top of page
< Back

The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656, in the context of English economic policy

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656, in the context of English economic policy* EDGAR SAMUEL Oliver Cromwell's decision in 1656 to allow Jews to settle in England and to meet privately for prayer, marks the foundation of the modern Jewish community in this country. It was, therefore, a most important event in our history and one which has been fully researched and discussed. Yet even though the topic is not a new one, I feel it deserves further examination. The development of English philo-Semitism, which made the idea of the readmission acceptable to Englishmen, has been investigated expertly and in great detail. Professor Theodore Rabb's study of Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Politie1 pinpointed a sixteenth-century Anglican theologian whose attitude towards Jews was unprejudiced and sympathetic and who influenced Anglican opinion. Dr David Katz's book Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England 1603-1655 (Oxford 1982) is a thorough study of the various strands of Christian philo-Semitism, which made the idea seem theologically acceptable to seventeenth-century English Puritans. Since the theological context has been examined so expertly, I propose to concentrate mainly on the background of English economic policy, which led to Cromwell's invitation to Menasseh ben Israel to come to England to petition for the readmission of the Jews and then to his decision, in 1656, to license it on a modest scale. It is a curious fact that although the Puritan Revolution produced some very important tracts, setting out ways in which English trade could be reformed and improved, none of these proposed the admission of Jewish merchants.2 All proposals to readmit Jews to England are presented in tracts on religious, rather than on economic, topics. A good example is that of Henry Robinson, whose tracts for the improvement of English trade were very influential, but whose advocacy of religious toleration was published anonymously in a different pamphlet from those in which he urged reforms of commercial policy. This is typical of the seventeenth century, when religious policy was at the eye of the storm. Control of the Church meant control of the media and of education, and Anglicans sought a single hierarchically controlled Church government. Presbyterians were a Church controlled not by the king or by bishops, but by a classis organization dominated by the Puritan gentry and citizens. * Paper presented to the Society on 20 October 1988. 153</page><page sequence="2">Edgar Samuel The Independents, who won the day in 1648, favoured congregational autonomy with as much individual liberty of conscience as was consistent with public order. Since the only sound reasons for excluding Jews, Turks or Catholic merchants from England were religious, it was natural that the matter should be debated as a religious issue, even though it looks to us today as though it was a secular one. Most of the facts of the readmission are clear. In 1647 Rev. Hugh Peters published A Word for the Army and two Words for the Kingdom - to clear the one and cure the other, in which he proposed that 'strangers, even Jews, to be admitted to trade and live with us'. After Pride's Purge, in December 1648, the Council of Mechanics resolved that all religions should be tolerated in England 'not excepting Turkes nor Papists nor Jewes'3 and the Council of War endorsed this policy. But then, in The Agreement of the People, they decided to limit their toleration to Christians.4 In 1648 a strange tract was published - An Apology for the honourable nation of the Jews and all the sons of Israel - ostensibly by Edward Nicholas, gentleman, but in my opinion almost certainly by a Puritan divine. The argument, to cite Dr David Katz's resume, is as follows. England's present troubles derived in part from the 'strict and cruel Laws now in force against the most honourable Nation in the world, the Nation of the Jews, a people chosen by God' unless the Jews were readmitted to England with all possible rights and privileges, '(God putting their tears into his bottle) God will charge their sufferings upon us, and will avenge them on their persecutors.' He claimed that he was persuaded to publish this short tract 'not upon any man's motion of the Jews Nation, but a thing that I have long and deeply revolved within my heart'. His efforts were intended 'for the glory of God, the comfort of those his afflicted people, the love of my own sweet native country of England, and the freeing of my own soul in the day of account'.5 The author's sincerity is manifest. The tract was translated into Spanish in the next year, apparently for the benefit of the Jews of Amsterdam. The author of the Apology refers to the Israelites, not, as is usual in English, as the 'children of Israel' - the phrase made idiomatic by the Geneva Bible and by the Authorized Version - but as the 'sons of Israel', which suggests either that he was accustomed to reading his Bible in Bishop Morgan's Welsh version, where Bnei Yisrael is translated as Mebion Israel - 'sons of Israel',6 or that he was a Hebraist who made his own translation. He does, however, state that he is a native of England. His other characteristic is a certain carelessness about historical dates. