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Review of the Jewish Colonists in Barbados, 1680

Wilfred S. Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1"></page><page sequence="2">THE JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND A Review of the Jewish Colonists in Barbados in the Year 1680 By Wilfred S. Samuel. Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England. May 19, 1924. Foreword. Hitherto the Jewish Historical Society of England in the thirty odd years of its existence has not concerned itself much with the history of our Colonial Jewries. In 1898 Mr. Lucien Wolf touched very lightly on the subject in his paper, " The American Causes of the Resettlement,"1 whilst two more recent essays?on the Jews of South Africa2 and on those of India3?complete the list of the Society's contributions to this aspect of Anglo-Jewish history. Yet the subject in addition to being an extremely interesting one is not without import? ance, for it is impossible to answer adequately the momentous question, " What have her Jews done for England ? " without analysing the history of those early Jewish pioneers whose activities were a factor ?and in some instances, perhaps, a vital one?in the development of the trade, communications and civilization of the British Colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Unfortunately that history still remains to be written. 1 Transactions, iii. 76. 2 Ibid., vii. 180. 3 " Notes on Jews in India," by H. Loewe (read before the Society, Dec. 10, 1923).</page><page sequence="3">2 REVIEW OF THE JEWISH COLONISTS IN BARBADOS. I have formed the impression that our Colonial Jews rendered more pronounced services to the realm in the British West Indies than in any other part. Moreover, some knowledge of British West Indian matters seems to me to be absolutely essential for a proper understanding of the seventeenth and eighteenth century history of the London Sephardi community, since its members appear to have derived so much of their social prestige?and so much of their revenue ?from their Caribbean connections. The publications of the American Jewish Historical Society contain a very large number of scattered references to the West Indian Jewries. Mr. Frank Cundall, the late G. F. Judah, and the late N. Darnell Davis, all well-known local historians of Jamaica and Barbados, have contributed to the printed Transactions of our sister Society much useful data regarding the Jews of their respective Islands. Dr. Herbert Friedenwald, one of the Secretaries of that Society, was the first to draw attention to the importance of the West Indies to the Jewish historian. As far back as 1897 he compiled a series of extracts from the printed Calendars of British State Papers (Colonial Series), thereby setting out most of the West Indian documents relating obviously to Jews which had been catalogued by the Public Record Office for the period 1661 to 1676. Dr. Friedenwald also extracted a number of ordinances relating to the Jews from the Laws enacted on the Islands of Barbados and Jamaica during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He aug? mented this material subsequently by his contributions to the Jewish Encyclopedia. The Jewish Historical Society of England has thus every reason to be grateful to the American Society for its work in a field which has been neglected over here, in spite of the fact that, strictly speaking, it concerns British rather than American historical workers. The work which I myself have attempted to do is indicated by the title of my Paper, " A Review of the Jewish Colonists in Barbados in the Year 1680." One of the reasons that led me to select Barbados as a field for my researches is that this Island has always been British ?ever since its discovery three hundred years ago?and in this respect it differs from certain other West-Indian Jewish centres which have at varying times been subject to Portuguese, Spanish, French, Danish or Dutch rule. Moreover, the connexion between the Sahar Asamaim</page><page sequence="4">REVIEW OF THE JEWISH COLONISTS IN BARBADOS. 3 congregation in London and the Nidhe Israel congregation in Barbados has always been a close one. Although, as will be seen, the first Haham of Barbados came from Amsterdam, nevertheless London subsequently assumed a tutelary position in regard to the small distant community. It has continued this guardianship to this day, and in 1924, when, alas, there are only two male Jews on the Island?Mr. Edmund Baeza and his brother, Mr. Joshua Baeza?these two act jointly with certain Elders of the Bevis Marks Synagogue as trustees of the ancient burial ground in Swan Street, Bridgetown, and of the rebuilt Synagogue which it surrounds, and if it should please Providence entirely to extin? guish the Jewish element in Barbados, then the melancholy duty will devolve upon the London Sephardi Jews of administering the property of the defunct congregation and of caring for the graves of its founders. I have taken as a basis for my Essay the records of the 1679-80 Census of Barbados which are available at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. My task of picking out the Jews from a list of 20,000 names has been enormously facilitated by a splendid manuscript copy of the census returns compiled by Mr. Elijah Williams, and by him furnished with a full alphabetical index. This admirable piece of work (in two large volumes) has been presented by the compiler to the Guildhall Library, where it is catalogued as MS. 2202. Mr. Williams also had the kindness to introduce me to two lists of " Wills in the Registrar's Office at Barbados " which formerly were his property. One is now in the British Museum as Add. MS. 38650D., whilst the other is in the possession of Messrs. Hardy &amp; Reckitt, Record Agents, of Lincoln's Inn. I have extracted from them all apparent Jewish names. Mr. Williams did me a further service by introducing me to the publications of Dr. V. L. Oliver, the historian of Antigua and the Editor for several years of Caribbeana, a quarterly which unfortunately ceased publication in 1919, and was devoted to the genealogy