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James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Counsul at Jerusalem Between 1846 and 1863

Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams

<plain_text><page sequence="1">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem Between 1846 and 1863 BETH-ZION LASK ABRAHAMS In James Finn's own words, it was 'one of those strange incidents in human life which God's provi? dence brings about beyond all possibility of human calculation' which brought him as a young boy to the notice of the religious and philanthropic the Hon. John Charles Villiers, afterwards the 3rd Earl of Clarendon. This set him from humble beginnings on the course which led him, as Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem and all Palestine, to the peak of his career. He filled the post from 1846 to 1863 at a most interesting period of Britain's participation in the affairs of the Holy Land and the Near East - a period which James Finn detailed in a daily record for his own use, from which we learn much of both the man himself and his involvement with the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. This record is distinct from the Consular accounts sent to the Foreign Office, which were edited by Albert M. Hyamson and published by the jhse in two volumes in 19 3 9. The account Finn kept for his own interest and information embraces a wider range of sub? jects, far beyond the scope of this paper. But to Finn himself. He was born in London on 13 July 1806. His father was an Irish Catholic turned Protestant, his mother was an English Wesleyan. He regarded himself as English. It was by his diligence and aptitude for learning that as a young boy at the Clerkenwell parish school he attracted the attention of the Earl of Clarendon who arranged and paid for his education. The Clarendon connection was lasting and shaped the destiny of this boy, who was strongly influenced by his very religious and evangelical patron. Later this connec? tion gained for him engagements as tutor which brought him into touch with some of the most influential titled families in the land, the most important being that of the Earl of Aberdeen who was, in turn, Secretary for War, twice Foreign Secretary, and Prime Minister. It was his appoint? ment as tutor to the Earl's youngest son Arthur, later the ist Lord Stanmore, the renowned Colonial Governor, which was to have the most decisive effect on James Finn's life and activities. Long before he could ever have foreseen the destiny which was to take him to Jerusalem and help shape Jewish history there, his interest in Jews and the Hebrew tongue was marked. He tells in an autobiographical sketch that as a schoolboy, at church on Sundays, T acquired my first idea of Hebrew from seeing continually before me on the wall painted Cherubim surrounding the sacred name in Hebrew.' Finn's first actual contact with Jews that is recorded by him was in May 1832. He was then in his twenty-sixth year, a serious young man who spent his spare time in study. He writes of a visit to the Duke's Place synagogue; and dwells somewhat unsympathetically on the mode of ser? vice unfamiliar to him, mentioning among other things the three-cornered hat worn as a badge of office by the First Reader. He was, however, impressed by Chief Rabbi Herschell, a venerable figure with a long beard, who was, he writes, 'dressed in a long robe of white silk and gold, with a fur cap on his head.' Little did he guess that years later in Jerusalem he was to detain temporarily the Chief Rabbi's grandson on suspicion of complicity in the mysterious death of Rabbi Herschell's son. Already at this time Finn had begun his serious study of Hebrew, rising in the early hours to do so. Recording his visit to Duke's Place he transcribes the Shema and the word Amen in Hebrew. More? over, although his first published work, Sephardim, a compilation from books and documents in the British Museum, was not published until 1841, he was already in 18 3 7 seeking a publisher. This work testifies to the author's knowledge of Hebrew; and, indeed, there are phrases and words in Hebrew throughout his journal. He took a keen interest in the Aldermanbury conference of 1835 and 18 3 7 - which in effect was a series of meetings held by Christian missionaries and attended by Jews in order to confute attacks on Judaism and the Talmud. Today we would call it a dialogue. The culmination of this so-called conference was the publication by Dr Alexander McCaul of the perni? cious anti-Talmud work Old Paths (1837). 40</page><page sequence="2">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem 41 In March 1841 occurred another event which, like his Clarendon and Aberdeen connections, was to have a momentous effect on Finn's destiny. He relates: 'Lord Claude Hamilton (son of the Duke of Abercorn) and Sir George Rose. . . took me to Palestine Place to visit the Christian Rabbi McCaul. . . agent of the London Jewish Society.' Because of his knowledge of Hebrew and the Talmud, Alexander McCaul was referred to and addressed by Evangelicals as 'Rabbi'. The London lewish Society was, to give it its full name, the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. It was the most active of the con versionist societies, with its headquarters at Palestine Place, Cambridge Heath, in East London. Here were always to be found numbers of Jewish converts and those under Christian instruction. There was at that time a considerable amount of conversionist activity in England as a result of the destitution among the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Support for conversionism was then fashionable in high English society and the names of many of the London Society's patrons are to be found in Burke's Peerage. In July 1841 Finn was elected a member of the committee of the London Jewish Society. At the same time he became a frequent visitor at the McCaul home in Palestine Place. Two years after the publication of Sephardim, in March 1843, Finn's second book, The Jews in China, appeared, based on little-known works in the British Museum and early travel books. We learn from him that he presented the ms to the London Society as a freewill offering. The edition consisted of 1500 copies. He sent a copy of both his books to George Borrow, author of The Bible in Spain, who responded with two letters, both as yet unpub? lished, yet both of Jewish interest. In one of these Borrow reveals that he had in mind an expedition through