Introduction to Primary Text

In September of 1753, an unnamed Reverend visiting a local parish in Norwich gave a sermon against the recently passed 1753 Jewish Naturalization Act. This Act allowed Jews living in England who were born abroad the right to become freeborn citizens. His sermon set off a series of letters published in the local Norwich Mercury: an initial set of queries from the “Querist” defending the Act in question, a point by point rebuttal to the Querist by the “Answerer”, a response to the Answerer by a third writer defending the position of the Querist, and a final response by the original Querist himself.

This particular exchange is part of a larger flurry of publications responding to the Naturalization Act, many of which can be found in Princeton Digital Library’s Sid Lapidus ‘59 Collection on Liberty and the American Revolution.

The online collection features more than 360 scanned books, pamphlets and prints from Sid Lapidus’ collection of more than 2200 items gifted to the Library in 2009. Accordingly, Lapidus collected items related to the American Revolution, its origins and its consequences, and the abolition of slave trade in Great Britain and the US.

Among these texts are a set that focus on the political debate surrounding the status of Jews in England. This collection includes texts from the original resettlement during Cromwell’s protectorate around 1650, and the debate a century later on toleration of ‘the Jews’ precipitated by 1753 Jewish Naturalization Act.

The text analyzed here was one of almost 100 recorded published writings in England in the year of the passage of the Naturalization Act that related Jews or Judaism. Many of these texts questioned the toleration of Jews in England, often with antisemitic arguments, and specifically focused on the recent Naturalization Act that had quickly passed through parliament without being brought to public attention.

The text I am focusing on is a back and forth argument in the form of a compiled series of letters, prefaced by a publisher/editors introduction, entitled “Some Queries Relative to the Jews; Occasioned by a late Sermon: with Some other Papers, occasioned by the Queries”