Mark Twain's true opinion of the Jews is probably the best kept secret in American
literary history. Immediately after his death, his eccentric daughter Clara married
a Jewish piano player, Otto Gabriilowitsch. Twain's publishers were given speedy
instructions to delete "Concerning the Jews" from the collected works, where it had
appeared in the book The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories. The following
is taken from Harper's Monthly Magazine, September 1899:
Concerning The Jews by Mark Twain
Can fanaticism alone account for the persecution of the Jews? It is now my conviction
that it is responsible for hardly any of it.
In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter 47. We have all read the story
of the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and now Joseph with that
opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human
liberty—a corner whereby he took away the nation's money to the last penny; took
a nation's livestock all away, to the last hoof; took a nation's land all away, to
the last acre. Then he took the nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman
by woman, child by child, till all were slaves; a corner which took everything, leaving
nothing, a corner so stupendous that by comparison with it, the most gigantic corners
in subsequent history are but baby things; for it dealt in hundreds of millions of
bushels, and its profits were reckoned by the hundreds of millions of dollars. It
was a disaster so crushing that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt
even today, more than 3,000 years after the event.
Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which survived long in Egypt , and
in time would his name be familiarly used to express that character—like Shylock's?
It was hardly to be doubted. Let us remember that this was centuries before the Crucifixion.
In the U.S. cotton states, after the war, the Jew came down in force, set up shop
on the plantation, supplied all the negroes' wants on credit, and at the end of the
season was the proprietor of the negro's share of the present crop and part of the
next one. Before long the whites detested the Jew.
The Jew is being legislated out of Russia. The reason is not concealed. The movement
was instituted because the Christian peasant stood no chance against his commercial
abilities. The Jew was always ready to lend on a crop. When settlement day came,
he owned the crop, and the next year he owned the farm, like Joseph.
In the England of John's time everybody got into debt to the Jew. He gathered all
lucrative enterprises into his hands. He was the King of Commerce. he had to be banished
from the realm. For like reasons, Spain had to banish him 400 years ago, and Austria
a couple of centuries later.
In all ages, Christian Europe has been obliged to curtail his activities. If he entered
upon a trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he took
the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something
else. The law had to step in to save the Christian from the poorhouse. Still, almost
bereft of employments, he found ways to make money. Even to get rich. This history
has a most sordid and practical look. Religious prejudices may account for one part
of it, but not for the other nine.
Protestants have persecuted Catholics—but they did not take their livelihoods from
them. Catholics have persecuted Protestants—but they never closed agriculture and
the handicrafts against them. I feel convinced that the Crucifixion has not much
to do with the world's attitude toward the Jew; the reasons for it are much older
than that event ...
I am convinced that the persecution of the Jew is not in any large degree due to
religious prejudice. No, the Jew is a money-getter. He has made it the end and aim
of his life. He was at it in Rome. He has been at it ever since. His success has
made the whole human race his enemy.
You will say that the Jew is everywhere numerically feeble. When I read in the Encyclopedia
Britannica that the Jewish population of the United States was 250,000, I wrote to
the editor and explained to him that his figures were without doubt a misprint for
25,000,000. People told me that they had reason to suspect that for business reasons,
many Jews did not report themselves as Jews. It looks plausible. I am strongly of
the opinion that we have an immense Jewish population in America . I am assured by
men competent to speak that the Jews are exceedingly active in politics ...