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Notes on the Jews' Tribute to Jamaica

Joseph R. Rosenbloom

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Notes on the Jews' Tribute in Jamaica By Joseph R. Rosenbloom, Lecturer, History Department, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. SEVERAL volumes of the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society have included material concerning special taxes levied upon the Jews of Jamaica and the attempts to have these taxes lifted.1 Several documents, heretofore un? published, shed additional light on the situation in Jamaica. Before turning to this new material and a discussion of the history of the process leading to the abolition of all legal disabilties against the Jews of Jamaica, we briefly summarize that material published earlier in the P.A.J.H.S. Special imposts on the Jews of Jamaica were established as early as 1686. In 1700 the Jewish community estimated that by that time they had paid "?3450 over and above, and besides paying as the rest of the inhabitants." This, they felt, was too burdensome "to this poor nation (who not surpassing eighty persons mcluding married men, batchelors widows and the poor maintained upon charity) ..." This protest, one of many, was rejected. By 1705, it seems that the regular annual tax expected from the Jewish community was fixed at ?1000. In 1712, one-quarter of this tax was remitted upon receipt of a petition of the Jews claiming extraordinary hardships. In 1740 the Royal Council with the instructions of the King decreed that any special levy "on the Jews as Jews only" be discontinued the following year. None? theless, the Assembly of Jamaica voted to continue the ?1000 tax in 1741, but the tax ended when the Provost Marshal refused to accept the levy because of the earlier action of the Royal Council in the name of the King. When England conquered Jamaica in 1655, the Jews were already there.2 Sub? sequently, jealousy, because of the commercial success of the Jews, led the English merchants in 1671 to petition the Council of the Colony for the expulsion of the Jews. Governor Sir Thomas Lynch, in forwarding the petition to England, argued strongly against it and paid tribute to the value of the Jews in the Colony. In 1681, another attempt to expel the Jews was ignored by the Crown, although the special taxes were continued.3 In 1700, although the Jews numbered but eighty families, they bore the bulk of the taxes of the island.4 During the next several years, attempts to add to the tax burden of the Jews conti? nued, as well as petitions by the Jews for relief from what they considered to be unjust burdens.5 The following documents add to what is included in an earlier account6 and, together 1 See Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society ( = P.A.J.H.S.), No. 2, (1894), pp. 165-70; No. 5, (1897), pp. 45-57, 87-9; No. 18, (1909), pp. 149-77; No. 23, (1915), pp. 25-29; No. 28, (1922), pp. 238-9; No. 35, (1939), pp. 294-5. 2 Jacob A. P. M. Andrade, A Record of the Jews in Jamaica from the English Conquest to the Present Time (Kingston, Jamaica, 1941), p. 1. 3 Albert M. Hyamson, A History of the Jews in England (London, 1908), pp. 20If. 4 Jacob A. P. M. Andrade, op, cit., p. 9. Ibid., p. 253. 5 Frank Wesley Pitman, The Development of the British West Indies, 1700-1763 (New Haven, 1917), pp. 28-30. 6 P.A.J.H.S., No. 18 (1909), pp. 149-77. 247</page><page sequence="2">248 NOTES ON THE JEWS' TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA with that account, tend to set in further detail the drama of the struggle for Jewish rights in Jamaica. It is interesting that when all of the legal disabilities against the Jews were abolished in 1831, this island led the British Empire in this regard. This first communication properly belongs before the petition on page 157 (P.A.J.H.S., No. 18 (1909)) for it introduces the petition to the authorities to whom it was sent. Incidentally the petition as reproduced is incorrectly dated.1 At the Council Chamber Whitehall the 24th day of January 1735 By the Right Honorable the Lord of the Committee of Council for Plantation Affairs? His Majesty having been pleased by His Order in Council of the 18th of last Month to refer unto this Committee the humble Petition and Representation of several Traders to Jamaica and others in behalf of the Jews who are Inhabitants of that Island, Setting