Зображення сторінки

aside the mask; and finding that the ingress of the Jews had ceased, he attacked the whole that he had entrapped, and commanded all of that nation, of both sexes, throughout England, to be imprisoned till they made discovery of their wealth ; which he appointed officers to receive in every county, and make a return into his ex chequer. Many pleaded poverty; but as the tyrant was in earnest, he extorted confession by the most cruel torments *.

To enumerate all the sufferings which the Jews underwent during the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I. would take up a greater space

than we are allowed. In the twenty-first year of the reign of Henry, the king issued his writ 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 four: to treat with him as well concerning his own, as their benefit; and threatening the sheriffs, that if they failed, he would so terribly handle them, that they should remember it as long as they lived.” This we believe is the first in. stance upon record of assembling a JEWISH PARLIAMENT !

The surprize was equally great to these poor people, when they found themselves constituted counsellors to the king, after such a number of years spent in ignominy; more especially when Henry convened them on a Christian sabbath: they certainly had no small reason to expect a royal convert in the person of this very conscientious moparch! But, whatever sanguine hopes this great, this singular honour might have inspired, they soon understood from his majesty's most gracious speech, that he wanted money-and they must raise him money. He had called 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 was denied in parliament thus assembled ; they were only commanded to go to their several homes, and get half the sum wanted ready by Midsummer, the remainder before Michaelmas! The truth of history recoils at such an iniquitous transaction; but ever just, it only states the facts as they occurred.

* The generality of them were deprived of one eye; and from one Jew at Bristol, the king demanded no less than ten thousand marks of silver, a prodigious gum in those days ; which being resolutely denied, he ordered that a tooth should be pulled out daily till the Jew consented. The poor wretch, whose money was life to him, had the cou. rage to hold out during seven operations ; then sinking under the violence of the pain, he ransomed the remainder of his teeth at the price of the sum demanded. The whole sum extorted from these miserably in. jured people at this time amounted to above sixty thousand marks of silver ! - Matthew Paris, Stow, &c.

narch! * Claus. Roll. 25. Henry III. m. 9.

Notwithstanding every diligence was used, considering the vast sum wanted, it could not possibly be raised within the given time. The monarch, therefore, who had falsified his path when the liberties and rights of his people were concerned, in this instance strictly abided by bis word. He barbarously seized upon the persons of the collectors, together with their wives, children, goods, and chattels. That such an inhuman transaction in a Christian country should have a proper voucher. *

In 1262, the king refusing to abide by the agreement lately made with his barons at Oxford, under pretence that it was extorted from him, withdrew into the Tower of London ; and upon his threatening the citizens for taking part with his enemies, the barons suddenly entered the city, with a great force, to its assistance: and to keep the inhabitants more strongly attached to their interest, gratified them with the slaughter of seven hundred Jews at one time; after having plundered their houses, and burnt their new synagogue. The pretence for such cruelty was, that one of them bad wounded a Christian for refusingto pay more than two pence per week for the loan of twenty shillings.

At last Henry's necessities induced him to assign the Jews to the Caturcensian merchants, as a security for several large

3 B 2


sums which they had advanced ; and the king confirmed the assignment by his letters patent *.

To sum up the total of their misery in this reign, upon the defeat and capture of Henry and his family, by the victorious barons at the battle of Lewes, the Jews were among the sufferers; their poverty and their bondage could not screen them from the ungovernable rabble, who, collecting together in London, attacked the houses of these unfortunate people, under pretence that they were in a conspiracy with the king to destroy the barons, who had taken arms against him. They plundered them of all their property; and certainly would have put them to the sword, if the constable of the Tower had not opened the Tower gate, and humanely admitted them into that fortress.

