History of the Jews in England
Jewish, or certainly Semitic, traders were probably known to the early Britons of the coast long before Cæsar thought of landing on this island, and certainly before the birth of Christ. Speaking of this period, one historian even goes so far as to say: "Merchants and their crews came there [Cornwall] from all the seaports of the Mediterranean, from Marseilles and the Adriatic, from Phoenicia at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and the north African trading centres; some of these surely married and settled in England, and so we find in Cornwall descendants of Asiatic and African peoples men and women with a Jewish or African or Italian cast of countenance and a temperament altogether foreign to that we find elsewhere in the island." 1
Hyamson also refers to the subject. He says: "A Semitic origin is found . . . for the well-know Cornish place names. Marazion ('Bitterness of Zion') and Market Jew. Resemblances have been traced between the Hebrew and Cornish languages; and it has been pointed out that Jewish names were once common among the inhabitants of Cornwall . . . . It may be that they are instances of purely accidental coincidence; it may be that they are due to Jewish intercourse with England during the reign of Solomon. It is possible also that they may date from a later period." 2
Hyamson also thinks it possible that, on the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, among the Jews sold as slaves some may have come to Britain. 3
The first mention of Jews is to be found in the Liber Poenitentialis of Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 669. There are also references to Jews in the days of Whitgaf or Wiglaf, King of Mercia, and Edward the Confessor. There can be little doubt, therefore, that long before the Conquest Jews were established over here, though probably not in large numbers.
1. Rex Welldon Finn, M.A., "The English Heritage", pp. 1011.
2. Hyamson, pp. 1, 2.
3. Ibid., p. 21.
Renan, pursuing his customary tactics, tries to imply that since the Jew of the early Middle Ages in England and Germany came from France, and a high percentage of Gallic Jews were converts, a large proportion of the alleged Jews of England and Germany may not have been true Semites at all. 1 The facts, however, are not in harmony with this hypothesis. Neither do Hyamson, Goldschmidt, nor Abrahams all of them Jewish historians and authors of books on the Jews in England ever hint at anything of the kind.
Although we cannot discover many details about the Jews under William I., except that they were plentiful, that they helped to fill the royal treasury and diverted much of the odium that would otherwise have fallen on the King and his chief officers, we are justified in inferring from the conduct of the subsequent monarchs towards the Jews, and their functions in the State, that what the Jews did and how they were treated in the 12th and 13th centuries more or less followed the precedents first established by the Conqueror.
What, then, was the function of the Jews and what was their relationship to the sovereign?
There is not the slightest shadow of a doubt that the Jews of the late eleventh century in England were chiefly occupied with moneylending, and probably generally fulfilling the function of middlemen capitalists, some centuries before capitalism became a reality in the land. In addition to lending out money at interest, they therefore probably bought and sold as wholesalers, and it is also not unlikely that they may even have cornered markets in certain commodities.
They had the coin, they had the financial knowledge and experience, they were alone in the field (because the laws of the
1. "Le Judaisme", etc., p. 22.
None, however, but an invading and victorious dynasty, feeling itself still a stranger in the land and conscious of no traditional ties to its inhabitants, could ever have dropped such a cloud of harpies upon the country without considering that it was violating a duty and a trust.
And what were the privileges granted by the Norman and early Plantagenet monarchs to the Jews, and probably originally suggested by the Conqueror's own treatment of them?
They were, by law, permitted to charge a very high rate of interest for their loans. Twopence per £1 per week, i.e., 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. per annum, was quite common. 1 And Abrahams tells us that "loans were freely contracted which accumulated at 50 per cent.". 2 They were allowed to claim redress if molested, hold lands in pledge until redeemed, probably excused all customs, toils, etc., 3 and permitted to buy anything except Church property. They had the right to be tried by their peers and, what was most extraordinary, a Jew's oath was held to be valid against that of twelve Christians.
In return for these exceptional privileges, the King levied a tax on all their transactions, sometimes resorted to direct demands on money from them, and, in addition, often accepted money from their debtors, in order to use his influence on the latter's behalf. 4 Thus he derived a double profit from the activities of the Jews.
His income from this source must have been considerable, and Abrahams estimates the average annual contribution made by the Jews to the treasury during the latter part of the twelfth century at about a twelfth of the whole royal revenue. 5 At the beginning of the thirteenth century it amounted to a thirteenth. 6 To appreciate how wealthy the Jews had become in England in a little over a century, however, we need only consider that when, in 1187, Henry II. wished to raise a great sum from all his people, he got nearly as much from the Jews alone as from his Christian subjects. From the former, whose contribution he assessed at 25 per cent. of their property, he obtained £60,000, an enormous sum in those days and equal to
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 255.
