Mr. Jackson to Mr. Hay.
Sinaia, Roumania, September 7, 1903.
Sir: I have the honor to report that in conversation yesterday Mr. Sturdza, the Roumanian prime minister, spoke at length about the circular “note” of August 11, 1902, and the Jewish question. He said [Page 705]that there were two kinds of Jews in Roumania, the Spanish Jews, who are of a higher class, and the Jews who are principally found in Moldavia (and the neighboring parts of Austria and Russia), who he claimed are not Israelites at all, but Mongols, who were converted many centuries ago. There were few of this kind in what is now Roumania prior to 1828, and most of those who were in the country up to that time enjoyed either Austrian or Russian protection. Before the treaty of Paris no Jew, Turk, or Armenian could own real estate in the country. In the meantime, however, the Armenians had become Roumanianized, and there was no objection to the change, which was made in 1856, which enabled any Christian to do so. Later, at the time when the country became independent, a further change was made and any “Roumanian” obtained the right to own land. Ultimately, after the treaty of Berlin of 1878, the complete independence of Roumania was recognized by the European powers. At that time there were practically no American interests in the country, yet the United States saw fit to recognize its independence of its own accord in 1880 and to send a diplomatic representative (Mr. Eugene Schuyler) to reside in Roumania. This action was greatly appreciated at the time, and it has not been forgotten. Since that time, however, Roumania has no longer been under the tutelage of the treaty powers, and now she does not recognize their right to intervene. * * *
Mr. Sturdza said that now that I had seen something of Roumania and the Roumanians and now that they had become acquainted with me he was ready to inform me as to his position. He said at first that Roumania had not liberated herself from Turkish sovereignty in order to accept that of the Jews; that she had powerful neighbors and must do everything possible (compare dispatch No. 7) to maintain and develop her own nationality. He said that to grant political rights or to naturalize the Jews en masse, even if this were considered advisable, would necessitate a change in the constitution, and he was not in favor of frequent changes in a thing which should be of a permanent and more or less sacred character. He said that absolutely no question of religious prejudice was involved and cited a number of instances where Jews who had become Roumanians and been naturalized had attained political prominence under both liberal and conservative governments. He referred to one instance where he and other ministers had attended a wedding in the synagogue at Bucharest “in dress clothes and with decorations because of respect for the man whose daughter was being married.” He said, however, that the mass of the Jews did not regard themselves as Roumanians; that they spoke of belonging to the “Jewish nation” and considered themselves as of a superior race to the Christians, and that they had their own customs, language, and ambitions, and neither would nor could assimilate with the native Roumanians. They wanted to become naturalized, or rather naturalization was wanted for them, in order that they might secure political rights and own land. Moreover, it is not merely a question of the Jews already in Roumania, as for many reasons their position here is much better than that of their coreligionists in Austria and Russia, and if existing restrictions were to be removed there would be a great influx from those countries. In Roumania there is not the least religious persecution, there have been no massacres, and passports are not necessary to enable one to travel inside the country. Jews generally are not allowed to live in rural districts, because experience has shown [Page 706]that they rarely if ever become actual farm laborers, but wish to exploit such laborers, as overseers, etc., or to keep inns and drinking places.
After this general statement Mr. Sturdza went on to describe the special circumstances which led to the increased emigration of Jews a few years ago. He said that the Government had never favored such emigration and it had no wish to drive the Jews out of the country. The emigration, he said, was due to bad times, which prevailed for various reasons, but principally on account of drought and the failure of the crops. For more than a year the laboring population of Roumania was unable to support itself. The Government and the owners of private estates did all that was possible, but there was a great deal of suffering. The bad times were felt particularly in the cities, as building practically stopped and as the people had no money to spend in the shops. Naturally many people thought of emigrating, especially among the Jews who had few local attachments, and soon this emigration was given a political character. Instead of going by rail the Jews began making demonstrative marches through the country, singing and otherwise disturbing the peace. Many of them were not permitted to go farther than Budapest and Vienna, and many suffered greatly, but more or less unnecessarily. In the case of those who were turned back, however, the Roumanian Government repatriated them at its own expense, spending several hundred thousand francs for the purpose. The country was in financial straits at the time and certain foreign influences were brought to bear in order to discredit it generally. Had it been forced to grant political rights to the Jews many Roumanians would have been forced to sell their mortaged estates, but the situation of the Jews in Roumania, especially the poorer classes, would not have been materially improved.
During the summer I have traveled more or less about the country and have visited Jassy, Berlad, Galatz, Braila, and other cities and done my best to inform myself as to the exact situation * * * The general feeling is that the naturalization of the Jews must be a gradual matter—as they become educated up to being Roumanians.
I have, etc.,