I only started looking at it today, but I have been finding some fascinating old articles about plans for Jews to move to Palestine decades before Herzl was even born. There seem to have been three main forces behind this idea:
- The proto-Zionists themselves, notably including the Rothschilds;
- Christians in America and England, who viewed the "Restoration of the Jews" as a precursor to the "Second Coming," and
- The Western Colonial powers, who appeared to consider this a win/win - they can ship out their Jews and a Western outpost would be built in the Middle East.
Here is an article (as best as I could reproduce it) from The Adams Sentinel of Gettysburg, PA on Wednesday, December 02, 1829:
The following is an extract of a letter, published in the British Court Journal, on 'the subject of the purchase of Jerusalem by Baron Rothschild. KING following curious extract is from a private letter from Smyrna. We give it without note or comment:It does not appear that this plan ever went anywhere, but it shows the desire of Jews to peacefully purchase land in Israel to settle there as a first step towards sovereignty even as early as 1829!
The confidence of the children of Israel in the words of the Prophet has not been in vain the temple of Solomon will be restored in all its splendor. Baron Rothschild, who was accused of having gone to Rome to abjure the faith of his fathers, has merely passed through the city on his way to Constantinople, where he is about to negotiate a loan with the Porte. It is stated, on. good authority, that Baron Rothschild has engaged to furnish to the Sultan the enormous sum of piastres, at three installments, without interest, on condition of the Sultan's engaging, for himself and his successors, to yield to Baron Rothschild forever, the sovereignty of Jerusalem, and the territory of ancient Palestine, which was occupied by the twelve tribes. The Baron's intention is, to grant to the rich Israelites who are scattered about in different parts of the world, portions of that country, where he proposes to establish to give them, as far as possible, their ancient and sacred laws. Thus the descendants of the Hebrews will at length have a country, and every friend of humanity must rejoice at the happy event. -The poor Jews will cease to be the victims of oppression and injustice. Glory to the great Baron Rothschild, who makes so noble a use of his ingots. A little army being judged necessary for the restored kingdom, measures have been taken for recruiting if out of the wrecks of the Jewish battalion raised in Holland by Louis Bonaparte. All the Israelites who were employed in various departments of the Dutch Administration, are to obtain superior posts under the Government of Jerusalem, and the expenses of their journey are to be paid them in advance.