BLTC Press Titles


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The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


A history of the Jews in England

by Albert Montefiore Hyamson

Excerpt:

they need not go so far afield as the East to find antiChristian maligners of Christ, the allies, as they believed, of the perpetrators of the atrocities, to whose tale they had listened with horror. At their very doors were colonies of Jews, and right worthily would they open their holy mission if they rid the earth of the blasphemers within immediate reach of their hands. Massacres of The Crusaders in their march across Europe left Continent!' behind them a trail of martyred Jews. Community after community from France to Hungary was utterly destroyed, not even the bishops having the power, although often the will, to protect these victims of the Crusaders' zeal.

The disasters that followed the First Crusade were avenged on the helpless Jews of the Continent. The Second Crusade was the signal for a recrudescence in the anti-Jewish activity. Bernard of Clairvaux, the spiritual leader of the movement, protested against the barbarities. The object of the Crusade, he contended, was the honour of the Christian religion. The reconquest of the Holy Land was itself but a means to that end, to which massacres of Jews would in nowise assist. But Bernard had aroused a spirit of fanaticism that it was not in his power to quell. A narrow-minded monk, Rudolph of Mainz, carried the cross through the Rhine valley, calling for the slaughter of the Jews, the enemies of Christianity. His appeal was not uttered in vain, and among the victims was at least one English Jew who happened to be in the centre of disturbance at the time; but the efforts of Bernard were successful in narrowing the limits of the conflagration. Bernard himself met the monk Rudolph in open disputation, and later addressed a letter to the peoples of Western Europe protesting against the persecution of the Jews. Echoes in The agitation on the Continent had its echoes in England. England, and Bernard's letters were sent across the Channel and the North Sea, as well as to the Continental countries. But the vague dislike of the people was quickened by the Crusades into a positive hatred of the Jews. The general crime attributed to the Mohammedans of the East of circumcising Christians and using their blood for their own antiChristian practices was translated into a definite instance of the Blood Accusation in England, and The Blood the opening of the Second Crusade coincided with Accusatlonthe supposed martyrdom of St. William of Norwich St. William of (1146). This martyrdom was the first of a long series Norwich of similar crimes laid to the charge of the Jews in all parts of Christendom without the slightest evidence in support. William, who at the time of his death was twelve years old, was the son of a widow, who herself was the daughter of a married priest. At the age of eight the child was apprenticed to a skinner in Norwich, and while engaged in that employment he was, according to one account, stolen, according to another, bought by the Jews, and after having undergone various tortures in imitation of the passion of Jesus, was martyred on the eve of the festival of Passover, 1144, 45 or 46. There are several accounts of the discovery of the crime, but so little worthy of credence was the evidence which could be adduced at the time that the Sheriff refused to allow the Jews to appear in the Bishop's Court to answer the charge, and took them under his protection. The legends suggest that he was bribed to take this action, and to suppress all evidence of the guilt of the Jews. The secular clergy were divided in opinion concerning the truth of the charge. Among the citizens, and even the monks of the cloister, there was also a large party of sceptics. The bishop of the diocese, Eborard, disbelieved the story whose chief supporter among the Churchmen was the Prior William Turbe, shortly afterwards Bishop of Norwich. The details of the legend are in the highest degree improbable, and as for comfort—and the minor barons were only able to follow their example with Jewish financial assistance. Jewish loans created Christian debtors, \ and hence among these sections of the population, \ the clergy and the minor barons, the Jewish creditors became especially unpopular. The ecclesiastical discouragement of usury on the part of Christians, of itself of considerable influence, was reinforced by the action of the State. The king came to the assistance of the Church by decreeing that all properties of usurers should on their decease accrue to the crown, which thus became, as Dr. Joseph Jacobs has pointed out, the universal legatee of the English Jews. In practice there was a sort of partnership between the Partnership crown and the Jews of England. The king, however, kingTnd'Ihe seldom claimed the whole of his rights. It was more Jewsto his interest to leave the bulk of a deceased Jew's property in the hands of his natural heir, who (differing from the king, a good Christian) could use it remuneratively. In one famous instance, that of Aaron of Lincoln (c. ii2$-c. 1186), the crown retained Aaron of the whole of the Jew's property, which was so con- Lm«,>nsiderable, notwithstanding the loss after his death of his treasures at sea, that a special branch of the Exchequer, which continued active for many years, had to be created to deal with his debts. These amounted to ^20,000, equal to more than half of the king's income. Aaron is first mentioned in 1166, when he appears as a creditor of the king, Henry II., to the extent of £616, 12s. 8d. Aaron was the largest English banker of the day, and was represented by his agents in all parts of the country. In fact, almost all the members of the Anglo-Jewish community appear to have been connected with his business transactions, and most of them acted as his agents. For a time he was in partnership with Isaac hl (son of) Josce, head of the London Community and officially recognised chief

I

sometimes absurd. The Blood Accusation, of which this incident was the first result, was first suggested by Theobald, a converted Jew of Cambridge, who tried to implicate the whole of Jewry in the charge of sacrificing little children in order to gratify their hatred of Christianity. According to his libellous assertions lots were cast each year to decide the town in Europe in which the next "martyrdom" was to take place. Thus the murder of William of Norwich had been decided upon at a Council of Jews held at Narbonne the previous year. The jews of The immediate result of the accusation was seriously attached. to affect the fortunes of the Jewish community in Norwich. The populace was so incensed with the Jews that, despite the protection of the Sheriff, many of the Jews of the city were killed, and others fled in all directions to escape a similar fate. The accusation once made was unfortunately repeated elsewhere. In 1168 the Jews of Gloucester were accused of a similar crime, and in 1181 it was the turn of those of Bury St. Edmunds. Other accusations were made at Winchester in 1192 and 1232, at London in 1244, and finally at Lincoln in 1255. In every instance a shrine and miracles attached themselves to the burial-place of the victim, and whoever suffered from these terrible accusations, the local abbey or cathedral invariably reaped a rich and prolonged harvest. It has also been pointed out that the Blood Accusation was as a rule made at a time at which the Royal Treasuryneeded replenishing. With the exception of the lastmentioned incident, that at Lincoln, in no instance was the charge submitted to judicial scrutiny. Prejudice had prepared the people to accept the accusation wherever made, and advantage seems always to have been taken of it whenever a child disappeared in the neighbourhood of a Jewish community. The story, with minor variations, was always the same.

The legendary history of St. William of Norwich
was taken as the pattern, and the criminal libels of
Theobald formed the basis of the general anti-
Jewish accusations^

As has already been pointed out, Jews were intro- The place of duced into the country by William I. to fill a hiatus in ^^i^t the social and political organisation. Their function was confined to the commercial and financial sphere, and all others were sufficiently safeguarded by the system, the interrelation of the Church and State, by which the country was governed. To every public office in the community were attached religious ceremonials of a character that rendered impossible the participation in them of a Jew by religion. The folding of land by the ordinary feudal tenure was also bound up with a similar formality, in connection with the homage paid by the tenant, and thus the Jew was debarred from it. Moreover, the Gilds in which the artisan elements in the nation banded themselves together were to a great extent religious confraternities, from which Jews were also necessarily excluded. In the Feudal system, as adapted in England, 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. In the early period of the 1 Settlement the relations between the clergy and the Jews were quite friendly. The latter were regarded as a somewhat incongruous element in the population, but hopes were felt for its absorption, by means of conversion, to the dominant faith. The hopes of the clergy for such a result were, however, not realised; while, on the other hand, it appears that the Jews were at least as successful as the Christians in making converts. The attitude of the clergy in consequence . gradually changed and the anti-Jewish complexion i


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