Spain and Morocco for a study of aspects of 'The Royal People', as he calls Jews. In the other letter he makes a none-too friendly reference to the Jews of Gibraltar: 'There are no Spanish Jews at Gibraltar', he writes, 'Those of the place are from Barbary .. . their priest is from Fez, Rabbi Baruch by name. He is rather a respectable man, but shy and timid with a great dislike of goyim.' All this time Finn's personal life was bound up with the Earl of Aberdeen. He had married in 1838 while still continuing his employment with the Earl; and it was after the early death of his wife and infant daughter in 1841 that his interest in Jews and Judaism intensified. He remained a widower for some years, recording in moving words his grief and loneliness; later on regretting that he, who was so fond of female society and loving children as he did, should be condemned to the single state - for nothing came of the endeavours of his friends to arrange a second marriage for him. But yet another event was to solve this problem for him, marking as it did a further stage of his life when, in the same year that saw him appointed a member of the committee of the London Jewish Society, he made the personal acquaintance of Baron von Bunsen, the Prussian Ambassador who in 1841, together with Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, had negotiated with the British government the joint establishment of the first Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem - that of the Anglican Church with the German Lutheran Church. It was at McCaul's own suggestion that the see was given to a converted Jew, Solomon Michael Alexander, in the conviction that the interests of the conversion of the Jews in Palestine would best be served by the appointment of one born of the 'seed of Abraham'. Finn was present at the consecration of Alexander as the first Protestant Bishop in Jerusalem and gives a long, graphic and glowing account of the tears in the eyes of those present and of the euphoric emotion resulting from the belief, even certainty, that this foretold the imminent Second Coming of Jesus, fervently believed by Evangelical Christians to result from the conversion of the Jews and their restoration as a nation to the Land of Israel. Finn's first mention of the Jerusalem consulate in connection with himself occurs in 1845. He writes on 3 May: In Downing Street I met the Prussian Minister Bunsen who was on his way to the Foreign Office. He urged me from the suggestion of Lord Ashley [later the well-known philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury] to apply for the Consul? ship of Jerusalem. In reply I told him I had frequently thought on the subject, but that I had supposed myself to be about the last person in the world to whom it would be given, as Lord Aberdeen must consider my connection with the Jewish Society - that is conversionism - creating in me a strong bias to a particular party in Jerusalem. His Excellancy recommended me to take up that point in my first application, advancing that Society connection, as being just so much as would enable me to smooth down</page><page sequence="3">42 Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams the occasional differences which might arise, but to promise above all things implicit obedience to the higher duty towards the State. He resigned at this time his membership of the London Society. Two days later, walking in St James's Park with his pupil Arthur, the latter, writes Finn, 'asked me if I would accept the consulship of Jerusalem if it were offered me, as a considerable difficulty was found in obtaining can? didates for it'. He replied: 'not only would I accept it, if offered, but would even ask for it, if I thought there was a probability of not being refused'. Things began to move. On 9 May, two days later, Lord Aberdeen, writes Finn, 'came upstairs to confer with me respecting the consulate of Jerusa? lem urging the drawbacks and promised to send me the latest papers received from Mr Young [the then, and first consul at Jerusalem], that I might see what squabbles and troubles are always likely to arise in Jerusalem, especially when tempers fail.' Lord Aber? deen would not commit himself, and added that there were many applications for the office, among others from Albert the Prince Consort and Sir Moses Montefiore for their own nominees. The London Society now took a hand: Bunsen and Lord Ashley pressing for Finn's appointment. Arthur then approached the Baron von Bunsen who in his turn called personally on Lord Aberdeen. In the mean? time Finn called on Dr McCaul, and, informing him of his application for the Jerusalem consulate, in correct Victorian manner asked leave to pay court to his daughter Elizabeth Ann. Then things began to hang fire. A bitter period of uncertainty followed for Finn, with McCaul discouragingly declaring that regarding marriage to his daughter, they must wait to see the direction providence was pointing, though he did reveal that he had urged Lord Ashley three years previously to procure the consulship for Finn. Of McCaul, Finn writes bitterly: 'It is clear he sought to proclaim the will of God in a line previously laid down by himself - that is by waiting to observe how my destination is to be determined.' In the event this was soon to be resolved as Finn himself desired, for on 13 November 1845, 'Lord Aberdeen of his own accord ... offered me the Consulship of Jerusalem . .. the second British Con? sul of modern times .. .By God's providence it is brought to me by the supreme government of my native country.' There was no hesitation now. Dr McCaul was again approached, and he, writes Finn, 'sees clearly that I am the person placed by providence in the second best position, that is next to the Bishop of Jerusalem, for doing good to the Jews.' Shortly after this Bishop Alexander died; and it was again expected that McCaul would be offered the see. Finn approached Lord Aberdeen and offered to resign his appointment, on the supposition of how the new relationship of himself and McCaul and their known interest in conversionism might be interpreted. His Lordship waved this aside as McCaul's succeeding to the Jerusalem see had not been determined. In fact, he urged Finn to proceed as soon as ever possible as there had been a change of government and he wanted his, Finn's, position secured, especially as his tutorship of his son Arthur had ended. In the light of later events it is necessary to remember that Finn advanced from the