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A Supposed Jewish Conspiracy in 1753

Rev. S. Levy

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIRACY IN l7S3 By the Rev. S. LEVY, M.A. (Bead before the Jewish Historical Society of England, March 23, 1908). I was spending an afternoon at the Record Office trying to trace the existence of manuscripts relating to the Jewish Naturalisation Bill of 1753, but my search was fruitless. But I found instead the four documents which form the subject of my paper. The first contains the information given by Christian Gottlib, alleging the formation of a treasonable scheme by a rich Englishman, who endeavoured to enlist the services of two Jews, Simon and Solomon Jonas, to secure the support of the Emden Company in a new trading enterprise. The second and third documents consist of the examination of Simon and Solomon Jonas when in custody, relative to their knowledge of the proposed scheme in favour of the Emden Company. The fourth manuscript is a memorandum concerning the Englishman whose identity was not disclosed, who originally proposed this scheme to Simon and Solomon Jonas with a view to inducing the Emden Company to submit it to the King of Prussia. I now proceed to give the texts of these documents, the catalogue reference for which is State Papers, Domestic, George IL, 1747-1759, Bundle No. 121, ?? 42, 53, and 76. I. [Translation.] I, Christian Gottlib Christhold, arrived in London September 25th, 1752, and came to lodge in Solomon Jonas's house on the 26th, where I staid till the 23rd of March, when I was taken out of it. In the month of October (I do not exactly know the day) the brother Simon Jonas came 234</page><page sequence="2">A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIRACY IN 1753. 235 from Embden. Two or three days after his arrival, an English gentleman came to his house. Those two Jews gave order that nobody should stay in the room, and the same gentleman was there four or five times after? wards. On the 7th of November, Simon Jonas set out again for Embden. The brother Solomon asked him at the same time, if he had the Berlin writings. He answered, yes. There came afterwards two Hebrew letters from Simon Jonas to Solomon Jonas, which talked of Berlin affairs, as he himself told me, but not the circumstances or contents of them. But he wrote an English letter, and gave it to his wife to keep, that she might give it to the English gentleman who had been often there, which was accordingly done. As the English gentleman came very often to the Jew Solomon Jonas, I could not understand the meaning of it. Some time after, I went in the evening with Solomon Jonas to the Woolpack, an alehouse near' the Royal Exchange. He said to me there, if I was not glad ? If, when he came to Berlin, his schemes turned out well; He could take with him'a recommendation from the King of Prussia to Hechinge, to the Prince, to make the Jews there pay my debt of 5,000 Florins. I answered him, that I should be very glad, if that could be done. Some days after, I went to Change with him, and desired him to tell me, why he was going to Berlin ? He desired me to go to the Punch House with him, and there told me, this English gentleman, who has been so often with me and my brother, is soliciting from the King of Prussia five ships of war, with sailors and soldiers, and the English gentleman is to sail with them himself, in order to make a settlement, which is to yield an hundred thousand pounds sterling a year to the King of Prussia; and, on the other hand, this English gentleman demands from the King of Prussia a reward of an hundred thousand pounds sterling. He was to give the King of Prussia a pledge of fifty thousand pounds' worth of jewels, which he would forfeit, if things did not turn out so. I said, that that was an impoitant business, and he answered, that he hoped he and his brother would gain ten thousand pounds by it. Solomon Jonas came home soon after, and said he must stay at home, because the English gentleman would come there at twelve o'clock, which accordingly happened. The English gentleman was with him an hour and a half alone, and they were writing. After he was gone I saw half a sheet of paper lying there, written in English, and a sealed letter addressed to Mr. Schmidt at Frankfort, put into the post the same evening. The next morning, I went into the room, took away the half sheet of paper, and carried it directly to Baron Milliehausen, and gave His Excellency an account of all the above-mentioned circumstances. The 22nd of March 1753, the two Jews, Simon and Solomon Jonas told me, that they would pay me the next day. On Friday morning, they went out with me, and not far from the Post Office Coffee House, they</page><page sequence="3">236 A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIRACY IN 1753. desired