Page images
PDF
EPUB

for the king even in his boyhood was tutored by council, especially by Peter des Roches the personal guardian of the Royal minor, that great revenues might be raised from the Jews if they were kindly dealt with. Whereupon, the following writs were despatched to the respective sheriffs and officers, commanding them to elect twenty-four burgesses out of every town where the Jews resided in any number, to watch carefully over them that they received no injury, and particularly guard them against the insults of “the Jerusalem Pilgrims." And as a rider to the careful watchfulness was the distinguishing badge which I have mentioned. So that it appears that the government after all watched more jealously their purses than their persons !

However, the protection which was thus extended to our people again inspired them with confidence: those who had survived the oppressions of the last reign began afresh to accumulate wealth ; and numbers of our nation, as stated by my ancestor Benjamin Aryeh, were induced to come over from the continent, and settle in this country. The new comers were at first treated with violence by the wardens of the Cinque Ports where they landed. They were thrown into prison, and pillaged of their effects. For though the policy of the government towards the Jews had changed, the hatred and cupidity of the people in general remained unchanged. When, however, information was given at court of the circumstance, relief was quickly afforded. Writs were issued to the officers of the different ports, commanding that such Jews as had been imprisoned should be set at liberty, and be allowed to live freely and without restraint, upon consenting to enter their names upon the Rolls of the Jews, and not to depart the country again without permission.

As a truthful and impartial historian, I am bound to admit that some of our people did not make the best use of those few years of tranquillity. Having been set free from the strife of their Christian neighbours, they began to contend amongst

themselves. We, like others, are a contentious race, as long as the “ Prince of Peace” does not reign in our hearts and in our midst ! Did not our deliverer from the bondage of Egypt say to our forefathers, “ How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife ?"* This time-honoured and manifold record abounds with memoranda of internal feuds and contentions amongst our people during the protectorate of Hubert de Burgh. I shall only allude to one instance, even the disgraceful fracas at Gloucester, which occurred in 1220. In that unseemly quarrel several families took a culpable part, and some of them must have been guilty of malicious perjury. With all that, however, the government of Hubert de Burgh continued to spread their ægis over our people.

The clergy, it would seem, took umbrage at the privileges which our people had enjoyed, and resolved to attempt, by an exercise of ecclesiastical authority, to overrule the effects of the protection which had been afforded by the measures of government. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, in conjunction with Hugo de Velles, Bishop of Lincoln, published a general prohibition, by which all persons were forbidden to buy anything of the Jews, or to sell them any victuals or necessaries, or to have any communication with them; declaring, at the same time, that they were persons, who by the laws of the Church, were excommunicated for their infidelity and usury.

* Deut. i. 12.

Stephen Langton, moreover, issued the following edict respecting the Jews, at his provincial synod :-" That the Jews do not keep Christian servants; and let the servants be compelled by ecclesiastical censure to observe this, and the Jews by canonical punishment, or by some extraordinary penalty contrived by the diocesans. Let them not be permitted to build any more synagogues, but be looked upon as debtors to the churches of the parishes wherein they reside, as to tithes and offerings.

To prevent likewise the mixture of Jewish men and women with Christians of each sex, we charge by authority of the general council, that the Jews of both sexes wear a linen cloth, two inches broad and four fingers long, of a different colour from their own clothes, on their upper garment, before their breast; and that they be compelled to do this by ecclesiastical censure ; and let them not presume to enter into any Church.”

How little solicitous was the Christian Church in the middle ages to bring the Jews to a knowledge of the truth! The above edict virtually acknowledges the friendly disposition which pervaded the breasts of the Jewish people towards their Christian neighbours ; nay more, it virtually maintains that the Jews desired to visit Christian places of worship, but were forced back by Christian bishops. But have not our people, they who believed not and do not believe, acted, and still act, in the same spirit towards those of our brethren who have believed and do believe ? Alas, the Redeemer's prediction receives fulfilment even in this our day :-" They shall put you out of the synagogues : yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me."* Yet we have the consolation of the glorious evidence which the fulfilment furnishes, if we but "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel; and in nothing terrified by our adversaries : which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to us of salvation, and that of God. For unto us it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”+

The Christ-rejecting Jews-who could derive no evidenco to the justice of their unbelief from Gentile ecclesiastical persecution, and neither therefore any consolation-appealed to the Crown for protection and obtained relief. Directions were sent to the sheriffs of the different counties and cities, to prevent the prohibition being enforced ; and orders were given to imprison all persons who, by reason of the commands of the Church, refused to sell provisions to the Jews. This edict of the Church was published in the seventh year of this reign, that is, when Henry III. was seventeen years of age, two years after the Gloucester scandal.

