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Christian subjects. Having taken a great part of the Scotch army, who assisted the barons, prisoners at Berwick, he determined to inflict such a variety of tortures upon them, that he could find none, except the Jews, whom he was able to force, that did not refuse to be made the instruments of his cruelty. The Jews, in the neighbourhood, were therefore obliged to become his executioners.*
The first act of the guardians of King John's successor, Henry the 3rd, was a measure in favor of the Jews. This monarch, like all his predecessors, began his reign with an indulgence to the Jews. The Earl of Pembroke, guardian during the minority, immediately issued orders for the liberation of all Jews that were, on any account, found imprisoned: and, in the succeeding year, it was directed, that in all the towns where the Jews chiefly resided, twenty-four burgesses should be elected, for the especial purpose of protecting their interests and securing their safety; a measure which very significantly intimates the danger of the objects, whose necessities demanded that they should be thus defended. In the writs, sent for this purpose to the respective sheriffs, the pilgrims to Jerusalemf are mentioned by name, as a class whose insults are to be particularly guarded against: for it seems, these meritorious individuals conceived they had a right to pay themselves the expenses of so long and arduous a journey out of the funds of the obnoxious Jews; to whose ancient land they were proceeding, and whose ancestors had originally been the cause of their pilgrimage. It was soon after this, and for the ostensible purpose of distinguishing and protecting them, that the king, by proclamation, ordered, that all Jews, resident in the kingdom, should wear upon the fore-part of their upper garment two broad stripes of white linen or parchment.
These encouragements, it appears, drew great numbers of foreign Jews to settle in this country, and consequently excited loud complaints among the mass of the people. For, independent of usury being held in abhorrence, and of the detestation which always burnt fiercely against the religious tenets of Judaism, the Jews understood the secrets of trade much better than the native merchants. In consequence of their extensive connexions abroad, and their knowledge of the use of bills of exchange and other negotiable paper, they were enabled to cultivate commerce with great advantage: thus their inland traffic was well supElied; in addition to the convenience resulting from the brotherood, which existed among them, and amalgamated all the Jews
* Chron. de Mailross, ad ann. 1216. Aug. Jud. p. 76.
f Ne permittatis ab aliquibus vexentur, et maxime de
in England, as it were, into one extensive firm. Their skill in their own literature and the art of writing Hebrew, which was always kept up among them, gave a great superiority over the illiterate churls of the time—not to mention the secrecy which attended all mutual communications in an unknown language. Usury, likewise, which was forbidden to Christians, was permitted to the Jews ;* and their superior craft in the management of business was so evidently great, that those kings who were careful of their revenue were very glad to procure Jewish stewards and accountants to fill the offices of the exchequer, and other places of a like nature, as we have seen in the case of William Rufus.f The consequence of all this was, a great outcry in the nation against the Jews, on the part of the people, who were vigorously supported by the clergy and resisted by the king. Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, held a synod, in which, among other things, it was decreed,
"That Jews do not keep Christian slaves. And let the slaves (says he) be compell'd by ecclesiastical censure, to observe this; and the Jews by canonical punishment, or by some extraordinary penalty contriv'd by the diocesans. Let them not be permitted to build any more synagogues; but be look'd upon as debtors to the churches of the parishes wherein they reside, as to tithes and offerings."
And both he and the Bishop of Lincoln published an injunction, that no Christian should hold any intercourse with a Jew, or sell him any provisions, under pain of excommunication. These injunctions were quickly dissolved by the precepts of the king, directed to the principal officers of the towns where the Jews chiefly resided. Dr. Tovey observes, on this clerical plan of starving the Jews out of the country;
"Persons unacquainted with the nature of false zeal, when back'd by authority, will scarce-believe that the Jews had been in any great danger of starveing, tho' the king had not interpos'd in this matter. Yet Rapin tells us, that when the Gerhardine hereticks made their appearance in the time of Henry the Second, and orders were given not
* See Lord Coke, 2nd Inst.
f "The diligence and expertness of this people in all pecuniary dealings," observes Mr. Hallam, of the Jews, in his late excellent work On the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, "recommended them to princes who were solicitous about the improvement of their revenue. We find an article in the general charter of privileges, granted by Peter III. of Aragon, in 1283, that no Jew should hold the office of bayle or judge. And two kings of Castile, Alonso XI. and Peter the Cruel, incurred much odium by employing Jewish ministers in their treasury." Hallam, vol. 3, p. 404.
to relieve them; the prohibition was so punctualy observ'd, that all those wretches miserably perish'd with hunger."