me to go into that Coffee House, where they would come to me. When they came, we went up into a room, on the first floor, and they gave me a bill of two hundred pounds' sterling (the two Jews owe me ?403, 4s. 6d.). When I had put up the bill, they wanted me to give back all my writings. I answered that I would not do that unless they would pay me all that they owed me. Upon which Solomon Jonas immediately got up, and struck me on the face, and attempted to take my papers out of my pocket. I ran to the window, and called out, Help. But Simon Jonas pulled me back by the arm, upon which Solomon Jonas ran downstairs and returned immediately with a constable, telling him, that I was a thief ; and charging him with me, as his prisoner. I begged, that they would go with me to a tavern, where I might send for a friend, who could speak English and German, but could not obtain it. At last I pulled a paper out of my pocket, upon which Mr. Carrington had wrote his name and dwelling place, and sent it by a messenger to Mr. Carrington, who came to me in about a quarter of an hour, and seized them and their writings. Christian Gottlib Christhold. March 25th 1753 at N. Carrington's house in Jermain Street. Witness Jo. Sommer. II. The examination of Simon Jonas, merct. of Embden, now in custody of one of His Majesty's Messengers, who says that about ten months ago he became passenger in a ship from Embden, and soon after his arrival the master of the vessel told him that a person had enquired of him if he had any Embden merct. a passenger. He said he had, and gave the person a direction to the examt. at his, the examt., brother's house. That a person came to the examt. and told him that he had a scheme to propose to the Embden Company which would employ but a small capital and bring in ?200,000 a year, and desired the examt., at his return to Embden, to mention it to the Company. The examt. desired to know his name, and that he would give some hint of the scheme, but he refused both, adding he wd. have a thousand pounds before he discovered anything, and then only to the King of Prussia himself or to one of the principal Directors of the Company. That the examt., at his return to Embden, mentioned the above to one of the Directors of the Embden Company, who laugh't at him and said they would not advance any money till they had the name of the proposer and some satisfaction that the scheme would answer, which the examt. reported to the said person at his return again to London in the month of November last, and reed, for answer from the sd. person that he wd. have a thousand</page><page sequence="4">A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIRACY IN 1753. 237 pounds before he disclosed anything, and desired the examt. wd. tell the Directors so, which the examt. did at his return to Embden, and was desired to invite the sd. person to meet the Directors at their General Meeting in May next. The examt. says that he arrived in England about four weeks since, and met the sd. person by accident near the Mansion House and told him the message he had to deliver from the Directors, but the sd. person said he wd. not stir out of England till he had ?1000, and since the Directors would not advance that sum, they shd. never know his scheme. That the said person has been once since at the examt. brothers' house, and again declared that the Embden Company shd. never know his scheme without they paid ?1000, which is all the examt. knows of the said person. Says that the said person told the examt., that if he did not make his proposal to the Embden Company he wd. complain of him to M. Michel, who would inform the King of Prussia, and the examt. wd. suffer for it, the examt. being a subject of the King of Prussia ; but that if the scheme took place, the examt. shd. be appointed an agent, by which he wd. get a good livelihood. Symon Jonas. Taken before me the 3 April 1753.?L. Stanhope. III. The examination of Solomon Jonas of Crutchet Fryers, Merchant, now in custody of one of His Majesty's Messengers. Who says that a person whose name he does not know, came to him about four months ago, and said that, his, the examined's brother, had been very negligent in not speaking to the Directors of the Embden Company about ?1000, which was to be advanced by them for the advantage of that Company. The examined told him he did not doubt that his brother had spoke if he promised to do it, but that to satisfy him, he, the examined, would write to one, Mr. Smith, at Frankfort, who is largely concerned in the Company, and which he accordingly did, and received an answer from him dated at Paris, the 21st February last, and says the letter now shown to him is a copy of that he reed, from Mr. Smith. That soon after the receipt of the above letter, the said person came to the examined, and the examined gave the said person