect both Lettre d'un Juif (June 8, 1798) and the recent (May 17, 1799) London news that Napoleon had issued a proclamation inviting Jewish return to the ancient homeland. Moreover, Mallet du Pan's broader analysis is consistent with: (i) the September 1797 entry in Desaix's diary; (ii) the Emperor Paul's August 1798 letter about Napoleon's intention to make Jerusalem the capital of a restored "Jewish Republic" (Еврейская Республика); (iii) Turkish awareness of French revolutionary subversion of the Ottoman Empire, starting with Napoleon's 1797 arrival on the Adriatic coast; (iv) what the government in Constantinople already knew about a 1797-8 revolutionary proclamation inviting "establishment of a Jewish government in Jerusalem" (قدس شريفده بر يهود حكومتى تشكيل); and (v) the 1798-9 story about fake prophecies, predicting early collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Mallet du Pan's account is perhaps in some places exaggerated or inaccurate. Nonetheless, it is impossible to ignore his astute general assessment of the French Republic's Mideast intentions and tactics. These specifically include plans for the Jews (May 25, 1799):
Buonaparte is sure to strengthen the force of arms with all that can be added by the refinements of politics; the tricks of charlatanism; and the arts of division, flattery, and corruption. He implements a plan that has been considered and prepared for a long time. He has been provided with helpers who are only awaiting his success in order to declare themselves.
He will re-establish the Jews in Palestine. This aim was agreed in Paris between the Directory and a yet standing committee of Israelites, deputies of the various countries of Europe and Asia. The plan for their République hébraïque (Hebrew Republic) is ready. They will restore the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. There, their numbers and financial resources will assist the restorer of their political existence (le restaurateur de leur existence politique).
Also sitting in Paris is another committee made up of Christian schismatics, belonging to the principal sects of the Archipelago and Asia. This Christian committee receives and transmits information; serves to facilitate communications; designates the emissaries to be employed; dispatches orders; and directs preliminary operations, translations and printing. It is the workshop of revolutionary measures.
The loss of the Mediterranean and Corfu, the awakening of the Ottoman Porte, and the appearance of the Russians have slowed and embarrassed these pestilential connections. But, their authors manage to surmount these obstacles via still more ardor, activity and perseverance that the Turkish police are unable to fight.
Work of the same order has borne fruit among the Peoples of the Lebanon and Mount Carmel. Well known is the impatience with which the Druze and the Christians of these valleys have always suffered Muslim domination. There is no need for me to remind you of their frequent revolts or the harshness with which they have been treated. The Consuls of France at Aleppo and Tripoli in Syria have for three years been exchanging information with these restive tribes which are always ready to unite with the first leader who promises to free them from the Turks.
Their country has been inundated with hymns, poems, writings of all kinds, in which they are called to freedom (la liberté). Thus we can consider the revolution as secretly organized from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, and from Suez to the borders of Karamania [south-central Anatolia].

The émigré Jacques Mallet du Pan, 1749-1800.
As editor of the Mercure Britannique of London, he produced
an astonishing May 25, 1799 analysis of Bonaparte's

intentions and tactics in the Ottoman east.  

A proclamation to the Jews before 1799

News of an undated revolutionary proclamation to the Jews reached the Ottoman Turks certainly before Selim III declared war against France (September 10, 1798). They got this information probably during the Muslim year 1212, which began at sundown on June 25, 1797 and ended at sundown on June 14, 1798. That is what we learn from the Ottoman Empire's chosen historiographer, Ahmet Cevdet Pasha who intellectually was a towering figure. To the point, the high quality of Cevdet's historical writing has been praised by Bernard Lewis (1953).

In the 1850s, Cevdet started to systematically examine documents in the Ottoman archives. In the mid-19th century, he began writing in the Ottoman-Turkish language, for the period 1774-1826, an authoritative twelve volumes, solidly based on government sources in Constantinople. As the Sultan's official chronicler (Ottoman-Turkish: vakanüvis وقائع نوىس), Cevdet had to be very careful about sequence and chronology. He was neither ambiguous nor confused in clearly pointing to the several months before the September 1798 Ottoman declaration of war against France.

Written in the Ottoman-Turkish language,
Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, Tarih-i Cevdet, Vol. 6, p. 282,
New Edition, 2nd Printing (H. 1309).

Professionally scrupulous about identifying his various sources, Cevdet specifically writes that it was, "at this time" (بو اثناده), heard "from the mouth of a Jew" (بر يهودى آغزندن) that, as "understood from a printed and published official declaration" (بر بياننامه قالمه آلنه رق طبع و نشر ايله), "Jews in every direction" (هرطرفده اولان يهوديلر) had been invited to agree on "establishing a Jewish government in Jerusalem" (قدس شريفده بر يهود حكومتى تشكيل).

Both the pre-1799 chronology and the key content of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha's account are mostly confirmed by a hitherto unpublished letter written by the Russian Emperor Paul I (August 18, 1798). It took only 48 days for the Egyptian tidings about the French conquest of Alexandria to reach Paul. By contrast, Paris did not have official confirmation of Napoleon's victory, until the second week in September.

The Emperor Paul's August 18th letter announces dramatic news about three very important matters of foreign affairs, just received from Vassili Tamara, the Russian Ambassador in Constantinople. Firstly, the French have conquered Alexandria (July 2, 1798). Secondly, Napoleon intends to restore the "Jewish Republic" (Еврейская Республика) in Jerusalem. Thirdly, Sultan Selim III wants help from Russia. How did Tamara know about Napoleon's plan for the Jewish Republic in Jerusalem? Probably from the Turks. By late July 1798, the Ottomans were eager to share any information that they thought might influence Russia to help Turkey defend against France.

The Russian-language text of this key document was kindly shared by Dr. Valeriy Morkva of Kapadokya University in Turkey. Using the mandatory lead pencil, he carefully hand copied it from the archival original in Moscow (August 18, 1798):
Господин Генерал от Инфантерии Граф Гудович, Получив сего дня известие о завоевании французами Александрии и намерениях начальника их Бонапарте распространить действия свои в областях Порте подвластных, обращая виды свои на Мекку, Медину и Иерусалим, с намерение в сем последнем месте восстановить Еврейскую Республику, получили Мы купно с оным и донесение Нашего Министра Тайного Советника Тамары о решении султана просить деятельнейшей помощи нашей противу врагов всех царств и разрушителей всеобщего порядка.

[Mr. General of the Infantry, Count Gudovich: I have today received news of the conquest of Alexandria by the French and the intentions of their commander Bonaparte to expand his actions in the regions subordinate to the Sublime Porte, including Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. In this last place, he intends to restore the Jewish Republic. From Our Minister, Privy Counselor Tamara, we also got a report about the Sultan's decision to ask for our most active help against the enemies of all kingdoms and the destroyers of universal order.]

Emperor Paul I to General of the Infantry, Count Ivan Vasilyevich Gudovich, Архив Внешней Политики Российской Империи. Ф. 2. Внутренние коллежские дела. Опись 2/2. Дело 205. Переписка Павла I по внешнеполитическим делам, Июль-Декабрь 1798, f.41: 18/7 августа 1798. (Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire. F. 2. Internal collegiate affairs. Inventory 2/2. Case 205. Correspondence of Paul I on foreign policy, July-December 1798, f. 41: 18/7 August 1798.)

Jews as secret agents

Who was this Jew who in 1797-8 told the Ottomans about the official, revolutionary declaration for a Jewish government in Jerusalem? It is impossible to say. Mideast Jews as secret agents of Napoleon's Army of the East will be described later, in connection with Napoleon's wartime propaganda, originating in Egypt and Ottoman Syria. Here it suffices to say that he also had Jewish spies, agents or emissaries in North Africa and the Balkans. For example, Le Moniteur published a Constantinople report (May 13, 1799):
On the 16th of this month [April 5, 1799] in the Bostanji-Bashi prison, the Porte had strangled to death a Jewish physician, lately come from Rushcuk [Ruse on the Danube] with the Kapudan Pasha [November 1798]. Definite proof had been acquired that he was a secret emissary of the French.
More Jewish spies and secret emissaries? The future general and politician, Charles-François Dumouriez was a French secret agent in Poland in the 1770s. Then, he discovered (1822): "The Jews are the best spies that you can have in Poland." This assessment is consistent with what we learn from Le Moniteur (July 6, 1797). This includes a June 19th Vienna report indicating that Jewish spies are playing an important role, providing intelligence and strategic advice to patriotic, Polish insurgents in Eastern Galicia.

After the first week of September 1798, Ottoman officials refuse to let young Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (Ukraine) disembark in Jaffa, because they think he is a French spy. The Ottomans had some reason to be concerned about the loyalty of Jews. We have already seen the role of Jews in distributing the printed prophecies predicting the early collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, it was no secret that, in various places around the Mediterranean, there were Jewish revolutionaries dazzled by Napoleon. For example, consider the deep enthusiasm for Napoleon of the polyglot Jewish traveler, scholar, and writer, Samuel Aaron Romanelli (1757-1817). He revered Napoleon as the liberator of the Jewish People.

"A people whose interests are wedded to us by our principles and by reason." These are the Jews of Rome, according to the French Commandant there, Brigadier-General Honoré Vial, as reported in Le Conservateur (March 11, 1798). His assessment is confirmed by l'Ami des Lois (December 28, 1798): "The Jews are the portion of the people who derived the greatest advantage from the revolution. Thus, they embraced it with joy (transport) and served it with enthusiasm." Also, from and about Rome is a December 10, 1798 view printed in The Times of London (January 4, 1799): "The Jews had been the greatest gainers by the Revolution" and "had enthusiastically promoted it."

With the April 1799 collapse of the Cisalpine Republic, a new Austrian Imperial Commissioner, Count Luigi Cocastelli, headed the provisional government of the restored Duchy of Milan. He issued a proclamation that, inter alia, compelled Jews to return all the gold and silver Church utensils, statues, ornaments and vases which they had purchased during the French occupation. This is described in a June 10th letter from Milan that is printed in the Supplement aux Nouvelles Politiques of Leiden. Cocastelli's edict includes the following political judgment (July 2, 1799):
The Jewish Nation (la Nation Juive) seconded the Revolution in Italy with all the zeal that the prospect of the greatest personal gain could inspire in it. Thus, above all, it is the Jewish Nation which today must pay dear for its attachment to the French and the confidence that it had in the new order of things.

An August 20, 1798 Constantinople report claims that Jews, in the Ottoman capital, had been preparing supplies for Napoleon. Under the heading of "foreign intelligence," this interesting information—via a September 1st letter from Vienna—appears in London in both The Morning Post and Gazetteer (September 18th) and Lloyd's Evening-Post (September 19, 1798):
The only magazines that were formed for his army were made here [Constantinople], and these by some Turkish Jews, with the intention of selling them to the French on their arrival, and these Jews have been taken up and punished.

Until the Dey of Algiers (December 21, 1798) followed the order of his Ottoman suzerain in declaring war against France, Marseilles members of the prominent Algerian Jewish merchant families Bacri and Abucaya were used by the Directory for unsuccessful attempts to covertly transmit secret dispatches to Napoleon in Egypt.

A report about Jewish spies on British Gibraltar was told by "an intelligent gentleman passenger" who disembarked at Norfolk, Virginia (February 20, 1799) from the schooner Adventure, direct from Lisbon. Whether true or false, his account is proof of contemporary expectation that some Jews might be working as agents for Spain, which was then an ally of Revolutionary France. The Gibraltar story is printed in The Louisville Gazette (March 19, 1799):
There had been a conspiracy discovered at Gibraltar to blow up the New Mole, and give the place up to the Spaniards; several of the inhabitants (principally Jews) were seized and hanged; Lord St. Vincent had, in consequence, brought part of his fleet from Cadiz to Gibraltar.

Including news of fighting near the Rhine River, an April 8, 1799 Fribourg report appears in Munich's Le Courier de l'Empire (April 16, 1799):
Yesterday the Hussars brought here a French Jew who was practicing the profession of espionage (le métier d'espion). After a very thorough interrogation, he was sent on to Donaueschingen where headquarters is now located.

The Observer of London carries a June 29, 1799 letter from Algiers, about the execution of a couple of Jewish spies there (September 1, 1799): "Last week two rich Jews had their heads struck off, by the order of the Dey, and their bodies burnt to ashes, for having in their possession plans and accounts of the forces, etc., and for favouring the French."

In 1799, the Directory appointed two Jewish secret emissaries to carry confidential papers to Napoleon in Egypt. Twenty-one years of age, the Jewish soldier Samson Cerfberr de Medelsheim was sent out from Paris with dispatches in April, but captured by the British Navy off Sardinia. Forty-eight years of age, the Polish Jew Zalkind Hourvitz was just about to begin his journey to Egypt, when news arrived in Paris of Napoleon's return to France (October 9, 1799).

There were also Jewish spies for the reactionary, old order. For example, Napoleon—as Commander in Chief of the Army of Italy—from Milan, writes to France's diplomatic representative in Genoa, Guillaume-Charles Faipoult. Napoleon includes a document claiming that Turin Jews are spying for Piedmont's House of Savoy (September 22, 1796):
The cabinet of Turin [...] goes to great expense maintaining spies everywhere. It even makes use of the community of the Jews of Turin (le corps des juifs de Turin). Under pretext of business, they always have three or four of their number in Milan to spy on what's happening here, and they replace them every ten to fifteen days.

L'Ami des Lois reports (October 29, 1799), from an English source, a story about a "very rich" Jew, born in Leiden. He is a longtime spy for the deposed Dutch Stadtholder, William of Orange. This prince was then with the reactionary forces fighting against the French and Batavian Republics. Dressed as a woman, this Jew penetrates the French lines, where he gathers intelligence, while pretending to sell butter and eggs. But without a razor, he is caught, due to an unexpected delay that is long enough for his beard to grow. "A considerable amount of money was offered to save him from execution."

A Jewish secret agent who served both sides was the radical English publicist Lewis Goldsmith. Throughout the 1790s, he openly championed the cause of the French Revolution. No later than 1800, he was secretly on Talleyrand's payroll to produce London propaganda against the policies of Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger. In January 1801, Goldsmith published The Crimes of Cabinets, subtitled "a review of their plans and aggressions for the annihilation of the liberties of France and the dismemberment of her territories." He was later a Paris editor and propagandist, and also a spy for Napoleon in Europe. Eventually, Goldsmith turned against Napoleon. In fact, Goldsmith became so famous as a vitriolic critic of the French Emperor that, after the Bourbon restoration, Goldsmith earned a pension from King Louis XVIII of France.