The Christians of the middle ages seem to have been very little solicitous about the conversion of the Jews from their erroneous faith, though there was a place in London, called the "House of Converts," established for their reception. For it appears to have been the universal custom of the Christian princes, to seize upon the property of every Jew that embraced the received religion—a practice which held out but small inducement to produce a change. When one Augustine, however, a Jew of Canterbury, renounced his errors, the king was graciously pleased to give him his house again, to live in; notwithstanding (says the writ) that he was converted, (non obstante eo quod conversus est.) Our antiquary very justly terms this, but "a poor invitation to the rules of holiness."
By this time, however, (1230) the Jews had become a wealthy prey. The king came to be in want of money; and the Jews were consequently ordered to pay down, without delay, into the exchequer, the full third part of all their moveable property, to which exaction they were compelled to submit. The history of the Jews, for the remainder of this long reign, is little else, with the exception of two or three massacres of them by'the barons and populace, than a series of levies upon the Jews, to an amount which fills the modern reader, accustomed as he is to hear of immense taxes, with surprise. The supplies, indeed, required of them were frequently more than they were able, by any means, to collect—the constant punishment of which was, a general imprisonment, which, more than once in this reign, extended to all the Jews in the land.*
Once, the whole community determined, or feigned a determination, of retiring from the country. Whenever the barons refused, as they constantly did, any longer to supply the extravagance of the king with money, to lavish on his favorite foreigners —the Jews were his never-failing resource: on one of these occasions, the king demanded money which they were unable to furnish.
"The king therefore parting from them in a fury, commission'd
* On the walls of an old vault, at Winchester, was found an affecting evidence of their imprisonment in the succeeding reign, in an inscription which some captive Jew had scratched, in Hebrew, upon a soft stone—the translation of which is,
All the Jews of this nation were imprisoned in the year Five thousand and forty-seven (1287 A.D.) I, Asher, wrote this. Selden de Jur. Nat. 1. 2. c. 6.
his brother, Earl Richard, to raise what money he wanted, upon the Jews. Which as he punctualy endeavour'd to execute, these unhappy people were driven to such despair, as to resolve, one and all, to depart the country; and therefore deputed Elias, one of their senior rabbies, to acquaint the earl, that, (as they plainly perceiv'd their utter destruction would be inevitable, if they staid any longer in England,) they humbly besought the king for leave to go away; assuring him, that, were it in their power,his demands no sooner should be made than satisfy'd; but that, as matters were with them at present, they cou'd not possibly supply him, tho' they shou'd sell their skins: for, by his connivance at the Caursini, and some of his own private bankers, their trade had been so far ruin'd, as not to yield them a subsistence. At the end of which speech, (it being deliver'd with great concern and vehemence,) the poor old man fainted, and was with some difficulty brought again to himself.
"Upon which the earl, prudently considering that their removal was no ways consistent with the king's affairs at present, (who had rather get little by them than nothing,) pretended to be very much their friend; and answer'd, that the king, his brother, was their loving prince, and ready at all times to oblige them; but, in this matter, cou'd not grant their request: because the King of France had lately publish'd a severe edict against Jews, and no other Christian country wou'd receive them; by which means they wou'd be expos'd to such hardships and difficultys, as wou'd much afflict the king, who had always been tender of their welfare. In short, they rais'd what money they cou'd, and the king, for this once, was contented to take it.