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain is stated to have taken place in 1493 instead of 1492. I have only 154</page><page sequence="3">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 been able to identify one Puritan gentleman named Edward Nicholas. He was the son of Sir Oliver Nicholas, who was admitted to the Middle Temple as a law student in 1650. Since he was then probably aged seventeen or eighteen, he is not likely to have been the author of this tract, which is obviously the work of a mature writer; but it is quite possible that its author sought permission to use his name for the purpose. I think that he was probably the Rev. Henry Jessey, who was Yorkshire born, an excellent Hebraist,7 and a correspondent of Menasseh ben Israel. In January 1649 the Council of Officers considered the first practical proposal for the readmission of the Jews: the petition of 'Johanna Cartenright, widdow, and Ebenezer Cartwright, her son, freeborn of England, and now Inhabitants of the City of Amsterdam,' who Luden Wolf states, without citing his source, were Baptists,8 'that the inhumane cruel statute of banishment made against them may be repealed, and they under the Christian banner of charity and brotherly love, may again be received and permitted to trade and dwell amongst you in this Land, as they do now in the Netherlands.'9 There are signs that the Cartwrights' petition was drafted by the same person as wrote the Apology for the honourable nation of the Jews. Jews are referred to not as the 'children of Israel' but as 'Israel's sons and daughters' - again a perfectly correct translation of Bnei Yisrael - perhaps Johanna Cartwright insisted on including the daughters. The carelessness about historical dates reappears, the York massacre being attributed to the reign of Richard II instead of Richard I. The argument of the petition is much the same as in the Apology, but more concisely stated and with more emphasis on the need to convert the Jews and help them to move to the Promised Land when the time is ripe. The fact that the petition was favourably received and ordered to be printed, and that the policy it advocated was eventually adopted by the revolutionary regime, shows that the Cartwrights' voices were not crying in the wilderness, but that their viewpoint had solid support among the officers of the New Model Army. It was in this climate of opinion that in 1650 Haham Menasseh ben Israel published his Latin translation of his Spanish book Esperanza de Israel, 'The Hope of Israel', dedicated to the English Parliament and Council of State.10 The text concerns a claim by one Antonio Levi Montezinos to have discovered an Indian tribe in Ecuador, who were descended from the Israelites of old and practised Judaism. Its effect was to cause Englishmen to regard Menasseh as a representative leader and political spokesman of the Jews. When the army officers turned to Presbyterian majority out of 155</page><page sequence="4">Edgar Samuel Parliament in December 1648, their first aim was to execute the king and establish a republic. In doing so they sought to replace an inept, unreliable and extravagant government with one which would reform the nation and pursue its interests. In theory England was ruled by a collective leadership provided by Parliament, and by Parliamentary Committees. In practice, policy seems to have been decided primarily by two men, whom the Leveller, John Lilburne, described as 'two covetous earthworms' - Sir Henry Vane Jnr and Chief Justice Oliver St John - with much debate and discussion to assist or impede their government. The main and most noticeable achievements of Commonwealth economic policy were the Navigation Act of October 1651 and the First Dutch War which followed it in 1652. During the latter part of the Thirty Years War most of the trade between Spain and Flanders had been carried in English ships, and the English merchant marine had greatly expanded.11 The end of the war and the need to transport Spanish troops and war supplies, led to a European surplus of ships and a general slump in freight rates. This hit England, and especially London, very hard because after the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, Dutch convoys of large, cheap, unarmed, lightly manned fluijts were able to cut the smaller, heavily manned and gunned English ships out of the Spanish trade with freight charges as low as half the English rates.12 Matters were not helped by Robert Blake's action off Portugal, when, in order to pressure the Portuguese into expelling Prince Rupert's privateers from Lisbon, he requisitioned the nine English ships out of the total eighteen in the Portuguese Brazil Company's fleet.13 After this, the Portuguese switched to chartering French and Hanse vessels in place of English ones.14 Some ships were used to sustain Cromwell's campaign in Ireland, but after its conclusion in 1650 the problem of idle ships and starving seamen, which now confronted the government, was a grave one. In 1649 Sir Henry Vane headed an Admiralty Committee for Reducing Virginia to Obedience. This committee consisted of Virginia merchants, including notably one Maurice Thomson. Its deliberations culminated in an Act of 1650 reserving the colonial trade to English ships. In March 1650 the shipowner's corporation, Trinity House, of which Maurice Thomson was an Elder Brother, petitioned Sir Henry Vane's Admiralty Committee to take steps to stop 'English merchants shipping their goods in strangers' bottoms, when English ships could be had'.15 The matter was referred to an Admiralty judge to hear evidence from the shipowners, the Merchant Adventurers and other merchants, but it raised wider issues and was not resolved.16 156</page><page sequence="5">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 Therefore, on 1 August 1650, the Rump Parliament established a Council for Trade under the presidency of Sir Henry Vane, to sit for one year and consider the whole question of protecting and promoting English trade, industry, shipping and fishing.17 Charles Ps Privy Council had had a Committee for Trade which met at one stage on Tuesday afternoons and at another on Friday mornings, and occasionally consulted merchants on policy matters. It consisted of the king, the Great Officers of State, four earls and two lesser peers,18 and had been primarily interested in collecting revenue. The Commonwealth Council for Trade represented a practical attempt to consult merchants on the formulation of commercial policy, just as Lewes Roberts had recommended in his treatise The Treasure of Traffike, dedicated