2. "Expulsion of the Jews from England", by B. L. Abrahams (Oxford, 1895), p. 26.
3. Hyamson, p. 10. This was certainly so under Henry I., and probably as a privilege before this.
4. Ibid., p. 10.
5. Abrahams, p. 15.
6. Hyamson, p. 54.
Moreover, the sovereign would frequently make special demands upon the Jews if by any chance they required his help to extricate themselves from a difficulty, either real or deliberately contrived by their protector and master. Thus, in 1130, "on the pretence" that one of the Jewish community had killed a sick man, Henry I. fined them the then enormous sum of £2,000 (£80,000 in pre-War money). 2
True, though the Kings of the Norman and early Plantagenet lines protected the Jews, they also regarded them as their own to do as they liked with, and, as the years went by, each King may be said to have protected them less and less. Consequently, although the Jews undoubtedly flourished thanks to their extraordinary privileges and the peculiar nature of their activities among a people who were not merely children, but virtually infants, in all financial matters they had to pay fairly heavily for their right to be the King's chattels, and not in cash and goods alone, but also in the odium their wealth and their peculiarly favoured position excited in those about them.
To use a metaphor which, although obstetric, is exceedingly apt, if we wish to form a correct conception of the function of the Jews in England in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, we must think of them as a sort of placenta placed between the King and the body of his people, whereby the blood drawn from his subjects by the monarch appeared to the English themselves to be extracted from them by the placenta, and not by the avaricious or exacting organism on the other side of it.
By this means the odium was skilfully diverted from the King to the instrument of his exactions, and a buffer community without parallel in the modern State was thus placed between the ruler and his subjects. 3
It does not require much ingenuity, however, to perceive that such an arrangement was bound to be ephemeral; for whilst in the first place none but a victorious conqueror and
1. Abrahams, p. 13.
2. Hyamson, p. 16. See also on this point, "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages", by Henry Hallam (London, 1860), Vol. II., p. 320: "The Jews paid exorbitant sums for every common right of mankind, for protection, for justice. In return, they were sustained against their Christian debtors in demands of usury, which superstition and tyranny rendered enormous." The estimates of the above-mentioned sums in pre-War currency are based on Hyamson's use of 40 as the multiplier in regard to the £2,000 paid by the Jews to Henry I. Dr. Jacobs, however, in "The Jews of Angevin England" (Appendix, pp. 316320), suggests 30 as the multiplier in regard to sums referred to during the period in question.
3. See Abrahams, p. 17: "The arrangement by which Jewish money-lenders received on English soil the protection of the King against his own subjects was not very honourable to either of the parties."
There was obviously, therefore, very little stability about the position of the Jews in England at this time, and any member of the nation gifted with insight might, as early as the end of the twelfth century, have foreseen the inevitable outcome. Their greatest danger clearly lay in the caprice of the sovereign. Given a king who felt himself more English that William the Conqueror or Henry I., and who consequently conceived his duties to his people to be bound more by affection and confidence than by might and violence, and the plight of the Jew, who had no real place in the economy of the feudal State, or who was not allowed, or declined to take, any real place, was bound to become precarious.
1. That this change actually occurred is shown by the fact that the first three Norman kings, as Hyamson admits (p. 13), gave no annoyance to the Jews, and it was only gradually, as the sovereigns of the late Norman and early Plantagenet lines increased in their clemency to their English subjects, that they also grew more harsh and callous towards the Jews at least, that is our reading of the course of events.
2. "Geschichte der Juden in England", by S. Goldschmidt (Berlin, 1866), p. 33.
3. Ibid., p. 32. See also Hyamson, p. 18, where we are told that in the twelfth century the Jews lived in great luxury in London, and the fact that many of their houses in Old Jewry were purchased by contemporary barons shows what important mansions they must have owned. Bishop Stubbs certainly declares that the Jews "were hated by the poor". (See "The Early Plantagenets", London, 1884, p. 229.)
Altogether apart, however, from any other reasons which the English people may have had for disliking the Jews in those days, the Church had for a very long time, and more or less independently, been trying to excite the populace against them.
Many ecclesiastical bodies were involved in heavy debts to the Jews, 1 which may have been a factor in the Church's growing hostility; but undoubtedly what chiefly incensed the ecclesiastics was the relative rationalism of the Jews at a time when almost every activity was governed by superstition and a belief in magical agencies, and also the religious influence of the Jews on the common people and particularly on the slaves and servants they kept in their households.
