top of page
< Back

Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession

Charles Rubens

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Joseph Gortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession* CHARLES RUBENS, M.A., LL.B. I: JEWISH COMMISSARIES One of the most remarkable features of the seventeenth century in Jewish history was the advent of the Jewish Commissary, who by the middle of the eighteenth century was found in nearly every country of Europe. In Austria and numerous German States the supplying of armies was merely one of the various functions of the Court Jew, whose rise to power during this period was an entirely new phenomenon. Paradoxically, it took place at a time of exceptional religious intolerance, when France and Austria were expelling their non-Catholic subjects, when only a few privileged Jews were permitted to live in Prussia and W?rttemberg, and nearly everywhere Jewish ghetto life was as restricted as it ever had been. Rise of the Court Jew The author of the leading work on the subject1 has attributed the rise of the Court Jew-Commissary to political and economic causes. Chief among these was the fascination exerted on most of the rulers of the German States by Louis XIV, who had established himself as an absolute monarch ruling by the divine right of kings over a country which, in the eyes of many, had become the most powerful and glorious in the world. In con? sequence, they sought to imitate him by establishing Courts which would be centres of culture and luxury befitting the dignity of a monarch, and standing armies which could be used both to quell popular disaffection and to take part in the constant wars with which most of Europe was afflicted. These were no longer the short campaigns which could be fought with hastily raised levies but required well trained armies capable of being maintained in the field for long periods. All this imposed a severe financial burden and the task of raising the large sums required with the necessary speed became more and more difficult. The methods of levying taxes had changed very little since the Middle Ages and attempts to raise new imposts would be likely to meet fierce opposition. The Court Jew provided the answer to these problems in the Central European States, particularly as regards the provisioning of armies. He was able to provide ready money in exchange for the right to farm taxes or the grant of State monopolies. Also, through his foreign contacts, he could obtain speedy supplies of grain, fodder, horses, and other necessities from neighbouring countries where these were plentiful. A Commissary's Risks Although in most countries there were native Christian merchants capable of under? taking these tasks, many of them had been impoverished by the incessant wars of the period, and of the remainder few were willing to take on the considerable risks involved. A commissary might have to pledge the whole of his fortune to pay for supplies which were liable to be captured by the enemy or lost at sea. He might also lose his money through his country's inability or refusal to pay. He was, in any case, likely to be blamed if, through misadventure, supplies failed to arrive; and since, generally, he would also be operating * Paper delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England, 7 March 1973. i The Court Jew, Selma Stern, J.P.S.A., 1950. Among the many Court Jews of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mentioned in this book the following were perhaps the most outstanding: Samuel Oppenheimer, employed by Leopold of Austria in many capacities, including commissary, from 1673 to 1703; Diego Lopez Pereira, employed by Maria Theresa and ennobled as Baron d' Aguilar; Joseph Suess Oppenheimer (Jew S?ss), financial controller and commissary to the Duke of W?rttemberg from 1733 to 1737; and Israel Aron, Court Jew in East Prussia. These were all countries which normally excluded Jews. 114</page><page sequence="2">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 115 as a tax-farmer, he was hardly likely to be a popular figure. These disadvantages were sufficient to deter most people. However, to the more ambitious and enterprising Jews, hitherto confined within the walls of the ghetto, the situation offered a tempting opportunity for advancement in both commercial and social circles. All the same, the more prominent Court Jews of this period only rarely and reluctantly took part in this business. A different explanation must be found for the employment of Jews as commissaries in England and Holland,2 since, in contrast with Austria and the German States, both of these were democratic countries which practised religious tolerance and had prosperous native mercantile classes. The explanation must surely lie in the fact that the Jewish commissaries of England and Holland, unlike the majority of those of Central Europe, were of Portuguese origin. Immigrants' Advantages During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Marranos of Portugal produced many men of outstanding ability in commerce and finance, for which reason they were encouraged to settle in Madrid by Philip IV's Minister, Olivares, in the early part of the seventeenth century. In the course of time, they were responsible for handling most of the import and export trade of Spain and its colonies and built up trading connections in all the principal Mediterranean ports as well as in London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, the West Indies, and the Canary Islands. These contacts enabled them to purchase goods on credit by bills of exchange and ship them to any part of the civilised world, and also provided them with reliable sources of informa? tion, which were, of course, of great value in times of war. Many of these Marranos emigrated to Holland during the seventeenth century. They were generally better educated and more assimilated than the bulk of European Jewry. In consequence, they would have experienced little difficulty in mixing freely with people in high places. These qualities probably account for the fact that two such hard-headed men as Cromwell and William HI appointed Jewish Commissaries to supply their armies. There can be little doubt that they found them more efficient and reliable than their Christian competitors and this is supported by the absence of any serious criticism of their conduct in contemporary records, despite the fact that, as Jews and aliens, they would have been an obvious target for attack. II: THE CORTISSOS PAPERS The present account is largely based on the Cortissos Papers, which were presented to the Jewish Museum in 1935 by the late Mr. Woodbridge, a partner in the firm of De Pinna and Venn, the well-known public notaries, of the City of London, in whose possession they had been since the eighteenth century. There is a slight connection between that firm and the Cortissos family, as one of its founders was Jacob de Pinna, a relative of the family by marriage, who came to this country from Holland in about 1770 and was granted the faculty of a notary by the Arch? bishop of Canterbury in 1772. Another member of the family, Joseph Cortissos, who was a grandson of the principal character in this story and who, to avoid confusion, will be referred to as Joseph the Younger, had become a notary of the City of London in 1755, by admission to the Scriveners Company. The papers do not give anything like a complete account of the life of Joseph Cortissos, as they were compiled mainly to support the claims made by him and his descendants against successive British Governments. It has, however, been possible to supplement them to some extent from other sources, including the records of lawsuits in which Joseph was engaged during the latter half of his life and information which has recently come to light 2 These, apart from Joseph Gortissos, included the famous Antonio Fernandez Garvajal, who supplied the armies of Gromwell, Isaac Pereira and Moses Machado, who served under William III in his Irish campaign, and Solomon de Medina, who served under Marlborough and was subsequently knighted by William III.