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The Damascus Affair - 1840

Albert M. Hyamson

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Damascus Affair?18401 By Albert M. Hyamson, O.B.E., F.R.Hist.S. On the 5th February, 1840, Father Tommaso, an Italian friar of the Capuchin Order who had been resident for many years in Damascus, disappeared. His servant also was never seen again. It had been Tommaso's practice to vaccinate children? especially Jewish and Christian?and he was consequently on friendly terms with many Jewish families in Damascus. The friar and his servant were said to have been last seen in the Jewish quarter at about 11 a.m. affixing placards, announcing a forthcoming sale of goods. One of these placards, which it was suggested had been removed and reaffixed, was found near the shop of a Jewish barber. A few days earlier, Tommaso and his servant had been involved in a quarrel with some Moslem Arabs, and one of them, a muleteer, had been heard to swear that Tommaso would die at his hands. As soon as the disappearance became known, another of this group of Arabs, a merchant, committed suicide. The Latins or Roman Catholics of the Ottoman Empire were at that time under the protection of France and it fell in ordinary course to the Consul of that power in Damascus, the Count de Ratti Menton, to investigate the disappearance. Menton unfortunately had very strong anti-Jewish prejudices. He was described by the Paris Correspondent of The Times as an instigator of atrocities and arch-persecutor of the Jews, " A Legitimatist of the oldest and worst school, an adherent of the imbecile and fanatical party who by their folly brought about the revolution, and who, like his masters, has * learned nothing and forgotten nothing He is represented moreover as a person who has everywhere rendered himself obnoxious." 2 Heine, who was at the time correspondent in Paris of the Augsburger geitung, described him as " Formerly he was French consul in Sicily, but having twice been bankrupt, had to change his residence. Named consul at Tiflis, in Russia, he was recalled at the insistent demand of the Russian Government." 3 Before he had commenced any investigations he proposed to make, Ratti Menton seems to have decided that Tommaso and his servant had been murdered by Jews and that the murder had been committed for ritual purposes. Ratti Menton's first step was to have the Jewish barber arrested and tortured in order to get him to confess and, still better, to accuse some of the prominent lay and ecclesiastical Jews of Damascus. To this end he secured the assistance of a couple of Arab criminals, in one case securing his release from prison, whom he used to persuade and threaten the barber and others to give evidence in support of his charges, and of some astrologers who managed to deduce from the stars that the criminals were certain named prominent members of the Damascus Jewish com? munity. Ratti Menton in these activities seems to have had the sympathy of most of the small European community?limited almost to the Consuls?of Damascus, to a large extent like himself imbued with Levantinism. Among these there was however one prominent exception, the Consul for Austria, G. G. Merllato. Tommaso was said to have been last seen at eleven in the morning in the Jewish Quarter. A Jewish witness, however, came forward to testify that he had seen him 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 4th August, 1940. 2 The Times, 18th May, 1840, page 5. 3 H. Heine, Lutece, Paris, 1855, pp. 59, 60. 47</page><page sequence="2">48 THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O elsewhere on the afternoon of the same day and others, Moslems as well as Jews, were prepared to support his testimony. Ratti Menton could, however, tolerate nothing that went contrary to his theory regarding the disappearance. The Governor of the City, Sherif Pasha, who was also an adopted son of Mehemet Ali, the ruler of Egypt, at the time in control of Syria also, was entirely under the influence of Ratti Menton just as Mehemet Ali himself rested largely on French support. Moreover Ratti Menton and Sherif were close friends. Ratti Menton had consequently little difficulty in getting the witness who had dared to give evidence contrary to his wishes bastinadoed. The poor wretch died under the punishment. The incident is described in a report, translated from the Hebrew, by a Jewish resident sent to Constantinople and forwarded by the heads of the Jewish community there to the leading Jews of England and the Continent. " After this a Jew who was free, presented himself before the Governor, stating that the calumny that we make use of blood for our Passover cakes, had been discussed before all the Powers, who, after consulting their Divines, had decreed the inadmissibility of such a calumny, and he added that it could not be other than that Christians had killed them, or that they had clandestinely absented themselves from the country, and that the Barber, in order to save himself from persecution, had stated that which was not true. Upon this the Governor replied that as he had said that the Christians had killed them, he must know who was the murderer, and in order that he should confess he was beaten to such an extreme that he expired under the blows." Another witness whose evidence confirmed that of this victim was similarly punished. A gatekeeper