As early as the beginning of the twelfth century the Church had forbidden Jews to hold Christian slaves, and any slaves they held who accepted Christianity were at once set at liberty. 2 The Church had also been active in spreading among the superstitious populace tales of horror concerning the secret practices of the Jews in order, if possible, to incite the people against them. 3 It also took steps to obtain converts among them, and any of these who were found guilty of reversion to Judaism were deprived of their children and servants "lest the latter might be influenced to act likewise". 4
Among the landlord class, hostility to the Jews was also growing steadily in the two centuries preceding their expulsion. This hostility which, among the poorer nobility, was doubtless due to indebtedness, was among the richer inspired by the fact that the presence of the Jews and their contributions to the treasury gave the King an independence which he could not otherwise have enjoyed, and rendered possible "many of those among the King's acts which they hated most". 5
The towns, however, were the first to feel and express an active dislike of the Jews because, owing to the latters'
1. Some idea of the indebtedness to one Jew alone Aaron of Leeds on the part of the ecclesiastical bodies may be gathered from Hyamson (p. 28), who tells us that the owners of the Abbey of St. Albans, Lincoln Minster, Peterborough Cathedral, and nine Cistercian abbeys, owed him the equivalent of £250,000 of modern money at his death.
2. Hyamson, p. 11.
3. Goldschmidt, p. 15.
4. Hyamson, p. 11.
5. Abrahams, p. 22.
Thus, in spite of all the propaganda of the Church, much of which appears to have been believed by the common folk, the latter's fury still remained in abeyance, until the prejudices and passions excited by the Crusades at last let loose the pent-up anger in the country.
And in this respect England was not exceptional.
As early as 1097, soon after Pope Urban II. had announced the First Crusade, there had been massacres of Jews at Treves, Metz, Spiers, Worms, Mentz and Cologne, at cities on the Main and Danube, and even in Hungary, 2 whilst in 1147 there had again been massacres of the Jews for much the same reason (i.e., the hatred inspired by the whole object and ideology of the Crusades) in Cologne, Metz, Worms, Spiers and Strassburg. 3 Although these events found their echo in England, no massacres of Jews on a large scale, which could be ascribed to the Crusades alone, occurred as yet. But in 1146 there began a campaign the so-called Blood Accusation which gave rise to persecution and culminated with other influences in bringing about the most appalling massacres.
Strange to say, the Blood Accusation, the first case of which occurred at Norwich, where a boy of twelve (St William) was alleged to have been martyred by the Jews for the purpose of their religious rites, was originally the work of a man called Theobald, a Jew of Cambridge, who had been converted to Christianity. This fact naturally lent the fantastic features of the accusation all the more plausibility, with the result that, although the sheriff discredited the whole story (some say as the result of Jewish bribery), and would not even allow the Jews to appear answer the charge, the ignorant and infuriated populace, doubtless remembering innumerable vague and long-cherished grudges, fell on the Jews of the city, killed a good many of them, and caused others to take flight in an effort to save their lives.
But the example of Norwich was followed by other cities, and similar accusations were made at Gloucester (1168), Bury St. Edmunds (1180), Winchester (1192 and 1232), London (1244), and finally at Lincoln (1255).
1. Abrahams, p. 17.
2. Milman. Vol. III., p. 177.
3. Ibid., pp. 180, 181.
These were evil signs, and at Richard I.'s coronation in 1189 the first trouble on a large scale ultimately broke out.
Through causes into which it is impossible to enter here, there was a riot outside Westminster Abbey, in which the Christian population fell on the Jews in the crowd, beat them, killed many of them, and pursued the rest to their houses, which were sacked and burnt, in many cases with their inmates inside them.
The King, who heard of the tumult at his coronation banquet, did his utmost to stop the rioting and protect the Jews, but in vain. The rioting lasted twenty-four hours, and during the massacre a minority of Jews secured their safety only by receiving baptism. After the massacre, Richard I. issued an edict menacing punishment to all those who injured his protégés, the Jews, but before this edict was published the Jews of Dunstable, wishing to forestall the possible repetition of the London incidents in their town, are said to have gone over in a body to Christianity, and the Jews in other cities are alleged to have done likewise. 2
In any case, "anti-Jewish outbreaks arose almost simultaneously in all parts of the country", 3 but the most serious massacre occurred in 1190, at York, where the Jews, taking refuge in the castle, when all chance of defending themselves was at an end, deliberately took the lives of their own wives and children, set fire to the castle and perished in the flames. Those who had not the courage to follow the example of the more desperate refugees were subsequently massacred.
From this time onwards, throughout the thirteenth century, the condition of the Jews in England grew steadily worse. John's reign was one of repeated extortions, and under Henry III. the royal demands became so intolerable, and the measures of compulsion so cruel, that the whole of the Jewish community twice requested in vain to be allowed to leave the kingdom.