</page><page sequence="3">116 Charles Rubens concerning the earlier history of the family in Spain. From these materials it is possible to give some account of Joseph's antecedents and his activities during and after the War of the Spanish Succession as well as a brief history of a remarkable Marrano family. THE CORTISSOS FAMILY A document written by Joseph the Younger in about the year 1780 and entitled 'Genealogy of my Family' contains a short account of his ancestry and of the activities of his grand? father. The endorsement, which reads 'Your Great Grandfather being Grandson of the Marquis de Villa a Grandee of Spain', shows that it was written primarily for the edification of his children. Although it contains numerous inaccuracies, it is worth quoting in full, the only alterations being corrections of obvious misspellings of names: 'The Marquis de Villa whose name was Emanuel Joseph Cortissos a grandee of Spain had three sons and, being Jews, at the prosecution of the Jews in Spain which wras about the year 1500 they retired to Barcelona and farmed the wools at Bilbao and for fear of the prosecution the eldest retained the name of Gortissos, the second went to Holland took the name of Semah, the third took the name of La Costa. The eldest Cortissos continued the business of farming and wool trade in Spain and had several children. His eldest son followed no business and was what we call a Country Esquire and had a son who went to Flanders in the wars under the Duke Alva named Don Emanuel who had a son named Abraham born in 1620. He went into Barbary to purchase horses and grain for the use of the King of Spain and then he married the Daughter of a Rabbi named Falcon. He did not live happy with his wife being compelled to the marriage because he stopped his wife who was retiring from the room at his entrance according to the Eastern Custom. However he took his wife with him to Anveres in Flanders, there he had by her three sons, namely, Emanuel otherwise Isaac, Joseph and Jacob. Emanuel married Donna Rodrigues de Parma by whom left issue a son named Abraham and a daughter named Rebecca. Abraham married Rebecca the daughter of Joseph Musaphia by whom he left issue his son Emanuel, a daughter named Rachel and named Esther and a son named Elias. His son Emanuel married Leah, the daughter of David Da Costa Mesquita, by whom he has several children now living. His daughter Rachel is married to Benjamin Bernal but there is no issue living of their marriage. I married his daughter Hester but I had no issue ofthat marriage. She was delivered of a dead child a few days before her death. His son Elias intermarried with Lea daughter of Abraham Fonseca Pimentel. He left issue of which there is now living one son named Abraham one named Emanuel one named Joseph one named Isaac. My grandfather Joseph Cortissos who was born in the year 1656 was provider for the Troops of the United Provinces, the Emperor Charles, the Kings of England &amp; Portugal and was with the Emperor at Spain in the Siege of Barcelona in Queen Ann's wars. Mention is made of him in a book entitled: The Conduct of the Dutch during the Wars in Spain. Under the conduct of the Earl of Petersborough he made a great fortune but did not know to keep it; the Crown of Portugal was indebted to him in a large sum which he never recovered the Crown of England owed him a very considerable balance which he lost by omitting putting in his claim in time before the Commissioners appointed to liquidate the debts of the war. He came to England in the year 1712 to attach the subsidies due to the Crown of Portugal because the English Generals, the Earls of Petersborough &amp; Galloway, had guaranteed their subsidies to him for the great disboursments he was at in supporting the Portuguese Army. He went ambassador to Morocco from the Emperor Charles to purchase horses and grain and was a man greatly respected by the Nobility and Generals of his time. He married Clara Levy a near relation of Ury Levy3 and of the 3 Uri Halevy, a German rabbi who became the first Haham in Amsterdam in 1604.</page><page sequence="4">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 117 family of Schabrach. She was born in Westfriesland; by her he had a son named Abraham born in 1710 at Barcelona where he was with the English and Allied Armies. Upon his coming to England, through the connection he made with Dr. Mendes who had been physician to Queen Catherine wife of Charles the Second, he made interest to attach the Portuguese subsidies in the Treasury and received forty thousand pounds on account of the debt due to him from the Crown of Portugal but this money he left into the hands of Dr. Mendes's sons for them to trade for him and having lost the great part of it he was several years in Chancery with them, had a Decree against him and appealed to the House of Lords where he also lost his suit. The substance was that he refused abiding to an arbitration after it had been made a Rule of the Court of Chancery and thus he lost his suit and recovered in every Court. He was 20 years at Law, spent ?5000 in the Suits and re? covered only about ?14,000. His son Abraham who was my father intermarried with Simha the daughter of Samuel Cohen Farro and of his wife Sarah Salazar who was a first cousin to Jacob Mendes Da Costa and Benjamin Mendes Da Costa. My mother came to England with Jacob Mendes Da Costa in the year 1728, was then about 26 years of age. She married my father in the year 1729; her sister Esther married Joshua Sarfaty de Pinna of whom there is five sons and one daughter living namely Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, Joseph, David and Rebecca and daughter named Lea married to Moses Oliveiro of whom there is issue two sons and two daughters a son named Joshua of whom there is two sons living. My father left issue Sarah born 1730; she married Abraham Sarfaty son of Hazan Sarfaty and nephew of my uncle Joshua Sarfaty de Pinna; they have a daughter named Grace born Myself named Joseph born 1731. Of my first marriage which was my cousin Hester Cortissos I had no issue. My present wife named Sarah Lumbroso daughter of Daniel Lumbroso and of Streila Serra of the family of Gomez Serra which said wife I married in the year 1764 was born in the year She has a brother named David who married Leah Jesurun of whom he had issue a son named Daniel and a daughter named Leah both living. My issue by my wife now living is my daughter Strella Hatty born Sarah born Rachel born Abraham born and Leah born God spare and make them good AMEN. [The blank spaces at the end of this docu? ment are as left by Joseph Cortissos the Younger. He evidently intended to fill in the details, but for an unknown reason failed to do so.] Mystery of a Title The claim of descent from the Marquis de Villa was a tradition of the family and is repeated in David Bueno de Mesquita's article 'The Ancient Burial Ground of the Sephardi Jews'4 and Albert M. Hyamson's history of the English Sephardi community.5 However, the most diligent research has failed to establish any connection between the Cortissos family and such a title or even that the title itself ever existed. Hence for many years the claim was regarded as nothing more than a family legend. Recently, however, a book written by a Spanish historian, J. Caro Baroja,6 has thrown a great deal of light on the history of the family during the seventeenth century and shows that Joseph the Younger's account, though in many respects inaccurate, has a certain sub? stratum of truth. As the story has considerable historical interest, a brief digression on the subject may be permissible. The Cortizos family (the name being spelt thus in contemporary references) lived in Braganza, Portugal, during the sixteenth century. They were closely linked by marriage 4 Trans.JHSE Vol. X, p. 247. s The Sephardim of England (London, 1951), p. 101. See also Jewish Encyclopaedia, Vol. IV, 'Don Jose Cortissos.' 6 La Sociedad Criptojudia en la Corte de Felipe IV (Madrid, 1963). Much of the material in this book is derived from an earlier book, A. D. Ortiz: Politicay Hacienda (Madrid, 1960).</page><page sequence="5">118 Charles Rubens with the families of de Castro, Lopez, and de Almeida. These Portuguese families of Jewish descent, commonly referred to as New Christians, many but not necessarily all of whom were crypto-Jews, formed a powerful economic group which produced many men of outstanding ability in commerce, finance, and public affairs and occupied a most important position in Spain during the next century. The union of Spain and Portugal in 1580 had led to a considerable migration of Marranos from Portugal into Spain. Until then, the conditions in the two countries had been very different. In Spain, the religious persecution which had been going on con? tinuously since the fourteenth century and had been reinforced by the Inquisition had resulted in the virtual disappearance of the native Marranos as an identifiable class. At the same time it had considerably weakened the economy of the country, as the Marranos had formed the most important section of its merchant class. Inquisition's Severity In Portugal, on the other hand, conditions had, on the whole, been mild by comparison and it was not until the middle of the sixteenth century that the Inquisition was allowed to operate without restraint. More important was the fact that it was not until 1579 that the power of confiscation, one of the most deadly weapons in the hands of the Holy Office and a perpetual incitement to action against the conversos, was finally conceded. From that date, the severity of the Inquisition in Portugal matched or even