of the Jewish Quarter was also bastinadoed to death. The young barber under the pressure of torture and of Ratti Menton's agent provocateur broke down and mentioned seven prominent Jewish merchants all of whom were arrested. One of them was David Harari who had sent a message by a Moslem servant to the barber shortly before Tommaso had disappeared. This servant was also arrested and bastinadoed and under torture more or less corroborated the barber's story, even going so far as to say that he had himself murdered the friar, acting under the orders of the Jews. One must mention at this point that a Moslem female slave of David Harari, despite torture and imprisonment, refused in response to both offer of bribe and threat, to inculpate her master. The seven prominent Jews, who included four members of the Harari family which is still well and honourably known in Egypt, were put to the torture. Two of them, one aged eighty, died under it and another embraced Islam and was released. The others steadfastly denied that they knew anything of the disappearance of Father Tommaso or were in any respect responsible for it. Another prominent Jew whose family is also well and honourably known in this country and in Egypt, Isaac Picciotto, was also arrested, but he was under Austrian protection. This arrest gave the Austrian Consul, who had hitherto watched the proceedings with ever increasing disgust and reprobation, an opportunity to intervene. He demanded the immediate release of his protege. This course the French Consul opposed to the utmost, but the Austrian demand could not be refused and Picciotto was thereupon released. The occasion for his arrest seems to have been a visit he paid to the barber in his prison to induce him to tell the truth as he knew it, whatever it might be, certain that even if the friar had been murdered by a Jew it was not for ritual purposes. The number of prisoners, seven, seems to have been a consequence of a mystic belief of Menton or his associates that it has some special religious virtue and therefore for a ritual</page><page sequence="3">THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O 49 murder seven participants were necessary. It was also necessary to get some " expert " evidence that Christian blood was a requisite for the Jewish ritual. For this purpose three of the rabbis of Damascus were arrested and tortured. Further efforts in the same direction took the form of the arrest of 64 schoolboys?apparently the whole of the attendants at a Talmud Torah?and their imprisonment in the hope that their parents, overcome by the sufferings of their children, would confess and supply the required evidence. Apart from the children about seventy Jews were tortured to secure confessions or evidence. Sherif Pasha was entirely in the hands of Ratti Menton and was prepared, it would seem, to do anything that he wished. At his desire soldiers were sent to demolish houses of the Jews to secure evidence of murder. Hitherto since no bodies had been found there was no evidence at all that the friar and his servant were dead. The houses were demolished but nothing to assist the case was found. At length, however, some bones, afterwards certified by anatomists to be those of animals, a piece of cloth, and an old shoe, were found in a sewer in the Jewish Quarter, and this dis? covery was considered conclusive. Ratti Menton stepped from the role of prosecutor to that of judge. Since a French protege was concerned he was entitled to do so. He quickly found the Jewish prisoners guilty not only of murder but of murder for ritual purposes. The Governor of Damascus as quickly confirmed the finding. Before the prisoners could be hanged, however, the confirmation of Mehemet Ali in Alexan? dria was required. The bones discovered in the sewer were buried with pomp in the chapel of the Capuchins and an inscription placed above them to the effect that they were the bones of Father Tommaso who had been murdered by Jews. In the meanwhile news of the charges and of their accompaniments began to reach Europe. The structure of the community of Damascus, as now, was on the basis of nationalities and in the East nationality is almost synonymous with religion. Father Tommaso was a Christian ; those accused of murdering him, Jews. The Affair at once became a matter of Christian versus Jew, even Latin or Western Christian versus Jew. The European Consuls and their entourage were a part of the Latin Christian community. One of their members was taking a leading part in the prose? cution of the Jews. It was almost natural that his colleagues should leave the matter to him and accept his conclusions whatever they might be. The British Consul, N. W. Werry or Wherry1 did so and we will see later how this action of his was appre? ciated in London. The Consul for Austria, however, Merllato or Merlato, took another line. He was not satisfied to accept without question the findings of the Consul for France. He himself examined them and the evidence on which they were based and came to very different conclusions. He found the charges based solely on perjury and confessions forced by torture. In his report to his superior officer in Alexandria, the Consul-General for Austria in Egypt, he appealed to his Government to intervene so that justice should be done and the iniquities cease. " I declare to you, Sir," he said, " that it is impossible to endure any longer the spectacle of such atrocities." Merllato did not appeal in vain. He had the sympathy and support of his Consul-General and of their Government. Metternich, the Austrian statesman and pillar of autocracy, appealed personally to the Pope but without avail. Otherwise the efforts of Merllato and the Austrian Government met with considerable success. 