CRÉMIEUX, ISAAC ADOLPHE:
French statesman; born at Nîmes April 22, 1796; died in Paris Feb. 9, 1880. He was educated at the Lycée Impérial, where he and a cousin were the only Jewish students. Crémieux was at that time an ardent admirer of Napoleon I., and it was he who, at the head of a deputation of the pupils of the Lycée, addressed the emperor in the court of the Tuileries. For many years he remained faithful tothis idol of his youth, and was the adviser and friend of the proscribed Bonapartes.As Advocate.
Crémieux was admitted to the bar at Nîmes on attaining his majority (1817), and soon became famous. He was a brilliant orator and a skilful advocate; combining eloquence with a wide knowledge of the law, rare powers of assimilation, clearness, irony, and the faculty of inspiring others with his own enthusiasm. Many of the most important cases in the south of France were soon entrusted to him, the most famous being that of the notorious royalist bandit Trestaillon, whose conviction he obtained. This case made Crémieux's name as familiar in Paris as it was in the department of the Gard: the young lawyer entered into relations with all the Liberals of Paris, and he thenceforth passed his yearly vacations in that city. His patriotism was shown in the famous case called "De la Marseillaise" (1819), when he was called upon to defend three young men accused of having sung the hymn of the Revolution. In spite of the president's opposition, he dared to praise it, and recited the poem in paraphrase, to let the jury men pass judgment upon it. At the famous verse "Amour sacré de la patrie," all the jurymen had risen, and the accused were acquitted. After the revolution of 1830 Crémieux removed from Nîmes to Paris, where he bought Odillon Barrot's practise at the Court of Cassation. This he retained for nearly seven years, and then resumed his private practise, ranking with the leading lawyers of Paris.Participated in the Damascus Affair.
Crémieux was successful in obtaining the abolition of the humiliating oath known as the "More Judaico," which every Jew had been forced to take on coming into court; and this made Crémieux the leader of his coreligionists, whose social status and interests he protected during his entire career. In 1840 Crémieux took an important part in securing the acquittal, through Mehemet-Ali, of the Jewish victims of the famous Damascus ritual murder case (See Damascus Affair). His return from the Orient was a series of triumphs, the Jews of Vienna being foremost in their demonstrations of gratitude. He was also received by Prince Metternich, the then chancellor of the Austrian empire.As Minister of Justice.
In 1842 the leaders of the opposition asked Crémieux to present himself for election in the arron-dissement of Chinon, to supplant Piscatory, the ministerial deputy from Indre et Loire. After a hard struggle he was elected, and during the last years of Louis Philippe's reign he achieved brilliant successes, both as a lawyer and as a speaker. He was not only an able and disinterested defender of journalists and statesmen, but also the patron of all artists. At his reunions the most celebrated singers of the Opera and of the Théâtre des Italiens appeared; and on one occasion they were accompanied by Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Auber. Crémieux was one of the most brilliant orators of the "Campagne des Banquets," which brought about the revolution of Feb. 24, 1848; and his election as a member of the provisional government was due in a great measure to this fact. As minister of justice he was instrumental in abolishing capital punishment for political offenses, the exposure of the condemned to public curiosity, and the political oath. But the republic, of which he was so proud to have been one of the founders, came to an abrupt end.
Crémieux has often been blamed, and he doubtless blamed himself, for advocating Louis Napoleon's candidacy as president. He believed, however, in the sincerity of the prince's expressions of republican sentiments, and cherished the illusion that a nephew of Napoleon would sustain the republic in France, and redeem the "eighteenth of Brumaire." Moreover he was strongly prejudiced against General Cavaignac, who, after having refused, on the pretext of ill health, the portfolio of minister of war, offered to him by the provisional government, suddenly became well enough to be the chief executive.Open Letter to Louis Napoleon.
Crémieux's illusions concerning the policy of Louis Napoleon soon vanished. Under date of Dec. 15, 1848, he addressed a letter to the newly elected prince, in which he exhorted him to be a "standard for reconciliation and not of disillusionment," and to remain true to his republican principles. He never saw Napoleon again. On leaving the prisons of Mazas and Vincennes, to which the coup d'état of his former friend had brought him, he retired from active politics and went back to his law practise, defending throughout France the newspapers that were persecuted, and the interests of all the proscribed republicans, among them Louis Blanc, Challemel-Lacour, Ledru Rollin, Pierre Leroux, and many others.