forth that several Acts have been past in the said Island, whereby Extra? ordinary Taxes are imposed and great Hardships laid upon the Jews Inhabitintg there, and humbly praying, for the several Reasons contained in the said Petition, that His Majesty will be graciously pleased to give Directions to His Governor of Jamaica not to pass any Act, whereby such Extraordinary Taxes and Hardships may for the future be laid upon the Jews residing there, but on the contrary, that the said Jews may freely and full Enjoy all the Rights, Privileges and immunitys which they are legally intitled to in common with any of His Majestys Natural Born Subjects in that Island:. . . The Lords of the Committee this Consideration and are hereby pleased to refer the same (a copy whereof is hereunto annexed) to the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations to Consider thereof, and Report to this Committee what they think proper to be done therein. W. Sharpe2 Following is a letter by William Wood3 who relates his own experiences in Jamaica and introduces a list of answers to charges against the Jews by a former resident of Jamaica, Benjamin Bravo. Jamaica Lr form W: Wood Dated Feby 18th: 1735/6 with Answers to Sevl Queries relating to the Jews and Taxes laid on them in Jamaica Read} 19th: Febfy 1735/6 I no sooner received your Letter, with the inclosed Querys sent me by Command of the Lords Commissioners, but I gave a Copy of the Queries to Mr. Bravo, who arrived from Jamaica about three Years ago, having lived in that Island between 1 Cf. Pitman, op. cit., p. 29, n. 55. The date is 24th January, 1735/6 rather than 16th March, 1738/9. It was received and read on 11th February, 1735/6 (Colonial Office, 137:22, V10). 2 Public Record Office 451, CO. 137:22, V10. The W. Sharpe who signed this letter may have been William Sharpe who was a collector of customs in Barbados in 1698 and the president and commander-in-chief of Barbados in 1714 (Pitman, op. cit., pp. 70 n. and 221). 3 William Wood, who had lived in Jamaica, sympathized with the Jews and brought their cause as well as that of the entire Island's success to the attention of the authorities (Pitman, op. cit., p. 25 n.).</page><page sequence="3">NOTES ON THE JEWS* TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA 249 ten and eleven Years without leaving it once in all that Time, ?and desired his giving me a distinct Answer to every one of them. Yesterday I received his Answer in a Letter which I send you to lay before the Lords, and, at the same Time, beg you will acquaint their Lordships, that Mr. Bravo's Answers to the Querys are, on the best Recollection I can make, and the best Information I can get, as near the true State of the Case as is possible, I believe, to be obtained either from any Person residing here or now living in Jamaica. I can truly say that, all the Time I lived in that Island, I never heard any better Reason given for taxing the Jews, than that they were Jews. This Tax was esteemed a certain and expeditious way of rasing Part of the Money at any time wanted for the public Service, over and above the Revenue settled for the Support of the Government; and I cannot call to Mind tho', the several Years at different Times I lived in the Island, the Proceedings were either imparted to me, or read by me, that any Thing ever appeared to Assemblys to warrant the Part of the Preamble in the Acts, wherein it is said, "Several of whom by indirect or underhand Dealings or Correspondence with the Spaniards, and spreading false Accounts, hinder the Sale of Goods carried thither, to the great Loss and Damage of the English Inhabitants." Nor indeed do I see how the Assembly can warrant the saying, "That the Jews, by their Religion, are exempted from many Offices and Services;" since, whoever has been at Jamaica must have observed, that the Jews are not exempted from any expensive Offices and Services, tho* from all honorable and advantageous ones. But notwithstanding any Thing said by Mr. Bravo, or Myself, or any Information can possibly be given by any other Person, these Assertions can only be proved by the Journals of Assembly now lyeing at your Office: And, if there is not any Entry in any of the Journals, which occasioned their being inserted in the Preamble of the Acts, as a Reason for this Taxation on the People called Jews, over and above all other Taxes they pay in common with the rest of the