beginning his interest in Jewish conversionism and the Lon? don Jewish Society. It has been held against him that his combination of consulship in Jerusalem with interest in and encouragement of conver? sionism represented a division of loyalty towards his duties - and reflected on his sincerity. But it is now possible to give a much more objective judgement and to apportion blame higher up, if blame is to be apportioned. As has been seen, Finn raised the question with Baron von Bunsen and Lord Aber? deen that his connection with the London Jewish Society might militate against his appointment. Lord Aberdeen did not regard this as a bar, nor that a family relationship with Dr McCaul would preju? dice his position. So, within a few short weeks, 39-year-old James Finn married the 21-year-old Elizabeth Ann McCaul. She was to prove as keen an advocate of Jews and things Jewish as he, and a remarkable person in her own right; one, moreover, who by her agricultural plantations helped shape the direction of the Jewish destiny in Palestine quite as much as did her husband. Early in 1846 Consul and Mrs Finn set out for Jerusalem. For Finn it was the beginning of a great and new adventure, his studies and interests hav? ing served as a preparation for his new life, especially as far as this concerned the Jews of the Holy Land. One sees it immediately in the entries in his journal soon after landing in Syria. At Beirut one of his first observations is of a talk with two Jews</page><page sequence="4">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem 43 on their way home after - as Finn describes it - a false imprisonment. He discusses some scriptural texts with them and comments on their beautiful, though to him unfamiliar pronunciation of Hebrew. From the first Finn was impressed by the intense Jewish life in Palestine. He knew of course of the difficulties and dangers to which Jews were exposed, having been shown the official current records by Lord Aberdeen of Young's consular reports, as well as the accounts circulated by the missionaries to the London Jewish Society. Also it was but six years since the horror of the Damascus blood-libel when several Jews had lost their lives as a result of this pernicious and false accusation against the Jewish religion. He knew also of the prevalent widespread brigandage, as well as the impositions of the Turkish officials then adminis? trating Syria of which the Holy Land was a part. To all this there is ample reference in his journal as well as in the published Consular records. But it is the sidelight and flashes of description of Jewish Life as recorded by this British official at firsthand that are of special interest. He writes of leading Jewish personalities, and of prevailing Jewish customs - of anything of Jewish interest; and in particular of the prevalence of Hebrew in everday use. This latter fact is not known by many, who date the secular use of spoken Hebrew from the rise of modern Zionism. Just before entering the gates of Jerusalem - the city was then enclosed within stone walls, entry being through several gates-Finn's quick eye catches sight for the first time of a procession of camels loaded with bales of merchandise; and tells us that the bales were inscribed in Hebrew. Indeed, later on, he rarely omits admiration for its universal use in Palestine. He tells of Jewish merchants keeping their accounts in Hebrew; of Hebrew maps used in the Jerusalem Jewish schools; of Hebrew inscriptions over Jewish shop fronts; of pots and jars bearing Hebrew labels; and later, of three Jewish physicians in Safed who prescribed in Hebrew as well as in Latin. As already mentioned, his own journal is interspersed with Hebrew phrases some? times biblical, sometimes from the prayer-book and some even conversational. He himself translated into metrical English Adon Olam and Lecho Dodi. Among his papers there are Hebrew accounts and documents connected with the agricultural works which he and Mrs Finn established. Also in his dealings with the Jewish converts to Christianity, Finn maintained the same use of the Holy Tongue. He even made it a practice that Jews who came to him for consular purposes should sign their names in Hebrew. He relates, in his entry for 28 January 1850: During my business of the day, Rabbi Coronel, a Dutch? man, came for a Certificate of Protection. I required him to sign his name in Hebrew. This he refused to do. At length, seeing no reason for departing from the usual practice, to which all other Jews had conformed cheerfully, I insisted on his compliance, and returned him his Dutch pass? port - to take it where he pleased. At length he submitted to compulsion. Finn comments, 'All other Jews seemed pleased to sign their names in Hebrew when required.' Facts such as these and other fugitive items of information enrich Finn's journal, rendering it particularly valuable for a knowledge not only of daily happenings, but also of local history and customs. For example, the entry for 17 September 1855, mentioning the burial of a rabbi during the day, records that Finn was informed by his Jewish interpreter 'that all his life he had never seen or heard of Jews being buried in daylight - the usual practice is to pay the gate-keeper to let them out of the town in the middle of the night, and this from fear of having the dead disinterred by Moslems or Christians.' During his journeys in cities and villages, Finn always takes note of the Jewish dwellers. He notes that because of cholera, in October 1848, two thirds of the Tiberias Jews had fled to Safad - and of the discourse he had with the rabbis there in Hebrew he writes, 'the fluency with which Hebrew was spoken, (real Hebrew) ought to confound those who imagine it to be a dead language.' The Safad Cabalistic synagogue had a room which was piled high with torn pages of Hebrew books. And Finn, with his keen eye for detail, copies from a wall a request in Hebrew, which he translates 'Reb Chaim Isaac son of Judah prays that the Holy Name blessed be He, would give him for a bride N. - to love him greatly.' So even among the Cabalists of 19th century Safad romance was not unknown! Finn commented that 'the lady's name is written in</page><page sequence="5">44 Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams contraction and probably could never be under? stood but by the parties concerned.' Remarking again on the use of spoken Hebrew, Finn relates how on one occasion he came across a group often Jews, one carrying a spear