Napoleon's propaganda resented by Turkey 

From 1797 the Turks were fully alive to the modern political meaning of all those French references to the glories of ancient Greece. In retrospective analysis, Cevdet Pasha understood the revolutionary evocations of ancient Greece and biblical Jerusalem to be identical in terms of source, time, and anti-Ottoman motive. On either side, contemporary diplomatic correspondence and other evidence show that the Turks then knew that Napoleon and his local commanders were publishing inflammatory proclamations and dispatching letters and subversive emissaries to spark revolt against the Sultan on the Aegean islands, and in Morea and Rumelia.

Such efforts were certainly aimed at revolutionizing Greeks. But, there were also important Jewish communities on the islands of Crete and Rhodes. And, Rumelia included the heavily-Jewish city of Salonika, as well as Edirne and Larissa where there were also many thousands of Jews. In the Morea, there was a major Jewish presence in Tripolis, but also Jewish communities at Mystras, Kalamata and Patras. Large numbers of Jews lived in Constantinople. There were also Jews at so many other Ottoman places, including Çanakkale, Bursa, Smyrna [İzmir], Aleppo, Damascus, Safed, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Alexandria.

The Foreign Minister (Ottoman-Turkish: reis-ül-küttab رئيس الكتاب‎) and the Dragoman of the Porte repeatedly protested to the French Embassy in Constantinople, as in late 1797 and again in June and July 1798. These Ottoman grievances were embodied in a long memorandum shared with the diplomatic corps simultaneous to Turkey's declaration of war against France (September 10, 1798).

The Ottomans were astute in articulating the French strategic conception of la grande nation: "Everywhere weak republics would be created which France would keep under its tutelage, so that everything everywhere would go according to its arbitrary will." The foregoing and other generous excerpts from the Ottoman memorandum appeared one month later in the Wiener Zeitung (October 10, 1798):
One knows about Bonaparte's letter [July 30, 1797] to the Maniotes and of other distributed writings of his deceitful genius. When the Sublime Porte in the strongest terms complained about this, the French government downplayed the matter and undertook to stop it immediately, saying that it wished nothing else than to strengthen the old friendship. But, the [French] generals did not in the least change their behavior. To the contrary, they were even more enterprising and cunning than before.
Make no mistake! Napoleon was not just contacting the Maniotes. There were most certainly other recipients of the "distributed writings of his deceitful genius." This is conclusively proven by: the 1797 entry in General Desaix's diary; the Emperor Paul's 1798 reference to a "Jewish Republic" in Jerusalem; Mallet du Pan's 1799 description of France's propaganda in the Near and Mideast; and Cevdet Pasha's mid-19th-century account of a 1797-8 French revolutionary proclamation inviting Jews to agree on establishing "a Jewish government in Jerusalem."

Maniotes but not Jews?

In 1797, Napoleon himself recruited his own spies and emissaries, even paying them personally or signing their bank drafts. His modus operandi and rationale relating to the oppressed Peoples of the Ottoman Empire are exemplified by his efforts aimed at the Maniotes. They then numbered no more than forty thousand; or perhaps even as few as eight to ten thousand, according to an 1803 Ottoman estimate.

From Milan, Napoleon wrote to the Chief of the Maniotes (July 30, 1797): "The French value the small, but brave Maniote People who alone of ancient Greece has known how to preserve its liberty." On that same day, Napoleon wrote to Arnault on Corfu that he wished to know more about "the situation and forces of this small People" and "what could be expected from them if ever the Ottoman Empire experiences a convulsion." He then informed the Directory (August 1, 1797):
The Chief of the Maniotes, a people who trace genuine descent from the Spartiatae, and who occupy the peninsula on which Cape Matapan is situated, has sent one of his principal men to express to me his wish to see French vessels in his port, and to be of some service to the great people (le grand peuple).
Already known to Napoleon were Dimo Stephanopouli and his nephew Nicolo, both born and raised in Corsica. Napoleon first checked to make sure that the two were really fluent in their ancestral Maniote dialect of Greek, and then sent them in September 1797 to sow "seeds of true liberty" in Mani. The diplomatic letter that the two Stephanopoulis carried to Mani explicitly recognized the peoplehood of the Maniote "nation" which was celebrated as descending from ancient Sparta. According to Napoleon, the Revolutionary French Republic and the Maniotes were "two nations equally friends of liberty."

Napoleon specifically saluted Maniote peoplehood and tried to subvert the few Maniotes. Therefore, why would anyone doubt the Emperor Paul's August 1798 letter, saying that his ambassador in Constantinople reported that Bonaparte intended to restore the Jewish Republic (Еврейская Республика)? And, why question the accuracy of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha's official account of a 1797-8 revolutionary appeal (بياننامه) to the Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire?

True, the Maniotes were famous as fierce warriors. But, in the Ottoman Empire, Jews were certainly more numerous than Maniotes, not to mention the millions of Jews across Europe. Moreover, revolutionary Jews had already shown that they too could fight. Finally, there can be no doubt that Napoleon believed that Jews could offer special advantages in finance and international trade, exactly as set out in Lettre d'un Juif, which is perhaps from Napoleon's pen.

Propaganda for niche markets

Napoleon always placed exceptional emphasis on communications and public relations. This included revolutionary propaganda, custom-made for niche audiences in various languages and places. His propaganda also found expression in dramatic gestures. For example, as a political tactic, he needed to threaten the polyglot Habsburg Monarchy with the specter of annihilation, via partition into its ethnic components. Thus, three days before signature of the Campo-Formio Treaty (October 17, 1797), he drove this "dissolution" threat home, at the Udino negotiations, with calculated theater. Feigning anger at diplomatic delay, he suddenly smashed to the floor a prized ceramic that the Empress Catherine II had given to the Austrian negotiator, Count Johann Ludwig Cobenzl. Napoleon said: "Within three months, I will break your monarchy, just as I shatter this porcelain."

Consistent with this same theme of threatening to destroy the Habsburg Monarchy, Napoleon had been openly promising to "revolutionize" Hungary. Thus, his proclamation to the Army of Italy rhapsodized (March 10, 1797): "It is freedom (la liberté) that you will bring to the brave Hungarian nation." He evidently understood the distinct propaganda utility of the same text in four different languages—namely French, Hungarian, German and Italian. Thus, he wrote to General Charles-François-Joseph Dugua who was then in Trieste (March 26, 1797):
You will find attached a copy of my proclamation to the army that you will arrange to translate into German, Hungarian, Italian; that you will arrange to print and seek to distribute in Hungary to the greatest extent that you are able. You will send me five hundred copies of them in Hungarian, five hundred in German, and two hundred in Italian.
Additional "pamphlet" propaganda was then prepared in order to spark insurrection in Hungary. As was certainly Napoleon's practice in 1809, these 1797 revolutionary pamphlets were perhaps also printed in Latin, which was widely used in education, politics and government in the Kingdom of Hungary into the 19th century. These subversive pamphlets featured in a secret report from the Austrian intelligence agency, the Polizeihofstelle, to the Habsburg Emperor Francis II, who was simultaneously King of Hungary (December 27, 1797):
Although one is already accustomed to Bonaparte's boastful tone, it is still very noteworthy that he says, via published pamphlets that have come straight from Hungary, that this kingdom's transformation into a republic depends on him.

As General-in-Chief of the Army of Italy (1796-7), Napoleon was already specially concerned about the availability of both printing presses and foreign-language typeface. For example, he repeatedly signaled urgent need for Greek and Arabic characters, the latter notably also useful for printing in Ottoman-Turkish.

As General-in-Chief of the Army of the East (1798-1799), Napoleon had multilingual printing facilities in Cairo. In 1799, he campaigned in Ottoman Syria with Mideast translators, including his senior orientalist, Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis who died at the Siege of Acre (May 16, 1799). Venture de Paradis had long Mideast experience, and most certainly knew both Arabic and Ottoman-Turkish.

It is of the greatest significance that, in the Holy Land, Napoleon traveled with a small, portable, printing press. This he frequently used for duplicating orders of the day, circular letters, proclamations, revolutionary propaganda, etc. This valuable information comes from volume five of the Histoire scientifique et militaire de l'expédition française en Égypte (Paris, 1832). This field press had typeface for printing—at the very least—in Roman and Arabic fonts.

Napoleon Bonaparte in the Mideast, 1798-1799.
The Revolutionary French Republic and Bonaparte then
strongly championed the new political principles of
popular sovereignty and the self-determination of Peoples.
Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1863).

Mideast propaganda 1798

From lead typeface found on the seabed, underwater archaeologists in 1983 and 1996 confirmed historical accounts that Napoleon had a printing press aboard his great flagship l'Orient, which was sunk by Nelson (August 1, 1798). While still at sea, Napoleon printed his initial proclamation to the people of Ottoman Egypt—at the very least, in French, Arabic, and Ottoman-Turkish. Copies in various languages were available when the fleet reached the Egyptian coast (July 1, 1798). Less than a week after his Army of the East disembarked, Napoleon ordered (July 7, 1798) French, Arabic and Greek printing to begin on land, within twenty-four hours. He wanted four thousand printed proclamations, pronto. He frequently wrote to ensure that his printed proclamations were distributed to the inhabitants of Egypt.

Napoleon was also astute and proactive in finding imaginative ways to spread his printed proclamations in Greater Syria and throughout the broader Mideast, to which regular travel was still possible during July and August 1798. For example, the French invasion fleet had carried from Malta, about seven hundred of the prisoners freed from the galley slavery, imposed by the Knights of Saint John. Napoleon made sure that those of the former prisoners, who were heading home to "Syria" and beyond, were equipped with copies of his printed proclamations. These were probably also made available to most of the ordinary travelers heading eastward.

From July 1798, Napoleon was trying to send as many spies as possible from Egypt to Ottoman Syria and beyond. Such spies, emissaries and agents carried secret letters and Napoleon's various printed proclamations. These were printed in French, in Arabic, probably in Ottoman-Turkish, and maybe also in some other languages used in the Mideast. For example, before the end of 1798, he authorized production of a printed Arabic-language proclamation "to the inhabitants of Syria." This interesting document will be discussed below.

Late 18th-century Maltese slavery records suggest that Jews were among the prisoners liberated by the French conquest of the island. Moreover, pertinent evidence comes from the expedition's official baritone and ethno-musicologist, Guillaume-André Villoteau, then 38 years old. During the sea voyage from Malta to Alexandria, he diligently researched Mideast song, among the emancipated galley slaves of diverse Mediterranean origins. For this onboard study, Villoteau needed translation. This was provided, notably by a multilingual Italian Jew who was himself among the galley slaves, freed by Napoleon (Legrain, Bulletin de l'Institut égyptien, 1917).

Similarly, Jews were among the ordinary travelers, and also among the many spies that Napoleon sent to "Syria" and beyond. These Jews secretly packed printed proclamations for "the heavy populations of Greeks, of Jews, and of Christians in Syria" (fortes populations de Grecs, de Juifs et de Chrétiens de Syrie). This is a specific demographic described by Napoleon, in his own history of the Mideast campaign. And, just as suggested by Mallet du Pan, there were perhaps also seditious hymns, poetry, pamphlets, leaflets, and secret letters; maybe including one or more printed texts, specially crafted for the many Jews of Ottoman Syria.

The fact that Mideast Jews carried various secret papers and printed material for Napoleon is conclusively confirmed by an account that appears in The London Chronicle. This newspaper article importantly describes Napoleon's extensive reliance on printing in the Mideast and some of the measures that he took to try to get his dispatches, through the vigilant British naval blockade, to the Directory in Paris (March 30-April 2, 1799):
Buonaparte has ceased writing altogether, and has had recourse to the press. His official papers of every kind are printed in great numbers, and trusted to itinerant Syrians, Jews, etc., who frequent the Egyptian marts, and who are paid for conveying them secretly to Scanderoon [İskenderun], Berut [Beirut], or St. Jean d'Acre [Akko], in hopes of finding some neutral vessel there that will undertake to forward them to France. Several copies of the General's last dispatches, were discovered plaited into the clothes of a Jew at Acre. Others have found their way to Constantinople [İstanbul] ...
From Cairo, Napoleon wrote to the Directory on September 8, 1798. Therein, he included the important detail that he had been trying to send dispatches to Paris, via Constantinople and several other places. Special attention is due to every reference to Napoleon printing in Egypt and the Holy Land, and also to his sending written or printed dispatches and other messages to (or via) Constantinople. We shall later see that the twenty May 1799 European newspapers that speak of a Napoleon proclamation to the Jews, all claim as source an April 1799 report, also from Constantinople.

Wherever found and however acquired, Napoleon papers intercepted by the Turks had their contents "officially communicated" to "the Ministers of the Friendly Powers, who reside in Constantinople." In particular, "the content" of captured Napoleon documents was shared with "the Minsters of England and Russia" in Constantinople. The foregoing testimony comes from the Nouvelles Politiques of Leiden (October 23, 1798).

"Grands prêtres de la nation juive"

Any special messages from Napoleon for Jews could have been handwritten, or possibly even printed in French, Italian or Hebrew. Modern auction-house advertisements of Hebraica conclusively establish that 18th-century Cairo already had one or more presses working with Hebrew characters. Such postulated printed propaganda for Jews would probably have contained revolutionary exhortations, and also religious references to soon rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Included would have been the astonishing news that, for the first time in 1,728 years, there were once again high priests of the Jewish People, "grands prêtres de la nation juive."

Napoleon was intelligent; highly educated; and always extremely interested in specific details of the various religions—especially Judaism—which he was often ready to exploit politically. According to the 1799-1806 journal of Pierre-Louis Roederer, Napoleon, as First Consul of the Republic, told the Council of State (August 16, 1800):
It is by making myself Catholic that I brought an end to the war in the Vendée; by making myself Muslim that I established myself in Egypt; by making myself ultramontane that I won over minds in Italy. If I governed a nation of Jews, I would rebuild the Temple of Solomon. (C’est en me faisant catholique que j’ai fini la guerre de la Vendée, en me faisant musulman que je me suis établi en Egypte, en me faisant ultramontain que j’ai gagné les esprits en Italie. Si je gouvernais un peuple de juifs, je rétablirais le temple de Salomon.)
His diverse writings and occasional conversations show that he probably well understood the historical and theological distinction between a modern rabbi (rabbin) and a biblical Jewish priest (prêtre), and between an ordinary synagogue and the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, there was likely lateral thinking, strategy, and shrewd propaganda in his Cairo order (September 7, 1798) authorizing Jewish community organization. The pertinent point is his naming of two "grands prêtres de la nation juive." The issue is his choice of striking "grand prêtre" terminology, which harks back to the Temple. He probably did so deliberately, in order to appeal to millennial Jewish hopes for rebuilding the Temple.

