MIRABEAU, HONORE GABRIEL RIQUETI, COMTE DE°
MIRABEAU, HONORE GABRIEL RIQUETI, COMTE DE° (1749–91), statesman of the *French Revolution. Mirabeau became interested in the Jewish question during his visits to Holland in 1776, England in 1784, and Prussia in 1786. Influenced by the enlightened members of the Jewish communities in the capitals of these three countries, he was particularly attracted by the image of Moses *Mendelssohn. In the book resulting from this journey, Sur Moses Mendelssohn, sur la réforme politique des Juifs (London, 1787), he argued that the faults of the Jews were those of their circumstances. Although his main reason for admiring Mendelssohn was that "humanity and truth" seemed much clearer to him than "the dark phantoms of the Talmudists," Mirabeau did not consider Judaism an immoral faith, and he defended it against attacks both old and new. In the course of his argument, he repeated *Dohm's assertion that "the Jew is more of a man than he is a Jew." Quoting from Turgot and *Rousseau in support of his pro-Jewish arguments, Mirabeau affirms that history proves that "the Jews, considered as men and as citizens, were greatly corrupted only because they were denied their rights." Like Dohm he advocated preserving some measure of Jewish autonomy, a view he developed in his memorandum to *Frederick the Great of Prussia, De la monarchie prussienne (1788), p. 462, but he envisaged it as a transitory phenomenon; the organized Jewish community would wither away and die as the Jews entered fully into the economic and social life of the majority. Mirabeau continued to work for the emancipation of the Jews as he saw it. In the debate of Dec. 24, 1789, he denied Rewbell's assertion that "they [the Jews] do not regard themselves as citizens," and followed *Clermont-Tonnerre in stating that the very fact that the Jews were requesting equality was proof of their desire to cease being Jewish in any separatist way.
L. Kahn, Les juifs de Paris pendant la révolution (1898); H. de Jouvenel, Stormy Life of Mirabeau (1929); A. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.