with ostrich feathers, another a gun and several with pistols, who rode together in high spirits, It was a strange thing', he remarks, 'to hear Jews speaking Hebrew in such a cavalcade over the plains of Galilee and boasting of their warlike forefathers . . .' He writes also of a Jewish musician, a fiddler, who was much in demand at Arab village weddings. Finn's descriptions of the Jewish festivals as celebrated in Jerusalem more than a century ago are full of life and colour. Some of the customs have passed away. Tisha b'Av in Jerusalem provoked several entries. We learn that it was customary for the whole Jewish population to dress in black on that day, and 'No Jews wear shoes even in the street till the Fast is over.' Even the Jewish converts dressed in black. In this, as in his depictions of other days in the Jewish calendar, we get the impression that Jews did not feel alien in the country. They solemnized their fasts, and celebrated their festivals and weddings in synagogue and street. They mourned, sang and danced in public. Finn gives us a joyous picture of Purim when, to the sound of music, Jews wearing masks and dominos made merry in the streets, sometimes even firing shots. He gives a vivid account of a Jewish wedding proces? sion in his entry for 2 February 1852: There came ... a troop of Ashkenazim from Hebron with a bride for Jerusalem . . . Near the Jaffa gate was a large procession of Jewish women come out to meet the bride. They ran down the steep street and dragged her off the ass to kiss her, crying out 'Shalom alicki' in their peculiar pronunciation. She was in front of all her party. Next came up the Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazim in Hebron with his jolly red face and snow-white beard, without a hat or shoes, and kicking his animal with his heels . . . Then came the rest. Plenty of laughing and joking. In a similar vein, Finn relating a visit by some Jewish friends writes, 'These curious people the Ashkenazim think it wrong to appear without a presentation in the hand - so they brought me a sweet cake, a bottle of stout, and three salt her? rings!' But all was not festivity and recording of day-to day life in the work of the British Consul. The main part of his activity comprised the protection of British interests and British subjects: the records dealing with the political aspects of Finn's official work have been published by our former President, Albert M. Hyamson. The personal side of James Finn's preoccupations resolved itself mainly into a passionate interest in the encouragement of agri? culture among the Jews. He never misses an opportunity of recording examples of Jews working on the land. It is with special pleasure in a tour he made through the north of Palestine in October 1848 that he enumerates a number of places where Jews were working the land, commenting on their healthy appearance, rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. He makes mention of Shephar'am where there were 30 Jewish farming families; and Peki'in, the village where Jews claim to have continued in uninterrupted possession of the land since Biblical times. On a later occasion, he gives an idyllic description of a visit, in September 1849, to Joseph Bechor's vineyard near Hebron, declaring Tt was uncommonly pleasant to visit a Jew among his own cultivation of his own land in Judea. We were hospitably treated, reclining on carpets beneath fig trees in the twilight, all very happy.' His interest in agriculture led him to initiate ventures of his own. In these his wife played a more active part, the projects aimed at providing employ? ment for necessitous Jews. Small plots of ground were rented, money for this purpose coming from English visitors and from Britain. They proved that, given the opportunity to work, poor Jews flocked to the Finns for employment. Hyamson, in his Pales? tine, the Rebirth of an Ancient People (1917), pays this tribute to Mrs Finn: 'To her is due the honour of being the first in modern times to place rakes and spades in the hands of Jerusalem Jews.' Nor can I omit here to refer to the Sarah Society, an associ? ation of non-Jewish Jerusalem women residents who formed a society to relieve the extreme poverty then prevailing among the Jews of the Holy City. Among Finn's papers there is a draft dated 8 October 1852, in his own handwriting, addressed to the executors of the will of a certain Nadir Baxter. Finn states that having heard that Baxter had left a legacy of f 1000 'for the persons who should first successfully employ Jews in cultivating the soil of Palestine and induce them to colonise and settle</page><page sequence="6">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem 45 down as agriculturists', he, Finn, advanced his own claim to the legacy, setting down in some detail all that he had done to further the project (I have not been able to trace anything else regarding Nadir Baxter or his legacy.) In his own journal, for July 1852, Finn gives a firsthand description of Sephardi Jews at work on his own property Talbiyeh, outside the walls of Jerusalem, he being the first non-Mos? lem to build a house there: 'It was a strange sight', he writes, 'to see them at work, some mere boys, others were quite old men with long beards, one nearly blind, and all talking Spanish or Turkish or Hebrew . . . Armenian and Greek monks came to see the sight.' There was destitution for the majority of Jews in the Holy City and work was almost impossible to obtain. Time and time again Finn makes mention of this; and of his emotion at the spectacle of Jews pleading for work or accepting loaves at bread distributions. He could not check his own tears at one such sight during a heavy snow-storm on 1 March 1854: 'Last Sabbath', he writes, 'Rabbi Yeshaiah preached in the synagogue that the Jews by accepting such charity from the Christians were delaying the coming of the Messiah.' There can be no doubt that the Communal leaders were seriously concerned at the activities of Christians among these destitute Jewish masses; and special shelichim were sent to Jewish communi? ties and individual rich Jews abroad. These as a result were moved to bestir themselves on behalf of their poor brethren in Palestine. A great deal was subsequently written on the subject. Early entries in Finn's journal indicate that at the beginning it was his dream that the land of Israel should be culti? vated by Hebrew Christians. Recording the acqui? sition of land at Artas, near Bethlehem, he adds that