News of the appointment of such high priests would solo suffice to explain the excitement and enhanced messianic expectation that arose among Mideast Jews upon Napoleon's entry into the Holy Land (February 1799). Thus, a group of Rabbis convened in Khan Younis to deliberate on the possible messianic meaning of the French invasion. The 1799 rumor that Napoleon would go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple was recorded by Napoleon himself around 1819, in his own historical account of the "Syrian" campaign.

Proclamation to the inhabitants of Syria

The text arrives in Vienna on January 25th or 27th, by courier from Constantinople. The document is then sent onward to Paris, where it is printed, as a French translation from Arabic, in l'Ami des Lois, on February 9, 1799. Drawn from l'Ami des Lois, the proclamation is reprinted in French, firstly in the Bulletin officiel du directoire helvétique (official bulletin of the Helvetian directory), on February 15th; and secondly in the Journal de Francfort, on February 16th. An English translation is published in The True Briton, on February 19th.

The manifesto is curiously without intrinsic date and place of issuance. However, December 1798 is the date given by Christian August Fischer. He reprints it in French, in a compilation of Napoleon's proclamations (1796-1807), drawn from the European press. Printed in Leipzig in 1808, this one-volume work is entitled, Collection générale et complète de lettres, proclamations, discours, messages, etc., de Napoléon le Grand, rédigée d'après le Moniteur, etc., (general and complete collection of Napoleon the Great's letters, proclamations, speeches, messages, etc., drawn from the Moniteur, etc). Also from Leipzig, there is a simultaneous German-language version of this Fischer book.

The likelihood is that the proclamation is intentionally left without date and place of issuance. Why? Because it is designed to be evergreen—namely, fresh for widespread secret circulation in Ottoman Syria, whether both before or during Napoleon's campaign there. Understandably, no original copy of these ephemeral Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish printings has survived into the 21st century.

This "Syrian" document is notably missing from the later, principal, standard collections of Napoleon's product. The Paris archive copies in Arabic and French were perhaps burned by Napoleon in 1807, as already explained in the preface. If so, the clear motive for destruction was to avoid acute embarrassment, arising both from the rabidly anti-Christian preamble and the braggadocio of the text. After the fact, such strutting was patently out of keeping with the dismal failure of his campaign in Ottoman Syria.

The proclamation claims the arrival of Napoleon's army on Cyprus, and before the walls of Alexandria, Cairo, Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus. When the proclamation was written—probably in late 1798—Alexandria and Cairo had already been conquered. And, Acre would be beseiged from March to May 1799. But, Napoleon never reached Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Damascus. Was Napoleon literally lying at the time of writing? Or is he to be better understood as speaking proleptically about Cyprus, Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus? Prolepsis is a counterfactual, figure of speech in which a future act or development is emphatically described, as if already accomplished or existing.

We can be certain that this undated proclamation originated before 1799, due to the circa two months then generally required for overland communications from the Mideast to arrive in Paris, via Constantinople and Vienna. Thus, Napoleon must have arranged for preparation of this Arabic document, at a minimum, fifty days before he left Cairo (February 10, 1799) to cross the Sinai Desert. Napoleon purposely drafted this propaganda piece proleptically. Namely, it is written as a dramatic "flash forward" into an anticipated future, when he expects to be poised to swiftly finish his inevitable conquest of all Ottoman Syria and Cyprus.

On December 15, 1798, Napoleon's local organ Le Courrier de l'Égypte is still stubbornly sticking to his original propaganda line that the French are in Egypt, as allies of the Ottoman sultan. Moreover, a later number of the same paper says the Ottoman flag is still flying (June 13, 1799) over the French garrison in the fort at Qusayr, on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea. Thus, the timing, tenor and contents of the proclamation suggest that it is not for immediate release to the general public in Egypt.

The Swiss version in the Bulletin officiel du directoire helvétique intentionally omits the shocking phrase "God... who has no Son" (Dieu... qui n'a point de fils). This telling excision underlines the document's theological radicalism. The divinity of Christ is specifically denied. Rejection of Jesus as Son of God dovetails with the Deist doctrine of the French revolutionaries. This spectacular repudiation of Jesus is also consistent with Napoleon's wish to win over Mideast Muslims and Jews. The populace of Ottoman Syria is invited to seek safety by rallying to Napoleon. "If not, the blade of the sword" (si non le tranchant du glaive).

Just like the French-language version in l'Ami des Lois, the English-language translation in The True Briton (February 19, 1799) says the proclamation was circulating in Arabic in Ottoman Syria. The strong likelihood is that a great number of printed copies were covertly sent onward to Palestine and beyond, long before Napoleon crossed the Sinai Desert to enter the Holy Land:
Vienna, Jan. 25. —A Courier has brought the following Proclamation from Constantinople. Buonaparte has caused it to be circulated in the Arabic language in Syria:


In the name of the Almighty, eternal, infinite and all-wise God, who has himself no creator, who did not create, and who has no Son, etc. etc. Justice and truth are in all our ways; we have undeviatingly persevered in the resolution of protecting both the Freeman and the Slave; we have come with our victorious Armies to succour the oppressed, and to make them taste for ever the blessings of peace and repose. Cairo the Great, Alexandria the Powerful, Cyprus, Jerusalem, Ptolemaïs [Acre], and Damaïs [Damascus], the plains and the ancient monuments which surround those Cities, have witnessed the approach of our Armies [note the foregoing prolepsis], whose power is infinite, and incomprehensible even to the wise. Protection to every City which shall open its gates to us! But woe to those Cities and their inhabitants, which shall reject our beneficence! It is to declare this truth to all Syria that we have issued this Proclamation which is irrevocable. If you repair to our standard, you will never be forsaken—if not, the sword of vengeance shall reach your heads. Take notice of this—Health. (Signed) BUONAPARTE.

London, The True Briton, Number 1922,
Tuesday, February 19, 1799.

This piece is noteworthy as absent from the main,
standard, printed collections of Napoleon's documents. 

Mideast propaganda 1799

The Ottomans derided such Napoleon proclamations, printed in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish, as lying "sweet talk." Nonetheless, after Napoleon's army took Gaza (February 25, 1799), there were more printed Arabic or Ottoman-Turkish proclamations for Muslims, and also a series of individual messages for Christians in the Lebanon, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

On March 7th, Napoleon conquered Jaffa. Attacking and sacking killed two hundred townsmen, according to The London Chronicle (May 17, 1799). Inhabitants initially "put to the sword" were both Muslim and Christian. After a December 1817 visit to Jaffa, Count Auguste de Forbin described the negative effect of the massacre of some local Christians (1819): "This mistake, which they subsequently came to deeply regret, diminished the enthusiasm of all the Syrian Christians, who had earlier been awaiting the French as liberators." After the initial slaughter in the heat of combat, there were also some mass killings in cold blood, of both civilians and prisoners of war. Specifically, the extermination of captured Ottoman soldiers continued until March 10th.

These horrors Napoleon remarkably exploited to send four separate proclamations—probably printed in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish—to threaten the Muslims of Acre; Jerusalem; Nablus; and Gaza, Ramleh and Jaffa. In each case, he asked them to choose between submission and the terrors of war. The widely distributed "Palestine" proclamation was a printed letter to the leaders of the aforementioned three towns of the coastal strip. Therein, he characteristically invoked the notion of destiny (March 9, 1799):
It is good for you to know that all human efforts are useless against me, because everything that I undertake must succeed. Those who declare themselves to be my friends prosper. Those who declare themselves to be my enemies perish. The example which has just happened at Gaza and Jaffa ought to make you know that, if I can be terrible to my enemies, I am good to my friends and above all mild and merciful to the poor people.
(Soon, more will be said about Napoleon's printed "Palestine" proclamation and also about the one he sent to the leaders of Jerusalem.)

From his siege camp near Acre, Napoleon also wrote a private letter to court Bashir Shihab II, the Emir of the Druze. Although we have the field headquarters copy in French, for Bashir there was probably a translation into Arabic (March 20, 1799): "My intention is to make the Druze nation independent, to lighten the tribute which it pays, and to deliver to it the port of Beirut and other towns necessary for the outflow of its commerce."

The same day, Napoleon ordered his chief of staff, General Louis Berthier, to send a letter to the most persecuted population of Mount Lebanon. These were the 5,000 Shia Twelvers or Motouâly. Here, Napoleon was probably commanding preparation of a letter in Arabic (March 20, 1799):
Write to the Chief of the Motouâly to let him know that I am sent by God to repair the injustices committed by Djezzar [Ahmet Cezzar Pasha], and to restore to the legitimate owners, the lands that rightfully belong to them. Tell him to come visit me in my camp, in order to make his submission. Say that I want to be their friend and to protect them.
Pointing to another place where he knew 800 or 900 Motouâly to be living, Napoleon ordered: "You will in the same way write to the commandant of Sour [Tyre] that he make his submission and send deputies to my camp at Acre." Berthier was also asked to send similar letters to each of the villages of Zib, Safed, Tiberias, Nazareth, Cana, and also to all the larger towns of the pashalik of Acre. At issue here was evidently preparation of letters in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish. This linguistic effort was executed either by Venture de Paradis himself or—under his direct supervision—by the perhaps two or three other translators working in Napoleon's camp.

If Copts, why not Jews?

Just as Napoleon knew the Jews to be the aboriginal People of the Land of Israel (Heb: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬ Eretz Yisrael), so too he was aware that the Christian Copts were the aboriginal People of Egypt. It is often forgotten that Napoleon wrote a reply to a letter he had received from the Copts, who then (as today) were a persecuted minority in Egypt (December 7, 1798):
Citizen, I have received the letter from the Copt People (la nation copte). It will always be a pleasure for me to protect it. Henceforth, it will no longer be degraded, and, when circumstances will permit, which I perceive to be not too far in the future, I will accord it the right to publicly exercise its religion; just as is the practice in Europe, where each person is entitled to follow his own belief. I will severely punish those villages which killed Copts in the different rebellions. As of today, you can announce to them that I permit them to bear arms; to ride on either donkeys or horses; and to wear turbans and clothing, as they themselves see fit.
In return for restoring to the Copts their dignity and the Rights of Man, Napoleon felt entitled to demand from them "much zeal and fidelity in the service of the Republic." And indeed, the Copts played a big role during the French occupation of Egypt (1798-1801). For example, by the close of 1799, there was a two-thousand strong, armed Coptic Legion. The soldiers were notably clean-shaven. They wore French-style uniforms, with their own distinctive headgear, decorated with black lambskin.

Their commander (serasker) was an experienced warrior, the Mu'allim Ya'qub. Born in Upper Egypt in 1745, Ya'qub had served Süleyman, the Ağa of the Janissaries, during the time of Ali Bey. Both as soldier and finance director, Ya'qub helped General Desaix in Upper Egypt. The Greek-Catholic (Melkite) historian, Nikula ibn Yusuf Al-Türki, was an eyewitness. He said that Ya'qub was endowed with exceptional strength, tireless zeal, and great skill as a horseman. In March 1801, Ya'qub was raised to the rank of brigadier-general and ordered to assist General Augustin-Daniel Belliard in the defence of Cairo, against the invading Anglo-Ottoman forces.

So, in 1798, Napoleon had troubled to write a letter to the aboriginal Copts. And in 1799, he wrote the Emir of the Druze; and also the Chief of the Shia Twelvers (Motouâly). There was also a special printed proclamation for the leaders of Gaza, Ramleh, and Jaffa; and a similar printed appeal to the leaders of Jerusalem. Such correspondence also went to the Sheikh of Nablus, and letters to a long list of nearby towns. But, what about the many thousands of Jews of Ottoman Syria? No special message for the large Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Damascus, and Aleppo? And, nothing for the famous Jewish People of world history?

Before and during his "Syrian" campaign, Napoleon sought to derive advantage from almost every other component of the local population. In 1819, he wrote: "The Jews were quite numerous in Syria" (les Juifs étaient assez nombreux en Syrie). Thus, it would have been exceedingly peculiar, for a truly non-discriminatory revolutionary like Napoleon, to omit approaches to Jews, who had so often featured in his 1796-7 dispositions in Italy.

Jewish history weighed heavily

Despite revolutionary secularism, Napoleon took ancient Jewish history very seriously. Throughout his life, he was interested in having his personal libraries include some books on Jews and Judaism. In his youth, he made some interesting notes on Jewish topics, and later is said to have read the early 18th-century History of the Jews by Jacques Basnage.

Before sailing for Egypt (May 19, 1798), Napoleon had prepared a list of around 550 military and other books that he wanted on board. Likely among his military titles was The Jewish War by the famous Jewish historian, Yosef ben Matityahu (Flavius Josephus). This is an eyewitness account of Jewish resistance and Roman generalship in first-century Judea. Moreover, what has survived of Napoleon's book list for the Egyptian campaign classifies the Old Testament under the heading of "politics," along with some other titles like the Hindu Vedas, the Muslim Koran, and Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws (De l'esprit des lois). On the sea voyage from Toulon to Alexandria, Napoleon was reading both the Old Testament and the Koran.

While in exile on Saint Helena, he asked to be sent books about Jewish history. For example, he ordered the seven volumes of Isaac-Joseph Berruyer's History of the People of God (Histoire du Peuple de Dieu), and a French translation of the Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus. He also wanted to have "three or four books in French or Italian, covering everything pertaining to the religion of the Jews, right up to our times."

An hour before Napoleon's departure from Cairo for the "Syrian" campaign, he wrote to the Directory (February 10, 1799): "When you read this letter, it is possible that I might be on the ruins of the city of Solomon." Regarding the "Syrian" campaign, Napoleon reminisced (January 1813): "I constantly read Genesis when visiting the places it describes and was amazed beyond measure that they were still exactly as Moses had described them." During his exile on Saint Helena, Napoleon personally completed (circa 1819) a careful account of the campaign. He again recalled that he and his entourage were struck by the accuracy of the geographical descriptions in the Catholic Old Testament, which Monge read aloud to them in the evenings, in the tent of the General-in-Chief.