and antiquities of the British West Indies. Its pages enabled me to supplement my list of the Jewish wills at Barbados, and also provided me with a good deal of information of a general character as to the conditions of life on the Island towards the close of the seventeenth century. Dr. V. L. Oliver is also the author of Monumental Inscriptions of Barbados (London, 1915) and ten pages of this important work</page><page sequence="5">4 REVIEW OF THE JEWISH COLONISTS IN BARBADOS. are devoted to " The Jewish burial-ground in Bridge Town." With praiseworthy zeal this painstaking historian has copied on the spot and printed over one hundred Jewish epitaphs (Portuguese, Spanish or English texts?the Hebrew being omitted) and he has very kindly waived all questions of copyright and has given the Society full per? mission to utilise these in the appendix to my Paper. Dr. Oliver has also presented this Society with a transcript of the monumental inscriptions copied by him in the Jewish burial ground on the Island of Nevis and not hitherto printed.4 The American Jewish Historical Society has printed two lists of the contributors to two compulsory levies imposed on the Bridge? town Jews in the year 1680. One was transcribed by the late Mr. N. Darnell Davis (" Towards ye repairing the highwayes "), and by the courtesy of the Bridgetown Cathedral authorities I have been able to inspect and to photograph the original document in London. The other list was printed in a local pamphlet of 1899 by the late Mr. E. S. Daniels, the last (honorary) Hazan (reader) of the Barbados congregation. This latter levy was " Towards defraying the Charges of this Parish," and the Secretary of our sister Society has been so good as to obtain for me a full typescript of this rare pamphlet since only a fragment of this list of taxpayers' names was reprinted in its Publications No. 26. I lay particular stress on these two lists of Jewish taxpayers because they frequently give the Jewish names of individuals as distinct from the commercial or social aliases under which these self-same people figure in the official census lists. This fact has enabled me to secure a full identification of many of our Barbadian Jewish worthies after comparison of the two last-mentioned sources with the tombstone epitaphs, endenization entries, wills, etc. Moreover, since Jewish assessors had distributed the burden of taxation a valuable guide has been obtained as to the circumstances of the various members of the Jewish community. Although imposed by the parochial 4 To Dr. Oliver the Jewish community is also indebted for having drawn attention to the neglected state of the Jewish cemetery at Charles Town, Nevis. On the initiative of the London Board of Deputies arrangements have now been made for the proper maintenance of the ground, whilst the legislative Council of the Island?realising the historical importance of this cemetery?has made a generous grant (in November, 1923) towards the cost of re-enclosing it. See also pp. 97-108.</page><page sequence="6">REVIEW OF THE JEWISH COLONISTS IN BARBADOS. 5 authorities of St. Michael's?the parish in which Bridgetown, the capital, is situated?these imposts also fell on other Jews in the Island, and some of the Speightstown Israelites (in St. Peter's Parish) also figure in the lists. The archives of the Barbados Congregation appear to have been destroyed with the Synagogue in the hurricane of 1831. Included among the Barbados census returns at the Public Record Office are the Militia Muster Rolls for 1680. I have consequently been able to provide myself with a full list of the Jews in the train-bands, arranged under the localities in which they resided, for the Barbados Militia was raised on a territorial basis. As might have been expected the Jews of importance were cavalrymen, whilst those of more moderate means " trailed a pike " and proceeded afoot. The Record Office has also yielded up a passenger list of the sailings from Barbados during the year 1679. This was published with other material by J. C. Hotten in 1878, and also reprinted in the first number of the American Jewish Historical Society's publications. Not all the Jewish names were, however, extracted. The wills of the Barbadian Jews, of which I have collected a large number?some registered in Bridgetown, others in London?have furnished a mass of information about the communal and family life of the Jews on the Island ; they have disclosed, moreover, for the first time, the complete cadre of the religious organisation?right down to the beadle.5 It will be gathered from the foregoing observations that a certain degree of completeness can be claimed for "A Review of the Jewish Colonists in Barbados in the Year 1680." At least the names are now known of most, if not all, of the Jews then on the Island, and in the cases of a great many individuals considerably more than a mere name has been secured. The story that has emerged constitutes a somewhat intricate piece of " jig-saw," and in certain instances a reasonable measure of conjecture has been thought permissible. It is evident that when one studies exhaustively the doings of a small 5 The Portuguese and Spanish texts have, incidentally, become badly " mangled " through repeated copying by West Indian clerks ignorant of these languages. They are, however, still intelligible. See pp. 53-54, 56-57, 71-81, 83, 92-93.</page><page sequence="7">6 REVIEW OF THE JEWISH COLONISTS IN BARBADOS. population in a limited area over a brief space of time?then by pro? cesses of elimination and of deduction one can legitimately arrive at conclusions that are not necessarily apparent on the surface. That this Essay will in the course of time be shewn to contain many errors is, I fear, inevitable, having regard to the fact that it is to some extent a pioneer attempt, and bearing in mind the mass of detail that has had to be handled. As it is intended primarily as a stimulus to further study by other historical students I was anxious not to delay its issue unduly?and in a work of this special type there appears to be no end to the additions and corrections which the author?and