he and Mrs Finn went by appointment to meet Bergheim and Caiman, two converts, who had a secret matter to communicate. He writes, 23 April 1856: The matter was contained in a letter from Rev. C. Ridley Herschell to Mr Caiman, proposing without loss of time by acting with Committees or published proposals to com? mence cultivation of the Land of Israel by Christian Israelites - at first on a small scale-to commence if possible at Artas. After reading over the letter, Elizabeth and I were of opinion that so much frankness should be met with frankness, and accordingly she related to them all our own hold upon the present cultivation of Artas, etc, on behalf of the Jewish plantation near Jerusalem - re? lated how that our earliest intentions and feelings in such matters had been the revival of the land by means of Hebrew Christianity . . . Finally it was determined by Mr Caiman, to summon Mr Herschell here personally, as quickly as possible, with money in hand, untrammelled by Societies or Committees. The convert Herschell here mentioned was the father of the first Lord Herschell, Lord Chancellor in 1886. In actual fact, the journal devotes a fair amount of space to the life, foibles, conflicts and backslidings of the converts. Indeed, it would seem that the denominational label sat lightly on many of the inhabitants of Palestine of that time - Jews, Mos? lems and Christians of the various sects - and there seems to have been great activity and competition in the winning of souls. Under the date 30 June 1847, Finn writes that in a single case before the Consular Court 'there was an Armenian turned Turk, A Jew become Protestant, and a Roman Catholic turned Jew.' Throughout his journal Finn enables us to follow the progress of individual converts. There is the case of Simeon Rosenthal, referred to as the senior convert, who reverted to Judaism and did bitter penance in the synagogue, and soon after returned to Christianity under the influence of his own wife and Mrs Finn. A certain Aaron, we are told, 'lost his reason' and returned to Judaism. He was found, we learn, 'in a synagogue, lying on his face at the door for the Jews to trample on him as they entered.' Conversionism was then, as today, a source of trouble and excitement among Jerusalem Jews. This is shown in the account of the happenings on Purim 1853. Finn tried to persuade two Christian missionaries to refrain from preaching in the Jewish quarter, as on this day Jews were always in a state of excitement. But they persisted - and afterwards there was a complaint lodged with the Consul because a Dutch Jew who was under English protection had beaten up one of the missionaries. Finn is honest enough to add that the missionaries were driven away by being pelted with dead cats, mud, offal and so on. There are other sidelights which Finn does not refrain from recording, though they are not in the converts' favour. There is, for instance, the story of</page><page sequence="7">46 Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams the drunkard Vigda, of whom we read, in the entry for 17 November 1853: Early in the morning the alarm was given that old Vigda was drowned in the well adjoining the church. The wretched old drunkard had been in a state of intoxication almost incessantly for about a week past. Poor wretch, he was a converted Jew, very old and placed to live on the church premises in order to keep him from the temptation of strong drink - and for the same object he was allowed no money or good clothes, but all his food brought to him ready cooked at fixed hours, even his tobacco taken to him - yet there were always Jews to be found to supply him with spirits in order to make him a spectacle of reproach to the Mission. As is obvious from his journal, Finn was clearly aware that many of the Jewish converts did not feel comfortable under Gentile supervision, which was stringent as soon as their sincerity was suspect. Interesting in this respect is the fact that some of those who were ready to undertake agricultural settlement as Hebrew Christians actually started a colony of their own near Jaffa. Finn tells that, after arrangements had been completed by his wife to acquire land at Artas for Hebrew-Christian work? ing, he learned that some of the converts were planning to settle near Jaffa to get away from the missionaries. Meshullam, a convert, had related to him that Isaacs, another convert, had told him privately that the principal reason-not to be published - was 'to be as far as possible from the meddling or worse conduct of the Bishop (Gobat) and missionaries here.' This suspicion and resentment of their fellow Christians is nicely illustrated by the following incident, dated to 29 January 1854, in which figures Hershon, later known for his anti-Jewish and anti-Talmudic works published in English. One of the converts had died suddenly. No one except the doctor was allowed into the room where the corpse lay. Suspicious of some foul play Hershon and some other converts forced their way in. They threw out the attendant. There was a struggle and, writes Finn, T ran down to separate Daoud my kawass ... I ordered him to clear the room, entered there myself, and seeing Hershon stand in an attitude of defiance, just shoved him out of the place. A scene of most disgraceful description it was - meanwhile Daoud ... proceeded with the work of screwing down the coffin. Hershon the convert called out, "Come away, my children, this is the way in which the gentiles treat us because we are Jews".' In fact, this conception of separation on the part of the Jewish converts cannot be regarded as contrary to Finn's own view. It is evident through? out his writings that the Jews are to him a nation distinguished by descent. Naturalization, or long residence outside the Land of Israel, seems to mean, for him, no essential change in Jewish nationality. The Hebrew Christian remains for Finn a Jewish national, no less than the observant Jew born in Britain, to whom Finn does not accord the full rights of British citizenship. So consistent was he that in 1849, when the question of the admission of Jews to Parliament was being canvassed in Eng? land, we find in an entry for 8 August: 'By evening twilight I was reading.. . certain English pam? phlets on the admission of the Jews to the British legislature - they were in favour of the measure, but I feel and reason altogether against it.' In Finn's mind also was the constant thought of improving the economic position of the Jews who had