The condition of our people during the seven years which followed the ecclesiastical edicts, and the crown interdicts of the same which I have just mentioned, was peaceful and prosperous. During that septennate our

[blocks in formation]

people experienced tolerant and generous deportment even from some of the clergy. As one of those exceptional instances of clerical good will, I may mention the Prior of Dunstable, who granted permission to several of our people to reside within his jurisdiction, and to enjoy all civil privi. leges in common with the Saxon and Norman settlers, for the annual payment of two silver spoons, each of which was to weigh twelve penny. weights.

CHAPTER II.

THE ANGLO-HEBREWS UNDER HENRY III. The good time, under the regency of the Earl of Pembroke and Hubert de Burgh, was only a parenthesis. Henry III. came of age,-alas! at the years of discretion he had never arrived. Dante, who was disposed to deal very gently by him, in his seventh Canto of Del Purgatorio, represents him as a semi-idiot, and finds him in the place assigned to imbeciles and children, whose account of himself, like that of Sordello,

“ Non

per far, ma per non fare ho perduto."* The great Italian bard makes Sordello point to Henry in the following couplet :

“ Vedete il Re della semplice vita

Seder là solo, Arrigo d'Inghiterra." † All I can say is, that if Dante had been an Englishman, he would not have been so considerate to that hapless king. Many and evil were the years of that Henry's rule. The historic tree of the Anglo-Hebrews during that long reign bore-using a figure from one of the songs of Mosesbitter clusters, and grapes of gall, whose wine was the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. The secretion of venomous hate, which the ecclesiastics were obliged to keep down during Henry's minority, broke forth in all its virulence as soon as that feeble-minded, priestridden prince took the reins of the government of this country into his own hands. From henceforth our people, in place of the security which they had previously enjoyed, were subjected to ceaseless violence and arbitrary exaction.

The Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Normans began to murmur that too much favour had been shown to the Anglo-Hebrews, and consequently charged the king with indifference towards the Christian religion. The king, therefore, wishing to convince the former that he was zealous for the creed which he professed, and by doing so quiet their turbulence, determined to seize the whole of the property of any Jew who admitted the Divine character of the Judaism proclaimed from Calvary, as well as that from Sinai, and thus joined the Christian Church. It is a pleasing consideration that, notwithstanding such cruel, anti-Christian conduct on the part of a nominal Christian king, there were Anglo-Hebrews of * Wright thus rendered the above line :

“ Not what I did, but what I failed to do." | “There England's Henry seated may be seen,

Alone, contented with a frugal board."-Ibid.

considerable celebrity, who hazarded everything in obedience to conviction and conscience, and became Israelites indeed. I may just cite one instance in illustration of the stubborn fact. There lived at that time at Canterbury a very learned and highly respected Israelite, Augustin by name, who felt constrained by the love of Christ to return to the religion taught by Moses and the prophets : he became a Christian. The monkish historians record the fact, as showing great benevolence on the part of Henry; for the king was actually graciously pleased to give to Augustin Augustin's own house to live in, notwithstanding that he confessed Christ. However, the despoiled thorough-going Jews, Israelites indeed, or Hebrew Christians, I am not disposed to pity. They counted the cost of their confessing The Faith, and gloried in the bargain which they had made. But those Jews who were neither convinced nor conscious of the incompleteness of their Judaism are to be pitied by every feeling heart.

The change of feeling on the part of the government towards them, was first manifested in the fourteenth year of this reign. In this year they were compelled to give up a third part of their movables to the Crown. Immediately after the imposition of this tax, our people in London were subjected to another unexpected act of injuctice and oppression. By permission of the king, they had lately completed a synagogue, upon a scale of great magnificence, which surpassed all the Christian churches in architectural taste. No objection whatever was made to the work in its progress; but as soon as it was finished, the king sent directions to have it seized, and forthwith granted it to the brothers of St. Anthony of Vienna, to be by them converted into a church. Dr. Jost, a modern German Jewish historian, observes : “A folly into which all Jews, at all times, suffered themselves to be misled by propitious circumstances; not considering that this desire of vain self-exaltation stimulated jealousy, and had the inevitable effect of bringing them down very low."

