By: Gotthard Deutsch
Jesuit priest, politician, and advocate of the Jews; born at Vého, near Lunéville, Dec. 4, 1750; died at Paris May 28, 1831. Grégoire was a typical representative of the humanitarian ideas of the eighteenth century. Notwithstanding his Jesuit training and associations he stood consistently throughout his life for the independence of the Gallican Church, and for equal rights for all men regardless of creed and nationality. When in 1788 the Royal Society for Arts and Sciences in Metz offered a prize for the best essay on the improvement of the condition of the Jews, Grégoire wrote his famous "Sur la Régeneration Physique, Morale, et Politique des Juifs" (Metz, 1789). A year later he was elected a member of the States General, and was among those who agitated for the formation of the National Assembly, although he had been one of the clerical delegates. In the assembly he put the motion for the emancipation of the Jews ("Motion en Faveur des Juifs, par M. Grégoire, curé d'Emberménil, deputé de Nancy, precédée d'une notice historique sur les persécutions qu'ils viennent d'essuyer en divers lieux," etc.; Paris, 1789). In his somewhat theatrical style he exclaimed (Oct. 1, 1789), when a special day was given to the deliberation of the bill concerning the Jews: "Fifty thousand Frenchmen arose this morning as slaves; it depends on you whether they shall go to bed as free people."
The arguments advanced in his book in favor of the Jews are in no way original; they repeat the often-advanced statements that the Jews are not worse than the average, and that the injustice of medieval legislation was largely responsible for whatever faults are peculiar to the Jews. He therefore demanded for them full enfranchisement, including political rights. What gave special weight to Grégoire's pamphlets was the fact that he spoke as a professing Catholic and as a Catholic priest who advocated the enfranchisement of the Jews from the point of view of canonical law, and desired to prove that the Church had always been favorable to the Jews.
- La Grande Encyclopédie;
- Grätz, Gesch. xi. 197;
- Kahn, Les Juifs à Paris, pp. 61 et seq., Paris, 1889;
- R. E. J. iii. 308.