In the era of the Revolution the Jews did not receive their equality
automatically. The Declaration of the Rights of Man which was voted into law by the National Assembly on Aug. 27, 1789, was interpreted as not including the Jews in the new equality. The issue of Jewish rights was first debated in three sessions, Dec. 21–24, 1789, and even the Comte de *Mirabeau, one of their chief proponents, had to move to table the question, because he saw that there were not enough votes with which to pass a decree of emancipation. A month later, in a very difficult session on Jan. 28, 1790, the “Portuguese,” “Spanish,” and “Avignonese” Jews were given their equality. The main argument, made by Talleyrand, was that these Jews were culturally and socially already not alien.
The issue of the Ashkenazim remained unresolved. It was debated repeatedly in the next two years but a direct vote could never be mustered for their emancipation. It was only in the closing days of the National Assembly, on Sept. 27, 1791, that a decree of complete emancipation was finally passed, on the ground that the Jews had to be given equality in order to complete the Revolution, for it was impossible to have a society in which all men of whatever condition were given equal rights and status, except a relative handful of Jews. Even so, the parliament on the very next day passed a decree of exception under which the debts owed the Jews in eastern France were to be put under special and governmental supervision. This was a sop to anti-Jewish opinion, which had kept complaining of the rapacity of the Jews. The Jews refused to comply with this act, for they said that it was contrary to the logic of a decree of equality. Opinion thus had remained divided even in the last days, when Jews were being given their liberty.