Exactly as predicted in his 1798 proleptic, printed proclamation to the inhabitants of Syria, Napoleon's soldiers came close to Jerusalem. But he was careful not to take the Holy City, because he wanted to move fast to first capture the fortified ports at Jaffa and Acre. On Saint Helena, he said (January 15, 1817): "I very much regret having been unable to visit Jerusalem, but time was precious, and that would have delayed, by two or three days, my campaign against Acre."

Moreover, for urgent political reasons, he wished to parry any Muslim or Jewish perception that he might yet be just another Catholic Crusader trying to conquer Jerusalem as champion for the Christian faith. Thus, he wanted to make sure that his French soldiers avoided any appearance of being in the Holy Land for purposes of the Roman-Catholic Church. This was a real concern, because, despite their revolutionary scorn for Christianity, his troops were still "burning to see" sacred sites like the "plateau of the Temple of Solomon," as Napoleon specifically recollected, circa 1819.

Jews met Napoleon at Damiani's home

Most Jews in "Syria" were wisely far too afraid of the prospect of brutal Ottoman retaliation to have much to do with the French invaders. This Jewish caution was reinforced by rumors that the French were treating Jews very badly. Nonetheless, several accounts say that Napoleon met with a group of Jews, at some time during the week immediately following the conquest of Jaffa (March 7th).

This meeting likely occurred shortly after he sent a letter, in eight to ten copies—printed in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish—inviting the inhabitants of Jerusalem to send representatives to his camp, in order to promise that they would do nothing to harm him (March 9, 1799):
Les habitants de Jérusalem peuvent choisir la paix ou la guerre: s'ils choisissent la première, qu'ils envoient au camp de Jaffa des députés pour promettre de ne jamais rien faire contre moi (the inhabitants of Jerusalem can choose between peace or war: if they choose the former, let them send representatives to my camp at Jaffa to promise that they will never do anything against me).

Such a Napoleon encounter with Jews in Jaffa is credible. Firstly, we have already seen that, in March 1799, he repeatedly invited meetings with representatives of the various local Peoples and populations. Secondly, he spoke to these Jewish deputies in Italian. Thirdly, the meeting occurred in the seaside home of Antonio Damiani, where Napoleon certainly resided at this time.

Antonio Damiani was a Catholic with well-known connections to Jews. His grandfather Boutros Damiani and his father Jean (Hanna) Damiani had been Jaffa consular agents for various countries. Antonio Damiani was longtime representative of Great Britain ("English Vice-Consul"). Like his father Jean (Hanna) Damiani, Antonio also worked for the Constantinople rabbinate.

Arabic-speaking, James Silk Buckingham was a highly experienced Mideast traveler. He provided an acid description, after his first meeting with Antonio Damiani in Jaffa on January 16, 1816:
After ascending and descending hilly streets, we at length reached the house of Signor Damiani, the English Consul, and were received there by his domestics. The consul himself soon arrived, and presented one of the most singular mixtures of European and Asiatic costume that we had yet witnessed. His dress consisted of the long robes of the east, surmounted by a powdered bag-wig, a cocked hat with anchor buttons and black cockade, and a gold-headed cane, all of the oldest fashion. The airs and grimace of his behaviour were that of a French frizeur [hair stylist] rather than of an old government-officer; and, indeed, there was nothing about him that seemed consistent with the notions that are generally entertained of consular dignity. We were shown into a miserable hovel, which was dignified with the name of the British residence, though darker, dirtier, and more wretchedly furnished than the meanest cottage of England.
Sixteen years later, Antonio Damiani was visited by the Reverend John T. Kirkland, who had recently retired from the presidency of Harvard College in Boston. According to one of the Mideast letters written by Mrs. Kirkland, Antonio described (May 14, 1832):
his ability to cure cataract of the eye. He said that it was a secret he had derived from an Austrian gentleman who died of the plague at his father's, who to testify his gratitude for the kindness shown him imparted it with a strict injunction that it should never be revealed. He [Damiani] said that he had never failed in any that he had attempted to cure.
In the mid-18th century, Antonio's father, Jean (Hanna) Damiani is, apart from other roles, the Jaffa consular agent for Venice. Further information comes from the Missionary Journal and Memoir of the Reverend Joseph Wolf (1824). On December 18, 1821, Wolf writes that Jean Damiani "was for eighty years British consul at Jaffa, and reached the age of 123."

As victim of brutal Ottoman torture in 1769, Antonio's father "Jean Damiâni" is specifically mentioned in volume two of Volney's Mideast bestseller Voyage en Syrie et en Égypte (1787). In 1780, the Constantinople rabbinate contracted with Jean (Hanna) Damiani to help protect pilgrim Jews passing through Jaffa, on their way to Jerusalem. His son Antonio inherited this auxiliary function. Apart from anything else, this role involved arranging for disembarking Jews to have lodging in Jaffa.

In Constantinople, Rabbi Isaiah Agiman (Ajman) served as banker to the janissaries. In 1820, Agiman bought some Jaffa properties for establishment of a philanthropic Jewish hostel (khan). Such a Jewish khan had been founded in Jaffa in 1746, but had not survived the bitter local warfare of the 1770s. Despite Rabbi Agiman's creation of this new hostel for Jews in Jaffa, the Reverend Joseph Wolf—as late as 1828—was still able to write: "Damiani's house was the rendezvous of pilgrim Jews who came from Salonica, Constantinople, Rhodes, and other places." This pertinent passage is drawn from the Travels and Adventures of the Reverend Joseph Wolff (1860).

Without reference to Napoleon's subsequent residence there, at least three London newspapers in May 1799 report on the March fate of Damiani's home, during the French conquest of Jaffa. The Star (17th), The London Chronicle (16th-18th) and The Selector; or Say's Sunday Reporter (19th) all say that, as belonging to a Christian, Damiani's house was plundered by the populace "during the confusion and tumult attending the capture of that town."

Aboard Tigre at anchor off Jaffa, Commodore Sir Sydney Smith wrote a long letter to Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson. Therein, Smith testified pertinently about Damiani's house as a place of refuge, in the period immediately after the French army had finally evacuated Jaffa, on its quick march back to Egypt (May 30, 1799): "The English flag re-hoisted on the consul's house (under which the Pacha met me) serves as an asylum for all religious and every description of the surviving inhabitants." Released to the public by the Admiralty, this letter appeared in several places, including Bell's Weekly Messenger, September 15, 1799.

A dozen early 19th-century travelers confirm that Antonio Damiani told them about Napoleon's residence at his home. Some also record Damiani's memories of his various interactions and Jaffa conversations with Napoleon. Direct descendant David Damiani in 1989 affirmed: "When Napoleon besieged Jaffa, my ancestor Anton Damiani interceded on behalf of the Muslim population and protected them from French anger—we have an official certificate from the sharia court to this effect."

In early March 1799, the stone building's interior must have been quickly restored for the comfort of the French General-in-Chief. There, in Antonio Damiani's home, the Jews told Napoleon that he was the savior of the Jewish People. Speaking his native Italian, Napoleon questioned them about the present situation of the Jews in the country, their expectations for the future, and some pertinent points of Jewish history.

For this historic meeting, the translator was an Italian-speaking Jew, a successful Jaffa businessman called "Signor" Azriel. He explained that the Holy Land was languishing under Turkish misrule. Moreover, Azriel promised Napoleon that the country would be more prosperous and much better developed, if placed under Jewish administration. If this report is true, Azriel's advice might have reminded Napoleon of the utility of again printing one or more invitations, asking Jews to return to their aboriginal homeland. In 1811, Signor Azriel repeated to two French visitors his earlier assertion that “nothing will become of this land until the Jews are in the government.”

The "Signor Azriel" story gains credibility from the scholarly research and writing of Shoshana Halevy (1906-1985). She had widely recognized expertise in the early 19th-century Hebrew publications and manuscripts of the Old Yishuv, i.e. the Palestinian Jews. This evidently included the memoirs of Signor Azriel. She wrote about Azriel, in both Hebrew and English. For example, pertinent English-language articles appear in the 1950 Zionist Record of South Africa (Johannesburg) and the 1970 New Zealand Jewish Chronicle (Wellington).

Tel Aviv University Professor, Dr. Mordechai Gichon was a brave soldier, canny spy, top intelligence analyst, distinguished military historian, and longtime Napoleon scholar. Entirely without reference to the meeting in Damiani's home, Gichon in 1989 reasonably suggested that Napoleon, at some time during his first week in Jaffa, probably printed one of his appeals to the Jews.

Eighteenth-century communications from Jaffa to Europe were terribly slow. To the point, if Damiani's house was sacked on March 7th, it took 72 days for this news to appear in The Star of London. Thus, it is easy to estimate approximately how long it would take for a simultaneous Mideast report of a Napoleon invitation to the Jews to reach West-European cities, via Constantinople. Doubtless, such news could arrive in the West soon enough to perhaps trigger some or all of the "proclamation" stories, that can still be read in at least twenty-two publications, printed in Europe, from mid to late May 1799. But, would not Napoleon have kept, for the record, a copy of what he had printed in Jaffa? Yes, surely. But, such a "Jewish" document would most likely have been purposely destroyed in the 19th century, exactly as explained in the preface.

Napoleon's Palestine press

We have already seen that the Army of the East went to Ottoman Syria with a small, portable printing press; Mideast translators; and one of France's greatest orientalists (Venture de Paradis). Consider how Napoleon's propaganda probably issued from this campaign printing press. For example, Napoleon—from his headquarters at Jaffa—ordered General Jean-Louis-Ebénézer Reynier to make maximum distribution of copies of the aforementioned, March 9th proclamation, addressed to the inhabitants of Palestine, namely, to the "Sheiks, Ulemas and Inhabitants of the Provinces of Gaza, Ramleh, and Jaffa." Like his mentor Constantin Volney, Napoleon followed the Greek and Latin Classics in sometimes using the ancient toponym "Palestine" to mean only the narrow coastal strip.

Reynier was also told to send out multiple copies of the aforementioned, separate proclamation (also dated March 9th) to the "Sheiks, Ulemas and Commandant of Jerusalem." On Saint Helena, Napoleon recalled (January 15, 1817): "The favorite of the pasha of Jerusalem was a former French cantinière. She wrote to me that she would do anything in her power to help us." Despite this Francophone woman in Ismail Pasha's harem—precedent, logic, and companion evidence powerfully argue that Napoleon intended to command printings in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish (March 9, 1799):
Citizen General, here attached please find a letter to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; have eight to ten copies made and send them on different occasions; one of them will perhaps arrive. Similarly, headquarters (l'état-major) sends you a proclamation to the inhabitants of Palestine. Distribute as many copies of it as you can.
Why presume that the Jerusalem and "Palestine" proclamations were printed in Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish? If not, they would have been totally incomprehensible to the intended recipients.

Moreover, we have valuable additional information about a much broader Mideast audience for the threatening "Palestine" proclamation. Specifically, Napoleon wrote (March 10, 1799) to his expedition's financial comptroller, Jean-Baptiste Poussielgue, who was in Egypt. Napoleon commanded "Citizen Poussielgue" to print four hundred copies for regional distribution, by sea from Alexandria and Damietta. Napoleon wanted the March 9th "Palestine" proclamation to be widely read by Muslims "in the Levant, at Constantinople, and in Barbary." This means that the "Palestine" proclamation was most certainly written in Arabic and/or Ottoman Turkish.

Now included in the principal published collections of Napoleon's papers, the French-language headquarters versions of these two March 9th proclamations survived Napoleon's wide-ranging purge of the French archives (1807). But, be sure to note that the—then politically essential—Arabic and/or Ottoman-Turkish printings were ephemera which understandably have vanished without a trace.

Napoleon sent Jewish secret agents

Around 1819, Napoleon himself remembered that, during the 1799 siege of Acre, the French Revolutionary Army sent Jewish secret agents to Damascus and Aleppo. The implication is that their mission was to secretly gather intelligence and discreetly stimulate local Jewish support. If so, did they confidentially invoke revolutionary doctrines of "liberty, equality and fraternity"? Did they secretly carry printed propaganda, portraying Napoleon as sponsor of Jewish restoration to the Holy Land?

The foregoing story about the March 9th printed proclamations from Jaffa, suggests that Napoleon's famous letter to the Israelites (April 20, 1799) might also have been printed, and then sent out with the aforementioned Jewish agents, bound for Damascus and Aleppo.

I have seen no evidence that Napoleon had access to Hebrew typeface in Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬). Yet, the possibility of printed Hebrew letters cannot be rejected. In 1799, there was already a centuries-long history of Hebrew printing in the Mideast. Moreover, Napoleon had a strong track record of using printing presses to target each specific People, in its own national language.

In the alternative, Napoleon's April 20th letter to the Israelites was perhaps printed, maybe in French or Italian. If so, the French- or Italian-language printings might conceivably have been subsequently translated into Hebrew by the aforementioned Jewish agents of Napoleon, or by one or more Jewish recipients in Damascus and Aleppo. Thereafter, such Hebrew versions might have been secretly circulated among Jews, including by those travelling to Constantinople and beyond. Covertly forwarding a Hebrew translation to other Jewish communities would be far safer than transmitting a subversive text in French or Italian. By contrast to Hebrew, French or Italian could be more easily read by malevolent local Christians, only too eager to report to the Ottoman authorities.

Whatever language was used for the propaganda printing of Napoleon's letter to the Israelites, there would likely have been an office copy—a French-language version among the papers of Napoleon's field headquarters. But, such a "Jewish" document was probably purposely destroyed by Napoleon in 1807, as already explained in the preface. Fortunately, Clio, the "Muse of History," playfully decreed that Napoleon was unable to destroy every trace of his printed letter to the Israelites.

Perhaps linked to one or more of the aforementioned Jewish agents of Napoleon is a pitch-perfect document that, without financial or other material reward, first surfaced in 1940 London. Originating from Nazi Vienna (August 1939), it was typed at the last moment by an elderly Jewish refugee, Ernst Foges. He used a typewriter to transcribe in Roman letters, on both sides of one sheet of thin paper, a text written in late 18th-century, Gothic-cursive script. The latter was embodied in a larger, thicker, linen-paper document that his family had treasured for four generations.

Judging from companion letters in his family archive, Foges suspected the old, sturdy document to be in the handwriting of his great-grandfather, Wolf Fleckeles (1774-1849), or perhaps in that of Wolf's older brother, the famous Prague Rabbi Eleazar Fleckeles (1754-1826).