to parliament in 1641. It was to have its own offices in Whitehall and a full time secretariat. Its wide terms of reference included the setting up of free ports in England where goods could be stored in bond and re-exported free of duty, investigating the privileges of trading companies, monetary matters and the management of the plantations.19 Apart from the greater readiness of the Interregnum regimes to respond to merchant advice, there was also a change in the type of merchant whose advice was heeded. Until the First Civil War, the Lord Mayors, Sheriffs and Aldermen of London had been either retailers, or successful merchants from among the cloth exporters of the Merchant Adventurers and Eastland Companies, or else importers of luxury goods of the Levant and East India Companies. During Charles I's reign a new group of merchants had arisen who traded to New England, Virginia and the West Indies and interloped in the East Indies. This group included some of the most enterprising and successful men in the City. However, they were kept out of the City government by the ruling oligarchy and found their trade impeded by the profitable Levant and East India Company monopolies. These colonial and interloping merchants tended to be Puritan in religion and Parliamentarian in politics. They therefore had religious, social and commercial motives for promoting and supporting radical changes in the government of the State, of the City and of English trade.20 They were also self-made men of greater enterprise and imagination than many merchants within the comfortable trading-company monopolies. With the revolution of 1641-2 several of these colonial merchants came to power in the City of London,21 and they also enjoyed a new influence with the Parliamentary government.22 These West India merchants - among whom Maurice Thomson was a leading figure - had a vested interest in the readmission of the Jews to 157</page><page sequence="6">Edgar Samuel England and her colonies, because Jewish refugees from Spain could help them break into the trade with Spanish colonies in competition with the Dutch and could help them capture and colonize them. The Royalists held the English colonies of Virginia, Barbados and Surinam, and the London West India merchants and shipowners had lost the whole of their trade to the Dutch, who were also well on the way to capturing the transatlantic slave trade from the Portuguese. They badly needed to recover this lost ground by copying Dutch methods. A group of Jewish merchants in London who had expertise and connections in all of these areas could be very useful. The cloth exporters, however, did not need Jewish merchants and feared their competition. The Secretary of the Council for Trade was Dr Benjamin Worsley, MD, a Londoner, who had served as Surgeon General to the Army in Ireland during the early 1640s,23 then graduated from Trinity College Dublin24 and spent further time studying in the Netherlands for a doctorate in medicine, although he was never a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.25 Sir Henry Vane took him into the service of the State, first as Secretary to the Committee for Reducing Virginia to Obedience and then to the Council for Trade. Benjamin Worsley proved himself an energetic and capable Committee Secretary with the ability to expedite business and to summarize the essentials of a complex argument. The dynamism of the Council for Trade and of its Secretary is clearly portrayed, in the absence of any surviving minutes, by an impressive schedule of finished and unfinished business which Worsley prepared.26 He also wrote two pamphlets, which he published in 1652: The Advocate, under the pseudonym Philopatris, explains the need for the Navigation Act, and Free Ports,27 which recommends establishing free ports in England like Leghorn and Amsterdam. (One imagines that he had the decayed port of Dover in mind.) The threat of such potent rivalry from the outports stimulated the City to petition to have London made a free port too.28 This threatened to deprive the hard-pressed Commonwealth of a large part of its customs revenue. So nothing came of the scheme. In September 1650, the Master and Elder Brethren of Trinity House were invited to submit proposals to the Council for Trade on 'What Commodities are most fit to be Exported and Imported in English bottoms only'29 and they proposed that English shipping should have a monopoly of carrying a wide range of commodities and trades excepting only masts and timbers from the Baltic, where low freights were needed to sustain a ready supply of inexpensive English-built ships. The history of the Navigation Act is therefore clear. It arose from 158</page><page sequence="7">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 proposals by Trinity House for protection of their shipping against Dutch competition, and the originator of these proposals is likely to have been Maurice Thomson, ship owner, West and East India merchant and plantation owner.30 It was adjusted to suit the interests of the cloth exporters of the Company of Merchant Adventurers and other merchant. It was sympathetically received and acted upon because of Sir Henry Vane's concern for the Navy. But then an incident occurred which made it necessary to postpone its enactment. On 6 November 1650 William II of Orange died and shortly afterwards a republican regime seized power in the United Provinces. This led the Commonwealth to send Oliver St John and Walter Strickland as ambassadors to the Hague, in March 1651, to negotiate a close alliance. The secretary to the mission was John Thurloe, then a young man in the service of Chief Justice St John, soon to be Oliver Cromwell's Secretary of State. The aim of the embassy was to persuade the Dutch republican party to combine with the Commonwealth in an international civil war against both the English royalists and the Dutch Orangists and, at the same time, to try to get rid of the Dutch 'Redemption Treaty' with Denmark, which