exceeded that of Spain until Portugal regained its independence in 1640.7 Somewhat paradoxically, at about the same time, conditions in Spain became more favour? able. By the end of the sixteenth century, Spain was suffering from the enormous strain of Philip IPs wars, the serious interference with the trade with its colonies on which its economy depended, and an antiquated and oppressive system of taxation. Above all, it had a vital need for persons with commercial and adminis? trative ability. For this reason, the Marranos of Portugal, with their wealth, commercial background, and ability, were particularly welcome and found ready scope for advance? ment. Protection from Inquisition Philip IV (1621-1665), under the guidance of his Minister, Olivares,8 was not slow to recognise their usefulness and it was due to his protection that they were able to operate without too much fear of intervention by the Inquisition. One reason in particular why they were needed was connected with the method norm? ally employed for raising money, which was to grant contracts to private persons for the farm? ing of taxes, such as the import and excise duties, or for the sale of the royal trading monopolies in such commodities as spices, silks, wool, tobacco, and slaves. There were, however, few native merchants who were at once sufficiently competent, trustworthy, and wealthy to undertake these contracts. The first Cortizos of whom anything is known was Esplandian Nunez, who married Beatrix de Castro and lived in Braganza in the latter half of the sixteenth century. Their son, Antonio Lopez Cortizos, settled in Spain in about 1600 and attached himself to Court circles in Madrid and Valladolid. He was successively a silversmith, spice merchant, and tax farmer, or possibly all three at the same time. However, his activities as a tax farmer, often a hazardous business, led to his bank? ruptcy and a short prison sentence. He died soon after his release. His son, Manuel, first became prominent in 1630, when he was one of a syndicate of Portuguese businessmen who tendered for farming imports from the Indies. Objections 7 See G. Roth, History of the Marranos (J.P.S.A., 1932), pp. 70-93. ?Gaspar Philip, 1587-1645, third Count of Olivares, created Duke of Medina de las Torres, was Philip IV's first Minister and the virtual ruler of Spain from 1620 until his downfall in 1642, in which Queen Isabel took a leading part. His harsh and autocratic methods were largely res? ponsible for the revolts of Portugal and Catalonia in 1640 and the eventual secession of Portugal.</page><page sequence="6">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 119 were raised by the Council of State on the grounds of his father's bankruptcy. Neverthe? less, he was able to secure the farming of the wool tax by the device of operating under the name of a man of straw, a country gentleman of the name of Don Manuel de Villasante, who was married to one of Manuel's aunts and whose one qualification was that he was of unim? peachable old Christian hidalgo ancestry. This led subsequently to Manuel and other members of his family adopting the name 'Villasante' as an appendage to their surname. Large Fortunes Manuel and his brother Sebastian are also said to have made large fortunes from trading operations, particularly in wool. In 1637, Manuel retired from commerce and became a courtier and a patron of literature. He bought from the King the office of Receiver of the Treasury Council for 30,000 ducats and that of First Secretary of the Kingdom of Castille and Leon for 36,000 ducats.9 He spent other large sums on providing lavish entertain? ments for the King and Queen and contributed handsomely to the cost of raising troops for the Spanish armies during the revolts of Portugal and Catalonia from 1640 to 1642. From 1639, he represented Olivares' town of Toro in the Cortes. In 1642, however, when Queen Isabel was acting as Regent during Philip IV's absence in Catalonia, he sided with her in her struggle against Olivares and financed her with a loan of 800,000 ducats, on the security of her jewels, without charging interest. In return for these various services, Philip IV made him, as well as his two brothers, Sebastian and Antonio, and his cousin and brother-in-law, Sebastian Lopez Ferro (or Hierro) de Castro, Knights of the Order of Calatrava. This was only possible after an investigation which purported to prove their freedom from the taint of Jewish blood (limpieza di sangre) and the grant of a Papal dispensation on account of their commercial background. Manuel was also appointed to many important offices of State, mostly con nected with the administration of the finances of the kingdom. Denounced as 'Judaiser' In 1642, Olivares, in revenge for Manuel's support of the Queen, denounced him to the Inquisition as a 'Judaiser'. For this purpose, Olivares is said to have made use of the services of his translator, Jacob Cansino.10 However, thanks to the influence of the Court, he was able to ward off this attack. It would appear that he did so by getting himself appointed a Familiar of the Inquisition, an office which gave him immunity from arrest.11 Manuel died in 1649 and was given a sumptuous Catholic funeral. Enemies of the family thereupon brought new accusations against his widow, Luiza, and her mother, Donna Mencia de Almeida, and alleged that money borrowed for the funeral had been used as a fund to provide dowries for poor New Christian girls, who were 'to fast for the soul of the departed according to the Law of Moses'. This obviously concocted story appears to have been accepted by the Inquisition in Cuenca. The two ladies were arrested and suspicion also fell on the whole of the Cortizos and de Castro clan, against whom the Inquisi? tion had for a long time been patiently building up a considerable dossier, some of it undoubt? edly being based on reports from its spies in Holland and Italy, where the families had trading connections. At this stage, Manuel's brother, Sebastian Cortizos, and Sebastian Ferro de Castro, brother of Luiza and son of Mencia, stepped into the breach. The latter was, at that time, Pay? master-General of the Spanish Army in 9 Contemporary values about ?14,000 and ?16,800 respectively. 10 A member of a Jewish family in Oran in the service of the Spanish Grown. Jacob Gansino had been granted by the Holy Office a special licence to live in Madrid. 11 Ortiz, Politica y Hacienda, p. 137. This was a remarkable feat of legerdemain, as this office, like the knighthood, would have been strictly barred to New Christians. It was not, however, unique, as at least two other Marranos received appointments as Familiars, viz. Alonso Enriquez de Cabrera and Lope de Vega. Y. H. Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto (Gol. U.P., 1971), pp. 106 and 159.</page><page sequence="7">120 Charles Rubens Flanders, a member of the Treasury Council, Secretary of the Cortes of Castille, and Treasurer of the Holy Crusade.12 It says much for the power and influence of these men that at length, in 1656, after years of incarceration, the two ladies, though convicted on the charge of judaising, were merely penanced and then released. In addition, the accusations against other members of the family were dropped, though not without whisperings of bribery and corruption. Conferment of Titles The two Sebastians retained the King's favour. Sebastian Cortizos was sent to Genoa as Ambassador and Sebastian de Castro to Naples as President of its Council of State. Later, Philip conferred on the latter the title of Marquis de Castelforte. In 1669, both of them died in Naples, at about the same time, as the result of a mysterious illness, with strong suspicions of foul play.13 Manuel's son, Manuel Jose Cortizos y Villasante, received the title of Viscount de Valdefuentes in 1668 and in 1677 became head of the family bank. He was in high favour at the Court of Carlos II, in spite of further investigations by the Inquisition in 1680. He was, by all accounts, a man of great ability whose services were indispensable to the King. Baroja considers that Joseph Cortissos was probably the son of Sebastian Cortizos. This, however, seems unlikely. In the first place, as the two brothers, Sebastian and Manuel, were probably born about 1590, Sebastian would have been over 60 years of age at the time of Joseph's birth. Secondly, whatever may be the imperfections of Joseph the Young er's Genealogy, one or two facts that he mentions appear to be reliable. These are: (i) that Joseph the Elder's grandfather was called Emanuel, which points to either Manuel or Manuel Jose. (ii) that his father was called Abraham, that he was sent to Morocco (Barbary) to pur? chase supplies for the King of Spain, and later settled in Antwerp. It seems unlikely that Abraham would have been invented. Moreover, if one can assume that Joseph and his elder brother Emanuel were