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An Inquiry Into the First Settlement of Jews in England

(Concluded from page 298.)

By the Rev. Abraham De Sola

The Rabbi, it will be perceived, does not ride the doubtful and unsettled ocean of hypothesis, but treads the terra firma of facts; this is an express declaration, a direct assertion. Taking it as such, we shall now enter upon what we have more particularly regarded as our part in this inquiry; and we shall, without any reference to the assertion of Rabbi David Gans, or the opinion of Mr. Waller, adduce those considerations which we think eminently show the correctness of their ideas, leaving it to the reader to calculate the aggregate amount of probability, if we may so say, and then strike the balance. In the first place we observe, <<350>>Britain, and London in particular, were highly celebrated for their commerce, in the time of Augustus, and even before the invasion by Julius Caesar.  
10. Without stopping to examine the probability of the assertion made by Godfrey of Monmouth, the Welsh historian, who “reporteth that Brute* builded this citye (London) about the year of the world 2858, and 1108 before the Christian era, near unto the river now called Thames, or Trenovant,† and named it Troynovant;” or whether the far-famed King Lud, the royal and original proprietor of Lud’s gate, known to the Londoners as Ludgate,‡ “did repaire this citye, and also increased the same with many fayre buildings, calling it Lud-din, i.e. the city of Lud, or Lloyd.”§ Reputation and advantages of London for trade in the reign of Augustus.
We remark that Tacitus,|| about half a century after Augustus, tells us that London had become a “nobile emporium,” a city highly favoured for her great conflux of merchants, her extensive commerce, and plenty of all things. Testimony of Tacitus.
And Strabo, who flourished under Augustus, says, “Britain produceth corn, cattle, gold, silver, and iron; besides which, skins, slaves, and dogs¶ naturally excellent hunters, are exported from that island.” Of Strabo.
And even Caesar admits that the Britons already before his time, were very numerous and <<351>>powerful, and had, more particularly in the southeastern parts, considerably advanced in the arts of tillage and agriculture. And of Caesar.

* Said to have been lineally descended from the demi-god Eneas, son of Venus, and grandson of Jupiter. He must have been contemporary with Samuel and Saul; and London, according to this account, must have been founded before the building of the first Temple.

† Some would synonomise the Civitas Trinobantium of Caesar, with this Tremnovant, by changing the b into v.

‡ When Ludgate was taken down to be rebuilt in 1508, the following inscription was found on one of the stones, “This is the ward of R. Moses, son of Isaac.” (Pennant, Account of London.) This of course would not prove that there were Jews in England at the early period assigned for the building of Ludgate; but the stone, most probably, formed part of the domicile of those unfortunate Jews, whose houses were pulled down by the turbulent barons in the reign of King John, to repair the city.

§ Stowe's Surveys, &c. Fol., Lond. 1633.

|| He is the first who calls the city Londinium.

¶ A rather ominous classification.

From these authorities some have concluded that it is only from the time of Caesar, that Britain began to be known as a place famous for its commerce; but it can soon be shown that such was not really the case. For in the first place, if from her peculiar situation, Britain presented many advantages for commerce, her situation was always the same, and consequently the same inducements for visiting the island always existed. Secondly. It would appear very improbable that during the few years intervening between its invasion and the accession of Augustus, it should have become such a place for commerce as Strabo describes it, (see above;) and lastly, we know that the Phoenecians traded with the Britons in lead and tin,* long before the Roman eagle had made its appearance in the “sea-girt isle;” so that we have here sufficient grounds for rejecting the supposition that “Britain was a place of but little note in point of commerce, before its conquest by the Romans,”† and for adopting the opinion of such as maintain that “London grew into a city of importance by her trade with the Greeks and Phoenicians.”‡  

* “They refused, and transported the metals by the Isle of Wight, into Gaul, and thence by land on horseback, in thirty days fo Marseilles.” (Owen, Vindic. Brit. ap. Stowe.)

† Bishop Stillingfleet, An. Lond., p. 533.

‡ Owen, Vindic. Brit. pap.

11. From the days of King Solomon the Jews more fully applied themselves to commercial pursuits, and in the reign of Augustus Caesar, they were so occupied very extensively.  
The Jews, nationally, appear to have displayed but little spirit of enterprise and taste for commerce previous to the reign of King Solomon. But when this monarch, who “passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom,” made a navy of ships in Ezion Geber, which went to Tarshish with the servants of <<352>>Horam (Hiram), and came once every three years, bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks,* the nation appears to have gradually acquired a taste for so exciting an avocation. And although the navy which King Jehoshaphat made to trade to Tarshish was destroyed, as a judgment of God for joining himself with Ahaziah;† still does the nation appear to have regarded it merely as such, and their newly imbibed spirit of traffic was not at all damped. Spirit of commercial enterprise among the Jews in the days of King Solomon.
Thus, previous to the Babylonian captivity, their trade had become to extensive that even those who had always held the first rank as a commercial people, the Syrians, are represented by the prophet Ezekiel as being envious of them, rejoicing at the overthrow of Jerusalem, and congratulating themselves that they would be replenished “now that she is laid waste.”‡ Of the prophet Ezekiel.
But to draw nearer to the period with which we are most concerned, we shall find that in the time of Pompey, there were many Jews engaged in naval and commercial pursuits; for the ambassador of Hyrcanus accused Aristobulus before him of having been privy to, and concerned in, the many piracies which had lately taken place.§ And although this accusation, proceeding as it did from an opponent, may not be entitled to much credit per se: yet it is sufficient to show us that there must have been some considerable portion of the Jewish nation engaged at this time in naval matters, or the ambassador would scarcely have dared to prefer such a charge, when experience would lead Pompey to question its probability. Of Pompey.