threatened to price English cloth exports and shipping out of the Baltic, and to settle other grievances.31 The Dutch could not be certain that Parliament would win the Second Civil War and they were not strong enough or so minded as to carry their differences with the Orangists to extremes. They countered the proposal for the political merger of the two countries with one for mutual freedom of trade on the basis of the Great Intercourse Treaty of 1495 between Henry VII and Charles V, proposing that each country should extend this to their colonies.32 The counter-proposal went no way to help the Parliamentary party against the Royalists, to meet English grievances or to help English trade, shipping and fishing to recover from their depression, of which the major cause was Dutch competition. The negotiations certainly alerted the ambassadors to the importance of commercial issues, but from the English point of view they proved a total failure. While they were in the Netherlands to negotiate the Treaty, St John and Strickland visited the Amsterdam synagogue and made contact with Menasseh ben Israel, who was one of its three Hahamim. The circumstantial evidence suggests that this initiative may have been proposed by Dr Benjamin Worsley, the Baptist Secretary of the Council for Trade, for it was entirely consistent with his policy of building up English trade by copying Dutch methods, as well as with the interest in the subject shown by the Baptist Minister the Rev. Henry Jessey and by Johanna and Ebenezer Cartwright. 159</page><page sequence="8">Edgar Samuel In June 1651 St John and Strickland returned home.33 On 31 July the Council for Trade presented a report to the Council of State34 and on 5 August it recommended the Navigation Bill to Parliament.35 As finally enacted on 9 October 1651 after a debate and amendment, the Act for the Increase of Shipping and Navigation made the following provisions, under threat of confiscation of both ship and cargo: firstly, it reserved all import trade except bullion to ships of the exporting country or to English-owned ships manned chiefly by English seamen (exporters could hire any ships they chose to use); secondly, it attempted to hit at the Dutch entrepot trade by enacting that foreign goods, with a few specified exceptions, might only be imported directly from their country of production; thirdly, it reserved all trade between English ports and English ships; and finally, it reserved the landings of fish and whale products to English fishermen and whalers, and the export of cod and other fish to English ships.36 One highly significant feature of the Navigation Act was that, on the whole, the government had the means to enforce it, and the nation had the shipping and seamen ready to take up the newly reserved trades. Worsley in The Advocate37 expressed the hope that the Dutch would not take exception to the new law; but the Navigation Act was tantamount to a declaration of war on Amsterdam, and the mood in which it was enacted was very much 'we don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do we've got the money too!' The next day, 10 October 1651, the Council of State considered a letter from Menasseh ben Israel which was followed, in December 1652, by an invitation to him to come to England, together with a safe-conduct.38 However, the Dutch War prevented it. Professor J. E. Farnell has argued that the Navigation Act and the Free Ports project were two aspects of a new commercial policy advocated by Maurice Thomson and supported by his fellow colonial merchants. This aimed simultaneously at protecting English trade from foreigners; at free and unrestricted competition between Englishmen; at replacing the entrepots of Amsterdam with English ones; and at copying other Dutch techniques.39 The admission of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish refugee merchants to England would accord entirely with this policy. The Act for the Increase of Shipping and Navigation, and its successors, were to be key factors in the creation of the first British empire and then in its loss, and in the establishment of England as a first-class maritime and commercial power. The Commonwealth Council for Trade had given the leading English merchants a direct share in policy making. This experiment was not repeated, but the line of policy laid down by them was new, effective and durable. 160</page><page sequence="9">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 Like the Navigation Act, the Dutch War suited many merchants. It suited the West India merchants and other owners of privateers, and also the Baltic merchants, who wanted the Redemption Treaty rescinded. It suited the cloth exporters, who benefited by the diversion of Spanish wool from Leyden to London, and from the capture of their competitors' ships and cargoes. Only the Levant merchants, the exporters of grey cloth to the Netherlands and some East India merchants would have been cool about the conflict, but even they had scores to settle with the Dutch. Once the confiscation of Dutch ships and cargoes had started, and the Commonwealth had refused to rescind the Act, the merchants and shipowners of Amsterdam responded swiftly. Without troubling to consult the States General and its slow-moving committees, the Admiralty of Holland ordered Admiral Tromp not to strike his flags and topsails to English warships in the Channel. Tromp sailed straight to Dover and after an exchange of discourtesies attacked the English fleet.40 The Dutch used their influence in Denmark to close the Baltic to English ships and to have the twenty-two English ships in the Sound seized. They thus cut off the Eastland cloth market and all supplies of ship-building materials other than from Norway, Nonetheless, English merchants profited greatly by the was in captured Dutch ships and cargoes. Dutch shipping and trade were badly mauled. Oliver Cromwell's accession to power meant a reduction in the influence of London merchants on foreign policy. Maurice