Inhabitants, then it must be submitted to their Lordships, whether it is not a partial Taxation, and a Taxation contrary to an Instruction to the Governor of Jamaica, whereby He is Directed, "To give all due Incouragement, and Invitation, to or any ways contribute to the Advantage thereof." And, conceive every Step should be taken to procure the Increase of Inhabitants in it, as well as Trade to it, rather than permitting the Continuance of such Taxes which must necessarily discourage both, and the laying the Jews under such Hardships as must necessarily discourage any of them from ingaging in any settlements, or from going to Jamaica to be imployed in Plantations. And, as I am sure their Lordships will agree with me that, at this Time, not any the least Discouragement should be given to any People, or Nation, who do not hold Principles destructive to the British Constitution and Government, from going to, and becoming fixed Inhabitants in, Jamaica, or from exercising Commerce and sending Goods and Merchandise to it, so I promise myself their Forgiveness in observing, that, at this Time, the Jews, here, are almost the only Persons that send any dry, fine Goods to Jamaica, at their own Risque and on their own Account, and the Jews, in Jamaica, [are] the only Persons almost that have any large Quantitys of all kind of Goods lying in their Houses, Warehouses or Shops, for the Supply of the Inhabitants of the Island, and for making proper Sortments of Goods for the Spaniards, when there is either a Want or Call for them. These are reasons that have induced so many Gentlemen, not Jews, to joyn, in signing the Petition with them, and in their Behalf; For should the Jews, by any Hardship, be discouraged from continuing to send such Quantitys of dry, fine Goods to Jamaica, as they have generally done for a great Number of Years past, they would, proportionably, have their Dealings with the Jews lessened, consequently be, greatly, Sufferers by it, in Particular, as well as the Nation in General.</page><page sequence="4">250 NOTES ON THE JEWS' TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA I could take up your Time, in suggesting many mor Reasons to shew, the Hard? ships that the People called Jews are under in Jamaica, and the Reasonableness of giving them Relief, in regard to the public Utility of the Things requested by them; but I shall only add, that the Acts they make mention of in their Petition are, all, in your Office, and will, on reading, shew the Truth of the Allegations; and the attested Copy of an Act of Denization, which I send you, will also shew, that they are put, in the Colonys, on the same Foot, as to the carrying on Trade and Commerce, as any of His Majesty's natural born Subjects. I am, with great Truth, Sir, Your most humble Servant Wm. Wood. Whitehall Feby 18th, 1735 I now send you an answer to the Querries you gave me, I am well assured they are Just and Recall, having liv'd in that Island near Eleven Years, as a Merchant in considerable business, and Done Duty therein; and was only Taxed, and put under, inconveniences as being a Jew; as you have liv'd in that Island, and know it as well as tis possible for me to do, I need not enlarge, and have only to add that If ye Lords of Trade desire any Satisfaction from any of our People, or myself, relating to the Petition, we shall be ready to wait upon them where ever they'll please to; I am February 17th 1735/6 Sn Yr Most humble Servt Benj. Bravo Qu 1st?Why is a particular Tax lay'd upon ye Jews in Generall's Answ?We know no Reason for it but what is listed in [illegible] and for which I never heard there was the least foundations. Qu 2?Do they pay all the Taxes that Christians do? Answ?They do pay all the same Taxes that Christians do. Qu 3?What offices do they serve? Answ?They serve all offices that are put upon them, as Constables Way Wardens etc and do duty in the Militia, Qu 4?From what offices are they Exempted Answ?All those of Power and Profitt, and are not Summoned to serve upon Jury's Qu 5?What number of Jews are there in Jamaica Answ?About Seven or Eight Hundred reckoning Men Women and Children Qu 6?How many of them have any Settlements there, Answ?There are about Fifteen Settlements producing Sugar and other Commodity's, and many Jews besides that are Owners of Lands and Houses in the Towns of Kingston, Spanish Town and Port Royall, as well as other parts of the Island.1 In spite of instructions from the Crown, the Council of the Colony persisted in levying a special tax on the Jews of Jamaica. The reasons for the tax are contained in the following document. It was accompanied by a letter from Governor Edward Trelawny who was favorable to the Jews. For reasons that are not clear, the tax was never put in effect.2 1 Public Record Office 451, CO. 137:22, VII. 2 Pitman, op. cit.