To enumerate Crémieux's many and important cases would be impossible. Among his clients were the sultan and the viceroy of Egypt. He journeyed to Bucharest in the interests of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, of which he had been one of the founders and of which he had become the president in 1863. Finally, in 1869, he had to give way to the voters of Paris, and, in spite of his seventy-three years, was compelled to take his seat in the Palais-Bourbon, to help overthrow the empire and again save his beloved France. But this time the task was impossible. The incapacity of the leaders and Bazaine's treason lost the army. Gambetta himself, formerly Crémieux's secretary and now his colleague in the Government of National Defense, could not create a new army or capable generals. The five months of terrible anxiety, followed by the inglorious peace, prostrated Crémieux. He offered a part of his wealth to help pay the millions demanded by the Germans, but Thiers would not listen to the plan of a national subscription. Crémieux was made a life senator. He gave 50,000 francs in aid of the victims of the flood at Toulouse, urged by the same sentiments that, in 1860, had led him to address the following appeal to his coreligionists in behalf of the Christians of Lebanon:Memorable Pro-Christian Appeal.
"The Christians of the East are subjected to the most horrible persecution. Tortures, rape, assassination, pillage, burning, the murder of women, children, and old people, even mutilation of corpses—such is the picture presented by the whole region of the Lebanon. Blood is shed; misery and famine are spreading among a dense population, whom Mohammedan fanaticism is destroying in a war even against the intention and forces of the Turkish government, and whose sole crime is that they worship the Christ. French Jews, let us be the first to come to the aid of our Christian brothers; let us not await the results of diplomacy, which is always so slow and which will regulate the future; let us alleviate present needs. Let a large subscription be begun to-day in Paris, and let a Jewish committee be organized to-morrow. Do not let us lose one day, one hour; let the signal for abundant relief be given in the midst of this Jewish assembly, gathered in this capital of civilization. This signal will be answered by our brethren in England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and all Europe; in the countries that recognize them as citizens, and in those that still refuse them this noble title. You, also, Jews of the American countries where religious liberty is triumphant, you will help the Catholics of Asia, who are so cruelly oppressed by superstition. Let the rich Jew bring his large offering, and the poor Jew his pious obolus. But a still greater thought shall rise from this first impulse. Who knows? Perhaps God, who rules over all, has permitted these catastrophes in order to give a solemn occasion to all the cults to aid one another, for mutual defense against the furious hatreds, the daughters of superstition and barbarity. A permanent committee in every country, with eyes open for all the victims of fanaticism, without distinction of religion, must be created and supported. The misfortunes that fall at this moment upon so many innocent victims arouse the sympathy of all. They suggest the thought of a future protection against this scourge, which our century repudiates with horror—religious persecution."
Crémieux's entire life is a proof of the nobility of his character. In 1832 he heard that his father, on leaving the prison in 1796, had found his business destroyed, and had been compelled to compromise with his creditors. Crémieux did not rest until he had found all these creditors or their heirs; and he returned to them not only the principal, which most of them had forgotten, but also the accumulated interest for thirty-six years. Thereupon he sought and easily obtained the rehabilitation of his father's name. He never sacrificed any of his convictions to his personal interests, and did not hesitate to antagonize the powerful influence of the Rothschilds in advocating, in the Chamber of Deputies, the acquisition of the railroads by the government.
Always ready to aid his coreligionists, Crémieux never forgave them a mean action. Thus, he refused to aid Deutz, the despicable accuser of the Duchess of Berry, who appealed to him as being a Jew. On Jan. 30, 1880, Crémieux lost his wife, who, since 1824, had been his constant companion and helper. Both had frequently said that neither could live without the other, and Crémieux's death occurred ten days after that of his wife.
- La Grande Encyclopédie;
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon;
- Brockhaus, Konversations-Lexikon.