Thomson and his associated were removed from all their offices for petitioning for the restoration of the Rump.41 Trade and Admiralty affairs were taken over by the Council of State and were ruled like so many other matters by Cromwell and John Thurloe, his Secretary of State, although the new Council of State, which consisted predominantly of army officers, naturally had need of merchants' advice on commercial policy. The most influential new power at Court in this field was Thurloe's brother-in-law, Martin Noell, and though the influence of Maurice Thomson was diminished, he too was consulted at times. Noell was a London scrivener who traded to the Caribbean and the Baltic. He was also a partner in Maurice Thomson's East India interloping ventures, and a major tax farmer. Martin Noell's objective attitude to the Jews is shown by a speech he made in Parliament in which he said that the only reason that the Jews of Venice had to wear red hats was that they had no State which could intervene to protect them.42 Under the Protectorate, as under the Crown, foreign policy was the perogative of the ruler who conducted it with the aid of his Secretary of State. Naturally he sought advice on technical matters, gathered the best 161</page><page sequence="10">Edgar Samuel intelligence he could and consulted the Council of State before taking major decisions, but Oliver Cromwell was more likely to seek advice from soldiers than from merchants, and trading considerations had a significant but secondary role in his policy making. Cromwell was as new to foreign affairs as he had once been to soldiering, but it did not take him long to learn. He had a natural instinct for strategic planning, a tendency to keep his options open and to make bold and effective use of the resources at his command. The salient features of Cromwell's foreign policy were his decisions to make peace with the Dutch, to negotiate an alliance with France, and to wage war on Spain. Cromwell wished to end the Dutch War on ideological grounds, but there were good practical reasons for doing so too, especially from the viewpoint of a Baltic trader such as Martin Noell. In the long run the closing of the Sound would destroy English shipbuilding and the English merchant fleet. It would make it more difficult to recover the Eastland Company's cloth market from Dutch and Hanseatic competition. Moreover the expense of the war had outrun available revenue. The peace terms negotiated with De Will rid the Netherlands of royalist influence for the moment and excluded the House of Orange from power. England kept her Navigation Act, and her prizes of war, and collected compensation for her assorted injuries.43 We gain great insight into the motives behind the other aspects of Cromwell's foreign policy from two memoranda written by Thurloe after the Restoration for the enlightenment of Charles IPs government (and the saving of his own neck). On e of these deals with relations with the Dutch,44 and the other with Baltic policy and relations with France and Spain.45 Cromwell decided to ally himself with France and to make war on Spain. Since Spain was no military danger, was a source of wool and bullion and a good customer for English cloth, this policy was strongly criticized subsequently as tending to build up England's natural enemy, France, and to destroy a profitable branch of trade. Thurloe's memorandum explains the reason. As an enemy France could help the royalists to invade England, Scotland or Ireland and reinforce them. Spain could not. France as an ally would expel the royalists from her territory and force them to depend on Spain, since the United Provinces were now closed to them. Spanish help would be ineffective, would antagonize the Dutch and would weaken the royalist cause in England, where Spain was regarded with fear and hatred.46 Portugal was keen for good relations with England. Cromwell demanded free trade in the Portuguese empire and religious freedom for 162</page><page sequence="11">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 English merchants, and surprisingly obtained a treaty granting both concessions. Cromwell had in mind the prospect of breaking the Spanish trading monopoly with its American colonies, by means of a war against Spain at the time his peace negotiations with the Dutch in 1654, when he proposed a joint enterprise to partition the empires of Spain and Portugal between them.47 However, he commenced his attempt to break the Spanish trading monopoly by peaceful means, and resorted to war only when Spain refused to grant the same capitulations as Portugal had done. The alliance with France and war with Spain were in the first place a method of winning the Civil War by means of a forward aggressive strategy. In this respect the policy was entirely successful. In the second place it offered a chance to break into the trade with the Spanish Main. Thurloe indicates that had a war with France and alliance with Spain seemed more profitable, then that course would have been adopted.48 The choice made was that of a successful and aggressive general in command of a major maritime power. If the alliance with France was made for reasons of state alone, and the was with Spain was a necessary part of it, there were mercantile influences too at work in the formulation of the Western Design. While was at sea expanded, Baltic trade would flourish and the prospects of gain by attacking Spanish ships and colonies were highly attractive to shipowners and West India merchants like Martin Noell and Maurice Thomson. Indeed, it seems that it was at their suggestion that the expedition to conquer Hispaniola was launched, since they were assigned the task of planning it49 and they made use of the knowledge and advice of the Barbados Jewish merchant, Simon de Caceres. This policy of empire-building by war was essentially the same as that which had won the Dutch West India Company the 1628 silver fleet and the valuable Brazilian colony of Pernambuco. Indeed Noell