(A transcription, in mostly modern German spelling, appears in the Appendix, at the end of Part 2. A link to a photocopy of the 1939 typescript and to other pertinent material follows:)

Without specifying source language, the text speaks for itself in saying that it is a 1799 translation into German of a Napoleon letter, dated April 20, 1799. Here, let us recall both the precedent of the police/judicial translation from Greek into German of the 1797 Rigas proclamation, and the very real rigors of the reactionary regime in the Habsburg Monarchy.

Karl Fischer, likely translator

We can reasonably suppose that the 1799 translation into German was probably from a 1799 Hebrew-language text—whether or not the original, source document was perhaps initially composed and printed in French or Italian. This "Hebrew text" hypothesis partly rests on the high probability that Eleazar Fleckeles got the rare opportunity to carefully hand copy the Gothic-cursive text of the 1799 official German-language translation, thanks to his close Christian friend Karl Fischer (1757-1844).

Fischer was well known as Imperial and Royal Censor, Reviser and Translator in Hebrew, for the many years from 1789 to 1844. It was likely Fischer who in 1799 translated the Napoleon document from Hebrew into German, perhaps at the special request of the Polizeihofstelle in Vienna. (More details about Karl Fischer and the Fleckeles family appear in later paragraphs on "the proclamation in Prague.")

Likely translator, Karl Fischer invents the title, "Letter to the Jewish Nation from the French General-in-Chief Buonaparte." This invention is probable because, throughout the letter itself, the reference is to "Israelites," with no mention of "Jews" or "Jewish." After the bureaucratic title affixed by the translator, the body of the actual letter begins with the alleged place of origin, "Hauptquartier Jerusalem" (Headquarters Jerusalem); and the date, according to the revolutionary calendar, "1. Floreal im Jahre 7 der französischen Republik" (1 Floréal, Year VII of the French Republic).

l'Armée d'Orient

Thereafter follows the name of sender and addressees: "Buonaparte, General-in-Chief of the Armies of the French Republic in Africa and Asia, to the legitimate heirs of Palestine!" But even in 1798-9, exceedingly well known as the formal name for Napoleon's military command was the exotic and compelling phrase, l'armée d'Orient (Army of the East). For this reason, any rational forger aiming at credibility via verisimilitude, would most likely have made sure to use the correct, official designation for Napoleon's army.

By contrast, as a skilled propagandist, Napoleon himself had other priorities for his writing. Thus, weighing in favor of the letter's authenticity is that here, as elsewhere, Napoleon likes the glamour of a border between two famous continents. Whether in 1798-9 or around 1819, his pen offers us several other grandiose references to Africa and Asia. Specifically here, as elsewhere in the pertinent context, the continental couplet refers to Ottoman territory; just as l'armée d'Orient clearly denotes the French Army operating in the Ottoman Empire.

Buonaparte vs. Bonaparte

Some historians strangely try to make much of the letter's "Italianate" spelling of Napoleon's family name. But, no inference can be drawn from the reference to "Buonaparte." This particular objection to authenticity is simply foolish, because 18th-century usage on this point is notably inconsistent. For example, both spellings occur even within the short text of his baptismal certificate (July 21, 1771). This is written in Italian which was commonly the language of local administration on Corsica until the mid 19th century. Thus, on December 28, 1792, "Napoleone Buonaparte" sends out Italian-language invitations to an Ajaccio ceremony.

In any event, at issue in the April 20th letter is a self-declared translation into German. The translator, whether Karl Fischer or another, might easily have himself opted for the family-name spelling most familiar in contemporary German usage. In 1799 both variants are commonly used in the European press, sometimes even in Le Moniteur.

Prolepsis: "Headquarters Jerusalem"

On April 20, 1799, Napoleon was besieging Acre. To be precise, he was at his headquarters at the camp near Acre (au Quartier-Général du Camp d'Acre). Close to that time, Napoleon repeatedly wrote that he expected the early capture of Acre, which he was sure would make a big impression on the local populations. Contemporary documents tell us that he was then confident that Acre's imminent fall would trigger the voluntary submission of both Jerusalem and Damascus. Moreover, the April 20th letter itself says that the French army would be advancing to Damascus within a few days.

Napoleon's proven expectation about soon conquering Acre perhaps explains why, for added political force, the April 20th letter falsely (or rather proleptically) identifies Jerusalem as the site of his headquarters. As place of origin, "au Quartier-Général du Camp d'Acre" would clearly lack the éclat of a letter from the Holy City of Jerusalem. Moreover, to mention Acre would raise a troubling question mark. The French had yet to conquer Acre. For sure, it did not sound so good to send such a propaganda letter from siege works outside a fortress still stubbornly held by the Ottomans, with key help from Britain's Royal Navy.

This "prolepsis" possibility is not to be dismissed lightly. We have already seen similar "flash forward" prolepsis, specifically with regard to Jerusalem, in Napoleon's 1798 proclamation to the inhabitants of Ottoman Syria. Prolepsis is a literary device well known in rhetoric. Its dramatic and emphatic effects were appreciated by Napoleon.

The telling detail of "Damascus"

Based on Napoleon's string of victories in Italy and Egypt, much of the European press is, in the spring of 1799, open to the possibility that he has perhaps already taken Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus, and is master of most of Ottoman Syria. For example, an over optimistic assessment of Napoleon's prospects features in an extract from an April 3rd letter from Constantinople. This is printed in the Nouvelles Politiques of Leiden (May 10, 1799):
Today, it is being said that the French owe their progress in Syria to help from the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon. Indeed, even before the fact, it was known that Bonaparte was counting on the help of this People which is almost independent of the Porte, and a longtime enemy of the Turks. Moreover, the Druzes also have particular grievances against Cezzar Pasha, the Governor of Acre. [...] It is not to be doubted that Syria, like Egypt, is at this moment in the hands of the French, and that they will remain its masters until the Russians effectively assist the Turks against the very same Peoples of the Syrian Coast [Maronites, Druzes] who had helped the Russians in the War of 1769; and that the conquest of Jerusalem, Damascus, and Acre has already followed that of Gaza and Jaffa.
By contrast, the April 20th letter is astonishingly accurate in stipulating Napoleon's true contemporary expectation that, in the next few days, the French army would be advancing to Damascus. This is a small element of precision suggesting that this letter indeed originates in the Holy Land in the second half of April 1799, and not from the hands of springtime forgers in Europe. There, the then state of play for Napoleon was not so precisely known.

Europeans then knew nothing about Tuesday, April 16th, the day of Napoleon's greatest victory in Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬), at a fierce battle in the vicinity of Mount Tabor. There, greatly outnumbered, he decisively defeated a regional Ottoman army led by Abdullah, the Pasha of Damascus. After that French triumph, and before substantial Turkish reinforcements reached Acre by sea (May 7th), Napoleon had every reason to expect the early fall of Acre and the consequential surrender of both Jerusalem and Damascus. Who in far off Europe, in the first half of spring 1799, could know that, precisely around Saturday, April 20th, the French army had not yet taken Damascus, but was awaiting the anticipated, early conquest of Acre, before advancing to Damascus?

Moreover, the contemporary expectation in the Holy Land that the French army would soon be moving on Damascus is significantly shared by both the April 20th letter and Napoleon's own history of his Mideast campaign (1819). Referring to the immediate aftermath of his great victory near Mount Tabor, Napoleon claims that he then made "a secret treaty" (une convention secrète) with both the Druze and the Maronites. Each of these two Peoples is to furnish Napoleon with 6,000 fighters. Commanded by their own officers, these 12,000 men are said to be pledged to join the French Army for the imminent march on Damascus.

"Forgery" easy to say, harder to explain

The letter's factually incorrect location of Napoleon's headquarters at Jerusalem seems to discount the possibility of a European forgery made at any time after August 1799. Certainly from September 1799, it was too easily known in Europe that Napoleon had in fact never captured the Holy City. Moreover, a rapidly growing body of published accounts of the "Syrian" campaign conclusively confirmed that Napoleon had never been in Jerusalem. Thus, what are the odds that (an otherwise astute) forger would so carelessly site Napoleon's headquarters there? This particular aspect powerfully argues that the Napoleon letter is unlikely to be a counterfeit confected at any time after August 1799.

Furthermore, there was no conceivable motive for anyone in Europe to forge such a letter from mid-May to September 1799. Below, we shall see abundant and compelling evidence that, from mid-May 1799, Europeans generally believed that Napoleon had indeed issued a proclamation to the "Jews of Africa and Asia." This prompts us to ask: Why go to the trouble and real risk of forging the Napoleon letter of April 20th, when incoming Mideast mail was, in the normal course of events, commonly expected to very soon produce the full, authentic text of his actual invitation to the Jews?

Given late 18th-century logistics, it is absolutely impossible for a communication that had been issued in or near Jerusalem on April 20, 1799, to feature in one or more West-European newspapers as early as mid-May of that same year. For example, consider the exceptionally short span of 45 days that passed before a speedy courier arrived in London with April 21st news from Acre, as reported in The True Briton (Friday, June 7, 1799):
A Messenger arrived on Tuesday afternoon [June 4th] from Vienna, bringing accounts from Constantinople of the 4th ult. [May 4th]. Advices had been received in that capital in 14 days [April 21st] from St. John d'Acre, confirming the defeat of Buonaparte before that place. He had been repulsed with very considerable loss in two distinct attacks upon the fortress; and, it is added, that the Arabs had cut off all the provisions from his army.
Thus, the April 20th date of the Napoleon letter is in itself one of the main objections to theories alleging a forgery made at any time after mid-May 1799. From then right down to the present day, it has always been too well known that one or more West-European newspapers had already carried reports of an undated Napoleon proclamation to the "Jews of Africa and Asia."

Thus, after mid-May 1799, any rational forger would likely try to piggyback on the substantial credibility of those famous newspaper items. Namely, he would probably opt to count backwards from the earliest known day of European newspaper publication in order to cleverly antedate his own Napoleon fabrication to accommodate the more or less two months normally required for "Holy Land" news to slowly wend its way to Western Europe. Consider a forger knowing nothing more than the May 22, 1799 Paris publication of the story about an undated proclamation to the Jews. He would prudently date his forgery around March 22, 1799. By contrast, the April 20, 1799 date of the Napoleon letter is too late to accommodate any of the May 1799 European newspaper reports.

Forgery by the Directory?

The distinct unlikelihood of a forgery made at any time after mid-May 1799, logically leaves open the possibility of a forgery perhaps crafted in the couple of months before the second half of May; namely, prior to publication by so many West-European newspapers of the story that Napoleon had issued a proclamation to the Jews of Africa and Asia. If the April 20th letter, to "Israelites" everywhere, was indeed forged in Europe in the weeks before mid-May 1799, the prime suspects would surely be French intelligence agents, acting on secret orders from the Directory.

This guess is partly based on the letter's style and content, including its striking similarity to Lettre d'un Juif, which is most probably official French propaganda, whether or not from the pen of Napoleon. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that the political ideology and motives for the April 20th letter would be approximately the same, whether the text truly emanates from Napoleon in the Mideast or is forged by the Directory's agents in Paris or elsewhere in Europe.

For the French government, the clear wartime motives would be: firstly, sowing revolutionary unrest among large Jewish populations in enemy States like Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire; and secondly, suggesting to millenarian Christians everywhere that the Revolutionary French Republic is really doing God's work by restoring the Jews to the Holy Land.

Perhaps inspired by the possible State secret that Napoleon himself had written Lettre d'un Juif, the Directory's agents maybe forged the letter, dated April 20, 1799. If so, they fabricated in the broader context of what they then surmised to be true about current events in the Holy Land. Their pertinent ideas were probably mostly wrong, because in early 1799, there was little or no communication with Napoleon, due to the high efficiency of the British naval blockade.

Thus, the contemporary Paris press creatively imagined that: Napoleon had captured Jerusalem (false); France's revolutionary army there was powerfully supplemented with tens of thousands of Coptic, Greek and Jewish recruits (mostly false); French forces were fighting with the help of the Druze and the Maronites of Mount Lebanon (false); and, if victorious in Ottoman Syria, Napoleon intended to advance further, perhaps even to Constantinople (true).

Later we shall see documentary proof that the Directory had, in February 1799, been twice reminded of advantages to be gained by exploiting the stubborn attachment of Jews to both Jerusalem and their aboriginal homeland. Thus, most pertinently aimed at "Israelites" everywhere, the Napoleon letter might perhaps be a forgery by French secret agents in Europe. If so, this official propaganda was likely triggered by the broadening of the War of the Second Coalition. This was the outbreak of direct conflict between France and Austria (March 12, 1799).

In spring 1799, the several countries of the Second Coalition credibly seemed poised to defeat the Revolutionary French Republic. This critical juncture drove the Directory to desperation. At that time, the Directors were certainly ready to employ every conceivable expedient to weaken the reactionary countries attacking France. This bleak perspective prompted some pertinent London commentary from The Selector; or Say's Sunday Reporter (Sunday, May 12, 1799):
Under all these untoward circumstances, the French Directory, no doubt, console themselves with the flattering accounts from Palestine and Syria of the progress of Buonaparte, who is confidently said to have taken Gaza in Judea, Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus; and to have entered into an alliance with the people of Mount Lebanon, avowed enemies of the Turkish Government. When Buonaparte left France, our Readers will recollect that it was given out that part of the purpose of the expedition was to restore the Jews to the Holy Land; and as there are great numbers of that people on all the shores of the Mediterranean, it will not be a matter of great surprise, if he should attempt it. At least, he seems to have done sufficient already to raise their expectations.

Napoleon's fingerprints

Significantly, the April 20th letter seems to refer to the outbreak of the War of the Second Coalition. This is a coordinated attack on France that the Directory predicts in a November 4, 1798 dispatch to Napoleon. He receives this bad news near Acre on March 25, 1799. To the point, the Napoleon letter portrays France as fighting in self-defense to guard her own territory against theft by foreign Cabinets.

Thus, France is presented as fighting a just war that also helps fulfill a revolutionary duty to avenge the disgrace of "forgotten nations long under the yoke of slavery." Here ringing authentic are legal and moral justifications for the French Republic, which is highlighted as la grande nation, in the German text "die große Nation." This is a prominent foreign-relations concept that features frequently in Napoleon's public writing during the late 1790s.