"Yet, notwithstanding such manifest desolation, this loving prince call'd upon them again the very next year; and when they presum'd to remonstrate, and again beg'd leave to depart, they cou'd obtain nothing further than the following royal declaration.
"'It is no marvel if I covet money; it is an horrible thing to imagine the debts wherein I am held bound. By the head of God, they amount to the summ of two hundred thousand marks; and if I shou'd say three, I shou'd not exceed the bounds of truth. I am deceiv'd on every side. I am a maim'd and abridg'd king; yea now but a halfed king. For having made a certain estimate of the expences of my rents, the summ of the annual rent of Edward my son amounts to above fiveteen thousand marks. There is therefore a necessity for me to live of the money gotten from what place soever, and from whomsoever, and by what means soever.' Therefore, as Mr. Prynne continues to express it, being made another Titus or Vespasian, he sold the Jews, for some years, to Earl Richard, his brother; that those whom the king had excoriated, he might eviscerate."
The deed, which contains this curious mortgage, is well worth quoting, and runs thus:
"Rex omnibus, &c. Noveritis nos mutuo accepisse & dilecto Fratre, & fideli nostro R. Comite Cornubiae, quinque millia Marcarum Sterlingorum novorum, & integrorum; ad quorum solutionem, assignavimus, & tradidimus ei, omnes Judceos nostros Angliae. Assignavimus etiam, & obligavimus, eosdem Judseos prsedicto Comiti, ad solutionem trium millium Marcarum in quibus Nobis tenebantur, de Tallagio eidem Comiti faciendo, in hunc Modum; videlicet, that the Jews should pay to the earl, his executors, or assigns, in Quind. Trin. anno 39. 1000Z. in Quinden. S. Mich, the same year, 1000Z. &c. and that the Jews shou'd forfeit 500Z. for every default of payment. The king further grants the earl power to destrain them by their chatels and bodies; with other covenants, which may be seen at length in Rymer."
For it is a singular fact, that so absolutely were the Jews considered the property of the monarch, that he, more than once, made them over to others, either as security for a loan, or farmed them out for a given time in payment of his debts. They were handed over, in turns, in this manner, to the brother of Henry, the Earl Richard, to his son Edward, and to the Caturcensian, the deeds of which conveyances are still extant.
One of the most remarkable circumstances of this reign, relating to the Jews, is the summoning of the Jewish parliament, as it has been called, by the king, " to consult," says the writ, "with us, as well concerning our, as your own, interests." (Ad tractandum nobiscum, tarn de nostra quam sua utilitate.") Dr. Tovey gives the following account of it:
"But I question whether very many are acquainted with Parliamentum Judaicum. Yet such a one was now held (being the 25th of H. 3) as properly deserves that title. For the king directed writs to the sheriffs of each county, commanding them to return before him, at Worcester, upon Quinquagesima Sunday, six of the richest Jews from every town; or two only, from such places where there were but few: to treat with him as well concerning his own, as their benefit; and threat'ning the sheriffs, that, if they fail'd, he wou'd so terribly handle them, that they shou'd remember it as long as they liv'd.
"Great, no doubt, was the surprise of these unhappy people, to find themselves thus, all of a sudden, made counsellors to the king, after so many years spent in ignominious servitude: I cou'd almost think they believ'd he was desirous to become Jew himself: when they observ'd how little he regarded the Christian sabbath, by appointing it for their day of meeting. But, whatever sanguine hopes this great honour might have inspir'd them with, when they came, poor men, to understand no other part of His Majesty's most gracious speech, but that he wanted money—they must raise him money— he had call'd them together to think of ways and means, to furnish him with twenty thousand marks; their consternation was inexpressible. But there was no remedy. Liberty of speech, for this one time, was deny'd in parliament; and they were only commanded to go home again, and get half of it ready by Midsummer, and the remainder by Michaelmas.
"Prynne (in his Demurrer, p. 29) has given us above a hundred names of those persons who were return'd to this parliament; but, as they make but indifferent musick, I shan't repeat 'em."