and his associate Thomas Povey set about forming an English West India Company.50 From the point of view of merchants trading to Spain, wool importers, cloth exporters and the Newcastle colliers, whose fleets were destroyed by Dunkirk privateers, the war with Spain was a disaster, which was in no way compensated for by the capture of the silver fleet and the Spanish colony of Jamaica, and the long-term prospect of an expanded trade with Portugal. By the end of the First Dutch War, the English fleet amounted to no less than 160 vessels and these needed either to be put to profitable use or paid off. The very existence of this navy made war against another rich maritime power a tempting prospect. It also meant that a squadron could 163</page><page sequence="12">Edgar Samuel be sent to the Mediterranean under Blake to attack the Barbary Coast pirates and protect the Levant trade51 at the same time as Penn and Venables sailed to conquer Hispaniola. The Protectorate provided security for English trade to the Baltic and Levant, privileges for that to Portugal and Brazil and a secure base at Jamaica for an interloping trade with the Spanish Main - all solid, long term, bullion-earing achievements - even if Cromwell failed to capture Gibraltar and Hispaniola, to profit from Blake's seizure of the silver fleet or turn Dunkirk into a staple for English cloth on medieval lines. Once the Dutch War was over, Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector was persuaded to take up the issue of readmitting the Jews once again. Cromwell's style was to proceed with caution and to test public opinion. Menasseh ben Israel was invited to England and was encouraged to present a petition on behalf of the Jewish Nation for their readmission. This he reinforced with his book the Humble Addresses, which seems to have greatly annoyed the Puritan clergy. A selected group of notable merchants and divines was invited to join with the Councillors of State at a Conference at Whitehall - presumably in the Banqueting House - to consider the matter.52 The Presbyterians succeeded in strongly discouraging the proceedings with William Prynne's forceful and learned attack on the proposal: The Short Demurrer against the Jewes their long discounted Remitter into England, which weakened the resolve of Henry Jessey, Hugh Peters and other clerical enthusiasts. Alderman Sir Christopher Packe, a cloth exporter, spoke strongly against the proposal, probably arguing from his experience as a merchant in Hamburg that the Jews simply acted as agents for Dutch exporters. The Short Demurrer also stimulated Menasseh ben Israel to write and publish his noble book Vindicae Judaeorum. Quite apart from the judges' ruling, however, that there was no law against Jews living in England,53 after the Whitehall Conference, the committee of the Council of State made the following report to the Council early in 1656, which seems to me to set out the terns on which they recommended that the readmission of the Jews should be made: It reads as follows: That the Jewes derservinge it may be admitted into this nation to trade and trafficke and dwel amongst us as providence shall give occasion. That as to poynt of conscience we judge lawfull for the magistrate to admit in case such materiall and weighty considerations as hereafter follow be provided for, about which till we are satisfyed we cannot but in conscience suspend our resolution in this case. 164</page><page sequence="13">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 1. That the motives and grounds upon which Menasseh ben Israel in behalfe of the rest of his nation in his booke lately printed in this English tongue desireth their admission in this commonwealth are such as we conceave to be very sinfull for this or any Christian state to receave them upon. 2 That the danger of seducinge the people of this nation by their admission in matters of religion is very great. 3. That their havinge of synagogues or any publicke meetings for the exercise of their worship or religion is not only evill in itselfe, but likewise very scandalous to other Christian churches. 4 That their customes and practices concerninge marriage and divorce are unlawfull and will be of very evill example amongst us. 5. That principles of not makinge conscience of oathes made and injuryes done to Christians in life, chastity, goods or good name have bin very notoriously charged upon them by valuable testimony. 6. That great prejudice is like to arise to the natives of this commonwealth in matters of trade, which besides other dangers here mentioned we find very commonly suggested by the inhabitants of the City of London.'54 We can ignore these pessimistic negative comments about the danger of Jews seducing Christians from their Faith - and of commercial competition - because Cromwell had already made it quite clear in his speech to the Conference that he gave them no weight at all. What mattered were the practical terms on which the Lord Protector was authorized to allow Jews to settle in England. Of these, only the provision prohibiting Jews from employing living-in Christian servants, was ignored - and that would have required special legislation - but all the other terms seem to have been followed. The text continues: 7. 