I had never seen until very recently this fascinating article "Concerning the Jews" from the March 1898 issue of Harper's by Mark Twain. Twain wrote it during the 18 months he spent in Vienna, where his daughter was receiving advanced musical training. Twain entered actively into the quite Jewish intellectual life of the Austro-Hungarian capital, met Freud and other local luminaries, was annoyed by the low-level anti-Semitism of Central Europe at the time, and consequently urged Jews to organize politically.
Twain ventured a vague proto-version of the Cochran-Harpending theory of the evolution of Jewish intelligence:
In all the ages Christian Europe has been obliged to curtail his activities. If he entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian from the poor-house. ...Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by statute till practically none was left. He was forbidden to engage in agriculture; he was forbidden to practise law; he was forbidden to practise medicine, except among Jews; he was forbidden the handicrafts. Even the seats of learning and the schools of science had to be closed against this tremendous antagonist.
Still, almost bereft of employments, he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich. Also ways to invest his takings well, for usury was not denied him. In the hard conditions suggested, the Jew without brains could not survive, and the Jew with brains had to keep them in good training and well sharpened up, or starve. Ages of restriction to the one tool which the law was not able to take from him - his brain - have made that tool singularly competent; ages of compulsory disuse of his hands have atrophied them, and he never uses them now.
Twain downplays religious theories explaining anti-Semitism in favor of business competition theories.
Twain was an enthusiastic capitalist himself (although he tended to lose money at his many business ventures), an admirer of capitalists (e.g., A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), and a critic as well (e.g., The Gilded Age).
His retelling of the famous Chapter XLVII in Genesis about what Joseph, great grandson of Abraham, did as the servant of the pharaoh after his dream of the seven fat and seven lean years is stunning to me in the how-stupid-of-me-not-to-have-thought-of-that mode. Twain recounts it from the perspective of a 19th Century observer of robber baron maneuvering to corner markets:
In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii. We have all thoughtfully - or unthoughtfully - read the pathetic story of the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph, with that opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human liberty - a corner whereby he took a nation's money all away, to the last penny; took a nation's livestock all away, to the last hoof; took a nation's land away, to the last acre; then took the nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, till all were slaves; a corner which took everything, left nothing; a corner so stupendous that, by comparison with it, the most gigantic corners in subsequent history are but baby things, for it dealt in hundreds of millions of bushels, and its profits were reckonable by hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was a disaster so crushing that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day, more than three thousand years after the event.
Is it presumable that the eye of Egypt was upon Joseph the foreign Jew all this time? I think it likely. Was it friendly? We must doubt it. Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would survive long in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be familiarly used to express that character - like Shylock's? It is hardly to be doubted.
Let us remember that this was centuries before the crucifixion.
Religious prejudices may account for one part of [anti-Semitism], but not for the other nine. Protestants have persecuted Catholics, but they did not take their livelihoods away from them. The Catholics have persecuted the Protestants with bloody and awful bitterness, but they never closed agriculture and the handicrafts against them. Why was that? That has the candid look of genuine religious persecution, not a trade-union boycott in a religious disguise.
The Jews are harried and obstructed in Austria and Germany, and lately in France; but England and America give them an open field and yet survive. Scotland offers them an unembarrassed field too, but there are not many takers. There are a few Jews in Glasgow, and one in Aberdeen; but that is because they can't earn enough to get away. The Scotch pay themselves that compliment, but it is authentic.
In the days of Andrew Carnegie and many others, the Scots were among the most dynamic people on earth.
It's an insightful article by a sympathetic gentile. I strongly doubt anything similar could be published in Harper's today, though.