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The Mahamad as an arbitration court

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 41, 2007 The Mahamad as an Arbitration Court EDGAR SAMUEL London's eighteenth-century Portuguese Jewish community numbered about two thousand souls living near their synagogue in Bevis Marks, in Aldgate Ward in the City of London, and was ruled by the four Parnassim (wardens) and a Gabai (treasurer) who made up its executive committee, the Mahamad. It was accepted that the Congregation supported the poor families of the community, who received regular allowances from the Sedaca fund and free matsot at Passover. The Gentlemen of the Mahamad presided over the synagogue services, managed the Congregation's business affairs and also acted as the community's magistrates. The Ascamot (bye-laws) of the Congregation were taken very seriously. The London community aptly fits Professor Bernadete's description of a Sephardi community as an ascamatocracy.1 The Ascamot prohibited its members from suing each other in the secular courts without the prior permission of the Mahamad. There were good reasons for this. It was in everyone's interest that disputes between traders be settled quickly and cheaply. If a man were arrested and imprisoned for debt, getting him released from prison was expensive and in the meantime the Congregation had to support his family. As successful merchants the Gentlemen of the Mahamad were well qualified to understand and arbitrate in commercial disputes and saw no reason to delegate this function to their rabbis, who had far less experience in such matters. They heard each party to disputes between members of the community and judged them, but they had very limited power to enforce their decisions. The busy men who served on the Mahamad had to give much time to trying to resolve these disputes. They showed great patience in doing so, but this extra burden may have been one reason why it became more difficult to fill vacancies among the Parnassim. Ascama 25 in the Libro de losAcuerdos of 1662 reads as follows in Lionel Barnett's translation from the Spanish: Any person of the Yehidim [members] of this Kahal [congregation], who may have matters of dispute with his fellow on an affair of business, such as letters * Paper presented to the Society on 14 July 2005. 1 M. J. Bernardete, Hispanic Culture and Character of the Sephardic Jews (New York 1933) 127. 9</page><page sequence="2">Edgar Samuel of exchange and detention of goods, wherein delay may be harmful to him, shall be bound to have him summoned by the Samas [or 'Shamash', verger] before the Mahamad, into whose presence they shall both have to come and appear; and the said Mahamad shall urge them to take arbitrators before whom they may lay their case and give their reasons, in order that on hearing them they may do all in their power to bring them to an agreement and concord in eight days; and if the parties should not assent to arbitrators being given them or, if they have them, they should not be able to bring them to agreement, they shall be free to seek and defend their rights before whom they may please; and if it happen that, without this effort preceding, any one summon his fellow, action shall be taken as may seem fit.2 This meant that, in the first instance, such cases had to be tried by the Gentlemen of the Mahamad. At first their decisions were entered in the Mahamad minute book, but as the number of these cases increased, the reports of them were entered in a separate register called the Livro de Pleitos (Book of Law Suits). There are five of these covering the period from 1721 to 1809.3 They throw much light on social conditions within the Portuguese Jewish community. The original purpose of the Ascama was to resolve business disputes between traders. For example, in 1693 Manuel Levy Duarte and Pedro Henriques Lafereira were appointed as judge arbi? trators to settle a dispute between Francisco de Casseres and Francisco de Cordova.4 However, cases of this kind were infreqent during the eighteenth century. In the 1720s, the Secretary only recorded cases when he felt that a record of the decision reached might be needed for future reference, and averaged four cases a year. Cases deferred for a second hearing are not mentioned at all, but in the 1780s these bulk very large. It was possible to recover debts of under two pounds in the City of London's Court of Conscience or Court of Requests, but this entailed some costs. The Mahamad's court, which was free, became increasingly popular among the Sephardi poor. The great majority of cases concerned small debts between very poor people and the most dramatic concerned personal and matrimonial quarrels. In this respect, their Court was useful as a safety valve for the release of personal tensions. They heard each party to disputes between members of the community and judged them, but they had strictly limited power to enforce their decisions. It was, of course, desirable to avoid public scandals. Yet when Jacob 2 L. D. Barnett, El Libro de losAcuerdos (Oxford 1931) 9-10. 3 Archives of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London (hereafter S&amp;P Archives), MSS ff 40-4. 4 See E. Samuel, At the End of the Earth (London 2004) 233-4, Appendix 4. 