1 He spelled his name with or without an h indiscriminately. F</page><page sequence="4">50 THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O He was able to report on the 23rd April that the tortures to which the prisoners had been subjected had been suspended and that there was some improvement in the position of the Jews generally. At the same time the Consul-General for Austria had been energetic at Alexandria and he was able to report to his Government on the 2nd May that Mehemet Ali, the ruler of Egypt and Syria, had written to the Governor of Damascus " We have been informed that certain powerful men among the Christians attack our Hebrew subjects of Damascus, and that complaints have been vainly addressed to you. Such aggressions displease us ; they are contrary to our wishes. I command you, therefore, to prevent their recurrence." 1 He also con? templated entrusting the decision regarding the punishment of the prisoners which had been remitted to him, to the Consuls of the four Powers, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and England. In the whole sordid affair Merllato stands out as the Christian gentleman in the best sense, one who put his humanity and his human feeling, his sense of right and devotion to it above all other considerations. It is to be regretted that one cannot speak similarly of his British colleague. Wherry, who to take the most charitable view, impregnated with the inertia of the East, was willing to leave everything to his French colleague and accept without question whatever he told him. That this latter view is correct cannot be doubted when one reads Wherry's dispatches on the subject. Despite their unpleasantness one feels compelled to do so. The first was sent to Lord Ponsonby, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, on the 28th February. " The horrible assassination committed in this City on Padre Tommaso of the Capuchin Convent has been discovered, the perpetrators are seven of the most influential Jew merchants here, in the dwelling of one of whom it took place. It was attended with the most cruel and revolting circumstances. It is stated on the evidence of the Jew Barber and a servant, auxiliaries, that, after having cut the throat of the victim, the flesh was cut from the bones in pieces, the bones pounded and the whole thrown into the large common sewer of their quarter of the town, abundantly washed with the great quantity of water which flows through it : many parts have however been found ; on the same evidence it is stated that the blood was saved by the merchants, from whom they learnt that it was for the purpose of being employed in their religious feasts. No discovery has yet taken place respecting the assassination of the Padre's Servant, who disappeared with him in the Jew Quarter of the City." 2 This was followed on the 30th March by a further dispatch. "In my last despatch, I had the honor of addressing Your Lordship, I stated some particulars on the subject of the sacrifices made on the Christians, by the Jews of this City ; I now proceed to communicate to your Lordship what further information I have obtained. It has been immemorially the received opinion and belief of the Christian population throughout Turkey, and several instances have been brought to light, by the local Governments in different parts that, the Jews scattered throughout the Country, immolated clandestinely Christians, to obtain their blood, to celebrate their feasts there? with in their religious ceremonies, this fact has been proved here. The Padre Tommaso, chief of the Capuchin Convent, under the French protection and his servant, were immolated in the Houses of two of the most influential Jews of this City, at each, seven of these influential persons performed the Sacrifice, being in each four laymen and three Rabins, the blood of the victims was saved, for the above purpose and the remains muti 1 The Times, 2nd June, 1840. 2 F.O. 195/170 No. 48 of 28th February, 1840. N. W. Wherry to Viscount Ponsonby.</page><page sequence="5">THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O 51 lated and disposed of in the common Sewer of the City. Four of the actors in this horrible murder have made a full and detailed confession of all the circumstances, and the facts have been so minutely proved on the spots that they were committed and of the remains disposed of and partly found that, no doubt can exist thereof. The extracts from the Talmud, taken from the Rabin prisoners have been translated, which warrant these enormities and the Secret, which has been hitherto traditional and only imparted to the initiated, now has been revealed to the public. All the principals in the murder of the Padre, are in the hands of the local Government and two who murdered the servant, have been arrested, the remaining five have evaded. It is remarkable that, the principals in these murders, are fourteen of the most influential and wealthy Jews in this City. Too much praise cannot be given to the French Consul here the Comte de Rattimenton, for