born after the deaths of Manuel and Manuel Jose, it seems likely that they would have been named after one or other of them. It is certainly significant that it is only in this branch of the family that the names Manuel and Jose are to be found.14 The author considers that Joseph's grand? father was probably Manuel. It is true that the only acknowledged children of Manuel were Manuel Jose and a daughter Luisa, but it could well be that he had a son who left Spain at an early age and adopted the name Abraham on entering the Jewish community. If that were so, his relatives in Spain would have preferred to forget about him.15 Confusion over Ancestors It is easy to see how Joseph the Younger's account of his family written towards the end of his life could have muddled up the various stories about his distinguished ancestors which he had heard as a boy from his father or grand? father. There had been a Marquis in the closely related de Castro family and a Viscount in his own family and at least one of his ancestors had borne the surname Villasante or de Viliasante. It seems a fair assumption that all this became transformed into the non-existent title of Marquis de Villa. His chronology is, of course, hopelessly wrong, as he places the alleged Marquis at the beginning of the sixteenth century. How? ever, his reference to 'farming the wools' fits in with the occupation of tax farming followed by several of his ancestors and is indeed strikingly confirmed by the known fact 12 A royal tax levied on Church property. 13 A portrait in the Prado (MuriHo, 'Caballero de Golilla', No. 2845) is traditionally known as 'The Jewish Secretary of Philip IV and is probably that of one of the two Sebastians (see Plate IV). 14 See genealogical table, Appendix III. 15 Manuel's widow, Luiza, when interrogated by the Inquisition, stated that her only children were Manuel Jose and Luiza. It is not known whether Manuel Jose had any children.</page><page sequence="8">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 121 that Manuel farmed the wool tax in about 1630. With regard to Joseph's father, it is known that a certain Abraham Semagh Cortissos became a member of the Amsterdam commun? ity before 1675, as his wife, Judith, was buried in the Portuguese Jewish cemetery at Ouder kerk in that year. He, too, was buried there in 1693. In 1661 he had been living in Salee, Morocco, where he was acting as agent for Isaac Aboab de Paz, of Amsterdam.16 He was also known under the alias of Levius or Louis da Costa and was said to be the son of Antonio da Costa Cortissos. Aliases to Avoid Danger Apart from the discrepancy in name, the details about Abraham Semagh Cortissos are consistent with those given by Joseph the Younger about his great-grandfather. The latter, after his mission to Morocco for the King of Spain, may well have settled in Ant? werp, where his three sons were born, then gone back to Morocco as commercial agent for de Paz, and finally settled in Amsterdam. As to the difficulty about his father's name, this can be explained by the common practice of Marrano emigres to adopt aliases for themselves or their parents in order to put possible informers off the scent and avoid endangering the lives of relatives living in Spain.17 The name Semagh recalls the statement by Joseph the Younger that one of the sons of the Marquis went to Holland and took the name of Semah, which is clearly another spelling of the same name. The name is, of course, one of Hebraic and not of Spanish origin, and it may have been the original surname of the family before they became converts to Christianity.18 Another point of significance is the statement by Joseph the Younger that another son of the Marquis went to Holland and adopted the name La Costa, which is probably a mistake for da Costa. The records of the Amsterdam community also disclose the existence of an Isaac Semagh Cortissos, who was Parnas there in 1649 and was buried in Ouderkerk in 1657, and also of a Jacob Semagh Cortissos, alias Antonio Hidalgo, who resided in Amsterdam in 1660 and in Rotterdam in 1661. Their patriarchal names suggest that they were brothers of Abraham, in which case their identities, like that of Abraham, must have been concealed from the Inquisition. Joseph Cortissos To return to Joseph, it is known that he was born in Antwerp in 1656. Little is known of his life prior to 1700 except that, at some time dur? ing the last quarter of the seventeenth century, he was appointed by Carlos II of Spain Proveedor or supplier to the latter's armies in the Netherlands.19 For this purpose he probably took up residence in The Hague.20 His services clearly gave the utmost satisfaction, as is attested by the appointment of 25 July 1705 referred to below. No doubt he would have learnt something of this business from his father, Abraham, who, as has already been stated, was sent to purchase horses and grain 16 H. Bloom, The Economic Activities of the Jews of Amsterdam (VVilliamsport, 1957), p. 78. D. Henriques de Gastro, De Synagoge der Portugeesch Israelitische Gemeente te Amsterdam, 1675-1875 (The Hague, 1875). 17 There is an interesting passage concerning the aliases of Marranos in Holland in a contemporary letter from the Spanish Consul in Amsterdam to his Ambassador at The Hague, which clearly refers to Isaac Semagh Gortissos: 'The President of the Synagogue signs himself Gortez instead of Gortisos, which is his real name. I have been assured of this fact by several of his nation. There is a mystery in this changing of name. It is the custom of members of this nation to take as many names as they please either for the sake of deceit or in order not to jeopardize their parents who are known by the name in Spain.' H. Bloom, op. cit., p. 93. 18 A parallel case is that of the Cardoso family, who, after emigration, reverted to the original surname of Aboab, some members calling them? selves Aboab and others Aboab Cardoso. 19 This appointment may have been due to the influence of his cousin, Diego de Castro, who had been appointed Paymaster-General of the Spanish Army in Flanders in 1674. 20 This is the only reference to Cortissos having a residence in The Hague.</page><page sequence="9">122 Charles Rubens for the King of Spain in Morocco, an indica? tion that he too had been a Proveedor. The death of the King of Spain, Carlos II, in 1700, led to the War of the Spanish Succes? sion. The candidate for the Spanish throne sponsored by England, Austria, Holland, and Portugal was the Austrian Archduke, Karl of Hapsburg, who assumed the title of Carlos III. The rival candidate, supported by Louis XIV, King of France, was his grandson, Philip, Duke of Anjou. In 1704, following the Battle of Blenheim, the Allied powers were planning an invasion of Spain, and Carlos III decided to appoint Joseph Cortissos to the post of Proveedor of the Allied armies. He first sent him to Morocco, probably in order to organise supplies partic? ularly of draught animals. For this mission Carlos addressed a letter to the Sultan of Morocco in the following terms: [Translation from Spanish] Don Carlos the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Castille, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, Jerusalem, Navarre, Granada, Toledo, Val? encia, Galicia, Mallorca, Seville, Sardinia, Cordova, Corsica, Murcia, Jaen, Algarbes de Algezira, Gibraltar, Canary Isles, East and West Indies, and the Islands and terra firma of Morocco, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Milan, Count of Hapsburg, Flanders, Tyrol and Barcelona, Lord of Biscay, of Molina, etc. To you, most honoured and extolled of the Moors, Muley Ismael, Emperor of Morocco, King of Fez and Sus, to whom we wish all good and honour, greetings and fulfilment of your desires. Our dearly beloved cousin the Admiral21 having informed us of the letter which you wrote to him at the end of January of last year offering him your protection for the glorious action which he had just carried out in our service in joining the Kingdom of Portugal rather than suffer the vile subjection to which France had reduced Spain, we cannot forbear to express to you our thanks for this offer you made to him and more especially on the occasion of the journey to your kingdom of Joseph Cortizos on divers business affairs for which he has requested us to write to you intimating how gratifying it will be to us if you will give orders that he be aided, as far as opportunity permits, with regard to those whom he is about to approach in your kingdom. Most honoured and extolled of the Moors, God guard you and bestow upon you the good fortunes that are most fitting. Santareny. 