10</page><page sequence="3">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Plate i. The title page of Jacob Mendes da Costa's account of his unsuccessful lawsuit against Catherine da Costa Villareal for breach of promise of marriage. Mendes da Costa scandalously sued his cousin, Catherine da Costa Villa Real, for breach of promise of marriage in the Archbishop of Canterbury's Court of Arches in 1732,5 the Livro de Pleitos contains no mention of it at all. This case probably caused the Elders to have the rules tightened. In 1733 the Ascamot were revised and Ascama 16 then read as follows, in translation from the Portuguese: Any person of our Nation who has doubts and dissensions with his fellow (such as bills of exchange or detention of goods in which delay may be to his prejudice) will be obliged in the first place to send to cite him to come before 5 The Proceedings at Large in the Arches Court of Canterbury between Mr. Jacob Mendes Da Costa and Mrs Catherine Da Costa Villa Real both of the Jewish Religion, and Cousins Germans, relating to a Marriage Contract (London 1734). II</page><page sequence="4">Edgar Samuel the Mahamad before whom they shall both appear and the Mahamad will use all diligent persuasion to resolve them or to persuade them to take judge arbi? trators before whom they will present their cases and give them their reasons in order that the same will resolve them, and in case it will not be possible to reduce them to this, they shall be free to be able to procure and to defend their right before whom they wish. Should one, without first following this proce? dure, cite his fellow before the court of the land, as it appears to the Gentlemen of the Mahamad, they will try by all ways and means possible to settle the controversies, which might cause scandal and profanation of the Name of God and no Parnas may give permission to any person, without call? ing him before the Mahamad; and if a Parnas should do the contrary he should pay the penalty, which the majority of the Mahamad find appropriate, and if any person should be convicted with positive proof that there was sent to arrest a person, in the above district, he will be condemned to that which the Mahamad finds appropriate.6 By the 1770s the political position of the Jewish community had become much more secure. The Mahamad was then ready to allow litigants to take their disputes to the secular courts and there was greater confidence in their objectivity. However, they did not favour arrests being made for debt with? out their prior consent. The membership of the Mahamad changed every year, but the Chancellor or Secretary of the Congregation, who acted as Clerk of the Court, provided an element of continuity by advising the Mahamad on usual practice. For most of the period he was Eliau Lopes Pereira, a younger son of Diego or Moseh Lopes Pereira, first Baron d'Aguilar. Another important official was the Shamash (verger), Ishac de Saa Silveira, who was responsible for determining the timing of hearings and for paying the Sedaca to the poor families in the community. The cases which came before the Mahamad fell into the following cate? gories: 1. Disputes between traders 2. Debts of the poor 3. Personal insults 4. Assaults 5. Domestic disputes 6. Disciplinary cases 7. The care of the aged 6 S&amp;P Archives, MS f. 9. 12</page><page sequence="5">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Plate 2 David Alves Rabello, Gabay in 5534 [1773-4]. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. Plate 3 Ephraim Lopes Pereira, 2nd Baron D'Aguilar, Parnas in 5525 [1765-6] and 5530 [1770-1]. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. 1 Disputes between traders Disputes between substantial merchants seldom came before the Mahamad, but the liquidity crisis of 1782 led to two such cases. Ephraim Lopes Pereira, second Baron D'Aguilar, acting as procurator for Abraham Carvalho and Company of Leghorn, who were manufacturers and exporters of coral beads, on which London's rough diamond trade depended,7 summoned Abraham Haim Franco, a leading diamond importer before the Mahamad for an unpaid debt of ?213 18s 3d, which the Mahamad awarded to them and which Franco then paid. Aguilar also summoned Joseph Salvador, but all parties agreed that the case was unsuit? able to be arbitrated by the Mahamad and Aguilar was given permission to sue Salvador in the secular courts. 7 I am grateful to Professor Francisca Trivellato of Yale University for this information. 13</page><page sequence="6">Edgar Samuel Plate 4 Jacob Rey alias John King, moneylender. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. Jacob Rey, who as John King was a notorious money-lender commonly known as 'Jew King', featured in a case reported in English in 1777: Isaac Shannon Called Jacob de Moseh Rey that by his Recommendation he, Shannon had Advanced at Diff times to one Robinson Money to the Amount of upwds of ?900 &amp; that he was to have Household Furniture &amp; a Landed Estate for Security but has not had any Satisfaction &amp; that Since Rey had Promised him ?50 out of his own Pockett in part of his great loss - Rey Acknowledges he did once promise him the ?50 but on Condition he should write him a Letter Recanting the Gross Aspersions he had thrown out against his Character wch Letter Shannon refused to write - Rey also offered him the said ?50 - directly if he would write the Letter but Shannon would not. 14</page><page sequence="7">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Most cases before the Mahamad were on a small scale. The following are translated from the Portuguese: On 23 Sivan 5481 [1721] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad agreed a case between David Lopes Oliveira and Abraham Nabarro and ordered David Lopes Pereira to pay Abraham Nabarro forty shillings in settlement of all accounts. On 13 Kislev 5485 [1725] they agreed with Bendelack that he must pay thirty shillings to Jacob Bemancho. On 26 Tishri 5483 [1722] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad agreed that Moseh Lopes Cordova should give Yehiel Sarfaty one guinea in settlement of all proceedings. 