the energy and persiverance (sic) he has displayed conjointly with H.E. Sheriff Pasha in discovering this horrible transaction and it is to be hoped, as the investigation proceeds, every further necessary evidence will be obtained, independent and impartial, before falling into the Power of the local Government or of the French Consul, distinct from the evidence already produced, extracted in some cases by violent punishment and torture and in some, by witnesses turning evidence for the prosecution, so as not to leave a ray of distrust in the most sceptical mind, or of dissidence in opinion, relative to the difference between the proceedings in the Tribunals of Europe and the summary violent course practised in Turkey, either on facts of the murders, or the object for which they were committed, and that on such substantial grounds the perpetrators will be brought to condign punishment and measures taken with the Jew people to prevent a repetition of such horrible crimes/'1 Palmerston's comment on this dispatch was unequivocal, " I am sorry to find Mr. Werry entertains opinions so un-English about Torture and Justice. He has been too long in the Levant and must come home and spend a year in England from Christmas next." 2 By the 14th May, however, Wherry seemed to be developing a little doubt on the subject. In another dispatch to Lord Ponsonby of that date he reported :? " The Jew prosecution and the recently reports made thereon have been ordered by Mehemet Ali to be referred to Ibrahim Pasha 3 for decision, orders are now awaited here from Marrash(?) on this affair. Neither the detained accused nor the nation are now persecuted. The latter are generally in good spirits and following their avocations as formerly ; the Christians are somewhat depressed at the protection the Jews generally efficiently receive in this Affair. I am acting on instructions I have received from Colonel Hodges respecting the watch I keep on the course of these transactions. The Mussulman population take a decided bias in favour of the Christian cause against the Jews. Con? siderable conflict of opinion and authority on this persecution has arisen between the French and Austrian Consuls here and with the Austrian Consul General at Alexandria. The French pursuing the prosecution and the Austrian defending the accused Jews." 4 A week later he however relapsed somewhat. Writing privately to John Bidwell, Palmerston's Private Secretary, he was more frank and showed all his prejudice. " . . . The Jews are moving heaven and earth, both in Turkey, Egypt and Europe, to gain over the Governments, public authority and public opinion their side, to establish their innocence, if not of the crime, the object for which it was committed. Ingenuity of 1 F.O. 195/170, No. 49 of 30th March, 1840, and F.O. 78/410 of 23rd March, 1840, Wherry to Palmerston. 2 See F.O. 78/410, Minute on No. 4 of 23rd March, 1940. Dispatch from Consul Werry. 8 Mehemet's son and representative in Syria. 4 F.O. 195/170, No. 51, of 14th May, 1840.</page><page sequence="6">52 THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-1840 argument, every species of intrigue both of influence and pecuniary is resorted to, to arrive at that end. The Pacha here and the local authorities here, particularly the French Consul, might, to have quashed this investigation, have made immense sums of money, but fortunately the latter virtuous officer by his firmness prevented such infamous practises succeeding and most certainly as far as depended on him, induced the Government here to mitigate the violence of its proceedings, both as to the bastinadoe and torture of the Prisoners, but such is the established practise in this country, nay throughout Turkey, that his efforts were not always successful ; but it must be borne in mind that the Tribunals in Turkey are not organised as in Europe ; where are the judges, the attorney and solicitor general, the experienced Counsellors and the practiced talented attorneys, we have in England. All this is replaced, and it may be said legalized by custom, the basti? nadoe {barbarous as the system is) to extort confession?and on this confession, corrobated by facts and details, the guilt of the accused is fully established. Such was the inflamed state of the public mind when the remains of the unfortunate victim, the Padre and his servant were found, that it required the greatness firmness and prudence of the Govern? ment here and of the French Consul to restrain the Mussulman and Christians from massacring the whole of the Jew population here and they may consider themselves peculiarly fortunate in having suffered so little. But on the other hand was a consul here to remain passive and for the sake of Hebrew influence and gold, to shut his eyes to the horrible murder of a Minister of Christ. Tolerant as I am and moving in accord with the liberal and philosophic principles of the age we live in, I must confess that I conceive the conduct of the French consul here was honourable and virtuous. What is now attempted to be established ? ? to prove black white !?the innocence of the Jews and thereby blacken the reputation of an honorable public functionary and destroy his career !?by whom ? by persons whose acts of venality are notoriously before the public, to reap themselves an assumed fame and to fill their pockets, thereby completely reversing the relative positions the