Grégoire, Henri Baptiste°

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GRÉGOIRE, HENRI BAPTISTE ° (Abbé Grégoire ; 1750–1831), Catholic clergyman, one of the activists of the *French Revolution. Grégoire led the campaign for the civic emancipation of the Jews before and during the Revolution. In the secular field, he held enlightened-revolutionary opinions, while in the religious field his outlook was neo-Jansenist. It was one of the principal expectations of the Jansenists that the Revolution would bring about the reform of the universe at the millennium and with it the return of Jews to the Christian religion and the Land of Israel. Grégoire adhered to these expectations, and the Jewish problem thus at first became the focal point upon which his secular activities and religious hopes converged. In 1785, Grégoire took part in a competition held by the Société Royale des Arts et Sciences of Metz on the question: "Are there possibilities of making the Jews more useful and happier in France?" His work, which shared the first prize, was published in 1789 under the title Essai sur la régénération physique, morale, et politique des Juifs (Essay on the Physical, Moral and Political Reformation of the Jews, London, c. 1791). In it Grégoire suggests that the Jews should be westernized and integrated within French society. He repeats the claim, which had already been voiced before him, that the main social and moral shortcomings of the Jews were due to the servitude to which they had been subjected. Amelioration of their status would also achieve reform of their character. Grégoire was, however, more extreme than C.W. *Dohm or *Mirabeau in pressing for the abolition of the fundamental causes of Jewish social and political separatism: communal autonomy, the Jewish quarters, Yiddish, and the "superstitious beliefs" to which the Jews adhered because they were misled by their rabbis. Grégoire however dismissed the traditional Christian claim that the Jews must suffer because of their sins as deicides. On this subject he said: "The oracles which announced the destruction of Jerusalem point out the distant moment at which the consequences of it are to end. The Deity directs every event in a manner agreeable to His supreme views; and perhaps He reserves for us the glory of realizing His designs in preparing by our humanity the revolution by which these people are to be reformed."

The opinions expressed in his work were the basis for his political and publicistic activities concerning the Jews from 1789 to 1806. Grégoire played an active and energetic role in raising the question of the Jews in the French National Assembly until emancipation was granted to them in September 1791. Among his other activities, he presented the delegation of Alsace-Lorraine Jews to the National Assembly on October 14, 1789, in connection with which he published a Motion en faveur des Juifs, which was a summary of his Essai drafted in a more revolutionary spirit. In 1802, while on a tour of Europe, he preached, advocating the emancipation of the Jews. In 1806, he published a pamphlet in answer to *Bonald's objections to the civic emancipation of French Jews. After *Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power, Grégoire gradually withdrew from political activity and became increasingly engrossed in his religious and eschatological hopes, which centered on the expectation of the fall of Rome and the renewed establishment of a Jewish Jerusalem as the capital of a reconstituted Christian world. He organized a Franco-Italian circle which propagated these expectations. One of the members of this circle was A. Manzoni, a father of the Italian national movement. Later publications of his include Observations nouvelles sur les Juifs, et spécialement sur ceux d'Allemagne (2 vols., 1806), and Histoire des sectes religieuses (2 vols., 1810).


H. Carnot (ed.), Mémoires de H. Grégoire (1838); P. Grunebaum-Ballin, L'Abbé Grégoire et les Juifs (1931); idem, in: rej, 121 (1962), 383–96; F. Ruffini, La vita religiosa di Alessandro Manzoni, 2 (1931); M. Ginsburger, in: Festschrift zu S. Dubnows 70ten Geburtstag (1930), 201–6; A. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index.

[Baruch Mevorah]