28th June 1704 (Signed) I, The King22 Two further documents signed by Carlos in July and September 1705 continued Joseph's appointment as Proveedor: [ Translation] The King Being informed of your ability sufficiency and Fidelity with which you have served the King my Sovereign Lord and Uncle Don Carlos the Second (who is in Glory) in provisioning his Armies of Flanders; I have thought proper to favor you (as by these Presents I do) with the Appointment of Provider of my Armies for this Campaign in any Province of Spain at which the Grand Fleet of our Allies shall be stationed and I order ail Ministers and Officers that they will on that occurrence give the necessary orders to enable you freely to furnish the Provisions and other necessary things at the settled price agreeably to what my Royal Service requires. Given on Board the Ship Renola the Twenty fifth July One Thousand Seven Hundred and Five. (Seal) (Signed) I the King By Order of our Lord the King (Signed) Enrique de Gunter Your Majesty favours Dn. Joseph Cortizos with the Appointment of Provider of Your Armies in Spain where the Grand Fleet shall be Stationed this Campaign. 21 This appears to refer to the hereditary Admiral of Gastille Don Juan Henriquez y Cabrera. He defected to Carlos in 1702 and became a pro? minent supporter. See P. H. Stanhope, Lord Mahon, History of the War of the Succession in Spain (2nd edn., 1836), pp. 64-69. 22 'Yo el Rey', the Spanish royal style of signature.</page><page sequence="10">PLATE III Joseph Cortissos (Reproduced by courtesy of the Elders of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, London)</page><page sequence="11">PLATE IV A painting in the Prado Gallery, Madrid, by Murillo, traditionally called 'El Judio secretario de Felipe IV and believed to be a portrait of either Sebastian Cortissos or his cousin Sebastian Hierro (Reproduced by courtesy of the Prado Museum)</page><page sequence="12">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 123 [ Translation] The King It having been discussed agreed and concluded by my Order between my Generals and Officers of the One part and Don Joseph Cortizos Provider of our Armies and those of our Allies of the other part concerning a Contract in virtue of which and the Conditions therein expressed the said Cortizos binds himself to furnish our Infantry and Cavalry with bread and fodder at the places mentioned for the purpose we do approve and ratify the said Contract and it is our Royal will and pleasure that it be observed and performed on our part duly and effectually without failing in its Execution in any part thereof our Royal Service thus requiring it. Given at Barcelona the Eleventh of September One Thousand Seven Hundred and five. (Seal) (Signed) I the King By order of our Lord the King (Signed) Enrique de Gunter With the Allied Forces The Commander-in-Chief of the military and naval forces of the Allies was the Earl of Peterborough. He landed in Catalonia in the summer of 1705 and laid siege to Barcelona, which fell in October. During the next few months the whole of Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia were overrun by the Allied armies and declared allegiance to Carlos. Joseph Cortissos accompanied the Allied forces during the whole of the campaign. There exists a contract in Spanish concluded in Barcelona on 15 May 1706 between Cortissos and Peterborough (who is rather quaintly described as the 'Conde de Peter Borow') in which the Earl agreed to pay specified amounts for the hire of horses and mules and supplies of provisions. It is not clear who exactly had been responsible for previous supplies but, whoever it was, it can be assumed that they were paid for and that for this reason none of the relevant documents for the earlier period was preserved. There is extant a letter dated 1 October 1706 from the Marquis das Minas, the Inspector-General of the Portuguese troops serving under Peterborough, to Joseph Cortissos imploring the latter to supply provisions to the Portuguese troops in Bunhol, who were said to be on the brink of starvation. Cortissos did, in fact, comply with this request, relying on a promise made by Peterborough that, if the Portuguese Government failed to pay, payment would be made by the British Govern? ment by deduction from the annual subsidy paid to Portugal. There is also a document signed by Lord Galway, one of the British Generals, testifying that in the year 1708 a meeting took place in Barcelona at the house of the Count of Asumar, the Portuguese Ambassador, at which Das Minas and various Portuguese Generals were present and where it was agreed that the money due to Cortissos for provisions, hire of draught animals, and the loss of animals captured or destroyed by the enemy would be paid for, three-quarters by Portugal and one-quarter by Britain. In February 1707, Peterborough was re? moved from his command as a result of changes in the Cabinet in England and Galway was appointed to succeed him. The latter conducted a number of successful operations, including the capture of Madrid, but was soon compelled to fall back on Valencia owing to the inadequate forces at his disposal and the poor quality of the Portuguese troops. He was eventually removed from his command in 1710 after the accession of the Tories under Harley. Claims for Debts As has been stated, the extant Cortissos papers consist mainly of documents which were preserved by Joseph and his family to support his claims. These consisted partly of claims against the British Government for debts incurred by Peterborough on behalf of his Army, partly of claims against the Portuguese Government for debts incurred by the latter's representatives, and partly of a mixed variety such as those which arose under the agreement referred to in the document signed by Galway. Difficulties about payment had occurred as</page><page sequence="13">124 Charles Rubens early as 15 April 1707, on which date Cortissos appeared before a Public Notary in Valencia and made the following Protest: Tn this City of Valencia appeared Joseph Cortissos Contractor General of the Armies of His Catholic Majesty and the High Allies, an inhabitant of The Hague and now resid? ing in this City who states that he had contracted with Das Minas, Vedor General of the Portuguese troops, and Lord Galway, General of the Allied troops, from 1st October 1706, but that they had failed to pay what was due to him and had dismissed him on 1st March 1707,23 and he protests against this injustice and claims for all damages and losses.' Protests over Exchange Losses Again, on 18 November 1707, a protest was made before a Public Notary in Tortosa stating that since Cortissos could not obtain payment in full from the Portuguese Crown or from das Minas, as he had been promised, he had been forced to accept bills of exchange drawn on Holland and Portugal at less than the proper rate of exchange so that he had suffered an exchange loss of 16%. There are two similar protests of 10 August 1708 and 2 July 1711, both executed in Barcelona. How much cash Joseph was able to obtain from the Portuguese Government is uncertain. But, though usually unable to provide cash, that Government was lavish enough with paper promises. Between October 1708 and March 1709, Cortissos received three bills of exchange, for a total of over 11 million reis (Barcelona),24 drawn by Madera, presumably the Portuguese Paymaster-General, on de Lima, Chief Treas? urer of Portugal, and accepted by the latter. None of these was paid. The comparatively late dates of these bills would appear to indicate that they were renewals of earlier bills for the same debts. One of these bills, for 337,500 reis, bears the endorsement of Galway, who probably 'backed' it as guarantor. There is a further bill dated 11 October 1707 for 115,336 palacas25 drawn by Madera on de Souza Pacheco, Envoy Extraordinary of His Portuguese Majesty, and also signed by das Minas, payable to John Mead 'for value received from Joseph Cortissos' and endorsed by John Mead in favour of his brother, Richard Mead. Attached to this bill is a Notarial Protest of 10 August 1708 made before Christ oval Aguilar, Notary of Valencia, then residing in Barcelona. This recites that, the bill not having been accepted, Cortissos had applied to Madera and Leyte, the Comptroller of Portugal, for payment and that, although the rate of exchange was then 940 reis per palaca, he had been forced to accept 18,000 dollars, suffering a loss of 13,141 dollars. The John Mead to whom this last bill was payable was at the time the Paymaster-General of the British Army, and his brother Richard was the Deputy Paymaster. His dealings with Cortissos were, by present-day standards, of a somewhat unorthodox character, as he clearly financed some of Cortissos' transactions on a profit-sharing basis. This probably explains why he and his brother were parties to the bill dated 11 October 1707. Arrival in England In 1711, Cortissos left Barcelona and came to England. There, with the help of John Mead, he set about the task of recovering as much as he could of his debts. On 31 July 1711, Mead had obtained a warrant signed by William Lowndes, Secretary of the Treasury, directing the Paymaster-General, James Bridges, to pay to John Mead on behalf of Richard Mead 115,336 pieces of eight26 out of the annual subsidy which was then being paid by Great Britain to Portugal. [This warrant refers expressly to the bill drawn by Das Minas in 1706.] On 10 June 1714, John Mead executed a formal assignment to Joseph Cortissos of the sum of ?15,892 6s. Od. the balance of the 23 This reference to Cortissos* dismissal is not explained but, as he continued to carry out his duties until 1711, his dismissal was probably cancelled. 