defendant and prosecuting functionaries stood in when the investigation commenced. But all these intrigues and base measures, whether for private pecuniary motives, or for Hebrew national and political ends cannot succeed in the face of completely established fact. Moreover the French consul has demanded, to guard his own reputation and for the better elucidation of this tragical suit that the French Govern? ment appoints a commission to examine into his conduct and the nature of the investiga? tion and suit, to come here for that special object. He courts enquiry and I feel the result will be completely honourable for him . . . we shall see how the affair will finish here, but I feel quite convinced that any impartial and conscientious person will decide on reading the Investigation that the Jews are guilty." 1 Wherry reported also on the persecution to Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Minister in London. His dispatch of the 23rd March followed generally his earlier ones to Lord Ponsonby. The reply that he received must have caused him much astonishment. The archives of the Foreign Office contain few dispatches couched in language similar to that in which Palmerston wrote to his representative at Damascus. " I have received your despatch No. 4 of the 23rd of March last; and I have to state to you, that I have read with much surprize that part of your despatch which relates to the atrocities which have been committed on the Jews in Damascus, and I have to observe that the manner in which you make mention of those Transactions, either proves you to be wholly uninformed of what passes in the city in which you are stationed, or else evinces on your part an entire want of those principles and sentiments whicn ought to distinguish a British Agent. 1 F.O. 78/410, of 22nd May, 1840. Private. Consul Werry to John Bidwell.</page><page sequence="7">THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O 53 " I have to desire that you will make accurate and minute enquiries into the circum? stances to which your despatch relates, and that you will send me a full and detailed report of everything which took place. " I inclose for your information and guidance copies of a despatch and of its inclosures which I have addressed to Colonel Hodges, instructing him to represent to Mehemet Ali the extreme disgrace which the barbarous enormities perpetrated at Damascus reflect upon his administration, the more especially as those atrocities were the deliberate act of the Pasha to whom the Government of the great city of Damascus has been entrusted. " Her Majesty's Government can entertain no doubt that Mehemet Ali will feel it due to his own character, as well as to a sense of justice, not only to make immediately the most ample reparation in his power to the unfortunate Jews who have been sufferers on this occasion, but also to dismiss and punish those officers who have so greatly abused the powers and authority which had been placed in their hands." 1 The dispatch to Colonel Hodges to which Lord Palmerston referred ran as follows :? " I have to acquaint you that a few days ago I was requested by a Deputation of the Jews residing in this Country ; to receive from them at a formal interview a communica? tion which they were anxious to make to me respecting some intelligence which they had recently received from Constantinople deeply affecting the interests of the Jewish Com? munity in the Levant. I accordingly saw this Deputation on the 30th of last month, having in the meantime received from Mr. Henriquez, their President, the letter and papers of which copies are enclosed for your information. It appeared from the communication made to me by the Deputation, as well as from these papers, that the Jews of Damascus and of Rhodes have recently been exposed to most grievous persecutions by the Authorities in those quarters. With respect to the outrages at Rhodes, I shall instruct His Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople to make a suitable communication to the Porte ; but I have to instruct you to communicate officially and in writing to Mehemet Ali, as much of the inclosed papers as relates to the transactions at Damascus. You will represent to Mehemet Ali the extreme disgrace which the Barbarous Enormities perpetuated at that place, reflect upon his Administration, and you will observe upon the astonishment which Europe will feel at finding that under the Rule of a Chief who has prided himself upon promoting civilization, upon establishing security for persons and property, and for maintaining public order, atrocities such as these should have been committed, and that these atrocities should have been not the acts of an ignorant rabble setting superior authority at defiance, but the deliberate exercise of power by the Pasha to whom the Government of the great City of Damascus has been entrusted. Her Majesty's Government can entertain no doubt that Mehemet Ali will feel it due to his own character as well as to a sense of justice, not only to make immediately the most ample reparation in his power to the unfortunate Jews who have been sufferers on this occasion, but also to dismiss and punish those officers who have so greatly abused the Powers and authority which had been placed in their hands." 