'We humbly represent. I. That they be not admitted to have any publicke Judicatoryes, whether civill or ecclesiasticall, which were to grant them terms beyond the conditions of strangers. II. That they be not admitted eyther to speake or doe anythinge to the defamation or dishonour of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ or of the Christian religion. III. That they be not permitted to doe any worke or anythinge to the prophanation of the Lord's Day or Christian sabbath. IV. That they be not admitted to have Christians to dwell with them as their servants. V. That they bear no publike office or trust in this commonwealth. VI. That they be not allowed to print anything which in the least opposeth 165</page><page sequence="14">Edgar Samuel the Christian religion in our language. VII. That, so farre as may be, not suffered to discourage any of their owne from usinge or applyinge themselves to any which may tend to convince them of their error and turn them to Christianity. And that some severe penalty be imposed upon them who shall apostatize from Christianity to Judaisme.'54 It is plain from the petition signed by Menasseh ben Israel together with Carvajal and the other London Jews in March 1656 that Cromwell had by then assured the Jews that they could meet for prayer in their private houses, but that no action had been taken in response to Menasseh ben Israel's petition for public synagogues, free immigration and legal autonomy.55 The request for a written charter and licence to buy a cemetery was referred to the Council of State and deferred until the facts of the case of Antonio Rodrigues Robles had been investigated. Robles's ships and cargoes had been seized on the grounds that he was a Spaniard and an enemy alien. He claimed exemption on the grounds that he was a subject of neutral Portugal and not a Catholic, but a Jew.56 An idea which Cecil Roth promoted, which seems to me to be unsound and improbable, was his deduction from the fact that two pages were cut out of the Minute Book of the Council of State between the minutes of the meeting on Tuesday 24 June and of that of Thursday 26 June 1656 that: first, there must have been an unrecorded meeting of the Council on 25 June; second, that the Jews' petition for licence to lease a cemetery must have been granted on that day; and third, that the minute of this event was destroyed subsequently for political reasons. Such inferences from non? existent evidence seem to me to be unsound. The matter was well discussed in A. S. Diamond's article 'The Cemetery of the Resettlement'.57 Roth wrote: 'It is now possible to assert categorically that the decision authorising Jewish public worship in England, after a lapse of 366 years, was reached on Wednesday 25th June 1656 (O. S.).'58 It is equally possible to state categorically that the earth is flat, but in each case the supporting evidence is insufficient to sustain the thesis. The Jews' petition of February 1656 makes it plain that the Lord Protector had already given them leave - on the Dutch model - to meet in their houses for private prayer. That meant that congregational worship was permitted, but attendance was by personal invitation only, as was then the case for Catholics and Jews in Amsterdam. The synagogue founded by Antonio Fernandes Carvajal was not at ground level, it was deliberately fitted out on the first floor of a private house,59 and it remained in use there until 1701, from which it is fairly clear that neither under Cromwell nor under Charles II or James II were Jews granted the right to have public 166</page><page sequence="15">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 synagogues. In 1685 John Locke, who had been Benjamin Worsley's immediate successor as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations, but was then in exile in the Netherlands wrote: 'If we allow the Jews to have private houses and dwellings amongst us, why should we not allow them to have synagogues? Is their doctrine more false, their worship more abominable, or is civil peace more endangered, by their meeting in public than in their private houses?'60 Public synagogues only became possible after William Hi's Toleration Act of 1689, and even then, some caution was observed. In these circumstances, Cecil Roth's claim that public Jewish worship was authorized by the Council of State, but that the documents have been destroyed, is indeed a strange flight of fancy. The readmission of the Jews to England was part and parcel of the Commonwealth's mercantilist policy. In practice its results were far less dramatic and successful than its proponents might have hoped. Jewish merchants contributed to England's penetration of Portuguese colonial trade. They were useful in the Caribbean in establishing trade from Jamaica to the Spanish Main. Their trade with the Canaries was important. But it can hardly be argued that they made more than a minor contribution to the build-up of English trade, or one which could be compared with the major role of the Jewish merchants of Amsterdam in building up that city's trade with Spain and her colonies. It would have been a simple matter for Charles II to have expelled the Jews from England, but his government gave them protection and adhered to much the same economic strategy as had Oliver Cromwell. A bigoted petition from the Cavalier Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen of the City of London (which was once again ruled by the cloth importers of the Levant Company and the Merchant Adventurers) demanded the expulsion of the Jews. Among other things it was foolish enough to accuse the Jews of exporting English cloth at lower rates than English merchants61 - not an argument calculated to appeal to the wool producers who dominated both Houses of Parliament - and was treated with the contempt it deserved and was ignored. The Restoration saw Dr Benjamin Worsley back as a member and later as Secretary of a Privy Council Committee for Trade and Plantations. It saw fresh navigation acts, two more Dutch wars and a dramatic expansion of English foreign trade and shipping. By imitating Dutch methods, the revolutionary governments of the Interregnum gave English state policy a new purpose and direction, and one which their successors pursued for more than a century after the restoration of the monarchy. They made the administration of trade and plantations a significant department of government. They actively 167</page><page sequence="16">Edgar Samuel consulted London merchants on policy making. They stimulated the growth of English overseas trade by giving monopoly rights and naval protection to English shipowners. They encouraged foreign merchants to settle here. Finally, they placed commercial objectives high among the priorities of foreign policy and used the power of State to obtain them. It was this mercantilist outlook, rather than the Millennarian theology of Henry Jessey or the Messianic optimism of Menasseh ben Israel, which led Cromwell to sanction the readmission of Jews to England and the establishment of Jewish communities in Barbados, Nevis, Surinam and Jamaica. But without the initiative of these two zealous interpreters of the Book of Daniel, it is unlikely that any English government would have come to such a decision so early as Cromwell's did. It was a decision which had beneficial consequences for English trade and prosperity, for the nature of English society and for the Jews of Europe. NOTES 1 'The Stirrings of the 1590s and the Return of the Jews to England' Trans JHSE (1979) XXVI. 2 I am grateful to Prof. J. I. Israel for drawing attention to this point. 