图书图片
PDF
ePub

tion was assessed at £70,000, the Jews alone at £60,000. The abandonment of the expedition, and the death of the king, prevented the levying of this enormous burden.

But Henry's death, instead of relieving them from oppression, was the accidental cause of a worse calamity. It gave an occasion for all the passions which had long been brooding within the hearts of the people to break forth into fierce and undisguised hostility. The whole nation crowded to the coronation of the brave Richard the First. Among the rest, the Jews were eager to offer their allegiance, and to admire the splendour of the spectacle. They came in such apparel as suited the occasion, and were prepared with costly offerings to the new sovereign. But the jealous courtiers, and the whole of the people, demanded the exclusion of such notorious sorcerers from the royal presence, who were likely to blast all the prosperity of the reign by their ill-omened appearance. Peremptory orders were issued that none should be admitted. A few strangers incautiously ventured, supposing themselves unknown, into the abbey. They were detected, maltreated, and dragged forth, half dead, from the church. The news spread like wildfire: the populace rose at once, broke open the houses of the Jews, which they suspected, and found, to conceal under a modest exterior incalculable wealth. They pillaged and set fire on all sides. The king sent the Chief Justiciary, Sir Richard Glanville, to arrest the tumult. Avarice and hatred were too strong for authority, and during the whole night the scene of plunder and havoc went on. The king, when the people, satiated with their booty, had retired, ordered a strict investigation. Many were apprehended, three were hanged; but such seems to have been the state of the public feeling, that the Government either would not or dared not revenge the wrongs inflicted on the Jews. Of the three, two suffered for robbing a Christian, on pretence of his being a Jew; one for setting fire to the house of a Jew, which burned down the next, belonging to a Christian.

One Benedict, to save his life, had submitted to baptism. He appealed to the king to release him from his compulsory engagement. The king referred this new case to the arch

bishop of Canterbury, who was present. The Archbishop Baldwin, who was more used to handle the battle-axe than to turn over tomes of casuistry, answered, though bluntly, perhaps with more plain sense than his more learned brethren might have done, " Why, if he is not willing to become a servant of God, he must even continue a servant of the devil."

The intelligence of the vengeance wrought by the citizens of London on the enemies of the Lord, probably likewise of the rich spoil they had obtained, spread rapidly throughout the country. All England was then swarming with fanatic friars preaching the crusade, and fierce soldiers, of all classes, who had taken up the cross. The example of London sounded like a tocsin, and directed their yet untried zeal and valour against the wealth and the infidelity of the Jews. At Norwich, at Edmondsbury, and at Stamford, the Jews were plundered, maltreated, slain. At Lincoln they took timely warning; and, with the connivance of the governor, secured themselves and their more valuable effects in the castle. At York, more disastrous scenes took place. Benedict, the relapsed convert, was a native of that city, but died in London of the ill-usage he had received. His friend Jacimus Joachim returned to York with the sad intelligence; but scarcely had he arrived when he found the city in a state of the most alarming excitement. The house of Benedict, a spacious building, was attacked; the wife and children of Benedict, with many others who had fled there as to a place of strength, were murdered; the house burned to the ground. Joachim, with the wealthiest of the Jews, took refuge in the castle with their most valuable effects; those who were not sufficiently expeditious were put to the swordneither age nor sex were respected; a few only escaped by submitting to baptism.

The Jews within the citadel, whether on good ground or not, suspected that secret negotiations were going on between the governor of the castle and the populace for their surrender. The governor, it was subtly spread abroad among them, was to be repaid for his treachery by a large share of the plunder. The desperate men felt that