little opportunity for gaining employment. The Chaluka, though it was energetically organized, could not give the recipients of its benefits the assistance which could alone hold body and soul together. It was estimated by Mrs Finn that the average sum received through this channel by needy families was 30 shillings a year. Nor would it be true to say that there was a disinclination for work, as was so often asserted. Time and time again Finn tells of the crowds of Jewish men and women clamouring for work as soon as it was rumoured that some project, agricultural or other, was in preparation. Among his papers there is a striking Hebrew petition for the year 1861, signed by Jewish heads of families in Jerusalem and representing 650 souls, that speaks in the name of 'two thousand of the poor of Israel' asking Consul Finn 'to speak and make known to the Lords of the Government our suffering, so that they may seek for us a place outside the City, to dwell therein, to plough and to sow, and to till the soil that we may live and not die.' There were other and similar petitions sent to Finn. In an early tour through Palestine Finn had noticed a cotton plantation in the neighbourhood of Jaffa, the cotton being worked in a primitive manner. He saw possibilities of considerable de</page><page sequence="8">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem 47 velopment, to the great benefit of the country. He himself raised a sample of cotton and sent it to Lord Palmerston for expert opinion and advice, early in 1850. Part of Lord Palmerston's reply reads: 'I received your dispatch enclosing a pod of cotton grown by yourself on ground within the walls of Jerusalem. I sent. . . the pod of cotton to the Board of Trade in order that their Lordships might obtain the opinion of the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester upon the value of the cotton ... I now send you their report. . . expressing a favourable opinion upon the quality of the cotton.' The letter concluded that Lord Palmerston was making enquiries about the bulk and price of machinery for spinning of the cotton, and that it was intended to dispatch a gin to him. It was a similar impulse that led Finn to interest himself in seeds and trees for the country. Eucalyptus seeds were brought in by him and planted; and it would be interesting to know whether this represents the first introduction of a tree which has since become naturalized in the country. To this concern for progress and development in Palestine one may attribute his interest in projects for the construction of a railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem. This was the great period of railway speculation, and Finn records from time to time the arrival of engineers and financiers from England to discuss projects with him. Among them was Sir Moses Montefiore, who in his visit to Palestine of 1857, discussed the project with Finn who writes 'we had a great deal of conversation about the projected railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Sir Moses spoke in the name of himself and those other gentlemen concerned in it; as not desiring to gain one piastre of profit, only not desiring to lose of it.' During the seventeen years of James Finn's tenure of office in Jerusalem, he was privileged to meet, besides such noted personages, a number of curious and eccentric characters. Of these the journal has several interesting examples. There is a Mr Johnson, a Christian Englishman who had come in search of comfort for his soul. He met Warder Cresson, the one-time American Consul who had entered the Jewish fold, and thereafter engaged in conversionism amongst Christians. Very soon Johnson was wavering between Christianity and Judaism; and one feels Finn's great relief after following Johnson's indecisions, when the latter finally died a Christian - though not without embellishing his dwelling with a Succah and a Mezzuza. Among others there was also the Cabalist who claimed to divine deeply hidden treasure. And there was the fortune-teller from Eastern Europe who placarded the walls of Jerusalem with Hebrew notices describing herself as a prophetess - thereby scandalizing the rabbis and others. Now and again Finn remarks with surprise on Jewish visitors from foreign armies and navies. Arresting is his mention of three Jewish sailors of the Imperial Russian Navy whom he saw reading Hebrew prayers at the Tomb of Rachel. He men? tions a recruiting office opened at the Consulate during the time of the Crimean War, and of the enlistment of several Jerusalem Jews. He is agree? ably surprised at meeting the famous Captain Uriah Phillips Levy of the us Navy, at whose instigation, it was said, flogging was abolished in the us Navy. This was a man he had long wished to meet 'being the only example I had ever heard of a Jew commanding a ship of war. He is a fine looking rosy old fellow aged 69, with strong Jewish features which looked curious with hat, epaulettes, eagle buttons and adundance of jewellery. Judge Noah and he were cousins, their mothers being sisters.' It may be recalled that Levy had a romantic career in the American Navy, rising from cabin boy to Commodore, not without difficulty due to anti Jewish prejudices. From his record of visitors from abroad, one learns of the early connection between the Jewish community in Australia and the Jews of the Holy City. In an entry for 3 February 1857 Finn writes: 'Post in . . . Curious . . . that the Jews of Melbourne have sent money for the Hebrew congregation through me, with slips of their newspapers that I may see my name puffed up as His Excellency etc' Two months later he records an arrival from Australia: T received a visit. . . from Rabbi Chaim Tsvi from Melbourne in Australia who on parting wanted to present me with two lumps of the native Australian gold. .. but I refused them. He explained that he meant them as testimonial of gratitude for what I had done on their behalf, and that he had purposely gone to the diggings to get them for me.' Finn's stay in Palestine coincided, among others, with visits of the Prince of Wales (afterwards King</page><page sequence="9">48 Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams Edward VII), his brother Prince Alfred (later the Duke of Edinburgh), Nathaniel Lord Rothschild and Sir Moses Montefiore. The royal visits were perhaps the highlight of Finn's consular service, though, unfortunately for him, that of the Prince of Wales was to have dire consequences. The rival Prussian