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MIRABEAU, GABRIEL HONORE RIQUETI, COMTE DE:

French statesman of the revolutionary era; born at Bignon March 9, 1749; died at Paris April 2, 1791. Sent by De Calonne on a secret mission to Prussia, he became acquainted at Berlin with several distinguished Jews belonging to the circle of Henriette Herz, and associated much with Dohm, the author of "Ueber die Bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden." Recognizing the advantage which France might derive from the Jews, Mirabeau wrote, and published in London (1787), his "Sur Moses Mendelssohn, sur la Réforme Politique des Juifs et en Particulier sur la Révolution Tentée, en Leur Faveur, en 1753, dans la Grande Bretagne." When he was elected deputy from Provence to the States General, and one of his Jewish friends of Aix asked what he would do in the Assembly, he replied, "I will make a human being of you." True to this promise, he seized every opportunity to plead for the emancipation of the Jews, being, together with the Abbé Grégoire and the pastor Rabaud-Saint-Etienne, one of their most zealous advocates. Several times he took up their cause before the National Assembly: on Aug. 17, 1789, he proposed, in the name of the "Committee of Five," the "Declaration of the Rights of Man"; on Aug. 22 he eloquently attacked religious intolerance, and he was the first to protest against the institution of a dominant state church—"Nothing should dominate except justice; nothing should dominate but the rights of each man, to which all else is subject." On Dec. 24, in speaking in favor of the admission of Jews to civil and military offices, he said: "I have heard with astonishment the honorable speaker [H. de Baumetz] state that the Jews perhaps do not desire the civil and military offices to which you declare them eligible, and draw therefrom the specious conclusion that it would be a gratuitous and ill-advised generosity on your part to pronounce them fit for such positions. . . . In a government such as you are establishing all men must be equal; you must exclude all who are not equal or who refuse to become so. The petition which the Jews, however, have laid before this Assembly contradicts the statement of the gentleman who has just spoken."

Like all who at that time took the part of the Jews, Mirabeau found his motives misinterpreted, being accused of accepting bribes from the Jews and of deriving benefit from ministerial appointments; but he never allowed himself to be moved from his purpose. While Mirabeau in 1787 was already in favor of the emancipation of the Jews, he expected that, like other acts of the doctrinaires then in power, it would embitter the people against the Jacobins and lead to a moderate constitutional government. This appears clearly from the secret correspondence in which he furnished the king with reports of the proceedings of the National Assembly and with directions in regard to the policy to be pursued by the court ("Correspondance Entre le Comte de Mirabeau et le Comte de la Marck . . . Publiée par M. A. de Bacourt," ii. 374-377, Paris, 1851; Oncken, "Das Zeitalter der Revolution, des Kaiserreiches und der Befreiungskriege," i. 340, Berlin, 1884).

Bibliography:
  • J. Weyl, Discours Prononcé à l'Occasion dela Cérémonie Commemorative Célébrée au Temple Israélite de Marseille, p. 20;
  • Halphen, Recueil des Lois, pp. 192-193;
  • Léon Kahn, Les Juifs à Paris, p. 61;
  • idem, Les Juifs de Paris Pendant la Révolution, pp. 16, 56, 58.
D. S. K.
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