Page images
PDF
EPUB

2. “Again, I thought it unreasonable, therefore, to allow the truth, in matters of so much moment to remain undetermined : and that while even the Parthians, the Babylonians, the most remote Arabians, with our kindred beyond the Euphrates, and the Adiabeni, had, through my assiduous care, been accurately informed as to the origin of the war, through what disasters it had proceeded, and how it terminated, the Greeks and such of the Romans as had not been engaged in the contest, should be ignorant on these subjects, perusing the effusions of flattery or fiction." *

3. In the preface to his “Antiquities" (2) Josephus writes, “ Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study."

THE BANISHED ONES FETCHED HOME.

AN HISTORICAL SERIAL TALE, ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE CHEQUERED ANNALS OF THE

JEWS IN THIS COUNTRY.
BY AN INTIMATE FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.

BOOK III.-CHAPTER II. FROM THE ACCESSION OF RICHARD THE FIRST TO THE DEATH OF John.

(Continued from page 551 of the Volume for 1873.)

VENGE

TENGEANCE like a flood came not only upon the house of Joscenus,

but upon the remnant of the house of Jacob in this land. It would have been well for our people if King Richard had not set his heart upon conquering their lost Holy Land and Holy City; but it was willed otherwise. Having lost the daughter of Israel upon whom his fickle heart was set for a time, it seemed as if nothing would content him but becoming master of her Fatherland. Probably if he had known with what alacrity bis Gentile English subject thirsted for the blood of his Hebrew English subjects, his dead Malcau's kinsfolk—a thirst rendered keener by the king's determined preference for a Jewess, and his anger against the persecutors of her people-he would have remained in his own land, to protect them,' But, I repeat, it was willed otherwise.

In the spring of 1190, when Richard had actually crossed over to the Con. tinent to join the king of France in the Palestine Crusade, and whilst the soldiers of the cross were preparing to follow him, the “ Christians"-sit venia verbo—almost with one accord throughout the whole land, as if they had been summoned by a gigantic bell, fell upon the hapless Jews everywhere, slew many of them, and plundered almost all. I can only record a few of the places in which those murders and robberies were perpetrated. They would seem to bave been inaugurated at Stamford. On the seventeenth day of March, 1190, a public fair, which was then held at that place, had drawn together great multitudes of people, and amongst them whole troops of those roaming saints, as the Crusaders were called. These zealous men-indignant that the enemies of Christ should abound in wealth, while they, the saints, who were His friends,

* Preface to Jewish Wars, 2.

were obliged to strip their wives and children of common necessaries, in order to be equipped with travelling expenses—argued that God would be highly honoured if they first destroyed all the Jews, and then possessed themselves of the property of their victims. They were not long in proving the force of their reasoning. They fell upon the devoted race with frenzied fierceness; they met with little resistance from the dispirited and crushed Israelites ; they were not long in making themselves masters of the Jewish persons and fortunes, the former of which they treated with all sorts of ferocious barbarity. Some few of them, indeed, were so favoured as to obtain protection in the castle, whitheras they took refuge without their riches, the cause of all their miserythey were not persistently pursued. As these "saints" pretended to commit all those gross outrages for the promotion of God's glory, they gave proof of their sincerity by decamping to Jerusalem as fast as they could.

The Lincoln Hebrew community was then somewhat more fortunate. An attack was on the point of being made on the members of the synagogue there, but the doomed people had already received the melancholy intelligence that the professing followers of the Jewish CHRIST aimed at nothing less than the utter extirpation of the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” to whom, and for whom, that very CHRIst especially came. The Lincoln Jews, therefore, took refuge, as soon as they possibly could, in the king's fortress; a refuge which they purchased from the governor, for a consideration of some magnitude. The majority managed thus to escape with little damage. Amongst other horrors which some of the Jews of Mercia had suffered was the compulsory confession of Christianity. The Hebrew inhabitants of Dunstable, and of some other towns of that quondam kingdom, escaped with their lives,with their lives only, by professing to renounce their Jewish faithsuch as it was—and by submitting to a coercive baptism into the socalled “ Christian Church.”