* 1 Kings 9:26; 2 Chron. 9:21.
† 2 Chron 20:37.
‡ Ezekiel 26:2.
§ Josephus Antiq., lib. 14. cap. 3, § 2.

Again, when Pompey, after profaning the holy temple with his “heathen presence,” had incurred the displeasure and hatred of the Jews, these generally joined themselves to the party and interests of Caesar, who, according to Josephus, did not prove ungrateful, but granted them many privileges, and even made a pillar of brass for <<353>>the Jews at Alexandria, “ and declared publicly that they were citizens of Alexandria.”* Thus in  
Caesar’s time we find them enjoying all the privileges of their gentile countrymen. Stimulated by these advantages, their spirit of enterprise sought and found full scope; so that Herod found it necessary to build Caesarea, a seaport, the beauty and grandeur of which called forth alike the astonishment and praise of Jewish and gentile writers. And although this city may be justly regarded as Of Julius Caesar
being a proof of what Milman calls Herod’s “costly adulation” to Augustus: yet if we look to the extent of its commerce, its favourable situation, reputation, and magnificence, we shall be satisfied that the Jews at this time had obtained a celebrity in commercial matters such as they had never before possessed. And of Augustus.

* Antiq., lib. 14. cap. 10, § 1.

From the foregoing, it becomes in the highest degree probable that the Jews began to settle in England shortly after its conquest by Julius Caesar.  
12. If Britain was a place of most important and inviting character for commerce in the time of Augustus; if the Romans then traded into Britain; if the Jews then residing in Rome were enjoying particular privileges; if their taste for commerce and spirit of enterprise which had sprung into existence as early as the days of Solomon, had now arrived at its fullest development, and if probability be at all of any weight or value in argument: then we think that in support of the proposition which heads this section, we have presented considerations than which nothing can be more conclusive or satisfactory. In deed, it would be entirely opposed to reason and experience to suppose, that the Roman Jews in the reign of Augustus, should have slighted the advantages which were then within their grasp, and settled down in a slothful indifference: when we know that many of them at this time reached very great emi<<354>>nence in the paths of literature and science.* Coacervatio argumentorum.

* Among those to whom Horace indites his Epistles, Odes, &c., is the Jewish poet, Fuscus Aristius, his great friend and intimate, as Horace himself declares—

Haec dum, ecce,
Fuscus Aristius occurrit, mihi carus et illum
Qui pulchre nosset.—Sat. lib. I. 9.

As connected with the state of feeling towards the Jews at this perios, and of which we have spoken above, it may perhaps not be out of place here to add another line from the same satire. When Horace in the manner he so amusingly describes, begs Fuscus Aristius to deliver him from the disagreeable companionship of the “presumptuous and foolish parasite,” he says—

....Hodie tricesima sabbata; vin’ tu
Curtis Judaeis oppedere?

In his tenth Epistle (first book) Horace writes to his friend—

Urbis amatorem Fuscum salvere jubemus
Ruris amatores.

He concludes with the following regret at being parted from him—

Haec tibi dictabam post fanum putre Vacunnae;
Excepto quod non simu esses, cetera laetus.

Now if we admit this, and we think that we should not be wrong to do so: then it would be no more than consistent and proper for us to admit, that it is from this time that the Jews must have commenced settling in England. For it would have been most difficult, if not impossible, for them to have embarked in pursuits such as the pearl or slave trades, which were the principal and most profitable sections of British commerce, unless they were on the spot, as in these transactions their judgment would be necessarily required.

A person carrying on the chief part if not the whole of his business in a certain place, is much more likely to reside in that place, than elsewhere. The same must it have been with the Jewish merchants trading with Britain. And in this connexion we cannot but observe that it is very remarkable that the Roman brick before spoken of, should have been found just in Mark Lane, “a place, it will be remembered, where the Romans, and not improbably the ancient Britons, used to barter their commodities.”

From this coincidence we have probability supporting probability; for if the Jews traded into Britain <<355>>(and the one probability tells us they did), then we have every reason to believe that some of them did actually reside in Mark or Mart Lane, the then chief spot for trade, and that the brick was really the work of an Israelite, since its subject (a Scriptural one) would not allow us, as Mr. Waller observes, to suppose it to be of Roman make. And if this brick was really the work of a Jew (and the other probability tells us it was), then vice versa it is equally probable that it was the work of a Jewish merchant residing in Britain; since it is most likely, as we have before observed, that they should settle where their avocations principally called them.

Here then we have again some important though small particulars tending to show the correctness of the view we, jointly with R. David Gans and Mr. Waller, have taken of the matter. But we have said that we would leave it with our readers to decide, and we must not deprive them of their vocation. This much, however, we would add in conclusion. If, as Rollin remarks, where certainty is not to be had, a reasonable person should be satisfied with probability: then we most assuredly should not slight in our Inquiry the use of those means, which if they will not permit us to decide with certainty, will nevertheless lead us to something which approaches very nearly to it. And if considered as partaking of this character, if the considerations which we have urged to show that the earliest settlement of Jews in England must have taken place while that country was a dependency of Rome, be regarded as satisfactory, and if we have shown through them the correctness of the assertion made by one of our most able chronologists: then will the purpose for which we originated this Inquiry have been served.