&gt; pp. 29f.</page><page sequence="5">NOTES ON THE JEWS* TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA 251 Jamaica May the 10th 1739 Rt Honbl Lords of Trade and Plantations. My Lords In a Letter of the 19th of July 1738 to the Duke of Newcastle, I represented to His Grace the difficulties I should probably meet with in complying with my additional Instruction relating to the Jews, in case I should not before the meeting of the sub? sequent assembly receive His Majesty's farther orders about that affair. I therefore put off the meeting to the utmost. The assembly met on the 13th of March. The Bill to tax the Jews in the same manner as before has been passed this Sessions by the Council and Assembly; but not by me till within a day of the expiration of the former, because I remained in hopes of receiving orders concerning it. As I did not receive any, I was forced to pass it, lest by rejecting it I should have brought His Majesty's Troops into the most extreme distress, which not admitting of any Remedy might have produced disorder and even Mutiny, as has happened before upon the same occasion. This tho' to be feared and avoided at all times, at present would certainly defeat the reduction of the Rebels, which is already far advanced, if not produce greater calamities than have hitherto been felt; for the clause to tax the Jews is again inserted in the Bill for raising the additional Subsistence paid by this Country to His Majesty's Troops, which nearly equals their pay from England, and is now increased from six to eight rials a week to each private Soldier. The Council unanimously advised me to pass the Bill for the reasons hereunto annexed. I am with greatest respect My Lords Your Ldps most obedient humble Servant Edw: Trelawny. The Council's Reason for Passing a Bill relating to the Jews, notwithstanding his Additional Instruction about that affair. The Question proposed by Your Excellency is of the greatest Importance to this Board, we have before us his Majesty's Instruction to which we are bound in Duty to pay the greatest Regard, and we are at the same Time to consider, we are intrusted by his Majesty as his Council for the safety of this Country. If we adhere strictly to the Instruction (the Consequences which may attend it not being so easily foreseen at the great Distance it was given) We inevitably involve the Country in the greatest Confusion. If we depart from the Instruction we may be so unhappy as to incur His Majesty's Displeasure, we have already shew'n our Regard to the Instruction by amending the Deficiency Law, in which some Distinction was made, for the use of His Majesty's Subjects in prejudice to the Jews. The Assembly have adhered to their Bill, That Bill is lost, which was always esteem'd of great Benefit to his Majesty by raising men or money for the Defense and Security of His Colony. The Bill now before your Excy The Additional Duty Bill, is still of much greater Consequence, besides many other advantages which arise to his Majesty from this Bill. The eight Independent Companies His Majesty has been pleased to send to our assistance, and which are absolutely necessary for our protection, and which His Majesty expects should receive His additional Pay here more amply provided for in this Bill than formerly, And no other possible way in our Power to support them, This mischief need not be particularly pointed out that would attend the leaving unprovided and Companys of Soldiers, which are near equal in number to a third part of the Male Inhabitants of this Country,</page><page sequence="6">252 NOTES ON THE JEWS' TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA and that a very critical Time in respect to Our Intestine Enemies, and of such as may happen to be our Foreign ones, we have even attempted to amend this Bill pursuant to his Majesty's Instruction, but have failed in our Endeavors by the Assembly's adherence to it; and as the former Law for subsisting the Soldiers will expire in two Days we are too much straiten'd in point of