11 Tebet 5482 [1771]. They agreed that Ishac de Mattos must pay fifty one shillings to Moseh Lopes Cardozo and the said de Mattos can keep the vanilla. 12 Tebet 5536 [1775] Baruh Sultan &amp; David Zamiro against Joseph Misrahy, concerning 33 ounces of musk sold by Misrahy. Decided that Misrahy should take an oath on the Torah before the Haham [Chief Rabbi]. He was unwilling to do this so they were given permission to sue him in the secular courts. 25 Av [28 August 1777; text in English] Masaot Benjamin called Jacob Cohen that he arrested him without our Leave. The Debt arose from Rhubarb bought by Cohen and sold to Benjamin. Lay de a fine of 2/6 on Cohen for not having had our Leave &amp; gave him Leave to go on as believe it is a just Debt. When the Gibraltar community was evacuated to London in 1783, during the Great Siege, they frequently tried to persuade the Mahamad to act as arbitrators of ancient trading disputes in Gibraltar. The supporting evidence was usually incomplete and the Mahamad generally gave them leave to sue in the secular courts. Peddling was a common occupation among the industrious Sephardi poor, and of course a pedlar's stock had to be light in weight and high in value: '28 Iyar 5544 [19 April 1784] Joseph Habilho summoned Isr[ae]l Barda for six shillings, which he owes for five pairs of slippers.' The prob? lem was that Israel Barda had not succeeded in selling any of the slippers and therefore did not have six shillings to pay for them. 'Decided that Barda should return the five pairs of slippers and Habilho should return his tephillim [sic] and two prayer books.' 15</page><page sequence="8">Edgar Samuel Plate 5 A Moroccan Jewish , i' rhubarb seller. Such people used I to dress as Turks to stress the V Turkish origin of the remedy v they were selling - rather like the French'onion men'of later times. ' : Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. Plate 6 A Moroccan Jewish rhubarb seller. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London.</page><page sequence="9">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Plate 7 Jacob Kimhi, slipper seller and scholar. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. Plate 8 A Moroccan Jewish slipper seller. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, London. 17</page><page sequence="10">Edgar Samuel Joseph Habilho called R[aphae]l Habilho for preventing him from earning his living by offering his wares below their cost, however as he has been before two judges of the Country they would refer to the same expense. NB Afterwards they sent for Joseph Habilho in order to prevent him from going to the Law of the Land. 2 Debts of the poor Most cases were actions by humble people to recover very small amounts from debtors who were short of funds. The following is a selection from a large number of cases: 24 Nisan 5485 [1725] Menasseh Mendes confessed that he owes Abraham Nunes two shillings and that he will pay him sixpence a week until this is paid. 1 Adar 5485 [1725] Moseh Roiz de Le?o promised to pay ?3 to Isaac Lopes the younger on 10th April giving it as security to Joseph Gomes Correa. On the same day Abraham de Castro Orobio promised to give Ishac Soares five shillings on the day of Purim to redeem a waistecoat [camisole] from pawn and five shillings in cash for a shirt, a cravat and a curtain [cortine] that he needed. Preparing mat sot A major event in the year was the annual preparation of matsot for free distribution to the congregation's poor. This provided employment for ten women and gave rise to some interesting disputes: '28 Ve-Adar 5501 [1741] The Gentlemen of the Mahamad ordered that Abraham Lopes de Oliveira should pay seven shillings and sixpence to the wife of Moseh A-Cohen or employ her to work on matsot for three weeks at eight pence a day.'8 This implies that Abraham Lopes de Oliveira would not have sufficient cash in hand to pay his just debt, until he received payments on his matsah-baking contract and that the normal rate of pay for preparing matsot was three? pence a day. An extra five pence a day for three weeks would clear his debt to her. Another later case showed that, whereas those kneeding the matsah flour earned threepence a day, an unskilled widow was paid tuppence a day for pricking them. Abraham Lopes de Oliveira was of course a silversmith and engraver of merit, but his wife's family, the Moreiras, were pastry cooks, which connec? tion enabled him to take on these baking contracts. 