1. Hyamson, p. 34.
2. Goldschmidt, p. 43.
3. Hyamson, p. 39. The author mentions Lynn, Stamford, Norwich, Bury St. Edmunds, Colchester, Thetford, and Ospringe, where the Jews were plundered and massacred.
All through Henry III.'s reign, community after community of Jews was ransacked and massacred, while in various parts of the country the Blood Accusation was again advanced as a pretext for oppression, slaughter and plunder.
Apart from the hostile temper of the populace and the vindictive attitude of the barons, the Church and the towns, who had grown more powerful vis-à-vis of the Crown, the material circumstances of the Jews had, in any case, deteriorated considerably in England owing to the competition they had to encounter on the part of another order of usurers who filched their business from them. Early in the thirteenth century, "the merchants of Lombardy and of the south of France took up the business of remitting money by bills of exchange, and of making profits on loans", and "the Lombard usurers established themselves in every country". 2 Hallam says that at this time the Caursini are mentioned almost as often as the rich Italian bankers of Lombardy.
Thus, in addition to the Church and the landowners, even the King felt himself growing independent of the Jewish money-lenders, and not only did their business and wealth decline in consequence, but the only purpose they served in the country, from the point of view both of the ruler and his more powerful subjects, also diminished.
Late in the reign of Henry III., moreover, disaffection was caused among large sections of the community, owing to the fact that the Jews had become possessed of land. Whether they had obtained these properties by purchase or foreclosure is not clear, but Milman tells us that they might become
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 251.
2. Hallam. Vol. III., p. 339.
The temper of those who had been dispossessed, and the horror of the Church at finding Church property in the hands of the alien and infidel race, may be imagined, and one of the last acts of Henry III.'s reign was to disqualify all Jews from holding lands or even tenements, except the houses which they actually possessed, particularly in the City of London. 2
But it is a curious reflection on the state of England at that time, and a powerful reminder that there must, in spite of all we have said, have still existed large numbers of Christians in the country who were friendly to the Jews, that at the very moment, late in Henry III.'s reign, when the feelings of the powerful were running high against them, the Jewish community deliberately petitioned the King to grant them the full enjoyment of all the remaining privileges that usually accompanied the possession of land. We refer to such rights as the guardianship of minors on their estates, the right of giving wards in marriage, and the presentation of livings. 3
And, what is even more extraordinary, there were among the King's councillors a certain number who "were at first in favour of granting the request". 4 Indeed, had it not been for the energetic intervention of a Franciscan friar, who obtained admittance to the Council, we are led to suppose that the request would have been granted.
We may explain the attitude of these councillors as due either to bribery or to a friendliness towards the Jews which still survived among many in the land. But, in any case, it is strange, for even if due to bribery, one would have thought that the other side the Church and the baronage would have been in a position to offer much more substantial bribes.
At all events, the appeal came to nothing, and at the beginning of Edward I.'s reign steps were already being taken to try to compel the Jews to abandon usury altogether and to adopt such occupations as ordinary commerce, manufacture or tilling the soil. 5 Louis IX. of France had already adopted this policy. But in neither case was it successful. Dr. Cunningham remarks: "From the time of Richard I. their usury had been regulated rather than prohibited, but Edward I. forbade them to live by such means, and insisted that they should seek their
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 256.
2. Ibid., Vol. III., p. 257.
3. Abrahams, p. 28.
4. Ibid., p. 29.
5. Milman. Vol. III., p. 258.
As Milman says: "Manual labour and traffic were not sources sufficiently expeditious for the enterprising avarice of the Jews", 1 and the only practical result of this endeavour to absorb them into the ordinary life of the country was that they were driven to means even less tolerable than usury in order to make an easy living.
Thus they resorted to clipping and adulterating the coinage and, according to Jewish tradition, their final expulsion was the outcome of charges arising out of these practices. 1 There seems to be no doubt about the implication of the Jews in this crime of clipping, for early in the century the Jewish community, i.e., probably the most respectable among them, had petitioned the King to expel from his realm all Jews guilty of tampering with the coinage. 1 But Christians, and particularly the Caursini and certain other foreign business elements, were probably implicated as well.
At all events, these charges and the odium they excited, by adding to the general hostility towards the Jews which, as we have shown, had been steadily increasing through the century, led to a national movement in favour of their expulsion, and Edward I., according to Green, "swayed by the fanaticism of his subjects", and "eager to find supplies for his treasury . . . bought the grant of a fifteenth from clergy and laity by consenting to drive the Jews from his realm". 1
Green implies that the writs for the expulsion of the Jews were issued reluctantly by Edward I., and that he was a severe loser by their expulsion. We take a rather different view. We submit that the expulsion of the Jews had become a necessity, not merely owing to the feeling in the country but also owing to a change in the sovereign himself. Having become more of an English king than were any of his predecessors, and feeling himself no longer merely the heir of a line of conquerors imposed on a foreign population, but the
1. "The Growth of English Industry and Commerce" (Cambridge, 1896). Vol. I., p. 204.
