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To the editor (1908)

From a letter of Hilaire Belloc to the Editor, dated February 8, 1908.  Imagine something like this being published in an influential journal in Britain, today:

The Editor of The New Age has pointed out to me that [H.G.] Wells has been writing upon [G.K.] Chesterton and me and that to the remarks I made some weeks ago various answers more or less violent have appeared; and he also points out to me that Chesterton in turn has written in answer to Wells.

He wants to know whether I have any “answer” ready. I don’t think I have; but The New Age being the one really interesting paper now published (because it seems to me to be the only one with some idea of intellectual freedom), it seems a shame to keep out of its columns. I don’t think any other paper would have had the courage to publish even the very simple remarks upon the Congo Reform business which were kindly printed for me the other day. And courage always makes things interesting. So let me attempt, by way of gratitude, to say something in The New Age, though upon my soul I do not see what it is I have to say…

As to the considerable irritation caused by my taking it for granted that Jews and Europeans were two different types of men, I simply cannot understand it.

If I were a Jew I would not try to appear anything else. Jews are just now very powerful, especially in this country; but I do not go about on that account pretending that I am a Jew.

Why should Jews, who have a disproportionate amount of power, try to make out that they are not of their own race, but of ours? No possible purpose, it seems to me, can be served by trying to maintain two contradictory things.

You cannot be proud of the power, greatness, and success of the Jewish race, and at the same time deny the separate existence of that race. You cannot have it both ways. If it is the mere word “European” that has given offence, I shall be delighted to substitute for it any other-Abracadabra or Mumbo-Jumbo-so long as my meaning is clear.

The tuppenny ha’penny Donnish way of talking, now pretty fairly mildewed, was to talk about an “Aryan” race. But those pseudo-scientific terms are very repellent to, me. We have no proof of the existence of an “Aryan” race. It does not form a real part of real history. We do know all about a real historical phenomenon called European civilisation; we are acquainted with its corporate tradition; we who belong to it feel its religion in our blood; its military qualities are native to us; and it is historically true that for the 2,000 years during which the Israelites have been scattered amongst us they have been present as a foreign people.

Where is the shame or insult in that? Or where is the advantage to them or to us of hiding or confusing a patent and a valuable piece of historical truth—perhaps the most important permanent feature in the real history of Europe?