24 The equivalent of about ?3,000 at that time. 25 The equivalent of about ?36,500 at that time. 26 Worth about ?30,000 at that time.</page><page sequence="14">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 125 Treasury Warrant, the reason being that Gortissos had paid Mead his share of the debt. An interesting feature of this document is that the attesting witness was Dr. Fernando Mendes. In the meantime, Cortissos had also been active in pursuing his claims against Portugal. In March 1717, he obtained from the Secretary of State of Portugal a letter, in somewhat vague terms, addressed to the Superintendent General of Great Britain authorising satisfaction of Joseph Cortissos' claims, 'which are con? sidered just'. He also obtained from Lord Carnarvon a certificate that the balance of the subsidy then owing to Portugal for the years 1711 and 1712 amounted to ?78,050. Annexed to this is a detailed account in the French language of the subsidy, which incidentally discloses that a payment had been made to Mead of ?11,500 in part repayment of the sum of ?27,392 6s. Od. which he had advanced to Cortissos in Spain. He also obtained the written consent of the Portuguese Minister in London, de Castro, to payment out of the subsidy of Cortissos' claims up to ?90,000. This de Castro was almost certainly a member of the de Castro family already referred to and therefore a cousin of Cortissos. Memorial to the Treasury Armed with these documents, Mead and Cortissos presented a Memorial to the Treasury in 1717. This recited that in 1706 Lord Galway and the Rt. Hon. Mr. Stanhope,27 the British Ambassador to Portugal, had requested Mead to assist Cortissos to comply with his contract to furnish supplies, and that they had promised that, if Portugal should default, they would recommend payment out of the Portuguese subsidy. The Memorialists referred to the fact that only ?11,500 had been paid out of the earlier warrant for ?27,392 and asked for payment of a further ?80,000. The Memorial is endorsed with the words 'The Lords Commissioners are pleased to refer the matter to James Cragg, H. M. Secretary at War. (signed) C. C. Stanhope'. Some seven months later, Cramer reported favourably. He confirmed that the Petitioners had suffered severe loss and recommended that whatever amount was agreed between them and the Portuguese Minister should be deduct? ed from the subsidy and paid to them. From later documents, it is clear that, despite this strong recommendation, Cortissos received, on that occasion, only ?40,000. From the rather diplomatic language of the recom? mendation, it seems that Britain was not prepared to risk a quarrel with the Portuguese Government by acting without its consent and that, despite de Castro's approval, the Portuguese Government would only agree to a payment of ?40,000. During the remaining twenty-four years of his life, Cortissos made repeated efforts to recover the sums due to him from both the British and Portuguese Governments. He presented a further Memorial in 1721 in which he pointed out that there was then due to Portugal arrears of subsidy amounting to ?37,500 and asked that this be paid to him. The Treasury Commissioners replied as follows: 'The Commissioners' Army Powers relat? ing to all foreign demands being determined by Parliament, the power given to the present Commissioners is confined to dem? ands of subjects of England on the Crown of England only so that my Lords can give no directions in this case.' Agreement with Lord Gage Nevertheless, Cortissos continued his efforts. In 1737 he entered into a Deed with Viscount Gage.28 This recites that under his contract with Das Minas of 1 October 1706 Cortissos had supplied upwards of ?90,000 worth of provisions to the Portuguese Army, that in 1720 the Portuguese Ambassador, by order of the King of Portugal, had paid him ?40,000 on account of the debt and interest, and that the balance including interest amounted to ?129,752. It then provides that, in considera 27 Later created Earl Stanhope. 28 Thomas, Viscount Gage, 1st Baron and Vis? count. His son, William Hall Gage, the 2nd Baron, married Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Sampson Gideon, the well-known financial genius of his day.</page><page sequence="15">126 Charles Rubens tion of Gage's promise to use his 'interest and endeavours with the King of Portugal and his Ministers and Officers and with the Ministers and Officers of His Majesty the King of Great Britain to procure and obtain payment and satisfaction of the said debt and for the encour? agement of the said Thomas Lord Viscount Gage', Cortissos would pay him 20% of all sums that might be recovered within one and a half years from the date of the Deed. A similar agreement, this time providing for a commission of 5%, was made in 1738 with Dr. Jacob de Castro Sarmento, a Marrano who had emigrated to England from Portugal in about 1720, and later became a Fellow of the Royal Society and physician to many persons of importance in London, including the Portuguese Ambassador. None of these efforts appears to have been successful. The plain fact is that, when he came to England in 1711, Cortissos was owed some? thing of the order of ?100,000 or possibly more, a sum which with the addition of interest was later to reach astronomic proportions. He recovered ?40,000 out of the Portuguese subsidy and probably also some part of the ?11,500 paid to John Mead under the Treasury Warrant, but nothing more. Financial Misfortunes Despite this enormous loss, Cortissos does not appear to have been ruined as a result of his activities as an Army Contractor. One does not know the scale of his operations but it is reasonable to suppose that, during his lengthy stay in Spain, he carried out many trans? actions for which he was paid and received substantial profits. If that is so, it would account for his being able to stand a loss of ?50,000 ?60,000?the equivalent today of perhaps ten times that amount. However, further financial misfortunes were to follow. Soon after receiving the ?40,000 as a result of the 1717 Memorial, Cortissos went into business with Dr. Fernando Mendes in financial operations, many of which were speculations in South Sea Stock. Two of Dr. Mendes's sons, James and Alvaro, were active operators on the then London Stock Exchange, and they appear to have handled most of the business of the partnership. Dr. Mendes died in November 1724 and his will was proved by his four sons. Apparently Cortissos was unable to obtain satisfactory accounts from them and he therefore launched a Chancery suit against them, which continued for many years. Cortissos was also involved in protracted Chancery proceedings with Richard Mead, brother and executor of John Mead, arising out of his financial transactions with the latter. It is difficult to say from a perusal of the court records what the eventual result was of these proceedings but it is fairly clear that Cortissos never recovered more than a fraction of the ?40,000 which he had so blithely entrusted to Dr. Mendes and the latter's sons and that his grandson's statement that he spent ?5,000 on legal costs and recovered only ?14,000 was probably not very wide of the mark. Portrait in Bevis Marks Cortissos died in 1742 at the age of 86. At some time after he came to England, his portrait29 was painted in Court dress of the period of Queen Anne in which he is portrayed holding up a Petition. This portrait, which was preserved in the family, was presented by the last of his descendants, the late Miss Cynthia Cortissos, to the Bevis Marks Syna? gogue about 50 years ago. His descendants continued to present Peti? tions to the British and Portuguese Govern? ments down to the year 1812, all without avail. There are extant copies of five of these Petitions dated between 1792 and 1812 and there may well have been more. Members of the family were still writing letters to the Treasury in the sixties of the last century. Joseph's only son, Abraham, was born in Barcelona in 1710, and, according to family history, was circumcised there by a mohel who was specially brought over from Morocco. He also appears to have been engaged in business as an Army Contractor and in 1741, after he had been endenizened, a passport 29 See Plate III.