2. Milman, as before.
3. Hallam in a footnote to p. 369, Vol. III., says that, according to an annalist of Edward I.'s reign, "the Jews clipped our coin till it retained hardly half its due weight, the effect of which was a general enhancement of prices and a decline of foreign trade".
4. Hyamson, p. 95.
5. "Short History of the English People", Chap. IV., Sect. V.
Sixteen thousand Jews are supposed to have left England i.e., all those who preferred exile to apostasy. There is ample evidence to show that if any cruelties were perpetrated against them and there are many instances of such acts they were certainly not intended by the King. For Edward I. not only allowed them to take their movable property with them and "all pledges that had not been redeemed", but he also ordered all sheriffs to see that no harm should overtake them, and "the Wardens of the Cinque Ports were commanded, under penalties, to treat the Jews civilly and honestly, and to furnish the poorer ones with transport to the Continent at reduced rates". 2
Thus ended the first sojourn of the Jews in England. Before we examine the circumstances of their return, and the events which followed it, however, two matters must be dealt with.
We refer to:
(a) The reasons for the restrictions of the Jews to the particularly odious calling of money-lending and pawnbroking during the Middle Ages, and
(b) The extent to which Jewish apostasy must have caused an influx of Jewish blood into the population of England under the Norman and Angevin kings.
In his "History of the Jews", Milman says: "In that singular structure, the feudal system, which rose like a pyramid from the villains or slaves attached to the soil to the monarch who crowned the edifice, the Jews found no proper place", and "the general effect of the feudal system was to detach the Jews entirely from the cultivation of the soil". 3
Hyamson, discussing the same question, puts the matter rather differently. He says: "In the feudal system as adopted in England, the Jews were given a definite function, and, by the closing of all other paths, from this there was no escape. The English Jew of the early Middle Ages had either to be a capitalist, in most instances a money-lender, or to depart the country." 4
1. Bishop Stubbs gives us a hint that the expulsion may have been due to the "high-mindedness" of the King. Op. cit., p. 228.
2. Hyamson, p. 100. The famous incident of the wealthy Jews who were disembarked on a sandbank in the Thames estuary and allowed to drown, led to the punishment of those who were responsible for it; for we are told that they were tried and hanged.
3. Milman. Vol. III., pp. 160163.
4. Hyamson, p. 25.
For instance to raise no other objections we might usefully ask ourselves whether the members of any other nation, finding themselves more or less isolated in the Middle Ages, would necessarily have taken to money-lending and pawnbroking as a means of livelihood.
We might ask ourselves further whether the Norman and Angevin kings of England and the kings of France would have used the Jews as they undoubtedly did that is to say, as a means of sucking the wealth out of their subjects unless they had in their guile perceived in the Jewish people peculiar aptitudes for this particular function.
Finally, we might ask ourselves why the attempts made by Louis IX. of France and Edward I. of England to make the Jews abandon usury and "to betake themselves to traffic, manufactures, or the cultivation of the land", 1 were such a dismal failure.
Without anticipating too much the contents of our section below on THE CHARACTER OF THE JEWS, it seems important to consider these questions somewhat carefully.
Milman was a very honest and impartial historian, at least where the Jews were concerned, and we can hardly conceive it as likely that he would have answered our third question as he did, unless there had been serious grounds for so doing. 2
Moreover, Dr. Cunningham abundantly confirms him. Commenting on this very question, the learned historian of English industry and commerce says: "Every legislative effort was made in the thirteenth century to induce them [the Jews] to conform to ordinary ways and take other callings so that they might be assimilated into the life of the places where they lived. Their devotion to their own faith, even if it was not the sole reason of their isolation, was at any rate a very serious obstacle to their being absorbed into ordinary English society." 3
We cannot discuss more deeply this all-important question without forestalling much of what is to be said in Section 4, but perhaps the following considerations may be added to the above remarks.
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 258.
2. It will be remembered that he said (Vol. III., p. 258): "manual labour and traffic were no sources sufficiently expeditious for the enterprising avarice of the Jews".