Consul and the Swiss-born Bishop Gobat, successor of the first Anglican Bishop Alexander, both ene? mies of the Finns and of British interests, took this opportunity to present petitions through hrh to the home authorities which bore unhappy results. Of Prince Alfred, Finn relates with some humour, on 3 April 1859 1 had a large deputation of my old acquaintances the Rabbis of Tiberias in my tent. They told me that it was accounted, according to the Talmud, a great Mitzvah or blessing to see the face of a prince.' The prince not officially receiving any deputation they left. And later, Finn seeing the Prince stark naked diving into the nearby lake adds, 1 do not know whether the Talmud has provided a blessing for seeing a royal prince stark naked.' Of the visits of the two titled British Jews Finn relates of Lord Rothschild that visiting him in his tent on 2 April i860, they discussed the Jewish position in Palestine and in Europe; and, of all things the liturgy of Hoshana Rabba. The Baron returned the visit the following day, and Finn expatiates in his journal on the Lord's vast income, working it out at ?80 hourly, sleeping or waking. This calculation emboldened him to ask Rothschild for a contribution of ?125 - two years rent for the premises of the Jerusalem Literary Society, an institution founded by him in 184 7 and confined to Protestant membership. (Mrs Finn later claimed that out of this Society the Palestine Exploration Fund was later developed.) 'This he did not grant,' writes Finn, 'having made up his mind in coming to Jerusalem, to make no donations except for Jewish objects.' Sir Moses Montefiore visited the Holy Land seven times in his lifetime, three of these during Finn's period - 1849,1855 and 18 5 7. Of these visits Finn has much to say. On the first of these he gives a vivid description of the great welcome by the Jews of Jerusalem. Of his own feelings he writes, 'It was to me a remarkable period of history, personal, national and general. .. ' As the procession neared the gates of Jerusalem, he continues, 'It was a spirit-stirring scene. Lady Montefiore was much affected. Some women uttered their oriental screams of joy. Near the gate the multitude was enormous, almost entirely of Jewish popula? tion. . . . When they came in sight of Jerusalem, Sir Moses dismounted and prayed, then went and kissed Lady Montefiore.' When Sir Moses came again in 1855, Finn finds him much aged and frail, having to be carried about in a sedan chair. He adds that Sir Moses told him that he would not have come on this occasion except that he felt the need of raising British prestige in the East. 'Sir Moses is enthusiastically English,' writes Finn, 'and assured me that he would not have undertaken the journey at such an age and in such health, but in order to counteract the evil effects produced by that Frenchman - This he frequently repeated, and on my asking him if he meant M. Albert Cohn [the representative and agent of the French Rothschilds], he said "Yes certainly, The Frenchman went back glorifying French influence in the East and asserting the depression of English influence. I thought, I will go to help lift it up again." ' Finn makes heartfelt references to Sir Moses' consideration despite his preoccupations during his visits and constant activity. On one occasion the Consul was to call on him at 8 in the morning. Sir Moses had evidently remembered that Finn had been unwell the previous evening, and had sent his own doctor to attend him after waiting only five minutes after the time of the appointment for Finn to arrive. The same day there is the following entry: 'To the Montefiore camp ... I found all the usual friendliness and kindness and they compelled me to drink some port wine. Being long since I had tasted any before, I almost burst into tears, partly at the unexpected pleasure, and partly at the strange feeling that a British Consul here should be reduced to such poverty.' One comes across references to Finn's financial straits frequently in the Journal. There can be little doubt that he was not well treated by the London authorities. A goodly number of the other consuls either enjoyed private means or engaged in trade as had William Young the previous British Consul. Finn was wholly dependent on his remuneration of ?55? yearly plus ?150 for staff and consular expenses. A great deal of his income was expended on his staff and interpreters; and considerable sums</page><page sequence="10">James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem 49 also on the various projects for promoting the cultivation and planting of land on his own account. During the whole of his seventeen years of service he took not a single leave abroad; nor did he receive an increase of salary during the whole of this period. Time and time again he had recourse to Jerusalem moneylenders to whom he paid a high rate of interest. Even a consular building was not provided for quite a time. During the earlier period consular business was conducted in a house adjoin? ing the English church rented at a nominal sum from the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. (It was noted by Van der Velde in his Narrative of a Journey Through Syria and Palestine, that 'the British Consul alone of all the Consuls in Jerusalem had to do the work of his office single handed.') The year 1858 was notable for on 12 February the Russian Consul-General and the Bishop of the Russian Church arrived in Jerusalem, and Finn astutely writes: 'These personages will have an important influence on the future of Jerusalem.' Some days later he adds, 'The Russians have now got a strong hold already in Jerusalem. During the day the Pasha sent to consult with me how to deal with the growing influence and high pretensions of these newcomers.' He certainly never had a dull moment, as later that day Finn reflected, It is wonderful how all the sects and communities of Jerusalem are now split by animosities. The Orthodox [Greek] have the Russians upon them. The Latins are divided into Patriarch and Convent factions. The Convent are divided into Spanish and French. The Armenians have such dissensions that the Patriarch has his own cook and kitchen . . . and it is said, has a well of water to himself, locked up and he keeps the key of it. The Protestants alas! - Pray God heals our divisions. Well might he pray for conciliation. The Angli? cans were riven, with the Swiss-born Bishop Gobat and the leading members of the community against Finn and Simeon Rosenthal, a