The first great exodus to England and America began soon after the enactment of the May Laws, and, owing to the reign of terror existing in the towns, resembled an indiscriminate flight. After a time the traffic became organized through the activity of steamship agents, and, the economic causes still existing, the stream of emigrants has since been almost constant. In addition to the oppressive enactments, an absurd story of ritual murder has been circulated among the ignorant Slavic peasantry for the purpose of inciting anti-Semitic feeling. Michael Davitt, the Irish patriot and writer, after a recent visit to Russia, thus sums up the situation in his book 'Within the Pale':
The murderous competition for employment, the deadly rivalry for existence, the bad blood between opposing races, the poverty and social wretchedness which such a condition of things would create—apart from the operation of coercive laws—can readily be imagined by the American reader. But this is no overdrawn picture of the economic anarchy prevailing within the Russian pale of Jewish settlement.
The towns are crowded with artisans and traders, and as these are out of all proportion to the producers and consumers of an agricultural country, they necessarily become more destitute and wretched as their numbers increase. They are too poor to emigrate. They are prohibited from migrating. They can not seek work on land. They are not permitted to engage in several occupations.
Mr. Davitt asserts that the Czar can accomplish much for the Jews in his domain by destroying the legend of the blood atonement. He avers:
M. de Plehwe and the Czar can accomplish one good and blessed work, if so minded, without altering a single anti-Semitic Russian law. The Emperor can destroy in Russia the atrocious legend about the annual killing of christian children by Jews as an alleged part of the blood atonement in Hebrew paschal rites. In this humane and christian task he is entitled to the cooperation of the Emperor of Austria, the King of Roumania, and the heads of the other Balkan states, where this story of ritual murder is constantly circulated, and not infrequently as a part of political propaganda There ought to be a truly christian crusade waged against this infamous product of ancient, insensate, sectarian hate.
In Roumania the intolerant attitude of the government and a series of oppressive enactments against Jews constitute the chief cause of emigration. These measures of persecution employed in Roumania were in violation of the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which guaranteed religious liberty and equal rights to all. The Roumanian government maintains that the Jews are aliens, and to give them equal rights would mean that they would control the country in a few years.
Galicia under Austrian rule has no legislation against Jews in force, but a strong anti-Semitic sentiment exists, and no doubt this prejudice aggravates the economic problem which is the chief cause of emigration from Galicia.
Much is heard of assisted immigration, and no doubt the majority of Russian and Roumanian Jewish immigrants are assisted at some