3. Cunningham. Vol. I., p. 203.
The middle-man, the middle class that springs from his breed, and the middling breed that results from his hegemony, were either unknown to mediæval Europe, or known only to be despised. Their very claim to exist was deprecated and challenged. For "an observant son of the Church was prevented from entering any commercial undertakings". 1 As Dr. Cunningham says: "The duty of working, as a mode of self-discipline, and as supplying the means for aiding men serving God, was strongly urged by the Fathers . . . . This was probably the element in the public feeling against the Jews which can be most directly traced to Christian teaching." 2
Mary Bateson gives enough evidence of the contempt in which shopkeepers, tradesmen and mere profiteers were held in twelfth-century England. But it was from this contemned class that the middle classes were ultimately to arise, and the reputation they enjoyed in Western Europe of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries was hardly calculated to promote their multiplication. 3
Now the Jews, not being bound by Christian laws, whether against usury or commercial undertakings, were the predestined occupiers of the middle-class position at a time when no such approved class existed. Not only did they by their values and natural equipment easily drop into the empty niche, but they also found everybody in the land, from the sovereign to the poorest burgess, ready to accept them as adorners of it, and were, moreover, perfectly impervious to the contempt which those about them might feel for the occupations associated with the middle-man's position.
There were not two or three but scores of reasons for the Jew of twelfth- and thirteenth-century England to feel superior to those about him. He was so in education at a time when many amongst even the high in the land could not write their names. He was a rationalist when they even the highest in the land were still steeped in superstition. He was the product not of a century but of millennia of civilization, while all about him were people who, hardly a thousand
1. Hyamson, p. 10.
2. Cunningham. Vol. I., p. 204.
3. "Mediæval England" (London, 1903). Chap. XII.
Speaking of the Jews of this period, Dr. Cunningham, whose reputation for impartiality does not need to be emphasized, says: "They were also personally unpopular because they maintained themselves in their isolation, just as the Chinese now do in San Francisco; they were determined not to adopt the industrial and commercial usages of a Christian community." 1
Now, it does not require much insight to perceive that, in such circumstances and with such feelings, the Jew was not unnaturally prone to be impervious to the contempt of those about him. Apart from the practical inconveniences to which this contempt might lead, as a form of censure, as a rebuke which might induce him to reconsider his ways, his values and his tastes, it was clearly negligible. He felt the population about him in the Middle Ages, even those sections of it which held exalted positions, as capable rather of violent than of moral or intellectual assaults on his position. Consequently, their opinions, their point of view, did not impress him.
So much for the first question, on which more will be said in Section 4.
Regarding the second question, there can, we think, be little doubt that in the centuries up to A.D. 1290, during which the Jews lived in England, there must have been a good deal of mingling with the native population.
Apart from the existence of pre-Roman or pre-Saxon Jewish settlements, such as that mentioned by Mr. Finn, in Cornwall, which, according to him and other authorities, left their racial stamp upon the local inhabitants, we have to bear in mind two potent factors making for mixture during the Norman and Angevin reigns up to 1290.
(a) The bearing of children to Jewish masters by converted or unconverted Gentile female slaves, against which much of
1. Cunningham. Vol. I., p. 200.
(b) The apostasy of the more pusillanimous Jews during the periods of persecution and massacre, and finally at the time of expulsion. Although these cases come under the head of conversion to Christianity, they were examples of involuntary, as compared with voluntary and free, apostasy.
Regarding the first-mentioned source of miscegenation, by which Jewish blood must have entered the native stocks, it is, we submit, by its very nature difficult to establish beyond any possible doubt, not only because of the absence of contemporary records of births, whether legitimate or illegitimate, but also because, in any case, what happened to female slaves in those times was certainly not regarded as of great importance. When, however, we bear the circumstances in mind the opportunities created by the position of master and slave, and the power vested in a master at that time it would seem incredible that such illegitimate progeny should not often have resulted from the relationship, and the fact that the Church in England and at Rome took into consideration only those cases where conversion was likely to take place or had taken place is the best proof of our contention. For this was typical of the mediæval ideology. Blood mattered much less than religious profession. It was not the fact that the Jew might have children by his female slaves that perturbed the ecclesiastical authorities, but that he might win her and them for Judaism.
When, moreover, we bear in mind that, in addition to the rich and superior Jews in England, there was a large proportion who, through their comparative poverty, lived with and like the common people, probably carrying on in a very small way the kind of financial middle-man's functions of their more fortunate co-religionists, it does not require much imagination to suspect that here, in the lowest levels of Jewry, where intercourse with the more humble in the land was common (there is much indirect evidence of this), the relationship must often have led to both legitimate and illegitimate offspring.
Regarding the actual bearing of legitimate offspring to Jews whose conversion to Christianity, or whose conversion of their prospective wives to Judaism, enabled them to marry female
1. Thus Ripley observes (p. 392): "We find, for example, much prohibitive legislation against the employment of Christian servants by Jews. This was directed against the danger of conversion to Judaism by the master, with consequent intermarriage." Ripley does not envisage the alternative of progeny where no legal marriage occurred. This, too, must have been common in the circumstances.