8 Ibid. i8</page><page sequence="11">The Mahamad as an arbitration court 28 Adar 5544 [21 March 1784] Simha de Is(hac) Henriques Cardozo summoned the wife of Eliau Henriques claiming that she should have paid more for her day's work for working over? time on mafot. Decided that Simha H(enrique)s Cardozo &amp; others should not be paid any more for her day's work because the rate is always reckoned the same, that a sack and a half of flour is the work that eight women should do each day for the magot of the Sedaca, whether they finish early or late. Most of the many cases were actions by humble people to recover tiny amounts from debtors who were short of funds. Here is a selection: 5 Tevet 5514 [1753] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad ordered that Jacob da Costa de Franca should pay ten shillings in cash within eight days to Napthaly Baruh and three shillings a month until the sum of forty one shillings shall be completed, failing which, he shall have liberty to take to the law of the land.9 25 Elul 5538 [17 September 1778] Daniel Hs Valentine called Ribca Rods Da Costa complaining that his daughter took a shirt etc. to the said lady's school to work it and that she did not want to deliver the said shirt etc. to her, not being his but I. Luria's. Da Costa confessed that she retained it for the reason that Valentine owed her i7/6d. for a long time for teaching his child. It was decided that Valentine should pay the said i7/6d. or else give security for 2/ a month and in that case the said shirt etc. should be returned. At first sight it seems strange that coal merchants, butchers, confectioners and other retailers should have given credit to poor families instead of insisting on payment in cash. However, they knew that if any failed to pay their bills they could always be brought before the Mahamad, which could order their debt to be repaid by the Shamash in instalments out of their Sedaca. The same was true of the Congregation's officials, such as the teachers of the Talmud Torah, whose salaries could be attached in the same way. 25 Tebet 5539 [13 January 1779] Benjamin Habilho da Fonseca called Moseh N[une]s Martines for 8/6d which it was decided should be paid him by the Shamash at 3/- a quarter out of his quarterly allowance. The same called David Zamiro for ?j. It was decided that he should receive 5/- a month from De Saa out of his Sedaca. The same called the Widow of Jacob H[enriques]s Julian for 11/ iod. It was decided that Is[hac] De Saa should pay him 1 /- a month from her Sedaca. 9 Ibid. 19</page><page sequence="12">Edgar Samuel On 27 Kislev 5536 [1776] Jacob Rodrigues Moreira called Rephael Cardozo de Paz for a debt of ?2 2s od. To be paid by Cardozo out of his Sedaca at the rate of 2/6d a month. On 5 August 1793 Sel[omoh] Mendoza called Aron de D[aniel] Mendoza for 16/- that he owed him. Ordered that he should pay i/6d. a quarter from what he receives from the Sedaca. 29 June 1779 [text in English] Wife of Jos. de Saul Cohen Calls Is[hac] Nunes Martines for arresting her Husband without leave of the Mahamad. Upon great Submission &amp; asking Pardon the Mahamad forgive him on his sending a Discharge for her Husband. Agreed Cohen owing the said Martines ?2:7:10 for Cakes &amp;c to pay him 1/- per Week &amp; likewise to pay the Cakes from the said Martines. The poorer families appear again and again before the Mahamad, notably the Garcias, Mendozas, Nunes Martines and Henriques Valentines. They were always running into debt and squabbling with each other and on occa? sion the Mahamad would order their debts to be settled by deduction of instalments from the Sedaca. It is striking that their complaints were listened to with patience and sympathy and judged fairly. It is also notice? able that the descendants of these families are still members of the Congregation, which is more than can be said of the descendants of most of the eighteenth-century Parnassim. 'On 28 Tammuz 5481 [12 July 1721] Isaac de Saa [the Shamash] summoned a Mrs Sarah de Leon for a debt of five guineas. She was required to deposit this sum, while the case was heard. He said that he had lent her four guineas at one time and one at another.' Where such a close colleague was involved we cannot be so sure of the Mahamad's detachment and objectivity. They would have done better to appoint independent arbi? trators. The parties consented that the Gentlemen of the Mahamad should decide the way of settling it, with the condition that within six weeks, Mr Saa will bring proofs from Mary Davis and Elizabeth Sparks or whichever of the two he wishes, of whose declaration that they will make in the Mahamad that the statement that money was delivered in three letters to the said Saa and in one to his wife on behalf of Mrs Leon is a falsity and an inducement on her part. In that case using this verbal declaration or one sworn before a Justice of the Peace; the agreement will stand void and the money that was deposited will be returned to Mr Saa. 20</page><page sequence="13">The Mahamad as an arbitration court On 18 Tebet 5482 [1721] they settled a suit between Benjamin Vitta (Aron Peres for them) and Isaac de Saa and the said Vitta promised to go and pay a note completely and as soon as possible. They will bring the shares and not speak more of that case nor will Aron Peres be further involved with any of these matters. On 20 Shebat they settled that David Belisario should pay ?6 4s od he owed to Abraham Lopes, namely ?3 in cash and thirty two shillings in one month and thirty two shillings in the second month and that the said Baltazar should pay Belisario the six shillings and sixpence which his arrest cost him. On 24 Veadar 5483 [1723] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad settled that David Belisario should pay Abraham Baltazar sixteen shillings in fifteen days from today and sixteen shillings in one month. In 1785 an Ashkenazi trader tried to use the facilities of the Mahamad to collect an old debt, but without success. This was reported in English as follows: Mr Moses Embroiderer at ye other End of Town calld Ja. Silva Porto for a Debt of ?9 odd on ace* of a Suit of Clothes Embroidered ab12 years agone for Mr H. Mendes da Costa. After hearing him &amp; the said Porto having been Chastised on a former Meetg 3/- a Month from his Sedaca the said Moses being a Tudesco [Ashkenazi], he was acquainted that if he wishd any Relief, he must by the Law of the Country seek redress. In 1789 Benjamin Alvarenga Franco called H. Sanguinetti, who did not appear but gave an excuse which did not seem satisfactory to the Mahamad. 