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Menasseh Ben Israel’s Apology For The Jews.  

(Continued from issue #2.)

How Profitable the Nation of the Iewes Are.

Three things, if it please your Highnesse, there are that make a strange Nation wel-beloved amongst the Natives of a land where they dwell: (as the defect of those three things make them hatefull,) viz. profit, they may receive from them; Fidelity they hold towards their Princes, and the Noblenes and purity of their blood. Now when I shall have made good, that all these three things are found in the Iewish Nation, I shall certainly persuade your Highnesse, that with a favorable eye, (Monarchy being changed into a Republicq) you shall be pleased to receive again the Nation of the Iews, who in time past lived in that Island: but, I know not by what false Informations, were cruelly handled and banished.

Profit is a most powerful motive, and which all the World preferres before all other things: and therefore we shall handle that point first.

It is a thing confirmed, that merchandizing is, as it were, the proper profession of the Nation of the Iews. I attribute this in the first place, to the particular Providence and mercy of God towards his people: for having banished them from their own Country, yet not from his Protection, he hath given them, as it were, a natural instinct, by which they might not onely gain what was necessary for their need, but that they should also thrive in Riches and possessions; whereby they should not onely become gracious to their Princes and Lords, but that they should be invited by others to come and dwell in their Lands.

Moreover, it cannot be denyed, but that necessity stirrs up a man’s ability and industry; and that it gives him great incitement, by all means to trie the favour of Providence.

Besides, seeing it is no wisedome for them to endeavour the gaining of Lands and other immovable goods, and so to imprison their possessions here, where their persons are subject to so many casualties, banishments and peregrinations; they are forced to use marchandizing untill that time, when they shall returne to their own Country, that then as God hath promised by the Prophet Zachary, Their shall be found no more any marchant amongst them in the House of the Lord.

From that very thing we have said, there riseth an infallible Profit, commodity and gain to all those Princes in whose Lands they dwell above all other strange Nations whatsoever, as experience by divers Reasons doth confirme.

I. The Iewes, have no opportunity to live in their own Country, to till the Lands or other like employments, give themselves wholy unto merchandizing, and for contriving new Inventions, no Nation almost going beyond them. And so ‘tis observed, that wheresoever they go to dwell, there presently the Traficq begins to florish. Which may be seen in divers places, especially in Ligorne, which having been but a very ignoble and inconsiderable City, is at this time, by the great concourse of people, one of the most famous places of Trafique of whole Italy.

Furthermore, the Inventor of the famous Scala de Spalatro (the most firme and solid Traficq of Venice) was a Iew, who by this his Invention transported the Negotiation from a great part of the Levant into that City.

Even that very same is seene likewise at this day in Nizza and in other innumerable places more, both in Europe and Asia.

II.  The Nation of the Iews is dispersed throughout the whole World, it being a chastisement that God hath layd upon them for their Idolatries, Deut. 28, 69. Ezech. 20, 23. Nehem. 1, 8. Ps. 107, 27. and by other their sinnes their families suffer the same shipwrack.

Now in this dispersion our Fore-fathers flying from the Spanish Inquisition, some of them came in Holland, others got into Italy, and others betook themselves into Asia; and so easily they credit one another; and by that meanes they draw the Negotiation where-ever they are, where with all of them marchandizing and having perfect knowledge of all the kinds of Moneys, Diamants, Cochinil, Indigo, Wines, Oyle, and other Commodities, that serve from place to place; especially holding correspondence with their friends and kinds-folk, whose language they understand; they do abundantly enrich the Lands and Countrys of strangers, where they live, not onely with what is requisite and necessary for the life of man; but also what may serve for ornament to his civill condition. Of which Traficq, there ariseth ordinarily Five important benefits.

  1. The augmentation of the Public Tolls and Customes, at their coming and going out of the place.
  2. The transporting and bringing in of merchandises from remote Countries.
  3. The affording of Materials in great plenty for all Mechaniqs; as Wooll, Leather, Wines; Jewels, as Diamants, Pearles, and such like Merchandise.
  4. The venting and exportation of so many kinds of Manifactures.
  5. The Commerce and reciprocall Negotiation at Sea, which is the ground of Peace between neighbour Nations, and of great profit to their own Fellow-citizens.

III. This reason is the more strengthened, when we see, that not onely the Iewish Nation dwelling in Holland and Italy trafficqs with their own stock, but also with the riches of many others of their own Nation, friends, kinds-men and acquaintance, which notwithstanding live in Spaine, and send unto them their moneys and goods, which they hold in their hands, and content themselves with a very small portion of their estate, to the end they may be secure and free from danger that might happen unto them, in case they should fall under the yoke of the Inquisition; whence not onely their goods, but oftentimes also their lives are endangered.