a translation of Mr. Smith's letter, and the said person said that if the Company would not advance the ?1000, they should never know his scheme. Says the said person never opened his scheme to him, but said there would be occasion for some ships from England, and promised the examined</page><page sequence="5">238 A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIRACY IN 1753. the commission of those ships for the trouble he should take in getting the Company to accept his proposal. The examined told the said person that if his scheme tended to hurt the East India Company here, he, the examined, would have no concern in it, but the said person assured him it would not hurt them or be anywise obnoxious to this government, and has told the examined since he has been in custody, that his scheme was to revive or open a trade to the Coast of Africa. Says he never saw the said person at any place but at the examined's own house, and though the examined asked him his name and his place of abode, he refused to tell the examined either the one or the other. The examined asked him why he did not communicate his scheme to the Prussian Minister here ? He said he had mentioned the affair to M. Michel, who told him he must make his proposal to the King of Prussia, for that he did not trouble himself with such affairs. Solomon Jonas. Taken before me this 3 April 1753.?L. Stanhope. IV. Sir,?I have taken the English gentleman that proposed the scheme to the Jews for the King of Prussia. When I searched his pockets, I did not find one letter, but in his pocket-book, as near as I can guess, between three and four thousand pounds value in bank-notes and bills of exchange. He will not tell his name, or who he knows, or where he lives, either in town or country, but says he sometimes lives in town and sometimes in the country, and that he is a gentleman and a man of fortune. He says, it is true, he did propose the scheme, and will engage it will, on a hundred thousand pounds capital, bring in to the King of Prussia, a hundred thousand pounds per annum, clear of all charges. He says he never showed his scheme to any person, nor does anybody know whether it was designed for the East or West Indies. He is very hot and almost outrageous. [Memorandum from Mr. Carrington.] Here our information ends. As far as the records are concerned, we must assume that the accused gentlemen are still in custody awaiting their trial. But in the absence of further data it is not altogether necessary to refrain from conjecture as to the real interpretation of the</page><page sequence="6">A SUPPOSED JEWISH CONSPIEACY IN 1753. 239 incident. A reference to the economic history of the period suggests a plausible explanation. "The terrible crisis of 1720 [the effect of the South Sea Bubble] was the occasion of efforts to check the operations of projectors, and rendered the public more chary of being beguiled by every romance, and made them realise the importance of capital as the basis of credit" (W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, vol. ii., Pt. I. [1907 edition], p. 450). " This form of trading [i.e. joint-stock enterprise] had been greatly discredited since the era of speculation when the South Sea Scheme had been floated. In 1719 the Bubble Act was passed, which prohibited the formation of companies with transferable shares, unless they obtained incorporation by charter from the Crown or by Act of Parliament. . . . When in 1825 the Bubble Act was repealed, and opportunity was given for the formation of joint-stock companies, pains were taken to protect the public in their dealings with companies" (ibid., vol. ii., Pt. II. [1907 edition] p. 816). Thus, in the middle of the eighteenth century, schemes for the formation of new trading companies were still regarded with great suspicion, and not infrequently fictitious charges were framed against innocent individuals of attempting to prey on the confidence of the public in the proposed promotion of fresh plans for joint-stock enterprise. The supposed Jewish conspiracy in 1753 probably belongs to the same class of manufactured suspicion. If the charge had been regarded in a serious light, it would have created no small excitement. For, in the middle of the eighteenth century the rivalry between the French and the English trading companies, particularly in the East Indies, was intensely keen. The discovery of a scheme to obtain the co-operation of the Prussian Emden Company, in appearing on the scene as a fresh competitor, would naturally have aroused serious concern and national jealousy. But evidently the accusation was abandoned, as soon as it was resisted, and nothing more was heard of the matter. Having regard to the lack of additional information, this, presumably, is the simplest way of placing the incident in its proper perspective.</page></plain_text>