But Henry was equally an enemy to all ranks of his subjects, Christian and Israelite alike felt the effects of his oppressing hand; though sometimes he condescended, when it served his purpose, to grant vast indulgences to the Jews, and was bountiful to those who had been serviceable to him

Had the Jews profited by these indulgences as they ought, and restrained themselves within due bounds, they might have conciliated themselves to the king and his subjects, and, probably, have been respected by both; but laying aside their wonted circumspection, their sudden prosperity made them guilty of the most flagrant transgressions. They sued the dean and chapter of Lincoln, on a forged bond; they erazed and altered another bond, to prevent the king's taking possession of the goods of a Jewish convert; but their most astonishing crime was committed at Oxford, in 1268, when, at a procession attended by the chancellor, &c. on Ascension Day, to visit the reliques of St. Frideswide, with the cross borne before them, a Jew, with the most consummate impudence, violently snatched it from the bearer, and trod it under his feet, in token of his contempt of Christ. To punish such an impious affront, as

in his wars.

* The Caturcensians were so called from their chief city, formerly denominated Catarcium, the capital of Dauphiny.

soon statute, riffs,

soon as it was made known to the king, by Prince Edward, who happened to be then at Oxford, he caused strict search to be made after the criminal; and when he could not be found, commanded that all the Jews in that city should be imprisoned ; and that they should erect, at their own proper charge, in the place where the outrage was committed, a stately marble cross of perfect workmanship ; and another cross of silver, gilt, which was to be carried in all future processions of the university. The first cross stood on the spot where now stands part of Merton College.

Money being the king's object, and the Jews willing to become purchasers, the nation began to perceive and complain, that as that people were under no restraint in purchasing, by becoming lords of manors, they might not only be entitled to the fealty, escheats, wardship, and marriage of Christians, but even to the presentations to church livings, and possibly obtain whole baronies. A restrictive act of parliament was therefore brought forward, which prevented the growing evil. Their mortifications now encreased till the close of Henry's long and worthless reign.

Edward I. though a friend to his Christian subjects, was inimical to the Jews. His reign commenced with a heavy talliage, which involved the children as well as the parents, and non-payment was changed from imprisonment to perpetual banishment, and all their effects were left to the king's use. A question here arises, whether the bondage of the Jews in England, was not worse than that in Egypt? In the latter they were only compelled to make brick without straw; in the former, they were expected to produce gold without visible means! and indeed, it might almost be suspected that they have developed the wonderful secret; for, under all their oppression, they were able to lend the queenmother no less a sum than three hundred and fifty thousand marks.

In the third year of this reign came out the famous Slatutum de Judaismo, against the usury of the Jews, and ordering them to wear a badge of yellow taffety. They were still, however, under the protection of the king. By this statute, it was thought reasonable by parliament, that a Jew should leave to his creditor something to subsist on, even to half his substance. The hands of these people being tied up from usury, their tongues took licence to give the statute their own interpretation : they vilified the Christians, and scoffed at their faith in such an unqualified manner, that the king was obliged, by proclamation, to threaten the offenders with loss of life and member; and to ordain badges of distinction for the women, as well as the men. They then betook themselves to clipping and adulterating the current coin of the kingdom ; and so universally did they carry on this practice, “ that, had it been suffered, says an antient French manuscript, the money of England would have been worth nothing ;" they also imported several sorts of light money from foreign countries.

To remedy these disorders, Edward, who was very jealous of every thing that related to his coin, and is supposed to have been the first of the English monarchs, who fixed its standard, caused strict enquiry to be made after the authors of this mischief. The general suspicion fell upon the Jews, and therefore the king commanded all that were in the kingdom to be seized in one day, on the 7th of November 1279; and, after full conviction, two hundred and eighty, both men and women, received sentence of death in London alone, which was executed on them without mercy; many were imprisoned, and the records of this year abound with instances of grants and sales of lands and houses forfeited on this occasion. Profiting by this example, the common people considered themselves entitled to their share of the spoils, and this they endeavoured to effect by threats of prosecution ; but the king, satisfied with the ven, geance he had already taken, ordered all prosecutions to cease from a certain time.

The next persecutors of the Jews were the Dominican friars, who having instilled a notion into the king's mind, that by their persuasive arguments they could convert the Jews, provided they were compelled to resort to church; Edward, to forward such a pious purpose, ordered his she

« НазадПродовжити »