'Ordered that her Sedaca be suspended for the present and that she be sent a fresh summons to the Mahamad'. One week later 'Benjamin Alvarenga Franco summoned Hannah Sanguinetti for having put an embargo on his furniture without the permission of the Mahamad. She justified herself saying that the said Alvarenga removed the furniture without having paid the rent of the house, as was ordered by the Mahamad on 28th Sivan. Alvarenga asked permission to go to the Law of the Land, which was refused.' 3 Personal Insults On 4 Nisan 5485 [1725] Abraham Lopes Cardozo having had a dispute with his son-in-law, Abraham Alvares Nunes confessed that he said in anger that the wife of the same was not his daughter. However the Gentlemen of the Mahamad reconciled them and Abraham Lopes Cardozo and his wife declared, in blessing them, that Abraham Alvares Nunes' wife is their 21</page><page sequence="14">Edgar Samuel legitimate daughter and that if they said otherwise they withdraw it and Abraham Alvares Nunes and his wife asked pardon of her parents promising in future that they will show all due respect towards them.10 In 1773 (text in English) 'Asser Israel called Abm Mendoza that he had given him very abusive and bad Language without Provocation. Recommend him to avoid such Behaviour in future.' 27 Hesvan 5545 [11 November 1784] Judith Romano called Sarah de Jos[eph] de Mos[es] Nunes Martines for having punched her. The said Martines alleged that this was true but after the said Romano had spat in her house and for having said that she was the cause of her son being transported. Recommended that they do not mistreat each other. 26] Iyar 5546 [24 May 1786] Miryam Lerasss called Jacob Palache for the second time complaining that he had taken away her character, saying that she killed the children that went to her school. The said Jacob Palache confessed what was said, that it was with? out ill intention and reflecting on what he had done, he asked her pardon, with which she was satisfied. 20] Elul 5546 [13 August 1786] Moseh de Asser Israel called the widow of Abm de Is. Bernal complaining that she had caused much discord between himself and his wife, having insinuated that he had a criminal connection with her neighbour, a married woman. She denied this. Recommended that they settle it. Whereas insults in English were often disregarded, November 1788 saw a case where the Mahamad acted quite fiercely in response to an insult in Portuguese: 26 Hesvan 5549 [26 November 1788] Mordy Mendes and Is Hens Cardozo with his wife. The wife of the latter complained that Mordy Mendes called her maflditja mulher [accursed woman]. He accused Cardozo of having given him some blows. This was referred to the next Mahamad so that both should bring their witnesses. 1 Kislev 5549 [30 November 1788] Returned to hear the complaints referred to in the last Mahamad between Mordy Mendes and the wife of Is Hens Cardozo and having heard the evidence of Aron de Ab. Mendoza, Solomon Mordecai and the same of Abraham Mendoza, the last being brought by Mordy Mendes in his favour, who agreed that Mendes had used the words of which he was accused. 10 S&amp;P Archives, MS f. 40. 22</page><page sequence="15">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Resolved that he should sign a copy of the following and it should be put in the synagogue courtyard for three years: 'By order of the Gentlemen of the Mahamad: I Mordy Mendes ask pardon of Is Hens Cardozo and his wife for having scandalized them and declare that the accusation which I made against them was unjust and made in anger.' 28 Sivan 5549 [22 June 1789] The wife of Moses Hassan summoned David Alvares for having called her husband a thief and for insulting her. At the Mahamad's recommendation, they made peace. 27 Sivan 5552 [17 June 1792] Miryam de Ja. Mendoza summoned Jacob Levy for having insulted and maltreated her. He asked her pardon and it was settled. 4 Assaults Assaults form the next dramatic group of cases. They start in 1773 with a fight between butchers outside a kosher butcher's shop, described in English: Isaac de Daniel Rodrigues called Israel Abendahan that last Wednesday being with Mr Ben Lindo in Inage [sic] Lane that Abendahan &amp; his People wanted to get Lindo into his Shopp which occasioned a scuffle in which he rec[eived]d a Violent Blow on his neck don't Know who gave it. Mrs Hannah Hart saw Mr Israel Abendahan gave the Blow with a Stick. Mr Moses Belforte saw Mr Israel Abendahan also gave the Blow. Judah Mendoza also saw Mr Israel Abendahans Hand up a Stick. When Rodrigues called out he was Struck, John Lacey saw the Confusion but cannot tell who have it but don't think it was Abendahan Moses de Castrre saw no blow given. James Oseland says the blow he thinks was given on the Stairs &amp; not by Abendahan. John Brown saw several Striking but cannot tell who they were that gave them. H[enr]y Samuel was present don't think Abendahan had any stick in his hand. H[enr]y Marks was present when it happened saw no Stick in Abendahan's Hand. Israel Cohen was there from first to last of ye Quarrel never saw Stick in Abendahan's Hand. 23</page><page sequence="16">Edgar Samuel Mrs Hart being Asked where about in the Lane the blow was given says it was between the Two Cellars. Belforte being also Asked, says the blow was given between the Cellar and Abendahan's House. With this conflict of evidence the Mahamad could not reach a verdict. Recommended it to them to make it up together between this and the Next Mahamad. 