</page><page sequence="16">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 127 was issued to him by George II for the purpose of supplying the Army in Hanover. He is said to have been a spendthrift and was evidently on bad terms with his father, as he is not mentioned in the latter's will. Joseph Cortissos made his last will on 2 November 1731 and, after appointing Jacob Mendes da Costa sole executor, left all his estate to his grandchildren. A codicil executed in 1742 shortly before his death empowered his executor to settle accounts for all claims against the Portuguese and other Governments. The will and codicil (both of which are in the Spanish language) are endorsed with a note signed by Jacob de Pinna, the Notary, explaining that neither the will nor the codicil had been proved because the executors con? sidered them to be of no value. A somewhat different account is given in a Memorial of 1809, where it is stated that the executor did not prove the will owing to dissensions between Abraham Cortissos and his cousin Louis Cortissos arising out of a claim by the latter for ?5,000. Death in Acute Poverty Whichever version is correct, there can be little doubt that Cortissos died in a state of acute poverty. He was buried at the Spanish and Portuguese cemetery at Mile End but no tombstone was ever erected in his memory. Probably there was no money in his estate, and his only son, Abraham, was either not able or not willing to bear the cost. Some attempt can now be made to form an assessment of the personality and character of Joseph Cortissos. The various lawsuits30 in which he was embroiled for so many years indicate that, at any rate in his later years, he was a quarrelsome and litigious man. This, however, differs from the picture of him in earlier years that one derives from other sources. There is, it is true, one distinctly unflattering account of him in a book31 published in 1743 and attributed to Daniel Defoe but this shows so strong an antisemitic bias that it can probably be disregarded. All other accounts point to a person of pleasant personality with an excellent reputation or, in the words of his grandson, 'a man greatly respected by the nobility and generals'. He was clearly a gentle? man of good breeding and education, who was able to mix freely with people of rank and consequence and was well liked. It is significant that, as late as 1731, when he had lost most of his fortune, such men as Peterborough, Admiral Sir John Norris, and Sir Paul Methuen, the British Ambassador to Portugal, were prepared to come forward as witnesses to his character and capabilities.32 Peterborough, in his deposition, goes so far as to say that Cortissos 'dealt better with other people than they did with him'. This remark provides a possible clue to his mis? adventures. His main fault seems to have been that he was too easily persuaded to put faith in promises which experience should have taught him were of little worth. Perhaps he was too much of a gentleman to be a successful businessman. It is to be noted that, in the answers to the various petitions that he pre? sented to the Treasury, no question was ever raised as to the genuineness of his claims or the value of his services to the Allied Armies. Marked Personality Change However, there seems little doubt that his personality underwent a marked change after he had settled in England and this could well be attributable to the severe financial losses which he sustained both in the course of his activities as an Army Contractor and later as a result of his dealings with the Mendes family, aggravated perhaps by disappointment with his son. One can understand and sympathise with his grievances. Here was a man who had good reason to feel that he had deserved well of the British people. On at least one occasion, he had risked his own money in order to save a considerable number of their Portuguese allies from starvation, relying on promises made by the British generals which, though no doubt given in good faith, they were in no position to fulfil. Having faithfully carried out 30 Appendix I. 31 Appendix II. 32 Appendix 1(a), p. 128.</page><page sequence="17">128 Charles Rubens his duties during the whole of the campaign, he found, as soon as the war was over, that his usefulness had come to an end and he was treated with scant generosity by both the British and Portuguese Governments. Small wonder then if he ended his days an embittered and quarrelsome man. APPENDIX 1 Chancery Proceedings (a) Cortissos v. Mead In 1722 Cortissos started proceedings in the Chancery Court against Richard Mead, brother and executor of John Mead, for an account of 'several transactions in Spain and Portugal as well as in Great Britain and which began in 1705 when the Plaintiff was appointed purveyor for bread and forage for the British troops in Spain and Portugal'. The Plaintiff was rep? resented by the Solicitor General and the Defendant by the Attorney General. The Complaint mentions that in July or August 1705 Cortissos was appointed Purveyor to provide bread and forage for the British troops in Portugal and Spain and also for the other troops then in the pay and service of the Crown of Great Britain; that after the Allies had captured Madrid in 1706 he was appointed Purveyor for the train of artillery belonging to the British forces and that in 1706 John Mead was sent to Spain as Paymaster-General or Deputy Paymaster. In that year ?100,000 was owing to Cortissos from the Crown of Portugal and other large sums from the British Crown. Mead, who was on friendly terms with him, had assured him that 'he had considerable interest with honour? able persons of great power and did not doubt that he could procure a speedy payment'. Mead had also lent various sums of money to Cortissos to enable him to buy provisions. The Complaint then sets out a large number of financial transactions between the parties which had taken place in Valencia and Barcelona and claimed that there was a considerable balance due to Cortissos. In March 1725 Richard Mead launched a cross-suit against Cortissos claiming that a substantial sum was due to John Mead's estate arising out of the same or cognate trans actions, to which Cortissos filed an Answer in May 1726. In January 1731 evidence was given on behalf of Cortissos by the Earl of Peter? borough, who deposed that he had known Cortissos for 25 years, that Cortissos had provided bread and forage for the troops under his command, that he had found him very exact and honest in all his dealings, that on special occasions Cortissos had assisted the public service with his credit and money and 'the said Complainant always bore a very good character dealing better with other people than they did with him and having given every satisfaction to this deponent and all the officers, Lord Galloway [sic] desired that he should engage under him and this deponent persuaded him to do so and believes he gave as much satisfaction to the Lord Galloway as he had to this deponent. He never heard any complaint made against Joseph Cortissos.' Evidence was also given on behalf of Cortissos by Sir John Norris, who had held a command in the British Navy during the war in Spain under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. He testifies to Cortissos' excellent character and also mentions that Cortissos continued as Purveyor to the Allied forces in Spain until 1711, when the deponent gave him permission to embark on one of his ships at Barcelona for Lisbon and England. The Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Methuen, K.C.B., who had been the British Ambassador in Portugal during the war in Spain, also gave evidence that Cortissos had always behaved with great honesty and punctuality in all his dealings and bore an excellent reputation. (b) Cortissos v. Mendes At the end of 1724 Cortissos sued Anthony,</page><page sequence="18">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 129 Ludovic, James, and Alvaro Mendes, sons and executors of Dr. Fernando Mendes, who had died on 15 November 1724, 'for an account of the sum of ?40,000 which in the year 1720 the Plaintiff advanced and deposited with Fernando Mendes to be transacted in stocks whereof the said Fernando Mendes was to have half the profits bearing half the costs'. It seems that this action was abortive, a demurrer having been successfully pleaded by the Defendants owing to a technical defect in the claim. Further proceedings were therefore instituted against the same Defendants and in May 1727 an order was made which, after re? citing that 'the Plaintiff's Bill is to have an account of several transactions between the Plaintiff who is a foreigner and Fernando Mendes deceased', directed the Defendants to give discovery of all documents in their custody. In November 1728, Alvaro Mendes having died, the action was ordered to proceed against the other Defendants. The principal matters in dispute are referred to below in the Order of the Lord Chancellor