For sure, this letter dovetails with Napoleon's characteristic formula so authoritatively described in General Desaix's diary (September 1797): "He reminds them of their ancient glory, their ancient name; he instructs them about the astonishing and prodigious feats of the French."

Biblical citations

Napoleon's 1798-9 proclamations for Muslims were intentionally drafted with something of an Islamic flavor. In the same vein, this letter to "Israelites" is peppered with Old Testament personalities and prophetic citations. For example, the letter specifically points to the Prophet Joel whose book is marked by rousing calls to arms, and predictions of divine retribution against the persecutors of the "sons of Judah."

The two specific references to the Book of Joel, chapter four, signal that the source is perhaps the Jewish Bible which distinctively divides the Book of Joel into four chapters. But, some versions of the Greek Septuagint also present the Book of Joel in four chapters. Thus, in drafting this letter, Napoleon might perhaps have had the help of somebody able to read biblical Hebrew and/or Greek. To the point, among his official translators in 1798-9 were two Mideast Greek Catholics (Melkites), namely Raphael de Monachis and Elias Pharaon.

The Catholic Old Testament is perhaps the source for the letter's important reference to the First Book of Maccabees which is notably absent from both the Jewish Bible and the Protestant versions. Thus, this letter is unlikely to be from a Jewish pen. No matter what the sect or stripe, no Jew in his right mind would in 1799 try to influence other Jews generally, with a citation from the Catholic Old Testament, which pertinently was part of Napoleon's field library. However, it is to be noted that the First Book of Maccabees also features in the Greek Septuagint.

In any event, Napoleon's authorship of this letter is suggested by its celebration of "Israelites" as descendants of the Maccabees, who are honored as heroes worthy of their "fraternal alliance" with Sparta and Rome. This obscure diplomatic detail, taken straight from the First Book of Maccabees, is exactly the kind of Classical reference that fascinated Napoleon. Here, the rhetoric regarding Rome and Sparta matches his usual perorations elsewhere.

Passover (פֶּסַח)

In 1799, April 20th is the first day of Passover. This is an important religious holiday recalling slavery in Egypt, the liberation of the Israelites, and their eventual return to the Promised Land. Since the April 20th letter does not explicitly mention Passover, we have to ask: Was Napoleon unaware of the meaning of writing such a letter on the first day of Passover and how powerfully it complements his revolutionary theme? Or rather, did Napoleon write with supreme confidence that Jews themselves would immediately see the link between a letter written on the first day of Passover and the pertinent message of freedom and return to the aboriginal homeland?

Forty years ago, a prominent historian of French Jewry influentially imagined that this egregious failure to explicitly mention Passover is somehow compelling proof that the letter is without authenticity. It can easily be conceded that the omission might perhaps seem peculiar, at first glance. But, it is hard to see how lack of a reference to Passover logically proves the letter to be fake.

Directly on point is the work of Princeton University political philosopher Michael Walzer. Without reference to the historical controversy surrounding the April 20th letter, Walzer wrote Exodus and Revolution. In that book, he traces the salience of the Passover story as a powerful metaphor of liberation for the 17th-century English revolution, the 18th-century American revolution, and the 20th-century Black-American civil rights movement. But, Walzer takes the trouble to significantly remark (1985):
So common is the Exodus reference in the political history of the West (or, at least, of protest and radical aspiration in the West) that I began to notice when it was missing—as in the years of the French Revolution, whose leading actors were resolutely hostile to Jewish as they were to Christian conceptions of history.
With the phrase "conceptions of history," Walzer seems to be pointing to Weltanschauung or fundamental worldview. In this connection, we have to recall that Napoleon and the other French Revolutionaries were Deists. As such, they flatly rejected the possibility that the whole history of mankind could be centered on the parochial story of the "Lord God of Israel" and His covenant with the Jewish People, for a particular homeland.

Let us not misunderstand Walzer. He is certainly not saying that the French Revolutionaries were hostile to Jews, as fellow citizens, or as a People among the many other Peoples. The present essay contains much to show that the French Revolution was, in intent and effect, generally philosemitic, because doctrinally wedded to universalism and non-discrimination. In this light, the quotation from Walzer suggests that the omission of Passover, in the April 20th letter, is entirely understandable, and thus points to revolutionary authenticity rather than the contrary.

A careful reading of the April 20th letter reveals that the closing paragraph significantly covers the full revolutionary program, internationally and domestically, exactly as understood in 1796-9. Firstly, it speaks to "Israelites" collectively on the international level. They are encouraged to rush to demand their political existence as a People among the nations (politische Volksexistenz der Nationen). Secondly, the individual "Israelite" in the diaspora is invited to hurry to domestically demand his long-denied Bürgerrecht (rights as a citizen). Thirdly, the Israelite in the diaspora is encouraged to quickly claim his Naturrecht (natural right) to freely practice the religion of Judaism, without interference.

By contrast, Passover signals a religious conception of history that features nowhere in the April 20th letter, except in the stirring biblical quotations. Such biblical references are mostly prophetic, messianic and millenarian. They embody sacred conceptions of history that are both Jewish and Christian. But, the letter itself is revolutionary and secular in trumpeting natural rights that belong to all the "inhabitants of the universe" and also the enduring aboriginal rights of the age-old "Israelites," as a distinct People in history. Thus, the letter leaves to biblical citations the separate work of touting the messianic and millenarian themes of the Jews as "the Chosen People of God."

On Saint Helena, General Gaspard Gourgaud hears Napoleon saying that he is again reading Genesis and finding that (January 15, 1817): "the idea of a people of God is ridiculous." Such "chosenness" is clearly incompatible with the universalist architecture of Napoleon's Deism. By contrast, the notion of the "Chosen People" is, one way or another, at the heart of Judaism and Christianity.

This signals that the specifically Jewish and Christian God is no longer authoritative for Napoleon and the writer of this letter. Instead, they both bow to history; ethnology; and natural law, including the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Thus, there is a striking ideological disjunction between the letter and its own biblical references. This internal contrast shows that, just like Lettre d'un Juif, the April 20th letter is hybrid propaganda, designed to speak simultaneously to revolutionaries, Christians and Jews.

Aboriginal rights of "Israelites"

With the German words, Erben (heirs), Erbteil (inheritance), Erbländer (hereditrary lands) and Erbreich (hereditary dominion), heavy emphasis is placed on the notion of hereditary or aboriginal right which is logically companion to an ancient name. Such onomastic pedigree is something that we have already seen to be often emphasized in Napoleon's rhetoric. "Israelites" are twice addressed as "the lawful heirs of Palestine" and encouraged to hasten home to reclaim their patrimony. Similarly, the expression "Israels Erbteil" points to the millennial legacy of "the people Israel."

In the context of the new political doctrine of self-determination, the Napoleon letter places great emphasis on Israelite peoplehood. The word "Volksexistenz" (existence as a People) notably appears twice. In the first instance, it is stressed that: "Tyranny and lust for conquest have been able to deprive the Israelites of their hereditary lands but unable to take away, not even in millennia, their name and their existence as a People (Volksexistenz)."

In the second place, the letter concludes with an exhortation to Israelites to seize the opportunity to reclaim their "political existence as a People among the nations" (politische Volksexistenz der Nationen). As already seen above, "restorer of their political existence" is the almost identical language Mallet du Pan (May 1799) uses to refer to Napoleon. More to the point, "resume our rank among the nations" is the strikingly similar phrase in Lettre d'un Juif, which is perhaps from Napoleon's pen. Whether or not that is so, such expressions came easily to Napoleon. For example, see his proclamation to the Hungarians (May 15, 1809): "You have national customs; a national language: You take pride in an illustrious and ancient origin. Therefore, take up again your existence as a nation!"

This reference to Volksexistenz has been discussed by some scholars with insufficient awareness of the stark modernity of the 1796-9 revolutionary rhetoric surrounding peoplehood and the political right to self-determination. Thus, a few historians mistakenly imagine that, in the Napoleon letter, they can spot an anachronism that seeks to import later Zionist concepts into 1799. This "anachronism" theory is highly improbable for at least four reasons:
  1. The letter is unlikely to have been written by a Jew. (Jewish authorship is further discounted in later paragraphs on the Jews of Prague.)
  2. Almost all the scholars who have carefully studied its contents believe that, whether a forgery or not, the letter really dates from 1799.
  3. The "anachronism" claim irrationally focuses on what Theodor Herzl was saying in the late 1890s, while illogically ignoring what revolutionaries were already saying one hundred years earlier (1796-9).
  4. The 18th-century revolutionary precepts about peoplehood and self-determination are both fundamental and universal, as already discussed in the preface.
Thus, the question remains: Were Jews specifically excluded from the benefits of the pertinent revolutionary doctrines, as then understood? "Yes, excluded!" quickly replies that persistent bias against Jews which even today still encourages dogmatic adherence to an unproven historical presumption—namely, the stubborn belief that Jews could not possibly have then been seen as qualified for peoplehood and self-determination in their ancestral homeland. But, that highly discriminatory premise is roundly refuted by the rich record of revolutionary theory and practice from 1796 to 1799, as detailed both above and below.

Acre: a unique strategic moment

If we see this letter as genuine, it could perhaps have been written at some time shortly after Napoleon's astonishing victory near Mount Tabor (April 16th). Judged from the trivial nature of some of his contemporary correspondence, Napoleon then had time on his hands. Focusing on Saturday, April 20, 1799, we can note that the standard collections of his documents contain only one other piece dated that day from his camp near Acre. This was an order about the siege works. Thus, on that Saturday, he may well have used some hours in further efforts to generate material to spark rebellion among the disparate elements of the population of the Ottoman Empire.

The April 20th letter refers to his army soon leaving Jerusalem for Damascus. For sure, at that time, Napoleon urgently wanted to get all "Syria" to revolt against the Ottomans. This key point is confirmed by an alleged eyewitness, his private secretary Louis de Bourrienne. But, Bourrienne's multi-volume Memoirs are both ghost-written and all too often synthetic. Thus, we have to ask: Can we credit Bourrienne's claim that he had immediately (May 9, 1799) recorded verbatim Napoleon's own conception of what was to follow the expected, but ultimately unrealized, French conquest of Ottoman Acre? Yet, either way, this suspect passage is too pertinent to ignore (first published 1829):
This wretched little fort (bicoque) has cost me many men, and wasted much time. But now things are too far advanced to avoid making one last effort. If I succeed, as I believe that I will, I shall find in the town the pasha's treasures and weapons for three hundred thousand men. I will stir up and arm all of Syria, which the ferocity of Djezzar [Ahmet Cezzar Pasha] has filled with deep indignation. Thus, you have already seen that, upon our every assault, the population prays to God for his fall. I shall march on Damascus and Aleppo. Advancing further into the country, I will grow my army with all the discontented. I will announce to the people the abolition of servitude and of the tyrannical governments of the pashas. I shall arrive at Constantinople with armed masses. I shall overturn the Turkish empire, and establish in the East a new and great empire. This will perpetuate my name for posterity. Perhaps I shall return to Paris via Adrianople; or by Vienna, after having annihilated the house of Austria [the Habsburgs].

Nor was the pivotal importance of Acre lost on the British. This is perfectly clear from a letter to Rear Admiral Nelson from Commodore Sir Sydney Smith, aboard HMS Tigre off Acre (May 9, 1799):
Indeed, the town [Acre] is not, nor ever has been defensible according to the rules of art. But, according to every other rule, it must and shall be defended. Not that it is in itself worth defending, but we feel that it is by this breach Buonaparte means to march to further conquests. It is on the issue of this conflict that depends the opinion of the multitude of spectators on the surrounding hills, who wait only to see how it ends, to join the victors. And, with such a reinforcement for the execution of his known projects, Constantinople, and even Vienna, must feel the shock.
The same view was shared by the Paris newspaper Journal des Hommes Libres (June 25, 1799): "If Bonaparte has really defeated Dgezar [Cezzar] pacha, there is no longer anything that Bonaparte cannot do; and, at the very moment that I am writing, he could well be before the walls of Constantinople." In the same vein is a June 26th Frankfurt report which appears in Le Moniteur. This salutes Bonaparte "as a great statesman and a great general" and asks (July 5, 1799): "What is it that he cannot do? Could it be that this coming winter he will be opposite Constantinople?" Moreover, Le Moniteur publishes a June 8th Constantinople report that notably includes the fake news that Bonaparte has already conquered both Acre and Damascus. This report in Le Moniteur also alleges (July 24, 1799): "At this moment, he is gathering a large army of Druzes, with which he is marching on Constantinople."

Writing to Real Admiral Duckworth, Nelson twice thanked God for Napoleon's defeat at Acre. Referring to the earlier possibility that Napoleon might have taken Acre, Nelson observed (July 23, 1799): "They are all frightened at Constantinople." Similar was the retrospective assessment in an August 24th Constantinople report published in London in the Sunday newspaper, Bell's Weekly Messenger (October 6, 1799):
The fortress of St. Jean d'Acre is the bulwark of the Porte and provisions and ammunition are continually sent thither. Had Buonaparte succeeded in taking that fortress, Constantinople would have been in danger.
In Constantinople, Britain's Secretary of Legation and chargé d'affaires ad interim was then John Spencer Smith who knew Ottoman-Turkish. Notably, he was Sir Sydney Smith's younger brother. From Constantinople, John Spencer Smith wrote to Richard Wellesley, Governor-General of India (August 24, 1799):
The siege of Acre forms such an epocha in the annals of these times, that I regret my want of leisure to keep pace with events, and give that historic achievement a more distinct place in my historical correspondence, far independent of my fraternal feelings upon this point. No one as a minister and a man could better judge of its salutary influence in the common cause. Had Acre fallen, Constantinople would have tottered; Vienna felt the shock, and Europe—as Buonaparte elegantly expresses it—"pris par les reins" (taken by the kidneys).

Returning home via Constantinople

Initially, Napoleon's grand strategy had been to make a deal with Turkey that would allow France to keep Egypt as a permanent base; quickly begin building a deep ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez; and eventually launch a seaborne attack on British India. But, French dreams of the Indies were cancelled by Nelson's victory in Aboukir Bay (August 1-2, 1798). This naval triumph not only reaffirmed Britain's global maritime might, but also ensured that the Turks would fight France.

This brand-new constellation naturally invited Napoleon to ponder possibilities afresh. Thus, in early 1799, he seriously harbored hopes of perhaps toppling the Ottoman Empire via a combination of war and national revolutions. Given his limited resources in men, money, and matériel—this calculation was surely influenced by some European hubris. But, he also had his record of 1798 victories over superior numbers of Muslim troops in Egypt.