In reckoning the contribution of Semitic blood to early English stocks, however, we must bear in mind the fact already mentioned that, in any event, mixed Jew and Gentile marriages are never very fertile. (See Section 1.) On the other hand, and as against this, we must not overlook the wide distribution of Jews in twelfth- and thirteenth-century England. A glance at the map in Hyamson's book, 1 showing the distribution before the expulsion, immediately reveals the fact that there was hardly a town of any importance where Jews were not to be found. At least seventy towns can be counted, including such distant places as Newborough and Beaumaris in Anglesey; and in estimating the mixture of blood, all these foci of Jewish activity must be taken into account.
As to the apostasy of the more pusillanimous Jews during the times of popular uprisings accompanied by massacres of Jews, this seems to have been a factor of which, both on the Jewish and the English side, much too little has apparently been made by the Jews probably in order to conceal the weakness of their co-religionists, and by the English writers in order not to stress the element of Jewish blood which doubtless came into the population by this means.
When, however, we remember that both at Richard I.'s coronation and on countless similar occasions the alternative of baptism was always seized upon by a certain percentage of the Jews involved, in order to save their lives, and when we bear in mind the apostasy of the Jews of whole towns like Dunstable, together with the fact that among the lower orders of Jews there would always have been less shame because less material loss and less publicity about their conversion, it seems quite unhistorical and gratuitous to deny this factor as an important source of Semitic blood in mediæval English stocks.
True, the converted Jews lost by their baptism. 2 But this merely supports the point we are here making, namely, that
1. Hyamson, facing p. 114.
2. See Cunningham. Vol. I., pp. 233, 234: "The converts ceased as Christians to be the chattels of the King, but as they were unable to claim their goods from him, they had to begin life as mere paupers."
Much is made by historians, on both the Jewish and the English side, of the small number of inmates in the Domus Conversorum throughout its history. But how about the converted Jews who immediately merged into the population because they had slender means of independent support? This Domus Conversorum 1 was instituted specially to provide for well-to-do Jews who were impoverished by conversion to Christianity. But can it really seriously be maintained that the records of this institution and those like it cover the whole of the conversions to Christianity effected among Jews during the period of their existence?
We suggest that only those in the direst straits would have availed themselves of these charitable foundations, 2 and that probably a far greater number remained outside. These, the poorer Jews, having lost much less by baptism, and having already accustomed themselves to humbler and less remunerative occupations than the richer apostates, became insensibly merged into the general population in order to live on as Christians and Englishmen, and became permanently lost to Judaism.
This factor in the mixing of Jewish and early English blood is all the more likely to have attained importance, moreover, when the day came for the whole of the Jewish community to be expelled. We are, it is true, led to infer that there were many poor Jews among the expelled, but how many more, finding themselves adapted to English life and comfortably settled in inconspicuous occupations in the urban centres in England, must not have been tempted to accept baptism rather than face the perils and uncertainties of a sea journey with permanent exile in some Continental country in such times as the Middle Ages?
And, be it remembered, that those who thus adopted Christianity would thenceforward be reckoned as English, and would probably adopt English names.
On the whole, therefore, there would seem to be sound historical grounds for assuming an influx of Semitic blood into our mediæval population, and it probably accounts for all those cases, noticed by observant Englishmen, of marked Jewish
1. The first was established in Southwark in 1212; the next in Oxford in 1221; and the next in New Street (now known as Chancery Lane) in 1233.
2. This is all the more probable seeing that conditions in these Homes were by no means ideal.
Very often we confess to having been puzzled by the conspicuous Semitic appearance of certain Englishmen, Welshmen and southern Scotsmen who would bitterly have resented any doubt being cast upon the British purity of their stocks. It seems difficult to account for these except on the grounds above outlined.
One last word. It is often argued, both from the Jewish and Gentile side, that Jewish apostates who embraced Christianity were insignificantly few in number, and that they were inclined quickly to return to the religion of their fathers if they received the slightest inducement to do so. 1
There is, however, a certain amount of evidence which conflicts with this point of view. It is known, for instance, that William Rufus, who was a pagan at heart and very friendly to the Jews, was bribed by the Jews of Rouen to "coerce" converts from Judaism to return to their original faith, and that by means of "terrible threats" he forced most of them to do so. 2
Is it then supposed that Jewish converts to Christianity in the reign of Rufus must have been different from converts in any other reign? But if they were not different, and it was necessary under Rufus to "coerce" them with terrible threats, their allegiance to their new faith could not, after all, have been as frail as is often alleged. Besides, we know that at least in one case that of a man called Stephen even Rufus's terrible threats failed. So it seems to us that too much has probably been made of the unsteadiness of the converted Jews and that far many more remained steadfast in their new faith than is generally supposed, particularly as there were many distinct advantages to be gained by so doing.