2 This was followed on 30th May by a dispatch from Palmerston to Colonel Hodges at Alexandria.3 " With reference to my despatch No. 9 of the 5th of May respecting the persecutions which the Jews at Damascus have recently suffered, I have to instruct you to impress upon Mehemet Ali the injurious effect which has been produced upon public opinion in England by those transactions, and you will state to the Pasha that a deep and general feeling of 1 F.O. 195/162, No. 77 and F.O. 78/410, No. 2, of 21st May, 1840. 2 F.O. 78/403, No. 9, and F.O. 195/169, of 5th May, 1840. 3 F.O. 78/403, No. 17, of 30th May, 1840. F*</page><page sequence="8">54 THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O indignation has been excited throughout this Country by the barbarity of the treatment which the unfortunate Jews have experienced. You will urge the Pasha to make compensation to the sufferers at Damascus for the injuries which they have sustained, at the same time that he takes measures for punishing the Parties who were guilty of the outrages, and for effectually preventing the recurrence of such disgraceful proceedings. P.S. I enclose a copy of a letter 1 from Sir Thomas Baring, and a copy of a Memorial 2 from the Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, calling the attention of H.M.'s Government to the late persecutions of that people at Rhodes and at Damascus.'' This dispatch came to Wherry as a great shock. In acknowledging receipt of it 3 he expressed his grief at the opinions expressed and stated his hope almost abjectly that Palmerston would on reconsideration be " induced to reinstate me in Your Lordship's estimation and approbation, which it always has been and will be my study to merit ". And writing to Bidwell on the same day he said " I am excessively chagrined at My Lord Palmerston's dispatch to me. If we are not supported by our superiors to whom are we to look and what is to become of us ? " The Jews of Damascus, those who were not under arrest, were naturally not quiescent in these circumstances. They appealed to their coreligionists in Alexandria and Constantinople. Those in Alexandria at once appealed to Mehemet Ali and doubtless influenced him to some extent in his orders to the Governor of Damascus to protect the Jews of that city from the persecution from which they were suffering. Another incentive was undoubtedly the energetic action of Colonel Hodges, the British Consul-General in Alexandria, who invited the other European Consuls to join him in making representations to Mehemet Ali on behalf of the suffering Jews of Damascus. Those of Russia, Prussia (representing also Denmark), Spain (repre? senting also the U.S.A.), Austria, Sweden, and Tuscany, joined him at once in these representations. The Consul-General for France stood aside. The leading Jews of Constantinople, on receipt of the appeal from their brethren in Damascus, addressed the principal Jewish communities of Europe. In the meanwhile, almost simul? taneously with the Damascus Accusation, a charge of ritual murder was made against the Jews of Rhodes, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. This Affair followed to some extent the course of that of Damascus, but I do not propose to deal with it on this occasion. However, the Jews of Constantinople were as closely affected by the Rhodes Accusation as by that of Damascus and appealed for help in regard to both of them. The appeal to London was sent to Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his brothers and their kinsman, Sir Moses Montefiore, already the outstanding English Jew, in fact the best known living Jew, and through him to the Jewish Board of Deputies of which he had been and was again to be the President. The appeal of the Jews of the East reached London in April and the Affair first found publicity in the columns of The Times on the 18th ofthat month. Long extracts from letters from correspondents regarding both the Rhodes and the Damascus affairs which showed their sympathy with the threatened Jews were printed. For example the evidence against the Jewish barber was summarized as follows : " Father Thomas had caused bills to be posted in different parts of the town, announcing the 1 28th May. 2 27th May. 3 F.O. 78/410, No. 10, of 20th July, 1840.</page><page sequence="9">THE DAMASCUS AFFAIR-184O 55 sale of the effects of a European recently deceased. One of these bills, which had been posted near the shop of a Jewish barber was said to have been taken down by the barber, and afterwards posted up in a different manner from the original posting. . . . Whether the barber took offence either at the number or the colour of the wafers is not explained. It is not said that they were disposed in a cruciform order. Be this as it may, the wicked Jew is said to have replaced the bill by two wafers only, a blue and a red, one at the top, the other at the bottom. This was proof enough. Nothing could be clearer to all Damascus than that there was a conspiracy among the Jews, of which the barber was the chief agent.55 A week later (25th April) The Times printed a letter from Abraham Conorte and Aaron Cohen, prominent Jews of Constantinople, as well as similar communications regarding the affair of Rhodes. Simultaneously (21st April) in Paris Le Journal des Debats adopted a line of protest similar to that of The Times. The interest of The Times continued unabated. In its issue of the 14th May the greater part of Merllato5s report, dated 23rd March, 1840, to the Austrian Consul General at Alexa