SOME HISTORICAL NOTES, 1648–1680

Articles Image

At the time of the King's trial, that is, at the end of December 1648, certain officers of the army, in their general council, passed a resolution which was held at the time to imply the readmission of the Jews to England. It was probably a vote of toleration, general in character, and implicitly including the Jewish people. Evidence of the vote may be found in a speech delivered in January 1649 by William Erbury, army chaplain, who observed that no purpose would be effected in allowing the Jews to come back to England, if they were not given the right to exercise their religion. The rumour of some vote passed by the Council of Officers in favour of the Jews, or the knowledge that the general feeling of the Army was favourable to their readmission, no doubt accounts for the fact that in the same month a petition was presented to the Council of Officers, praying for the repeal of the (supposed) statute banishing the Jews from the realm. It was pre? sented by a woman named Johanna Cartwright, and her son, Ebenezer Cartwright, both residents in Amsterdam, and was immediately printed in a quarto pamphlet. In this pamphlet it is stated that the petition was favourably received by the Council, " with a promise to take into speedy consideration when the present more publick affairs are de? spatched." So favourable was the attitude of the Army at the time, that the statement that it had actually repealed the laws against the Jews, was accepted among the Royalist exiles on the Continent as an indisputable fact. The feeling in favour of the readmission of the Jews was not confined to the Army. It existed also in the Navy of the Commonwealth, which in political and religious temper was in close agreement with the Army. In a newspaper of the time there is an account of a conversation which some English sailors had with Jews, concluding with an aspiration that the latter would soon be permitted to return in peace to England (see Appendix I. below).

It is clear from these different indications that there was a tolerably widespread feeling in favour of the readmission of the Jews, and that this feeling existed outside the narrow circle of more or less distinguished and enlightened persons who advoc ited their cause in print. In 1652 the Jews were, for instance, holding prayer-meetings in Hackney (see Appendix II. below). Except amongst the merchants who were their rivals in trade, and amongst theologians, the hostility against the proposal to tolerate them in England was not so great as sometimes represented.

What effect did the favour shown to the Jews by Oliver Cromwell have upon the attitude of the Royalists'? Charles II. was not troubled by theological scruples, and when he heard that Cromwell was about to readmit the Jews into England, it at once occurred to him to promise similar concessions in return for substantial pecuniary support. In September 1656 Charles sent General Middleton on

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today

£7

24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More

£40

Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More

£20

Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More

£80

Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More
0

Your Cart