IV. The love that men ordinarily beare to their own Country and the desire they have to end their lives, where they had their beginning, is the cause, that most strangers having gotten riches where they are in a forain land, are commonly taken in a desire to returne to their native soil, and there peaceably to enjoy their estate; so that as they were a help to the places where they lived, and negotiated while they remained there; so when they depart from thence, they carry all away, and spoile them of their wealth: transporting all into their own native Country: But with the Iews the case is farre different; for where the Iewes are once kindly receaved, they make a firm resolution never to depart from thence, seeing they have no proper place of their own: and so they are alwayes with their goods in the Cities where they live, a perpetuall benefit to all payments. Which reasons do clearly proove, that it being the property of Cittizens in populous and rich countries, to seeke their rest and ease with buying lands and faire possession of which they live; many of them hating commerce, aspire to Titles and Dignities: therefore of all strangers, in whose hands ordinarily Trafique is found, there are none so profitable and beneficiall to the place where they trade and live, as is the Nation of the Jews. And seeing amongst the people of Europ, the chiefest riches they possesse, som from Spain, those neighbour Nations, where the Iews shall finde liberty to live according to their own Iudaicall Laws, they shall most easily draw that benefit to themselves by means of the industry of our Nation, and their mutuall correspondence.

From hence (if it please your Highnes) it results, that the Iewish Nation, though scattered through the whole World, are not therefore a despisable people, but as a Plant worthy to be planted in the whole world, and received into Populous Cities: who ought to plant them in those places, which are most secure from danger; being trees of most savory fruit and profit, to be alwayes most favoured with Laws and Priviledges, or Prerogatives, secured and defended by Armes. An Example of this we have in our times. His Majesty, the Illustrious King of Denmark, invited them with speciall Priviledges into Geluckstadt: the Duke of Savoy into Nisa of Provence; and the Duke of Modina in Retio, allowing them such conditions and benefices, as like never were presented unto them by any other Prince; as appeareth by the copy of those Priviledges, which I have in my hands. But supposing it would be a matter of too large extention, if I should make a relation of all the places under whose Princes the Iews live, I will onely speake briefly of the two Tribes Iudah and Benjamin. These in India in Cochin have 4 Synagogues, one part of these Iews, being there of a white colour, and three of a tawny; these being most favoured by the King. In the year 1640, dyed Samuel Castoel, Governour of the City, and Agent for the King, and David Castoel his sonne succeeded in his place. In Persia there is a great number of Iews, and they live indifferent freely: there are also amongst them that are in favour and great respect by the King, and who live there very bravely. Some years past, there was Elhazar Huza, the Viceroy, and now there is David Ian; if yet he be living. In the year 1636 the Saltan Amarat took in Bagdad, and puting all to the sword, he commanded that they should not touch the lews, nor their houses, and besides that, he freed them from one half of the tribuit they were wont to pay to the Persian.

But the chiefest place where the Iews life, is the Turkish Empire, where some of them live in great estate, even in the Court of the Grand Turke at Constantinople, by reason there is no Viceroy, or Governour, or Bassa, which hath not a Iew to manage his affaires, and to take care for his estate: Hence it cometh that in short time they grow up to be Lords of great revenues, and they most frequently bend the rninds of Great ones to most weighty affaires in government.

The greatest Viceroy of whole Europe is the Bassa of Egypt; this Bassa always takes to him, by order of the Kingdome, a Iew with the title of Zaraf-Bassa (Thresurer) viz. of all the Revenues of that government, who receaves purses full of money, seals them, and then sends them to the King. This man in a short time grows very rich, for that by his hands as being next to the Bassa, the 24 Governments of that Empire are sould and given, and all other businesses managed. At present he that possesseth this place, is called Sr. Abraham Alhula. The number of the Iews living in this Kingdome of the Great Turke, is very great, and amounts to many Millions. In Constantinople alone there are 48 Synagogues, and in Salaminque 36, and more then fourescore thousand soules in the two Cities alone.

The first King gave them great priviledges which they enjoy untill this day: for besides the liberty, they have every-where, of trading with open shops, of bearing any Office and possessing of any goods, both mooveable and immooveable, he yet graunted them power to judge all Civill causes according to their own Laws amongst themselves. Moreover they are exempted from going to Warres, and that souldiers should be quartered in their houses, and that Justice should take no place upon the death of any one that left no heir to his Estate.

In all which they are preferred before the naturall Turks themselves. For which cause they pay in some Cittys to the King three Patacons, and in others two and a half by the pole.

(To be continued.)