Like most French officers of his time, Napoleon had carefully studied the exploits of Sir Robert Clive in the Muslim Mughal Empire in India, where France had also been a player. Published in 1882, papers of Napoleon's younger brother Lucien suggest that, at the age of twenty-two (1793), Napoleon was fascinated by what the British were doing in India. Six years later, Napoleon probably considered that he might be able to achieve in Turkey, what Clive and a handful of Englishmen had famously accomplished in India, in the few years before Napoleon's birth.

Close to Napoleon was the army's Surgeon-in-Chief Jean Dominique Larrey. In Cairo, Larrey (January 27, 1799) confided in a letter to his brother, as reported in Le Moniteur (May 19, 1799):
We are about to leave for [Ottoman] Syria. Now follow our progress as I told you to do in the past, with a map in one hand and a copy of Volney in the other. Without doubt we will head towards the Euphrates, made so famous by the [ancient] armies that covered its banks. Our departure is set for the 12th of the current month [January 31, 1799]. And, we do not despair of seeing Constantinople.
Apart from anything else, such an astonishing feat would enable Napoleon's Army of the East to return to European battlefields, overland via Anatolia and the Balkans. Utter disappointment came only on May 16th, when—after twelve fruitless assaults—he finally reached the decision that he had to abandon the siege of Ottoman Acre (May 20-21, 1799). His surprising failure to take that fortified port always seemed to him a sad turning point in world history. And, he still keenly felt so some twenty years later.

Attack India or Constantinople?

Aware of Nelson's great victory and of Turkey's declaration of war against France, President of the Directory, Jean-Baptiste Treilhard wrote to Napoleon (November 4, 1798): "From Bonaparte's genius and fortune, we expect nothing but vast combinations and illustrious results."

This key document was drafted by Talleyrand, but its strong revolutionary content was perhaps inspired by oral and/or written advice from Volney in Paris. Talleyrand knew Volney well, including from their period of exile together in the United States. This important Paris dispatch did not reach Napoleon until March 25, 1799, when he was already besieging Acre in an effort to break Ottoman power in the Mideast.

"To march toward Constantinople to meet the enemy that threatens you" (marcher vers Constantinople audevant de l'ennemi qui vous menace). This is the most promising of three options which Treilhard and Talleyrand believe to be open to the Army of the East. The other two are: staying on the defensive in Egypt; and attacking the British in India. Treilhard and Talleyrand imply a preference for targeting Constantinople.

The "Constantinople" option was serious enough to prompt French military planning at the cartographic section, the Dépôt général de la Guerre et de la Géographie. There, the Director, General Hugues Alexandre Joseph Meunier sent (December 27, 1798) the Minister of War a detailed plan for a two-pronged attack on Constantinople. This specifically relied on allying with Osman Pazvantoğlu and revolutionizing all the subject Peoples of the Ottoman Empire. One French army would embark at Brindisi in Italy for a landing in Ottoman Epirus (north-western Greece). At the same time, Napoleon's Army of the East would "present itself in front of the Dardenelles, after leaving Egypt and crossing Palestine and Syria, and then proceeding via Alexandretta to follow the caravan route leading to Bursa."

On February 9, 1799, Général de Division Alexandre Pierre Julienne de Bélair shared his plan for a two-prong attack on Constantinople by Napoleon's Army of the East coming from Aleppo, and by another French army numbering forty to fifty thousand. The latter would embark in Italy and land at Durazzo (Durrës) in Ottoman Albania. Like Meunier, Bélair emphasized the need to revolutionize the Balkan Peoples for a joint effort to take down the Ottoman Empire.

Circa 1819, Napoleon alleges that, back in August 1798, he met the news of Nelson's triumph at Aboukir Bay with the words: "We are not the masters of the seas which separate us from our homeland. But, no sea separates us from either Africa or Asia." This land geography makes it entirely natural to target Constantinople rather than India. The overland distance from Cairo to Constantinople is less than 1,400 miles. Far enough for sure, but decisively way shorter than the 3,563 miles overland from Cairo to Delhi. Moreover, Paris overland is much closer to Constantinople than to Cairo. Thus, every footstep from Cairo to Constantinople brings Napoleon's army, overland closer to Paris. Furthermore, France needs the Army of the East near Constantinople, because Treilhard and Talleyrand judge the Ottoman Empire to be near collapse. They fear that Russia and Austria will soon partition Turkey in Europe.

In retrospect, the threat of a French attack on Constantinople was explored in perceptive analysis, reprinted in flawed English translation in Lloyd's Evening-Post on August 7-9, but first published in French in the Journal de Francfort (July 26, 1799):
According to recently obtained information, Buonaparte had a vast plan that was supported by means appropriate to ensuring its success. This general had intelligence agents in Palestine and Syria; and for a long time his secret emissaries [including Jews] had been preparing the way for him. [...]

Buonaparte could scarcely expect that such a pitiful little fort (bicoque) like Acre could have stopped him, at the very moment when his torrent was about to assume the character of a powerful flood that would have washed away everything before it.

If that town had fallen, the French, united with the Wahhabi Arabs (aux arabes Muhabis), with the Maronites, and with the Druzes, already at arms, would have crossed Asia Minor without opposition. They would have arrived at Scutari [Üsküdar] and threatened Constantinople [İstanbul], &c.

Such was the plan formed by Buonaparte, after he saw his operations frustrated [by Nelson] in Egypt, and when he was compelled to relinquish the object [British India] towards which his expedition had first been directed.

Volney: inflaming the Peoples of Turkey

The amazing possibility of overland return to Europe via revolutionary victory was also evident to Mideast expert Constantin Volney, who was back in Paris after three years in the United States. With full understanding of the deep geostrategic meaning of Nelson's great naval triumph in the Mediterranean, Volney published an influential, speculative essay, entitled Sur Bonaparte (Concerning Bonaparte).

This appeared in installments in Le Moniteur on the 16th and 21st of November 1798. Verbatim, the same piece was reprinted as one article in La Clef du Cabinet des Souverains on November 24, 1798. Therein, Volney astutely portrayed the possibility that Napoleon might dramatically free all the subject Peoples of the Turkish Empire, while fighting his way back home via Ottoman Syria and Asia Minor. For example, Volney opined (November 24, 1798): "The theater of war must be brought back towards Europe. And, since the imprudent Turk has himself raised the banner of war, it is Constantinople that I would want to seize from his hands."

Fully consistent with Volney's suggestion that Napoleon revolutionize all the Peoples of the Ottoman Empire and return overland to Europe via Asia Minor is an April 28th report, alleged to be from Habsburg Semlin near Ottoman Belgrade. This is published in Le Moniteur (May 27, 1799):
Letters from Macedonia have arrived in Belgrade. They report lots of activity up and down the coasts of the Morea, where rumor (le bruit) has spread that General Bonaparte would soon arrive from Asia. His powerful army composed of Frenchmen, Copts, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, etc., is to overturn the Sultan's throne. This news has so greatly excited the minds of the Greeks that a serious insurrection is expected in this country.
In the same Volney vein are the astonishing inaccuracies within a May 29th Ancona report which features in the Journal des Hommes Libres (June 25, 1799):
After having conquered Syria and liberating the peoples of Karamania..., Bonaparte has advanced into Anatolia and established his headquarters at Ankara, eighty-five leagues [circa 360 miles] from Constantinople. He is at the head of two hundred thousand fighters, Greeks, Arabs, Armenians, Jews, Egyptians [i.e. Copts], without counting the French troops.

What did Napoleon himself think about Volney's revolutionary and strategic analysis? The answer is fairly clear. In the month after Napoleon's retreat from Ottoman Syria back to Cairo, the full text of Volney's essay is reverentially reprinted in Napoleon's own propaganda organ, Le Courrier de l'Égypte, on the 21st and 30th of July 1799. Moreover, at supper on the eve of the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon himself described this lost opportunity (December 1, 1805):
If I had captured Acre, I would have put on the turban; and made my army wear wide Turkish pants; I would have spared them exposure to danger, except if absolutely necessary; I would have made them my sacred battalion, my Immortals! I would have finished the war against the Turks using Arabs, Greeks and Armenians. Instead of a battle here in Moravia, I would win a battle on the Issus River; I would become the Emperor of the East, and would return to Paris via Constantinople!  
By December 1805, Napoleon evidently had some practical political reasons to excise, from his recollection of this entirely serious scenario, Mideast Jews, and also the Peoples of Mount Lebanon—namely the Druze, the Maronites, and the Shia Twelvers (Motouâly). Nonetheless, his 1805 testimony conclusively shows that the April 20th letter, containing a revolutionary appeal to "Israelites" everywhere, must be understood in the broader context of the particular geostrategic moment that had lasted from August 1-2, 1798 (Nelson's decisive naval victory in Aboukir Bay) until May 16, 1799 (the day that Napoleon finally decided that he would soon have to abandon his siege of Ottoman Acre).

During those more than nine months in 1798-9, Napoleon and shrewd contemporaries—Talleyrand, Treilhard, Volney, and Generals Meunier and Bélair—all perceived a window of strategic opportunity, offering Napoleon the rare chance to rapidly advance overland, by spreading the revolution of the Peoples throughout the Ottoman Near and Mideast. This pressing political motive equally explains an authentic letter from Napoleon in the Mideast and/or a clever forgery, perhaps made in Europe by French secret agents, in direct response to the outbreak of war with Austria (March 12, 1799).

Even beyond that narrow time frame, there was still some further Mideast discussion of the possibility of the Army of the East returning to Europe via Asia Minor. For example, see Le Courrier de l'Égypte (December 18, 1800): "The conquerors of Egypt can open for themselves a roadway reaching as far as the Dardanelles. Which army could prevent our march?"

Rabbi Aaron's covering letter 

The 1799 official translation also includes a covering letter which the translator's common heading bureaucratically describes as written by a certain "Rabbi Aron [Aaron] in Jerusalem." This rabbinic letter is dated, according to the Hebrew calendar, Nisan 5559. In 1799, this Hebrew month begins on April 6th and ends at sunset on May 5th.

In origin and authorship this covering letter is perhaps closely related to the Napoleon letter or maybe entirely independent. It is possible that this covering letter was tacked on to the principal letter at a different time and place, maybe after the Napoleon letter had already left Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬).

But, perhaps pointing with exactitude to contemporary "Holy Land" knowledge is the cautious adverb, "for the most part" (grösstenteils) (1799):
Brothers, the glorious prophecies contained therein [Napoleon's April 20th letter] have for the most part already been fulfilled by the victorious army of the Great Nation" (Brüder, die daselbst enthaltenen so herrlichen Weissagungen sind durch die siegreiche Armee der grossen Nation bereits grösstenteils in Erfüllung gegangen).
Here, "grösstenteils" may refer to the solid fact—then very well known locally—that France's Army of the East had conquered the coastal strip, but not the rest of Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬).

Just as in the Napoleon letter, so here too, the words "Jews" and "Jewish" do not appear in the body of the letter itself. Rabbi Aaron directly addresses recipients as "Brothers" (Brüder). A hint of possible independence is that the two letters stipulate an overlapping, but not identical audience. To the point, the Napoleon letter is for "Israelites" everywhere, with the words "legitimate heirs of Palestine." By contrast, the Rabbi's covering letter explicitly addresses diaspora Jews as "the children of captivity in the lands to the morning and the evening, to midday and midnight" (die Kinder der Gefangenschaft in den Ländern gegen Morgen und Abend, gegen Mittag und Mitternacht).

One influential historian rashly imagines that such peculiar geographic expressions (respectively for East, West, South and North) signal that the Rabbi's covering letter is not to be taken seriously. But, the exact contrary is true, because 18th-century meteorology indeed includes the compass direction of winds, named according to these particular times of day.

The source language is unspecified, but can easily be presumed to be Hebrew, inter alia, because the official German translation likely comes from Karl Fischer, in his normal capacity as, per-page paid, Imperial and Royal Censor, Reviser and Translator in Hebrew. His job regularly includes translating letters and other Hebrew documents into German, including for the Polizeihofstelle in Vienna.

Both of the 1799 originals are probably in Hebrew, because there is clearly no practical need for the Polizeihofstelle to send the Hebrew Censor documents in other languages. Moreover, the translator bureaucratically joins the two letters together under the common heading "translated from the original 1799." Were there more than one source language, that peculiarity would most likely be stipulated, in the brief bureaucratic opening.

This covering letter calls for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. A companion call to reconstruct the city's walls is a formulaic, biblical echo. In fact, the walls of Jerusalem had already been splendidly rebuilt between 1537 and 1541, pursuant to the command of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.

Summoned to arms are all the able-bodied men of Israel, no matter where they live. The Revolutionary French Republic is twice saluted as la grande nation (die große Nation). Pointing to Gideon in the Book of Judges, the covering letter ends with a shout: "Hier Schwerdt des Herrn und Buonaparte!" (Here, the sword of the Lord and Buonaparte!)

Significantly, the Egyptian Divan writes to First Consul Bonaparte: "We have called you the sword of God" (nous vous avons appelé l'épée de Dieu). The text is in the Cairo newspaper, Courrier de l'Égypte (December 6, 1800). A generation later, Honoré de Balzac's novel, Le Médecin de campagne (the country doctor), also refers to Napoleon's sword in this vein (1833): "Napoléon possédait dans son fourreau la véritable épée de Dieu" (Napoleon had in his scabbard the true sword of God).

Aaron, the brother of Moses?

Who was this "Aaron, Levi's son, from the tribe of Levi" (Aaron, Levis Sohn, aus dem Stamm Levi)?  Nobody knows. But, he must have been something of an immortal time traveler, because he describes himself as "after countless generations again here in the Holy City first rabbi and priest."

And, perhaps there never was such a real historical person in the 18th century. To the point, Judaism has famously had no "priests" since the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). Following this logic, Aaron's puzzling self-description as "first rabbi and priest" must therefore be understood as prolepsis. Via this rhetorical device, the writer flashes forward into the future. His purpose is to dramatize the promise that (with the imminent rebuilding of the Temple) a direct descendant of the biblical Aaron the Levite will once again function as high priest. Thus, "Aaron, Levi's son" is probably intended to be a generic reference to any canonically-qualified "Kohen."

