Resettlement of the Jews in England

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The resettlement of the Jews in England was a historic commercial policy dealing with Jews in England in the 17th century, and forms a prominent part of the history of the Jews in England.

Background[edit]

In 1290, King Edward I of England issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. Three hundred and fifty years later, the situation was reconsidered.

Oliver Cromwell[edit]

The commercial policy that led to the Navigation Act in October 1651 made Oliver Cromwell want to attract the rich Jews of Amsterdam to London so that they might transfer their important trade interests with the Spanish Main from Holland to England. The mission of Oliver St John to Amsterdam, though failing to establish a coalition between English and Dutch commercial interests as an alternative to the Navigation Act, had negotiated with Menasseh Ben Israel and the Amsterdam community. A pass was granted to Menasseh to enter England, but he was unable to use it because of the war between England and Holland, which lasted from 1652 to 1654.

Menasseh Ben Israel's petition[edit]

As soon as the war ceased, Menasseh Ben Israel sent his brother-in-law, David Abravanel Dormido, to London to present to the council a petition for the readmission of Jews. The council, however, refused to act. Cromwell therefore induced Menasseh himself to come over to London, which he did at the end of September 1655, and there he printed his "humble address" to Cromwell. As a consequence, a national conference was summoned at Whitehall in the early part of December, which included some of the most eminent lawyers, clergymen, and merchants in the country. The lawyers declared no opposition to the Jews' residing in England, but both the clergymen and merchants were opposed to readmission, leading Cromwell to stop the discussion to prevent an adverse decision.

Early in the following year (1656), the question came to a practical issue through the declaration of war against Spain, which resulted in the arrest of Antonio Rodrigues Robles, and forced the Marranos of London to avow their Judaism as a means of avoiding arrest as Spaniards and the confiscation of their goods.[1] As a final result, Cromwell appears to have given informal permission to the Jews to reside and trade in England on condition that they did not obtrude their worship on public notice and that they refrained from making proselytes. Using this permission, Antonio Fernandez Carvajal and Simon de Caceres purchased a piece of land for a Jewish cemetery in 1657, and Solomon Dormido, a nephew of Menasseh Ben Israel, was admitted to the Royal Exchange as a duly licensed broker of the City of London, without taking the usual oath involving a statement of faith in Christianity. Carvajal had previously been granted letters of denization for himself and his son, which guaranteed certain rights of citizenship.

Debating the return of the Jews[edit]

This method of finding a solution to the Jewish question in England had the advantage of not raising anti-Semitic feeling too strongly; and it likewise enabled Charles II, on his return, to avoid taking any action on the petition of the merchants of London asking him to revoke Cromwell's concession. He had been assisted by several Jews of royalist sympathies, such as Mendes da Costa and Augustine Coronel-Chacon, during his exile. In 1664 a further attempt was made by the Earl of Berkshire and Mr Ricaut to bring about the expulsion of the Jews, but the King-in-Council assured the latter of the continuance of former favour. Similar appeals to prejudice were made in 1673, when Jews, for meeting in Duke's Place for a religious service, were indicted on a charge of rioting, and in 1685, when thirty-seven were arrested on the Royal Exchange; but the proceedings in both cases were put a stop to by direction of the Privy Council. The status of the Jews was still very indeterminate. In 1684, it was contended by the East India Company that they were alien infidels, and perpetual enemies to the English crown. Even the Attorney-General declared that they resided in England only under an implied licence. As a matter of fact, the majority of them were still aliens and liable to all the disabilities that condition carried with it.

Help from and to Jews abroad[edit]

William III is reported to have been assisted in his ascent to the English throne by a loan of 2,000,000 guilders from Antonio Lopez Suasso and later Baron Avernes de Gras. William did not interfere when in 1689 some of the chief Jewish merchants of London were forced to pay the duty levied on the goods of aliens, but he refused a petition from Jamaica to expel the Jews. William's reign brought about a closer connection between the predominantly Sephardic communities of London and Amsterdam; this aided in the transfer of the European finance centre from the Dutch capital to the English capital. Over this time a small German Ashkanazi community had arrived and established their own synagogue in 1692, but they were of little mercantile consequence, and did not figure in the relations between the established Jewish community and the government.

Early in the eighteenth century the Jewish community of London comprised representatives of the chief Jewish financiers in northern Europe; these included the Mendez da Costa, Abudiente, Salvador, Lopez, Fonseca, and Seixas families. The utility of these prominent Jewish merchants and financiers was widely recognised. Marlborough in particular made great use of the services of Sir Solomon de Medina, and indeed was publicly charged with taking an annual subvention from him. The early merchants of the resettlement are estimated to have brought with them a capital of £1,500,000 into the country; this amount is estimated to have increased to £5,000,000 by the middle of the 18th century.

As early as 1723 an act of Parliament allowed Jews holding land to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian", when registering their title.[2] Only once more would this allowance be made[3] in the passage of the Plantation Act 1740, but more significantly the act allowed Jews who had or would resided in British America for seven years to become naturalised British citizens.

Shortly afterwards a similar bill was introduced into the Irish Parliament, where it passed the Commons in 1745 and 1746, but failed to pass the Lords in 1747; it was ultimately dropped. Meanwhile, during the Jacobite rising of 1745 the Jews had shown particular loyalty to the government. Their chief financier, Samson Gideon, had strengthened the stock market, and several of the younger members had volunteered in the corps raised to defend London.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Samuel, Edgar. "Robles, Antonio Rodrigues". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/71429.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Cecil Roth, A History Of The Jews In England (1941), accessible here "An Act of 1722, which added to Roman Catholic disabilities by enforcing the Oath of Abjuration on all landowners, was followed the next year by a further measure (to George I, cap. 4) exempting Jews from the necessity of including in it the words 'on the true faith of a Christian';"
  3. ^ Henriques, H. S. Q. (Jan 1907). "The Political Rights of English Jew". The Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 19 (2): 298–341. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

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