As regards the period between the expulsion and the resettlement of the Jews, much could be written. The belief that during this period no Jews were admitted into England or were allowed to reside there, however, must in any case be abandoned. Their number was not large but, on the other hand,
1. Both Hyamson and Dr. Cunningham (to mention only these two) argue in this way, though the former does say: "The bulk of the Jews of England preferred exile to apostasy. As in the case of Spain, however, there can be little doubt that a minority, weaker in will and constancy, chose baptism rather than the terrors of banishment, and as Christians, more or less sincere, remained behind and became gradually lost in the general population" (p. 116).
2. Hyamson, pp. 13, 14.
Jews as physicians, as philosophers and men learned in various departments of knowledge were admitted almost in every reign from the 14th century onwards. Jews are mentioned in public life under Henry VI., Spanish Jews as having taken refuge in England under Henry VII., Eastern Jews as being favoured by Henry VIII; under Elizabeth, Hounsditch was already inhabited by Jews, and two or three Jewish doctors came into prominence, one being physician to the Queen. Jews inhabited England under James I. and Charles I., 2 and there was a large influx of them in the latter years of Charles I.'s reign.
But, relatively speaking, the number of Jews settled or active in England during the three hundred and fifty years following the expulsion was small. It was not until Puritanism with its Old Testament ideology and Hebraism came into power that the ground was cleared for a return of the Jews en masse.
Various reasons have been suggested for the change in the attitude of the authorities in England towards the Jews after the death of Charles I. It has been said, for instance, that the Puritan-Whig-Trade mentality which came to the fore after the Civil War must inevitably have favoured good business and consequently philo-Semitism. It has been said that the effects of Menasseh Ben Israel's Humble Address and Declaration to the Commonwealth of England in 1655 softened the Protector's heart; that many Republicans, including Henry Marten, had long been cherishing the hope of readmitting the Jews; and that Cromwell hoped to have the co-operation of great Jewish merchants in extending and promoting the commercial activities of his country, and for this reason he wished to encourage them to settle in England. Cromwell and the Government of the Commonwealth were, moreover, undoubtedly indebted to the crypto-Jews of London for much assistance in the matter of secret service. And there were other reasons connected with events outside England.
1. Hyamson, p. 116.
2. In Hyamson's book, from which these details are taken, there is much more evidence of Jews in England during the centuries after the expulsion.
There was a good deal of opposition to the readmission of the Jews, both from the clerical, cavalier, and commercial sections of the community, and in 1658 the merchants made an attempt to effect their expulsion. But it failed, as did other subsequent attempts of a similar nature.
The outstanding events relating to Jews since their resettlement in the country under Cromwell are:
The passing of the Act under George II. which provided for the naturalization of Jews who had resided in the British Colonies for over seven years (1740).
The passing of the Jewish Naturalisation Act, which provided for the naturalization of Jews in the United Kingdom (1753). This was immediately repealed owing to popular clamour. 1
The passing of the first Jewish Emancipation Bill (1830). Owing to the opposition of the whole of the Tory party, however, it had to be dropped. 2
The passing of the Sheriff's Declaration Bill in 1835, whereby Jews were made eligible for the ancient and important office of sheriff.
The creation of the first Jewish baronet (Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid) in 1841.
The passing of a Bill providing for the admission of Jews to municipal office in 1845.
The passing of the Religious Opinions Relief Bill, which left only the doors of Parliament closed to the Jews (1846).
The election of a Jew Baron Lionel de Rothschild to Parliament (1847).
The passing by the Commons of a Bill to admit Jews to Parliament (1848). Three times, in 1848, 1850 and 1853, the Lords, who were preponderatingly Tory, rejected the Bill; and although in 1858 it was agreed between the two Houses that Jews might be admitted by special resolution, it was not until 1866 that the Liberals freed the Jews from all disability.
The appointment of the first Jew (Benjamin Disraeli) as Prime Minister (1868).
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 399.
2. It should be borne in mind, however, that it was the Tories under Lord Derby, who, in 1858, after twenty-seven years of opposition, granted emancipation to the Jews.
The creation of the first Jewish peer (Lord Rothschild) in 1886.
The appointment of the first Jewish Colonial Governor (Sir Matthew Nathan) in 1900.
The appointment of the first Jewish Viceroy of India (Lord Reading) in 1921.
There is now no appreciable difference between the careers and possible appointments of Jews and Gentiles in Great Britain, and one may say that, except perhaps for the highest ecclesiastical honours, from which the Jews are barred only by their religious convictions, there is no position of influence, responsibility or importance in the land which is closed to a Jew.