26 Iyar 5546 [24 May 1786] Jacob de Joseph Palache summoned Joseph Uzilly complaining that he mistreated him with words, punched him and broke a sword, which he had in his hand. Referred for another Mahamad. June 1786 Jacob de Joseph Palache summoned Joseph Uzilly and after hearing the parties they made peace with each other. The reason why Palache drew his sword is not explained. He was awarded no compensation for its breakage. 7 Kislev 5546 [1775] Isaac Gomes da Costa summoned Jacob de Moseh Alvares Pereira for having broken some windows in his house, which cost 4/6d to repair. The said Alvares Pereira confessed to having broken two or three panes. However it was caused by his sons picking on him on various occasions and when he complained to their parents this had not been stopped and he had been provoked to this. It was decided that Jacob Alvares Pereira should pay 2/6d in satisfaction and at the same time Da Costa was advised to put a stop to the behaviour of his sons so that they will not molest this gentleman. 5 Domestic Disputes The fifth group of cases to come before the Mahamad were domestic disputes. The Mahamad often had to try to resolve a family quarrel, which they had no power to do beyond persuasion. In November 1772, they spent much time trying to settle a dispute between Bienvenida Mendoza, the sister of the boxer Daniel Mendoza, and her husband: David Genese summoned his wife, Benvenida Genese, whom he married a matter of nine weeks ago and his father-in-law, Abraham Mendoza. He complained that his wife did not want to help or to live in his house as a wife ought to do and at the same time always mistreated him. Also she had 24</page><page sequence="17">The Mahamad as an arbitration court changed the furniture in his house and threatened to stab him and various other similar complaints and, as such, it was impossible to live with such a wife. The father of Genese confirmed everything that his son said. Benvenida Genese in reply complained that her husband's conduct had been so indecent and that is the reason that she had left two or three times for her father's house. She always did so discreetly so as not to cause gossip nor concerning her said husband and that her husband had treated her very badly in everything and above all about the change of furniture etc. Her husband well knew it and that they had been before the Senhor Haham. The Gentlemen of the Mahamad, seeing that the parties were desirous that the Senhor Haham should be present decided to call him. He told us that they had been with him with the same account as above. He had taken much time and trouble to persuade them to make peace and to go together in their house, recommending them to live together like a loving husband and wife. However all this was in vain for they and their parents were so envenomed against each other that it made it worse and especially so in the case of Genese. The Gentlemen of the Mahamad resolved to send the parents out of the room for the present and then we with the Senhor Haham recommended and persuaded the parties to go together to their house and to live as husband and wife and that both ought to forget the past. They could rest assured that we would never give permission to the Haham to issue a Guet [divorce docu? ment]. In the end she was ready to go and live with her husband but he would not agree and thus after mature discussion of the matter with them we sent them to confer with their parents and to consider the consequences that would follow. They returned and in the end decided to take the good advice that the Gentlemen of the Mahamad together with the Senhor Haham had given and it was settled. However, matters did not end there. Nine days later on 23 November 1772, according to the English text: Abraham Mendoza called Isaac Genese on a Dispute they have in regard to how ?7:7:0 was laid out when there [sic] Daughter &amp; Son married, which money was paid by Is. Lopes [who was Bienvenida's maternal grandfather]. By the agreement it does not appear that Genese was oblidged to give Acct how the Money was laid out, notwithstandg Jenese produced Acct. of upwards of ?8 laid out Directed the agreem* made by Mendoza of how he was to pay Lopes said ?7:7:- should stand good. David Genese called his Father in Law Abrm Mendoza complain :g the Latter Kept a Pewter Dish of his worth 2/6d the Latter says he has pawned it for 2/-. Settled it by Mr Nunes [the Parnas Presidente] giving him 2/- &amp; they went away Satisfied. 