they had but one alternative; they seized the opportunity of the governor's absence in the town, closed the gates against him, and boldly manned the citadel. The sheriff of the county happened to be in the town with an armed force. At the persuasion of the indignant governor and the populace, he gave the signal for attack; but, alarmed at the frantic fury with which the rabble swarmed to the assault, he endeavoured to revoke his fatal order, but in vain. A more influential body, the clergy, openly urged on the besiegers. A canon regular stood in the midst of the ferocious multitude in his surplice, shouting aloud, "Destroy the enemies of Christ; destroy the enemies of Christ!" Every morning this fierce churchman took the sacrament, and then proceeded to his post, where he* perished at length, crushed by a great stone from the battlements. The besieged, after a manful resistance, found their fate unavoidable. A council was summoned. Their rabbi, a foreigner, a man educated in one of their schools of learning, and universally respected for his profound knowledge of the law, rose up and said, " Men of Israel, the God of our fathers, to whom none can say, 'What doest thou?' calls upon us to die for our law. Death is inevitable; but we may yet choose whether we will die speedily and nobly, or ignominiously, after horrible torments and the most barbarous usage. My advice is, that we voluntarily render up our souls to our Creator, and fall by our own hands. The deed is both reasonable and according to the law, and is sanctioned by the example of our most illustrious ancestors." The old man sat down in tears. The assembly was divided; some declared that he had spoken wisely-others that it was a hard saying. The rabbi arose again, and said, "Let those who approve not of my proposal depart in peace." Some few obeyed and left the place; the greater number remained unmoved upon their seats. They then arose, collected their most precious effects, burned all that was combustible, and buried the rest. They set fire to the castle in many places, cut the throats of their wives and children, and then their own. The rabbi and Joachim alone survived. The place of honour was reserved for the rabbi; he first slew Joachim,

then pierced himself to the heart. The next morning the populace rushed to the assault with their accustomed fury. They beheld flames bursting from every part of the castle, and a few miserable wretches with supplications and wild cries, running to and fro on the battlements, who related the fate of their companions; they entreated mercy; they offered to submit to baptism. No sooner were the terms accepted, and the gates opened, than the fanatic multitude poured in and put every living being to the sword. Not content with this triumph, they rushed to the cathedral, demanded all the bonds and obligations which had been laid up there in the archives, and cast them all into an enormous bonfire. The king might perhaps have forgiven their former crime, the massacre of his unoffending subjects; but this was an inexpiable offence-treason against his exchequer as all these debts would have fallen to the Crown. Geoffrey Rydal, bishop of Ely, the chancellor, was sent to York to investigate the affair; but the ringleaders of the riot fled for a time to Scotland, and the chief citizens entered into recognizances; nor does it appear that any persons paid the penalty of the law for this atrocious massacre, by which 500, or 1,500, men (the numbers vary) were put to death.

On his return from captivity, Richard directed his attention to the affairs of the Jews; the justices on their circuits were ordered to inquire who were the murderers, and what became of the property which had been seized: all who were in possession of these effects, and had not compounded by a fine, were to be brought to justice. The whole community was placed under certain statutes, and the Jews were formally recognised as belonging to the Crown.

THE JEWS IN ENGLAND.

PART II.

John, previous to his accession, had probably many dealings with the Jews; he knew their value as a source of revenue, and commenced his reign by heaping favours

upon them, by which more were daily tempted to settle in the kingdom. It might almost seem that this weak and unprincipled, but crafty, prince, had formed a deliberate scheme of allowing them to accumulate ample treasures, in order that hereafter he might reap a richer harvest of plunder, and render himself independent of his unruly subjects.

The favour of John was not likely to conciliate that of his subjects. All classes looked on the Jews with darker jealousy. The same defamatory tales were repeated of their crucifying children; and the citizens of London, probably envious of their opulence, treated them with many indignities. The king wrote a strong rebuke to the mayor and to the barons of London, in which he commended the Jews to their protection, stating that he attributed the recent outrages only to the fools, not to the discreet citizens of the metropolis.

On a sudden, impatient as it were that any part of his subjects should suppose him capable of a long effort of justice, or perhaps rejoicing in thus having prepared himself subjects for spoliation, in whose behalf neither the imperious pope nor his refractory barons would interfere, John passed to the extreme of cruelty against the miserable Jews. Every Israelite, without distinction of age or sex, was imprisoned, their wealth confiscated to the exchequer, and the most cruel torments extorted from the reluctant the confession of their secret treasures. The story of the Jew of Bristol is well known, who was to lose a tooth a-day till he betrayed his hoards. Ten thousand marks of silver were required of this wealthy merchant; he obstinately lost seven teeth, and saved the rest by paying the ransom demanded. The king gained 60,000 marks by this atrocious proceeding. A second time demands equally extravagant were made; and these unhappy wretches, who paid so dearly for the privilege of being vassals of the Crown, were still further plundered by the barons as belonging to the king. Their treasures in London were seized, and their houses demolished to repair the walls, by these stern assertors of the liberties of the land.

Yet the regulations relating to the Jews in the Great

« 上一页继续 »