About this time an Armenian bishop arrived in this country, with letters from the pope, in order to examine some curious relics ; and among other things which he stated the truth of which cannot be vouchedhe related the extraordinary circumstance about the Wandering Jew; and as the old man has been of late very much talked of, it may not be uninteresting to give here the description which that dignitary favoured England with, at that time, as it is recorded by Matthew Paris, a contemporary monkish historian. That writer tells us seriously that "Several persons examined the Armenian bishop about this wonderful Jew, and that the prelate gave them his word that he was then living in Armenia. An officer of the bishop's retinue, who came along with the prelate, informed the examiners particularly that this Jew had formerly been porter to Pontius Pilate, and was called Cataphilus, and that, standing by when the Saviour was dragged out of the judgment-hall, he smote Him upon the back, at which Jesus, being offended, turned about and said to him, • The Son of Man will go, but thou shalt stay till He come again.' That afterwards he was converted to the Christian faith, baptized, and called Joseph, living to be an hundred years old. But then growing sick and impotent, hc fell one day into a swoon, upon coming out of which he found himself young again, and as vigorous as a man of thirty, the age he was of when Christ was crucified.”

The same officer assured the examiners that his master was intimately acquainted with that extraordinary personage, and dined with him not long before he came into England ; that he himself had seen him several times; that Cataphilus was a man of great seriousness and gravity, never laughing when any questions were put to him concerning ancient history, such as the resurrection of the dead bodies that came out of their sepul. chres at the time of the crucifixion, the apostles' creed, and other circumstances relating to those holy persons; that he was very fearful of Christ's coming to judge the world, for then, he said, he was to die; and that he trembled whenever he called to mind the grievous crime of smiting the Son of God, yet hoped for salvation, because it was a sin of ignorance. A most fit person to examine old relics !!!

From this time, scarcely a year was allowed to pass without taxes, to a grievous amount, being exacted. In the seventeenth year of this reign, the king manifested great zeal for the Christian religion, by taxing the Jews again to the amount of eighteen thousand marks of silver.

These taxes were enforced by imprisonment, by seizing the property and possessions of the Jews, and by taking from them their wives and children ; and punctuality of payment was secured by obliging the richest of their community to become sureties for the rest, under similar penalties. In addition to these tallages, extending to the whole community of the Jews, the title which the Crown claimed to their property was continually enforced against individuals; and on every succession of property they were constrained to pay fines, often most exorbitant in amount, to the king, for permission to take possession of it.

However, the king was seized with a paroxysm of charity this year, and erected an institution for Jewish converts. The reason for that fit was, to deliver his father's soul from the flames of purgatory. Conscious, as it were, that his father, by his cruel conduct towards the Jews, deserved a larger share of punishment than any king before him, Henry, perhaps, thought doing something for Jews would quench the purgatorial fire a little. Most important was and is the existence of such an institution or institutions, since the Jew who was convinced of the truth of Christianity, experienced at the same time the loss of all things besides.

The following is the king's charter :

“The king to the archbishops, &c., greeting: Be it known that we, by the institution of God, and for the safety of our soul, and of the souls of our predecessors and of our heirs, have granted, and by this our charter confirmed, for us and for our heirs, to the house which we caused to be built in the street which is called New Street, between the old and new Temple of London, for the maintenance of the converted brethren, and those to be converted from Judaism to the Catholic faith, and for the aid of the maintenance of these brethren that dwell in the said house, the houses and lands which belonged to John Herberton, in London, and are in our possession as forfeited (except the garden which belonged to the said John in the aforesaid New Street, and which we granted formerly by our charter to the Venerable Father Rudolph, of Chichester, our Chancellor), and all other forfeitures which, in our time, by felony, or from any other causes, which shall fall to us in our city, or in the suburbs of our city, London.

" Wherefore we wish, and firmly enjoin for us and for our heirs, that

« PreviousContinue »