convert and kawass of the Consulate. A protest had been sent to the home government asking for Finn's removal; or failing this that a commission of enquiry be sent to investigate his official conduct. It was known in London that all was far from well in the Protestant Jerusalem community, and leading newspapers had given publicity to this matter. It had reached such a stage that Finn in his consular capacity had inhibited the Bishop and other protesters from leaving the City. Finn's transfer from the Jerusalem Consulship came suddenly in 1863. It was preceded by much correspondence between himself and London, part of which may be found in the Consular Records already mentioned. The authorities in London held the view that he had become too deeply and personally involved in local affairs, not to mention his now known insolvency. To Finn it came as a great blow. He had grown to regard himself as permanently settled in the Holy Land. Very touch? ing and eloquent of his deep love for the country are the words in his journal for 17 July 1863, the day of his taking ship for England from Jaffa: And here ends my Syrian career of 17 years. I have done and suffered much in the time. May God forgive whatever mistakes I have made. I known of no crimes. I know that I have kept up well with a firm head and hand the honour of my country. Farewell... to my fondly cherished plans of agriculture for Jews thwarted by the Bishopric and Jewish mission. Farewell to the old friends buried in the cemetery on Mount Zion. Farewell to my daughters, one buried there and another at the foot of Carmel. Farewell to my hopes of being myself buried in Jerusalem. It is significant of the regard in which he was held that petitions were sent, many in Hebrew, to Queen Victoria by Jews and Jewish associations in the Holy Land, asking for Finn to remain and continue his Consular office. But it was too late. There was talk after his return to England for him to be posted elsewhere - to the Dardanelles, then to Erzeroum in the Bosphorus. But nothing came of these plans for he was unwell. His work in Palestine had taken its toll and sapped his vitality, and he was no longer equal to starting a new career in a new country. Although he was no longer bodily in Palestine, his heart was in the Holy Land. He followed events there with the closest attention; read everything connected with the country, and made it his business to meet visitors from there. Also, his interest in Jewish affairs remained unabated. In England, too, he established new friendships, some of them lasting, with Jews. Among those mentioned in the latter part of his journal, written in England, we find the famous scholars Dr Neubauer and Emanuel Deutsch. One finds mention also of Sir David Salomons, first Jewish member of Parliament</page><page sequence="11">50 Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams and first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, as well as Chaim Guedella. The latter, a close relative of Sir Moses Montefiore, he had met in Palestine where he had accompanied Sir Moses on one of his visits. There is an amusing description of a call paid by Finn on Guedella and a visit to the City of London in order to ask the latter's help in the sale of the Talbiyeh property he still owned in Jerusalem. 'On arrival,' he writes on 7 July 1868, 1 found him engaged with another gentleman, and conversing most fluently with due gesticulations in French. He afterwards informed me that that was the son of General Prui who wants to get up another revolu? tion or invasion of Spain through Portugal, as they failed last year through Biscay. Romantic enough, a Spanish Progresista appealing to a Spanish Jew financier - just behind the Mansion House - to say nothing of my Jerusalem land business.' To visitors from Palestine - Jew, Samaritan, Christian or convert - Finn's house became a place of call. The exotic costumes of some of the visitors were a source of comment to the household servants and neighbours. Rabbi Chaim Schneer sohn of Jerusalem called on him. Finn eagerly absorbed the latest news. He was surprised to learn in 1868 that land was being eagerly bought and that prices were going up. At least 200 houses had sprung up outside the walls; and there was already a small synagogue erected. Rabbi Schneersohn told Finn that since he had left the Consulate the European Jews had twice petitioned the British Government to restore him to Jerusalem. All the while he busied himself in London with schemes for improvements of Jerusalem. A project for installing a water supply engaged his attention. This went to the extent of interesting an engineer? ing concern which sent out surveyors to draw up plans. There were plans for developing Palestine's mineral resources and there is even mention of the advisability of prospecting for petroleum oil. Ten days after the last entry in his journal, 19 August 1872, James Finn died in London, aged 66 years. His wife Elizabeth Ann Finn, so inseparably associated with him in his work in the Holy Land to advance agriculture among Jews, survived him 50 years, dying in 1921 at the age of 96 years. The life of James Finn has become part of the history of Israel. It is true that his early association with the Hebrew-Christian movement largely marred the fulfilment of his own hopes during the period of his consulship. Indeed, it is fair to say there were some who felt that he might, without this, have realized more fully his aspiration of large-scale settlement of Jews on the soil of the Holy Land. But we should not overlook the fact that without the religious motive - the fervour and the faith in the fulfilment of biblical prophecy - the course of James Finn's life might have been greatly different and far removed from the Holy Land. The Finns' Palestine interest was inherited by their daughter Constance Mary Finn who was born in Jerusalem in 1851. When I returned from Jerusa? lem after the victory of the Jewish army in 1948 and called on her, she, echoing what would have been her parents' sentiment, declared: T knew that the State of Israel would be resurrected, for Pro? phecy promises this!' It is pleasing to know that one of the first official acts of the newly established Israeli Embassy in London was to send their representatives to attend the funeral of Constance Mary Finn when she died at the venerable age of 99, as a mark of respectful honour in memory of James Finn, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem.</page></plain_text>