This no-name hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that Napoleon had already (September 7, 1798) appointed Cairo Rabbis Sabbato Adda and Telebi di Figura as "high priests of the Jewish People" (grands prêtres de la nation juive). But, Adda and Figura were far away in French-occupied Egypt. So, who else would be willing to lend rabbinical authority to the covering letter? Signing such a seditious text with an actual person's name would have been exceedingly perilous, whether in the Ottoman Empire or the several European countries of the counter-revolution. Thus, in the Holy Land, as in so many of the other places where Jews lived, no important rabbi would have dared to sign such an inflammatory document.

In 1799, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem was Haim ben Asher Yom Tov Algazy. Like the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Rabbi Algazy then prudently advertised his opposition to the French Revolutionaries and publicly demonstrated loyalty to the Sultan. Algazy clung all the tighter to the Ottomans, because—as so many times in the past—the various other elements of the local population were trying to incriminate Jews, in this instance by charging complicity with Napoleon. To the point, a Jew wrote a Hebrew letter from Jerusalem (summer 1799):
Since Egypt and the neighboring provinces have been occupied [July-August 1798], a great misfortune has befallen us through the wickedness of the non-Jewish population. They have slandered us by saying that, among the [French] army, twelve thousand military volunteers are serving who are children of Israel. This has done us harm beyond measure. We are being attacked daily, and they threaten to kill us and to destroy all Jews, the inhabitants of Zion, God forbid!

Since 1944, there has been conjecture that the mysterious Rabbi Aaron might perhaps be the Moshe Aharon Halevi, who in 1799 is president of one of Jerusalem's four rabbincal courts. As such, he is no "priest," but entitled to be called "first rabbi," only when presiding. However, to exert his due influence, such an eminent rabbi would probably use his full name for the covering letter. Even more peculiar is omission of his first name, because "Moshe" famously symbolizes leadership of the Jewish People. In 1799, Moshe Aharon Halevi temporarily returns to his hometown Salonika to tend to the printing of a book of his writings. But, by summer 1799, he reappears in Jerusalem, where he cosigns, with some other local rabbis, a letter to Italian Jews that will be discussed below. This means that he felt safe enough to return to Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬) even after Napoleon's early June 1799 withdrawal to Egypt. Therefore, Moshe Aharon Halevi is unlikely to have been the radical rabbi of the covering letter.

"Children of whores"

Is Aaron writing as an 18th-century Orthodox Rabbi or does he purposely hark back to ancient Judaism as he imagines it to be in the period before the destruction of the Second Temple? This question is pertinent in trying to understand some of his vigorous language:
Now is the time to demonstrate that we are not the children of whores (Kinder der Huren) and adulteresses but true descendants of Israel and that we desire the inheritance of the People of God and the beautiful divine service of the Lord.
Here, Rabbi Aaron unintentionally reveals quite a lot. Namely, in volunteering to raise the topic of illegitimacy, he chooses to highlight the particular notion of the “child of a whore.” This is a very specific idea, probably based on the words "ek pornis" (ἐκ πόρνης) that the Septuagint employs to translate into Greek the Hebrew word mamzer (ממזר), as it appears in the Jewish Bible. And, if not relying on the Septuagint, Aaron is likely instructed by the phrase "born of a prostitute" (de scorto natus) that the Catholic Old Testament uses for the Latin-language translation of the Hebrew word mamzer (ממזר), as it appears in the Jewish Bible.

This "children of whores" detail is important because, by the 18th century, the meaning, scope and consequences of mamzerut (ממזרות) in rabbinical Judaism are notably narrower than what flows from the Christian understanding of illegitimacy. To the point, any contemporary Orthodox Rabbi could have told Aaron that, unlike Christian bastardy, 18th-century Jewish Law: firstly, does not see the "children of whores" as necessarily mamzerim; and secondly, does not prevent the mamzer from inheriting the legacy of his parents.

Thus, we can suppose that the covering letter's author is ignorant of (or purposely rejects) the Orthodox, rabbinical Judaism of the Talmud. And, this guess dovetails with one experienced historian’s observation that Rabbi Aaron does not write in the usual Talmudic style. These and earlier considerations prompt us to suspect that the text is perhaps written by a Christian rather than by an Orthodox Jew. Maybe the sole Jewish connection to the letter is that it is translated into Hebrew by a Jew? Or could it be that our Rabbi Aaron is not an Orthodox Jew, but rather a schismatic Frankist, rejecting the authority of the Talmud?

Sabbateans, Frankists and Kabbalists

Studying the covering letter, commentators are struck by its flowery melitzah (מְלִיצָה) epistolary style; a markedly messianic and millenarian choice of biblical quotes; and special significance in the expressions "Jehova Zebaoth" (יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת Lord of Hosts) and "der Samen Jakobs" (the seed of Jacob). Such proof leads some to suppose that the original of the covering letter is written in Hebrew by a Jew who is one or more of Sabbatean, Frankist and Kabbalist.

Sabbateans were Jewish followers of the 17th-century false Messiah Sabbatai Zevi (d. 1676), just as Frankists followed the 18th-century false Messiah Jacob Frank (d. 1791). Kabbalism is a significant current of Jewish belief, mysticism and philosophy that informed Sabbateans, Frankists and some other important expressions of Judaism. Frankists notably rejected rabbinical Judaism as embodied in the Talmud.

If the covering letter truly suggests one or more of Sabbateanism, Frankism and Kabbalism, that logically is no evidence against a companion hypothesis that the possible Jewish writer (or translator) is perhaps simultaneously a revolutionary agent, whether working beside Napoleon in the Mideast; or for the Directory, in Paris or elsewhere in Europe.

It has been said that Sabbateans, Frankists and Kabbalists were strongly attracted to Napoleon, because they thought him to be one or more of anti-Catholic, victorious, and radical. Moreover, we shall later see that the Directory, at that time, already knew that many Jews believed Napoleon to be the Messiah. The same assessment of such Jewish belief was also made by experienced Austrian diplomat, Johann Philipp, Count von Stadion-Warthausen. Later as Foreign Minister (1805-1809), Stadion remained obsessed with the idea that "in all of Europe the Jews consider the Emperor Napoleon as their Messiah and proclaim it openly."

If so, we cannot just leave it at that, as some have done, but rather must also look at the other side of the coin. Namely, we must examine Napoleon, as he was during the turbulent decade before his coup d'état in November 1799.

Portrait of Pope Pius VI by Pompeo Batoni (1775).
Revolutionary hatred for the Roman-Catholic Church
led to creation of the Roman Republic (February 15, 1798).
Pope Pius VI was forcibly exiled to France where he died in August 1799.

No friend to Christianity!

Napoleon was always interested in religion. He persistently wanted his various libraries to include books about Judaism and also about other major faiths. Although he was not an atheist, his prevailing view was not spiritual. Rather his approach to religion was mostly pragmantic and socio-political (January 12, 1817): "Religion is needed to reinforce the solidarity of men in society" (Il faut une religion pour consolider la réunion des hommes en société). This was his view while in exile on Saint Helena. There, Napoleon remained the Deist he had been throughout the Revolution. To the point, he denied the historical existence of Jesus six times, as recorded in the diary of General Gourgaud, who was a devout Christian.

From 1789 to 1799, Napoleon was a true revolutionary, and a fierce opponent of both Royalists and the Roman-Catholic Church. He was a former Jacobin, close to Maximilien Robespierre's brother Augustin. In both 1795 and 1797, Napoleon played a principal part in frustrating actual, imminent, or feared right-wing coups against the Directory.

Starting from 1796, he exported the French Revolution to Roman-Catholic Italy. In February 1797, he forced the papacy to pay heavy contributions in cash, cede part of its territories, surrender several hundred ancient manuscripts, and deliver famous works of art. By authority of the Directory, Napoleon in Paris personally drafted and issued the orders (January 11, 1798) for the military occupation of Rome and "indigenous" creation of a revolutionary Roman Republic. This new sister Republic would replace the pontifical government of Pius VI who was derisively called "Citizen Pope" by the troops of the French Revolutionary Army. Napoleon wanted Pius VI to be scared enough to flee Rome. Moreover, during his Mideast campaign, Napoleon's speech, proclamations and letters to Muslims repeatedly boasted that the French had: broken Christian crosses, as in Venice; toppled the papal throne, in Rome; and destroyed the reviled Catholic Order of the Knights of Saint John, on Malta.

Like other revolutionaries, Napoleon persistently denied the divinity of Christ. Consider the theology atop the Arabic version of his proclamation to the people of Egypt, which had been printed at sea (July 1, 1798): "In the name of God, the clement and the merciful. There is no divinity save Allah; He has no son and shares His power with no one." The aforementioned proleptic proclamation "to the inhabitants of Syria" also begins with a similar denial of Christ's divinity.

Napoleon went even further by claiming that, by virtue of the Revolution, the French themselves had become Muslims. For example, the Arabic version of the proclamation to the people of Egypt says (July 1, 1798): "Kadis, sheiks, imams, tchorbadjis! Tell the people that the French are also true Muslims." There is this same astonishing Muslim assertion in Napoleon's letter to Ahmet Cezzar Pasha, based in Acre (September 12, 1798):
We are no longer like the infidels of those barbarous times who were coming to fight your faith. [To the contrary, now] we recognize it to be sublime, we adhere to it, and the moment has arrived when all regenerated Frenchmen will also become your believers.

Napoleon was irreverent, skeptical, opportunistic and inventive. These qualities were expertly assessed by the Austrian Ambassador in Paris, Klemens von Metternich. In September and October 1806, he reported to Vienna his shrewd observation that Napoleon was quick to spot potential political advantage in Jewish messianic belief. In that same vein, in Egypt in his proclamations to Muslims, Napoleon had purposely portrayed himself in the light of the closely-related Islamic concept of the Mahdi (Arabic: مهدي), preordained by God to conquer that country. This "Mahdi" idea is directly linked to the aforementioned notion of Napoleon as "the sword of God." Thus, it is certain that, from time to time, Napoleon was eager to create the impression that he might be the Muslim Mahdi or the Jewish Messiah.

Napoleon was fully in step with the pointedly anti-Catholic championing of the Jews that marked revolutionaries in the years from 1796 to 1799. In recruiting Jews to serve as spies, agents and emissaries, Napoleon would perhaps have specially sought out Sabbatean, Frankist and Kabbalist sectaries. Jews of those stripes were particularly numerous in Italy, where Napoleon could speak to them in his native Italian. German Jews often viewed Italian Jews as free thinkers and radicals. Moreover, Jewish attachment to Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬) remained especially strong in Italy, even in the 1790s.  Who better than Italian Sabbateans, Frankists and Kabbalists to revolutionize the Jewish People for Napoleon's effort to destroy the Ottoman Empire?

From the late 17th into the 18th century, Sabbateans in Italy maintained contact with fellow believers in the surrounding European countries, and across the Mediterranean. With Sabbateans in Italy as go-between, there was covert communication from the Mideast to Northern Europe. This amounted to a Sabbatean network for transferring secret information.

In the light of this brief discussion of divergent Jewish belief, we can return to the phrase "Jews, whatever their sect," that appears in Lettre d'un Juif. This prompts the obvious question: Did Napoleon or Anonymous there intend to include heretical Sabbateans and Frankists, alongside all the other expressions of 18th-century Judaism? (Sabbateans, Frankists and Kabbalists will reappear in later discussion of the Jews of Prague.)

Proclamation or letter?

The official 1799 German translation nowhere contains the word "proclamation." To the point, Rabbi Aaron himself describes the companion Napoleon piece as a "letter" or Zuschrift. This is also the common label that the translator, likely Karl Fischer, bureaucratically applies to both items.

As a literary genre, the letter's popularity and cultural importance rapidly rose with the 18th-century proliferation and improvement of postal services. Napoleon wrote around 33,000 letters. These include those which were simultaneously political pamphlets, like the 1791 Lettre à Matteo Buttafuoco. Letters also have a privileged place in Napoleon's 1795 novella, entitled Clisson et Eugénie.

As a literary genre, "proclamation" intrinsically has a public character. By contrast, "letter" preserves the possibility of a greater or lesser degree of confidentiality. Even so, after the French army retreated from Acre, Muslims looted the Jewish quarter of Safed. In addition to such local pogroms, two Jewish students were executed. Moreover, the Jews of Jerusalem and Tiberias were falsely accused of collaboration with the enemy, as an Ottoman pretext for extorting huge bribes.

In summer 1799, Moshe Aharon Halevi and other Jerusalem Rabbis prepared a Hebrew letter for dispatch to Jewish communities in Italy. Therein, they described the negative effects of Napoleon's campaign on the Jews of Eretz Yisrael (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל‬):
Since the conquest of Egypt, we are having problems with the local populations, which accuse us of having furnished twelve thousand soldiers to Bonaparte. This charge has caused us much trouble, starting from the summer of 1798 to this present summer. Our Jews materially and morally suffered losses from the fighting at Jaffa and Acre. Now, in addition, they have had to sell all their jewels and luxury items in order to raise money to appease the anger of their neighbors.
In 1799, Constantinople Jews delivered financial help to the Jews of the Holy Land. This is to be gathered from a later report to Napoleon from the Minister of the General Police. Joseph Fouché told the Emperor that soon to be expelled from the territory of the French Empire were the Jewish cotton merchant Israel Sogri, born in Constantinople, and his self-described "domestic" Vitanackar (April 10, 1809):
They were authorized by the Jews of Constantinople and Jerusalem to raise money to indemnify them with respect to a sum of 66,000 florins that the pasha of Acre [Ahmet Cezzar Pasha] had taken from them, while the French troops were in Egypt. They have been doing this fund raising for three years, in the course of which, they have already received, in Germany, 10 to 12,000 florins, via the mediation of the rabbis and the principal Jews of each city. They sent this money to Constantinople via bills of exchange. They intend to do the same fundraising in Paris and the other cities of France.

All this underlines that Mideast Jews were a vulnerable aboriginal minority. Evidently, considerable discretion was needed for conducting relations with them. After his rich Islamic experience in Egypt and his March 1799 meeting with Jews in Jaffa, Napoleon maybe grasped that a public announcement favoring Jews might enrage Muslims and Mideast Christians, and thus endanger Jews throughout the Ottoman Empire. If so, in April 1799, he perhaps preferred to secretly send a confidential, printed letter rather than openly publishing proclamations to the Jews.

[The second part of this monograph appears in a separate posting entitled, Jews, Napoleon, and the Ottoman Empire: the 1797-9 Proclamations to the Jews (2023 edition), Part 2. It is available on this website at:]