25</page><page sequence="18">Edgar Samuel On 25 Kislev 5533 [1772; text in English] David Genese called his Wife again that she is always out &amp; she took her things away; she says he locks her out &amp; that's the reason she leaves him. Dismissed them to settle their Domestick Affairs themselves. On 30 Shevat 5533 [1773; text in English] David Genese and his wife Benvenida appeared with the Haham. David Genese says he has been told sundry things about his wife &amp; called the follg. Judah Mendoza, Sunday Night was Seven1 he saw Benvenida in Hounditch with Is. Levy &amp; some Women of bad character. Sarah Porto, saw her Saturdy Seven1 [Sennight, 'a week ago'] go into a Bad house in Gravel Lane. Moses Nunes Martines, that one Friday night about a Month ago walking up WhiteChapel with said Benveda &amp; another young Woman the Woman Stopt at the Door of a Bad House &amp; asked some questions but he don't know what. Thog by the above &amp; other Circumstances it was plain her behaviour was Blameable Nothing Criminal appeared - Recommended her that her future behaviour gives no Room to People to reflect on her - Davis Genese says he will not live with her nor allow her any thing towards her maintenance, so gave her leave to sue him for her maintenance. On 27 Iyar 5533 [1773; text in English] The Wife of Abraham Mendoza called David Genese her Son in Law that he has sold or made away with ?7 value of goods she had giv11 her Daughter when they Married - he says some of the things had been pawned by his Wife &amp; others she has had away - This being a repetition of Grievances they have frequently been before us for &amp; they not being willing to make it up gave them Leave to go to Law together. On 27 Menahem 5533 [1773; text in English] Isaac Genese called Abrm Mendoza that he uses him very ill the other denies it, they have been before us several times on Accc* of their family's Quarrels dismissed them by Agreem* that what passed should be over &amp; Recommended them to avoid Quarrells in future. The attempts by the Gentlemen of the Mahamad to protect Bienvenida failed. Eventually Genese divorced her and remarried. She did not marry again at Bevis Marks and was not buried in the Sephardi cemetery. 25 Heshvan 5537 [7 November 1776; text in English] Rachel Hs Valentine Calls Abraham &amp; Sarah Hs Pimentel that Pimentel hinders her from ye proper accommodation in ye House of the Old Burrg ground at Milend foolish &amp; Different Reciprocal complaints were made by 26</page><page sequence="19">The Mahamad as an arbitration court Each particularly the Women who are Sisters, after a Deal of Altercations persuaded them to Kiss &amp; be friends which they did. 26 Tamuz 5537 [3 July 1777; text in English] Solomon Mendoza Called Deb Gomes that ye Latter Abused his wife &amp; she Kicked her that she took a Warrant against him without our Leave found they were both in the wrong &amp; all Proceeding from quarrelling together Recommended them to live more Peacefully as they are Neighbours. 26 Sivan 5540 [29 June 1780] Sarah Nunes Cardozo called her husband David Nunes Cardozo for having ill-used her however we could not agree anything with them. Then he was determined not to give her more than 7/- a week recommended to him that they should settle it as best they could. 16 Adar 5541 [13 March 1781] Sel? Mendoza called his wife for her Declaration that he is an adulterer and mistreated her. After maturely considering the case and together with the Haham, he reconciled the parties with promises of good proceeding on both sides. 28 Sivan 5541 [21 June 1781; text in English] Rachel Moravia Daughter of Mordy Paz de Leon with a Child near 2 Years Old in her Arms Called her Said Father &amp; Mother &amp; Mordy Moravia who had in the presence &amp; with the Consent of the Father given her Kidusim [a prom? ise of marriage] about two years ago on the Said Father promising to give them something for a Portion. Her Parents now frequently tell her she Shall not Remain in their House &amp; Moreira Says he will not take her unless her Parents fulfill their promise from their Discourse about ?30 in Money or Value given to Moravia would Settle it as then he would Marry her. Sent for the Haham who told Us Moravia was Right in saying though he had given kidusim they was by that tied together he was not by that bound to maintain her. After Speaking to M Moravia &amp; to Mordy Paz de Leon Separately 2 or 3 times had them all together &amp; it was Agreed that they should be Married and that Paz Should give them ?30 wch he said he would do but it could not be in his Power unless a Mr Zini who had Promised it Lent him about ?15. The couple did marry, but not until two years later, on 26 Nisan 5 543 [1783]. 5 Sivan 5544 [25 May 1784] The wife of Sel[om]o Rod[rigue]s Ribeiro called her husband for blows and ill treatment which he had given her. Agreed that they will promise to conduct themselves lovingly. 27</page><page sequence="20">Edgar Samuel 26 Elul 5544 [12 September 1784] Israel Barda called his wife to Maintain their child. The wife proposed that the husband give her two shillings a week however he was not willing to give more than one shilling. And thug it was agreed that the husband should take on the care of his child. 27 Hesvan 5545 [11 November 1784] Agar de Jos[eph] de Ab[raha]m Nunes Martines called her sister Abigail de Isaac Nunes Martines11 for four shillings and sixpence. After maturely hear? ing the parties the Parnas Ab[raham] Aguilar gave them four shillings and sixpence and the suit was settled. 