Time to have recourse to any other Expe? dient, so that the Question is reduced to this Delemma, Hazard his Majesty's Displeasure by departing from His Instruction for the Good of his Colony; or adhere to the Instruction, and involve the Country into mischiefs more easily foreseen than possible to be prevented In this Question under these Considerations and Difficulties, we must venture to presume so far upon his Majesty's known Goodness, as to believe He would determin against himself, for the safety of His Colony; and therefore we do tho with the greatest Reluctancy, and with hearty Concern for the unhappy situation we are under, give our Opinion to your Excellency for the Passing this Bill.1 In order to give some idea of the actual amounts involved in the special taxation of the Jews of Jamaica in addition to regular taxation, the following table is cited verbatim for the years 1725-1735: Account of the money Raised in the Island of Jamaica by Taxes and Dutys payable by the Inhabitants thereof between the 1725 and 28th March 1735 being 10 years. ? s d ? s d 8579/4/1li 8423/15/J 750/ // ? 15,064/6/9i 1725 Deficiency Tax A Tax on the Jews 1726 Deficiency Tax 1727 A Tax on the Jews 1728 Deficiency Tax A poll Tax on Negroes and Cattle A Tax on the Jews 1729 Deficiency Tax A Tax on the Jews A Tax of 12d in the pound on the Rents of houses in Spanish Town and Kingston 1730 Deficiency Tax A poll Tax on Negroes and Cattle A Tax on Jews A Tax on the publick Offices 1731 Deficiency Tax A poll Tax on Negroes and Catde A Tax on the Jews A Tax on the publick Offices 7829/4/1li 750/ / 9718/18/7J 4595/8/2 750/ / / 10126/19/llf 1000/ / / 1422/18/6 8455/7/li 5629/1/1 1300/ / 72/10/ 6012/8/10J 7371/10/6 1000/ / / 72/10/ 12,549/18/5f ? 15,456/18/2f ? 14,456/9/4J 1 Public Record Office 451, CO. 137: 23, W10.</page><page sequence="7">NOTES ON THE JEWS' TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA 253 ? s d ? S d 1732 Deficiency Tax 4624/5/74 A Tax on the Jews1 500/ / - 5,124/5/7* 1733 Deficiency Tax 4124/11/1 A poll Tax on Negroes and Cattle 4124/2/5 A Tax on the Jews2 1000/ / / A Tax on the publick Offices 135/ / / A Duty of 10/phead on Negroes purchased in this Island pd. by y. purchaser, on 2465 Negroes 1232/10/ ? 10,613/3/6i 1734 Deficiency Tax 3300/7/3J A poll Tax on Negroes and Cattle 11759/6/44 Tax on Jews 750/ / / A Tax on the publick Offices 135/ / / A Tax on Negroe Tradesmen etc hired out 716 ?91,108/2 Carried Forward 16,660/13/7i Account of the Money Raised in the Island of Jamaica by taxes and dutys payable by the Inhabitants thereof between the- 1725 and 28th March 1735 being 10 Years Brought Forward 16,660/13/7| 91,108/2/ / 1734 A Tax on the trading Inhabitants of St. Catherines and Kingston 500/ / / A Duty on Negroes purchased in this Island paid by the Purchaser 2246 at 10/phead 3069 at 20/phead 4,192/ / / A Duty of 74d pGalonon Rume Retailed in this Island pd by the Retailer 86,589 galons 2,705/17/9| -24,058/11/54 Total Raised in 10 Years 115,076/13/54 NB In the years 1730, 1731 and 1732 there was a Duty of 12d p-Shipping for the Repaires of the Wall at Port Royall 1730 Amounted to 968/10 1731 Amounted to 1,175/14 1732 Amounted to 1,390/11 - 3,534/15 From September 1st, 1734 to March 28th following there was an addito. Duty of 20/ppipe on Madeira wine Imported paya. by the Importer Which Amounted to 519/19 James Barelay Dy. Rev. Genl.3 It becomes apparent from these documents, that there was concerted and continual hostility toward the Jews of Jamaica. Their Christian neighbors were jealous of their prosperity and sought to penalize them even to their own and the colony's hurt. The Jews were open to abuse characterized by the following: "(These Jamaican Jews were) 1 P.A.J.H.S., No. 18 (1909), p. 156. 2 Ibid. 3 Public Record Office 451, CO. 137:22, VII.</page><page sequence="8">254 NOTES ON THE JEWS' TRIBUTE IN JAMAICA the worst Set of Rogues that I ever knew ... a Set of meer low-life Theives . . . they encourage (slaves) to commit Thefts and Roberies, and are the common receivers of all Stolen Goods."1 On the other hand, the Jews were joined by many of the Christian merchants of Jamaica as well as the governors in at least two instances, all of whom realized from an economic point of view, that such disabilities which would drive the Jews away, would in the long run be detrimental to the interests of all. 1 Pitman3 op. cit.5 p. 30 n.</page></plain_text>