Equally cruel were the persecutions to which our people were exposed in the former kingdom of East Anglia. In its metropolis, Bury St. Edmund's, where Joscenus had a place of business and a mint, they were saved from utter destruction by the ruling Abbot, Sampsona scion of our family* -- insisting upon expelling them from that town. ;

Here the venerable lord of Toledo Villa digressed in the following strain :

Neither Jocelin of Brakelond, the contemporary monkish chronicler—whose work I hold in my hand-nor his recent translator and editor, Mr. T. E. Tomlins, seem to me to have apprehended the real motives of Abbot Sampson, on the occasion. I believe those motives were of a humane and Christian character. The Jews and the heads of the Abbacy of Bury St. Edmund's had hitherto lived on very amicable terms. Brakelond, who was a thorough hater of his Saviour's kinsfolk, thus once introduced the latter into his chronicles. “The Jews, I say, to whom the sacrist (William] was said to be a father and protector, whose protection they indeed enjoyed, having free ingress and egress, and going all over the monastery, rambling about the altars

* See volame for 1873, pp. 72, 309.

and by the shrine, while high mass was being celebrated. Moreover, their moneys were kept safe in our treasury, under the care of the sacrist, and what was still more improper, their wives with their little ones were lodged in our pitancery in time of war.” Now, Abbot Sampson was a just and upright man—of a different spirit from his pupil and biographer -he was determined therefore to secure the right of protecting the Jews of his town, “he alleging that whatsoever is within the town of St. Edmund, or within the liberties thereof, of right belongeth to St. Edmund. Therefore the Jews ought to become the men of St. Edmund's." The king naturally demurred to the claim; by acquiescing he would not only have established a precedent upon which all the other monasteries, where the Jews resided, would have been ready to act, but he would have lost his great gold-mine. The demand was therefore negatived. Sampson, who evidently took no pleasure in the sport of persecuting the Jews under his very eyes, demanded permission to expel them altogether from his town. The license was readily granted to the determined abbot. He took care, however, that the exiles “had all their chattels, and the value of their houses and lands." That no evil might befall them on their way to the divers towns where they were going to, armed forces were ordered to protect them. It was also provided, that “if the Jews should come to the great pleas of the Abbot to demand their debts from their debtors, on such occasions they might for two days and two nights lodge within the town, and on the third day be permitted to depart without injury." So far, there is no evidence of malevolent hostility on the part of that Abbot towards the Jews of Bury St. Edmunds.

His personal appearance, as well as his character, Jocelin of Brakelond thus describes: “Of middle stature, having an oval face, a prominent nose, thick lips, clear and very piercing eyes, ears of nicest sense of hearing, lofty eyebrows having a few grey hairs in his reddish beard, with a few grey in a black head of hair, which somewhat curled

a man remarkably temperate, never slothful, well able and willing to ride or walk till old age came upon him and moderated such inclination." Respecting the Abbot's kinsmen, the same chronicler says, “He had not, or assumed not to have had any relative within the third degree. But I have heard him state, that he had relations who were noble and gentle, whom he never would in any wise recognise as relations ; for, as he said, they would be more a burden than an honour to him, if they should happen to find out their relationship.”

The Jews of Cambridge, Norwich, and Lynn, suffered similar outrages of rapine and murder. It must be owned that the Jews of Lynn were themselves the authors of their sufferings then. A member of their own community saw cogent reasons to admit the second part of the Jewish faith, namely, the full development of that religion as revealed in the New Testament. The unbelievers in that part of their religion saw propor to take vengeance upon the believer. They waylaid him, and one day, as he passed through a certain street, they were determined to get him into their power. He made his escape to a neighbouring church, to which he was pursued by some of the Jewish persecutors. Whereupon some sailors belonging to a ship lying in the harbour raised a cry that the unbelievers intended to put the believer to death. The sailors

!

were joined by the townspeople, under the plea of saving the life of the persecuted one, drove the persecutors to their houses, and then followed themselves, murdered the would-be murderers, carried off whatever valuables they could find, and then set fire to the rifled houses. The sailors, enriched by the spoil, embarked immediately on board their vessel, set sail, and got clear off.

Dr. Jost, continued our viva voce historian, betrayed here-as well as in many other places--no small measure of partiality, when he took upon himself to assert, without any reason whatever, that "it was doubtless his [the Hebrew Christian's] fault that he was persecuted in the open street by his former co-religionists."

At York, the popular feeling communicated itself to all classes of the inhabitants, and many of the nobles and principal gentry of the neighbourhood associated themselves with the soldiers of the cross, and with “the knights of the temple," whose characters were stained with the vilest of human passions.

