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Debate in the Parliament of the Duchy of Nassau on a Motion for the Complete Emancipation of the Jews in the Duchy (1846)

In May 1846, the parliament of the Duchy of Nassau discussed a motion to grant equal civic rights to the Jewish population. Comparable to deliberations in other German states during the revolution of 1848/49, the Nassau debate demonstrates the widely differing views expressed by the deputies both concerning the requirements of citizenship and the extent to which Nassau's Jews met these standards.

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Argument for the motion for complete emancipation of the Jews.

Gentlemen! The current state parliament has begun under favorable auspices. The government has proved its honor by giving complete freedom to elections, refraining from influencing the same, and showing thereby that it knows how to respect and acknowledge public opinion. The chambers have proven no less – in that they pressed for the complete publication of their minutes and, as one may well assume, are going to voice their support for public and oral trials as well as for jury trials – that they, precisely because they are constitutional-monarchical, are also liberal minded and pervaded by the conviction that the acknowledgment of just claims is the surest mainstay for existing institutions and also gives them the loveliest sheen. Indeed, lawful freedom is the most reliable protection for lawful order, the best way to guarantee justice toward all, the love of all for the state and the princely house to which they belong, as well as to the grand Fatherland to which they are obligated to devote worldly goods and blood. In our state this justice has still not materialized for those confessing the Jewish faith; they lack this lawful freedom to a significant extent, and the subject of my motion is: to beseech the eminent government for a legislative proposal through which this deplorable state of affairs will be abolished and the Jews in Nassau, in exchange for the complete assumption of citizens' duties, will gain a share in the complete enjoyment of citizenship rights. To argue on behalf of this motion, I shall permit myself to call attention to the restrictions to which the Jews among us are subjugated, and simultaneously to look at their legal and factual condition in Germany and other countries, and to counter possible objections on the basis of experience. The first part of my task is, I confess, almost embarrassing for me. That, in a country whose government and inhabitants are characterized by a high degree of intelligence, a native – merely because he descends from Jewish parents – can only bear one son who is allowed to start a family, while the other sons are condemned at birth – deprived of the purest joys of family life, unmarried and childless – to lead a desolate, immoral life; this is surely neither to be honorably conceded nor truthfully denied. Harsh and unjust in every era, this law today – when legislation, even among us Germans, has largely gotten far beyond such enrollment regulations for the Jews – has to seem even more oppressive and injurious than heretofore. In Bavaria, one of the few states where it still exists, the chambers only now assembled have moved to abolish it by a large majority. In the same spirit, and almost even worse, is the decree that deprives the Jew of the right to testify against a Christian in favor of another Jew. This decree is still in effect. Where the law presupposes this kind of immorality, it [also] produces it, and indeed, which is even worse, no less among Christians [than among Jews]. A law like this sanctions every injustice that is bestowed on the Jews, every

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