A New Edition of John Toland's 1714 pamphlet
- for the Emancipation and Equal Citizenship for the Jews of Britain and Ireland -

posted 19 Dec 2012, 22:04
Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1670-1722). General Editor: J.N. Duggan.
John Toland was a rationalist philosopher and freethinker of the early-Enlightenment who was born in Ireland in 1670. Though largely forgotten in his home country, Toland was and is a philosopher of international renown as well as a prolific writer on important political and religious issues of his day. As the website of the Humanist Society of Northern Ireland remarks:

No one has made a greater contribution to the development of Freethought in Ireland than John Toland (1670-1722), and it is the responsibility of the modern secular movement to publish and popularise his writings which have been sadly neglected in his own country and in Britain. Despite his reputation as a thinker and writer of the stature of David Hume, his work has been largely published in France, Holland and Germany, leaving him almost unknown in the English speaking world.

An important step in this direction has recently been made by the decision of The Manuscript Publisher to re-issue, in Kindle and print-on-demand editions, Toland’s highly influential 1714 pamphlet Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland.

Previously available only in facsimile copies, this new editon of Toland’s pamphlet has been faithfully reproduced from the original.. The text has been converted to a modern typeface but with original spelling, emphasis and formats preserved. The edition also contains an introduction, editor's notes and a chronology of Toland, his life and his times including the background to Jewish settlement in Britain in Ireland. This will be followed in the new year with a re-issue of Toland’s An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover

Author J.N. Duggan, who is serving as General Editor for both of these publishing projects, describes how she first came across the figure of John Toland while researching her biography of Sophia of Hanover (published in 2010 by Peter Owen of London):

Searching through other people’s bibliographies, I realised that he was the recognized source of information on the Courts of Hanover and Berlin in the first decade of the Eighteenth Century, and Chambers Biographical Dictionary informed me that he was an Irishman. ... The letters of Sophia and her friend Leibniz had already thrown an intriguing light on the character of the Irishman, but it was only when I was actually transcribing his descriptions of the courts etc. that I realised just how well they were written and, having by this time discovered the internet, I 'Googled' him. There wasn’t a great deal about him there, but the more I read the more intrigued I became and the more astonished that he was so little known in his native land.

It was this discovery which lead to her second book, also a biography entitled John Toland: Ireland’s Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar ... and Heretic, which is also available to buy online from this website.

Toland's pamphlet is widely seen as a landmark work in the movement for emancipation and equal citizenship of the Jewish people. At the same time historian Jonathan Karp has argued that Toland's motivation is best understood "when situated in the political and intellectual context of Augustan England rather than hailed as political prophecy." (see website of Hebraic Political Studies)

However it may be viewed, this pamphlet shows Toland at his best as both a skilled and fearless controversialist.

"a dog will run at a stone, when he dares not attack the man that threw it. ... I am not ignorant how much the world is governed by prejudices, and how farr some, who wou'd not be counted of the vulgar, are yet sway'd by vulgar errors. ... But one rule of life, which is willingly admitted, nay, and eagerly pleaded by all Societies in their own case (tho miserably neglected in that of others) is, not to impute the faults of a few to the whole number.”

It is from such sentiments expressed that we can discern a general plea to tolerance and humanity that has echoed down to the present time and gained universal acceptance.

Reasons for naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland, On the same foot with all other Nations. Containing also A Defence of the Jews against All vulgar Prejudices in all Countries is currently available in Kindle and print-on-demand. For more information please visit our bookshop.