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February 24: The French Abraham Lincoln

lawrencebush
February 24, 2013

Adolphe Cremieux (Isaac Moïse), a French lawyer, statesman, and human rights activist, was named French minister of justice on this date in the revolutionary year of 1848. Although only briefly in office, Cremieux secured decrees that instituted freedom of the press, freedom of association, and freedom of worship, abolished arrest for debt, ended punishment by public humiliation, reestablished the legality of divorce, abolished the death penalty for political crimes, and ended slavery in all French colonies. Crémieux served as vice-president of the Central Consistory of the Jews of France, and was the founder of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris in 1860. Returning to government in 1870, he secured full citizenship for the Jews in French-ruled Algeria. (Muslim Arabs and Berbers were excluded from this ruling, however, which helped set the scene for the mass migration of Algerian Jews after the Algerian War of Independence, 1954-62.)

"Crémieux accompanied Moses Montefiore on a delegation to the East and secured the release of the Jews imprisoned in Damascus. Their success was the first step toward the new feeling of self-confidence in West European Jewry, based on the renewed sense of solidarity among Jews in different countries." —Jewish Virtual Library