The origin of their persecution at York was the following :-It appears that Benedict and Joscenus, who are already familiar to us, were the innocent promoters of it. The fate of the former has been narrated already; the latter was so far fortunate as to be able to return to York after the death of his daughter Malcah, where he related the sad catastrophe which had befallen him and his brethren in London ; but instead of exciting com. miseration in the breasts of his Gentile neighbours, his narrative had the effect of stimulating them to a like outrage. The houses of the richest of the Jews were accordingly spoiled and burned, and many, together with their families, were murdered. The common people, urged by the example of their superiors, fell upon such as escaped the first assaults, and with savage fury slew them, without regard to age or sex.

Fifteen hundred, with their wives and children, escaped to the castle, and, by permission of the sheriff and keeper, took refuge there. The poor Jews, however, had soon good reason to think that these officers also had taken part with their assailants, and therefore refused to allow the castle officials to enter the gates of the fortress; whereupon the sheriff assembled an armed force and lay siege to the castle. The mob joined in the attack, and though they were before sufficiently bent upon destruction and plunder, they were—to the shame of the ecclesiastics be it recorded

further stimulated by the exhortations of the clergy. in particular, a canon of the order of Præmonstratenses, displayed uncommon zeal on the occasion. For several days he appeared amongst the people, dressed in his surplice, after having eaten a consecrated host, and greatly increased the fury of the rabble by continually calling out in a loud voice, “ Destroy the enemies of Christ !—Destroy the enemies of Jesus !" At length the priest received the punishment his conduet justly merited ; for, having approached too near the walls, he was crushed to death by a stone which was rolled down from the battlements.

For a time the Jews defended themselves with desperate bravery ; but the assault being warmly pressed, they found that they had no hopes of escape : they offered therefore a large sum of money that their lives might be spared. This was refused, and they proceeded to take vigorous measures for their defence, determining to hold out to the last moment;

calling at the same time a council, to take into consideration what was to be done in case of their being driven to extremities; which consultation completely altered their purpose. For, when they gathered themselves together in one place, one of their Rabbis, a man of great authority amongst them, and who also made the convocation, stood up and addressed them in the following words:"Ye men of Israel, the God of our fathers, to whom none can say, What doest Thou? commands as at this time to die for His law ; and behold ! death is even before our eyes, and there is nothing left us to consider but how to undergo it in the most reputable and easy manner. If we fall into the hands of our enemies (which I think there is no possibility of escaping), our deaths will not only be cruel, but ignominious. They will not only torment us, but despitefully use us. My advice, therefore, is that we voluntarily surrender those lives to our Creator, which He seems to call for, and not wait for any other executioners than ourselves. The fact is both rational and lawful, nor do we want examples from amongst our illustrious ancestors to prove it so ; they have frequently proceeded in like manner upon similar occasions.” Thus spoke the old Rabbi, after which he sat down and wept.

The auditors looked first wistfully at each other, and then gave utterance to their thoughts, some loudly approving the advice of the Rabbi, whilst others, with tears in their eyes, avowed their dissent from the Rabbi's opinion. To which the Rabbi, standing up a second time, replied :—" Seeing, brethren, that we are not all of one mind, let those who do not approvo of this advice depart from this assembly.”

The less courageous departed. But by far the greater number adhered steadfastly to the leader's proposal. And as soon as they perceived themselves alone, which increased their despair, they first burned everything belonging to them that was consumable by fire, and buried the remainder in the earth (to prevent its falling into the possession of their enemies): they then set fire to several places of the castle at once, after which each man took a sharp knife, and first cut the throats of his wife and children, and then his own. The persons who remained last alive were this rash counsellor, and Joscenus, who were possessed of a strong desire to see everything performed according to their directions. They did not survive much longer ; as soon as that atrocious deed was done, the Rabbi, out of respect to Joscenus, first slew him, and then himself.* When this dreadful tragedy was completed, those who remained alive took up dead bodies, and threw them over the walls, on the heads of the besiegers; and determined at last upon the expedient of their brethren. They also burned their clothes, and such of their valuables as would consume, and threw the rest of their treasures into the sinks and drains

the

* By way of note the narrator observed on the above-Dr. Jost states that “Joscenus first strangled his wife Hannah, with his five children, and then allowed himself to be slain by the Rabbi, whose example was followed by all the remainder.” Jossen erwürgte seine Frau Hannah mit fünf Kindern, und liess sich dann von dem Rabbi niederschlachten. Seinem Beispiel folgten alle Uebrigen. This is a translation of a note in this record. The Dr. evidently misread 7 for 710; he had obtained access to these archives, on the promise of inviolable secresy as to their whereabouts.

« PreviousContinue »