27 Kislev 5547 [18 December 1786] Daniel de Ja. Suares called Masahod Botibol for having deflowered his daughter and having appeared the daughter confirmed what her father had related. However being examined in detail in some replies she showed some equivocation, for which her evidence was suspected and this suspicion was increased by additional information from Mos. de Ja. de Castro and Sam Jonah by everything which they collected that the girl could have had connec? tion with some other person previously, because she was found to have a venereal infection [emgallicada, 'the French disease'] and he to be clean and thus it was according to the information confirmed by the said Castro on the day after the complaint, which the surgeon did to her and we Could not further evaluate this material. It was decided to ask the Gentlemen of the Beth Holim [congregational hospital] by way of Benjamin Nunes Lara to further examine the activities of the said Botibol. It may be added that Masahod Botibol was a married man (he married in 1781).12 Nothing further is to be found on this case in the Livro de Pleitos. Daniel Soares's daughter Judith married five years later in 1701, but it is not known whether or not she was the same daughter as was referred to in this public scandal. If her father was seeking financial compensation for the extra dowry he would have needed to offer to marry off this daughter, he obtained none. On 28 Shebat 5548 [8 January 1788; text in English] Hannah Mendes called Mordy Mendes for having been a witness to the kiddushin given by his son David, aged 19 years to a Tudesca named Simons. Told that the Mmd Could take no notice of this, because the girl is not of our Congregation. 11 They were both daughters of Aron Mendoza, see Bevis Marks Records II (Oxford 1949) 931 and 952. 12 Ibid. 1154. 28</page><page sequence="21">The Mahamad as an arbitration court On 6 Nisan 5552 [29 March 1792] Sel? de Aron Mendoza and the wife of Jos. de Mos. Nunes Martines appeared. Mendoza claimed that the Committee should have ordered that the marriage contract made between him, his daughter and the son of Mrs Martins be cancelled, which was not only refused to him but the Meeting greatly disapproved of his conduct and it was agreed that Mendoza should deposit a ?20 note with our Secretary which was to serve as his daughter's dowry in place of that specified in the contract. 6 Disciplinary cases On 18 Sivan 5485 [1725] Abraham Fernandez Henriques is condemned [to pay] ?10 or that he mount the Theba twice, once on Friday night between Minha and Arbit and the other time on Shabat morning after the end of the Amidah. [The reason for this punishment is not stated.] On the same day Aaron de Medina is condemned [to pay] ?5 or to mount the Theba twice to ask pardon. On 25 Tebet 5485 [1725] Jehuda Peres promised the Mahamad that he would leave here with his family after Pesach when he would not return or cause trouble here. The Mistress of the Villa Real School complained about the misbehaviour of one of her girls:13 On the 8 Tishri 5518 [1757] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad met when Sarah Lucena claimed that Hannah da Costa had borrowed money in the house of Guets to the value of nineteen shillings, when he had given this money to her and, having examined the case, they found the said Hannah da Costa guilty and that she had given the said money to Abigail Mendoza, for which they condemned both the girls to pay nine shillings and sixpence each to the said Guets and that neither of the girls may be admitted to the school until they have given satisfaction to Lucena.14 7 The care of the aged 'On 27 Ab 5481 [1721] the Gentlemen of the Mahamad settled between Ishac Arias and his brother Abraham concerning the placing of their 13 A. M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England (London 1951) 85 n. 1. 14 Ibid. 29</page><page sequence="22">Edgar Samuel mother in a lodging and that each of them will contribute half of her main? tenance.' A case in 1783 brought the Congregation to face a problem which confronts hospitals to this day. The Beth Holim had only six beds15 and these were reserved for sick people, but the old and frail needed care too and the only institution available for this purpose was this hospital. Perhaps that is one reason why it was eventually transformed into an older people's home. 7 Elul 5543 [3 September 1783] The Parnassim of the Beth Holim represented that having discharged Mos[eh] Henriques - Don Fernando from the House, after the time limit. Despite his not being ill, his sons brought him again to the House, leaving him at the door exposed to the inclemency of the weather and they were forced to re-admit him. However, as it is against the rules of the House, they wish to know what they should do. The Gentlemen of the Mahamad having taken into consideration the state of Don Fernando, who is 80 years of age very frail and debilitated they find that they must recommend to the Parnassim of the Beth Holim that they should allow Don Fernando to stay in the House, it being an urgent case, until the next General Meeting of the Elders. The Livros de Pleitos give an intimate picture of the inner life of London's eighteenth-century Portuguese Jewish community and especially of the life of the poor. The Gentlemen of the Mahamad were busy men with busi? nesses to run and they gave up much time to listen to many petty disputes and to try to resolve them. These records were compiled solely for the purpose of practical administration, but they give much evidence of the Mahamad's kindness and sense of responsibility towards the poorer families.16 15 Edgar Samuel, 'Anglo-Jewish Notaries and Scriveners', Trans jfHS EWU (1953) 134. 16 I thank Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira, Honorary Archivist of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, for drawing my attention to the documents on which this paper is based; Howard Miller and his staff for allowing me full facilities for copying them; and Lily Steadman for providing the illustrations from the Alfred Rubens Collection at the Jewish Museum. 30</page></plain_text>