but the evidence also refers to other transactions of a most diverse character, including the discounting of bills, the purchase of a jewelled dagger in Cadiz which was shipped to Salee in Morocco and there confiscated, and pur? chases and sales in Salee and Santa Cruz of cargoes of wax and copper. Reference is also made to dealings with a firm of Jewish merchants in Santa Cruz named Lealtad &amp; Company (partners David Lealtad and one Calipha). The principal witness on behalf of Cortissos was his nephew Louis Cortissos, of Katherine Street, Seething Lane, London, merchant, who was born in about 1695 and who had travelled to Spain and Portugal in connection with the transactions of his uncle and Dr. Mendes between 1718 and 1721. On 26 June 1731 the Lord Chancellor delivered judgment in these proceedings, the Defendants at that date being Anthony and Lewis Mendes, surviving sons and executors of Fernando Mendes deceased and Moses de Medina and Joseph da Costa, the executors of Alvaro Mendes. The judgment is a document of formidable prolixity even by the standards of the eight? eenth century, when Chancery Masters charged fees to suitors based on the length of the Court documents. It is, therefore, proposed to give only a summary of its contents. The Judgment recites that the Plaintiff had claimed that, being a stranger in England and being on very friendly terms with Dr. Mendes, he had, in June 1720, entrusted to him the sum of ?40,000 for dealing in public stocks, in which, as Dr. Mendes had assured him, there were opportunities of making substantial profits. The arrangement was a joint venture and the profits and losses were to be divided equally. Part of the money, ?13,840 15s. Od., was invested in ?2,000 of the first South Sea Stock at 570% premium (made up as to ?2,400 paid to the South Sea Co. and ?11,400 premium plus ?40 15s. Od. for brokerage and stamp duty). This stock was resold by Alvaro through John da Costa, a broker, to Viscount Hills borough, at a premium of ?620%, i.e., ?14,800, so that the transactions showed a profit to the partnership of about ?1,000. The sale contract had been made by Dr. Mendes in the name of Alvaro. Alvaro had also sold a further ?1,000 South Sea Stock to Hillsborough on behalf of his brother James, on this occasion at 950% premium, but Hillsborough had failed to pay and a loss of ?4,373 16s. 9d. had resulted which Alvaro claimed should be charged against the partner? ship. The Plaintiff contested this and the matter had, as the Defendants claimed, been referred to arbitration, though the Plaintiff denied this. Alvaro chose Moses de Medina to be arbitrator for Cortissos and Fernando Mendes, and Joseph da Costa, a close relative of the Mendes family, acted as arbitrator for James. The arbitrators made an award, the effect of which was that the sum of ?4,373 16s. 9d. was to be deducted from the ?14,800 received from Lord Hillsborough and paid to James to recoup him for his loss. Other transactions entered into by Dr. Mendes had resulted in losses. A further dispute arose from the fact that a well-known firm of goldsmiths, Attwell and Hammond, who had been entrusted with the</page><page sequence="19">130 Charles Rubens proceeds of sale of part of the South Sea Stock, had failed and the Defendants claimed that ?2,410 8s. Od., the amount lost as a result of the bankruptcy, was partnership money, whereas the Plaintiff claimed that the money in fact belonged to Dr. Mendes. The Defendants claimed that an account had been delivered to the Plaintiff in February 1720 containing details of the money deposited with Attwell, a contract with Lord Windsor and the Lord Hillsborough arbitration, and that the Plaintiff had approved it and had raised no objection to it until after Dr. Mendes's death on 15 November 1724. They claimed that they had sent him in January 1725 a continuation of the account and were ready to pay what was due to him on his giving them a proper discharge. They alleged that the Plaintiff knew that the moneys of the partner? ship were deposited with Attwell and Hammond and had approved of this only a few days before the latters' bankruptcy, that the Plaintiff and Dr. Mendes had both attended at the Bank? ruptcy Court dealing with Hammond's estate to prove their debt; therefore Cortissos should bear half of this loss. They said that, in the arbitration dispute, Cortissos and Dr. Mendes empowered Alvaro to submit the matter to arbitration and to appoint Moses de Medina their arbitrator and that, as the amount award? ed by the arbitrators was ?4,373 16s. 9d., Dr. Mendes had correctly debited this sum in the accounts. After these lengthy recitals the Lord Chan? cellor ordered: 4 "That the Claim to set aside the award be dismissed, that it be referred to Master Bennet, Junior [one of the Chancery Masters] to take an account of the partner? ship and that in taking the account half of the ?4,373 16s. 9d. be charged to Cortissos, the other to F. Mendes' estate, with liberty to apply for further directions." 'Finally, the Defendants having admitted that ?5,700 in their hands was due to Cortissos, they were ordered to pay this over to him.' In further proceedings in the same suit in January 1735 Cortissos obtained an order for taxation of his solicitor's bill of costs. APPENDIX II Extract from 'The Memoirs of Capt. George Carleton\ An English Officer, who served in the two last Wars against France and Spain, and was present in several engagements both in the Fleet and Army. London, 1743, pp. 76 and 77. [A work attributed to Daniel Defoe.] 'The Jews, in whatever part of the World, are a People industrious in the increasing of Mammon; and, being accustomed to the universal Methods of Gain, are always esteemed best qualified for any Undertaking, where that bears a Probability of being a Perquisite. Providing Bread and other Requisites for an Army was ever allowed to carry along with it a Profit answerable; and Spain was not the first Country where that People had engaged in such an Undertaking. Besides, on any likely Appearance of great Advantage, it is in the Nature as well as Practice of that Race strenuously to assist one another; and that with the utmost Confidence and prodigious Alacrity. One of that Number, both competent and willing enough to carry on an Undertaking of that kind, fortunately came at that Juncture to solicit the Earl of Peterboro to be employed as Proveditor to the Army and Troops which were or should be sent into Spain. Tt will easily be admitted that the Earl, under his present Exigencies, did not decline to listen. And a very considerable Sum being offered, by way of Advance, the Method com? mon in like cases was pursued, and the Sum proposed accepted; by which Means the Earl of Peterboro found himself put into the happy Capacity of proceeding upon his first concerted Project. The Name of the Jew, who signed the Contract, was Curtisos; and he and his Friends, with great Punctuality, advanced the expected sum of One Hundred</page><page sequence="20">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 131 Thousand Pounds sterling, or very near it; which was immediately ordered into the Hands of the Pay-master of the Forces. For though the Earl took Money of the Jews, it was not for his own, but public use. According to Agreement, Bills were drawn for the Value from Lisbon, upon the Lord Godolphin (then Lord Treasurer) all which were, on that occasion, punctually complied with.'</page><page sequence="21">X Q W Ph kl?I* tie-* "IB J3S o Ow a 3 O m O t- * ? ? i (2 &gt; rH ? 3s* 15 ? ?Hi r? 3 ? CM s T w P.-H . -St?" -31 ii -1* HP Ja 12' G W 00 It' r.-t U M sIS ? 5 * _( ??? 311 -sea I* s</page><page sequence="22">Joseph Cortissos and the War of the Spanish Succession 133 APPENDIX IV REFERENCES Dr. Fernando Mendes: A. M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England, pp. 34, 62, 63 (portrait), 105, 110, 111; E. R. Samuel, 'The First Fifty Years,' in Three Centuries of Anglo Jewish History, pp. 33-36. Dr. Jacob de Castro Sarmento: A. M. Hyamson, op. cit., pp. 83, 84, 88, 106-110, 167, 184-186; R. D. Barnett: 'Anglo-Jewry in the Eighteenth Century,' in Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History, pp. 55 and 57. Sir S. de Medina: Barnett, op. cit., p. 47; Samuel, op. cit., p. 38; Hyamson, op. cit., p. 103. Jewish Army Contractors: Selma Stern, The Court Jew, J.P.S.A., 1950, pp. 15-37. See also various references in footnotes. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My grateful acknowledgments are due to Mr. Edgar R. Samuel for much painstaking research into the history and background of the Cortissos family in Spain; to Dr. R. D. Barnett for numerous suggestions and correc tions; to Dr. Aubrey Newman for Spanish historical information; and lastly to the late Wilfred Samuel, who, many years ago, first interested me in the Cortissos Papers.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page