3 Cecil Roth, History of the Jews in England. 3rd ed. (Oxford 1964) 52-3, citing Mercurius pragmaticus 19-20 December 1648. 4 Ibid. Citing History of the Independency ii,50. 5 David Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England 1603-1655 (OUP, Oxford 1982) 81. 6 I am grateful to Dr Gwillym Hughes for this information. 7 E.W., The Life and Death of Mr Henry Jessey, who, having finished his testimony, was translated, 4 Sept. 1663 (London 1671). 8 Lucien Wolf,Menasseh ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell (London 1901) xx. 9 Reprinted in Three Hundred Years - a volume to commemorate the Tercentenary of the Resettlement of the Jews in Great Britain 1655-1956 (London 1956) 17. 10 Reprinted in Lucien Wolf, op.cit. 23 et seq. 11 J. S. Kepler, 'Fiscal aspects of the English carrying trade during the Thirty Years War' Economic History Review XXV (1972). 12 V. Barbour, 'Dutch and English shipping in the Seventeenth Century' Economic History Review II (1932) 261-90. 13 S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate 1649-1659 I (1894-1901) 301. 14 Charles H. Boxer, 'English shipping in the Brazil Trade 1640-65' Mariners Mirror 37 (1951) 197-230. 15 M. A. E. Green (ed.) Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1649-50, p.20. 16 Laurence A. Harper, The English Navigation Laws, a seventeenth-century experiment in social engineering (New York 1939). 17 Charles H. Firth and R. S. Salt (eds) Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum 1640 166011 (1911)403. 18 C. M. Andrews, British Committees, Commissions and Councils of Trade and Plantations 1622-1675 (Baltimore 1908) 13. 19 Firth &amp; Salt II (see n.17) 403. 20 Robert Paul Brenner, 'The Civil War Politics of London's Merchant Community* Past and Present No. 58, February 1973, and Commercial Change and Political Conflict: the Merchant Community in Civil War London (MS, PhD Thesis, Princeton, January 1970). Typescript in University College London Library. 21 See Valerie L. Pearl, London and the 168</page><page sequence="17">The readmission of the Jews to England in 1656 Outbreak of the Puritan Revolution (Oxford 1961) Appendix II, 309-38. 22 R. P. Brenner, 'The Civil War Politics ...' (see n.20). 23 R. P. Mehaffey (ed.) Calendar of State Pavers - relating to Ireland in the Reign of Charles I (London 1901). 24 G. D. Burtchaell and T. V. Sadleir (eds) Alumni Dubliniensis (Dublin 1935). 25 W. R. M?nk, The Roll of the College of Physicians of London (London 1878). 26 Joan Thirsk and J. P. Cooper, Seventeenth-Century Economic Documents (Oxford 1972) 64-5. 27 R. W. K. Hinton, The Eastland Trade and the Common Weal in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge 1958) Appendix B. 28 James E. Farnell, 'The Navigation Act of 1651, the First Dutch War and the London Merchant Community* Economic History Review XVI (1963) 439 et seq. 29 Laurence A. Harper (see n.16) 42. 30 R. P. Brenner, Commercial Change (see n.20), Chap. 4. 31 S. R. Gardiner I (see n.13) 322-30. 32 Sir Charles H. Firth, 'Secretary Thurloe on the Relation of England and Holland* English Historical Review 21 (1906) 319 et seq. 33 Dictionary of National Biography (London 1888), see under: Oliver St John. 34 Thomas Violet, Briefe Observations of Whatte Hath Beene Acted at the Council of Trade 20 Aug. to last Dec. 1651, 178, cited in L. A. Harper (see n.16) 45. 35 Journal of the House of Commons. 36 Thirsk &amp; Cooper (see n.26) 502-5, give the full text of the Navigation Act. 37 R. W. K. Hinton (see n.27) Appendix B. 38 Luden Wolf (see n.8). 39 J. E. Farnell (see n.28). 40 S. R. Gardiner I (see n.13) 176-7. 41 R. P. Brenner, Commercial Change (see n.20) 520. 42 J. T. Rutt (ed.) Diary of Thomas Burton Esquire, member in the Parliaments of Oliver and Richard Cromwell (1656-1659) (London 1828). 43 J. E. Farnell (see n.28) 443-4. 44 Sir Charles Firth, Secretary Thurloe (see n.32). 45 Sir Walter Scott (ed.) Collection of scarce and valuable tracts . . . (Somers Tracts) VI (London 1809-15) 329-36. 46 Sir Charles Firth (see n.32). 47 S. R. Gardiner III (see n.13) 82. 48 Sir Charles Firth (see n.32). 49. W. C. Abbott, The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell 111 (Cambridge, Mass. 1945) 413. 50 C. M. Andrews (see n.18) 55. 51 S. R. Gardiner IV (see n.13) 150-8. 52 Lucien Wolf (see n.8) 1, xxxiv. 53 Ibid, xlvi-xlviii, citing Henry Jessey, A Narrative of the late proceedings at Whitehall concerning the Jews etc. Harleian Miscellany VII 623. 54 Ibid, lxxiv-v, citing State Papers Domestic - Interregnum ci.118. 55 Ibid, lxxxvi, citing Ibid, cxxv 58. 56 See Lucien Wolf, 'Crypto-Jews under the Commonwealth' Trans ]HSE (1895) 60-6. 57 Trans JHSE XIX (1960) 166. 58 Cecil Roth, 'The Resettlement of the Jews in England in 1656' in V. D. Lipman (ed.) Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (London 1961) 15. 59 W. S. Samuel, 'The First London Synagogue of the Re-settlement' Trans JHSE X (1924) plate 10. 60 John Locke, 'A Letter Concerning Toleration' A Second Treatise of Government (Blackwell, Oxford 1966) 162. 61 Trans JHSE IV (1903) 186-8. 169</page></plain_text>

bottom of page