[This one starts at p. 188 with the end of a chapter entitled "The Bloody Hand in Germany", then proceeds with a non-stop wailing exercise. He also says ". . . the Jew is, indeed, the best of haters." -- and this from someone who was pro-Jew! – JR, ed.]
. . . priests and the monks rise against them and say: 'We will persecute them to extermination; the name of Israel shall no longer be named.' How the holy German brotherhood is handled! We are driven from place to place. We are smitten with the sharp sword, flung into flaming fire, into raging floods, or poisonous swamps. Brethren and friends! I cry to you that the land of the Turks is a land where nothing is wanting. If you consent to go thither, it may still be well with you. You can safely proceed thence to the promised land. Israel, why dost thou sleep! Up, and depart from this accursed soil!" The Hebrews obeyed in multitudes. They sought the far East, and found in the dominions of the Sultan a sway which, as contrasted with that of the sovereigns of Christendom, was merciful, even benignant.
What wonder that those who found their way back to Jerusalem established among the fragments of the ancient glory of their fathers, a wailing-place!
THE FROWN AND THE CURSE IN ENGLAND, ITALY,
THE reader will have had a surfeit of tragedy in the details that have been given of Hebrew tribulations in Spain and Germany, but whoso tells the story faithfully must give yet more. The treatment accorded the Jews by Englishmen was no kinder, though the persecution was less colossal, from the fact that the number of victims was smaller. The Israelites probably came to Britain in the Roman day, antedating, therefore, in their occupation, the Saxon conquerors, by two or three centuries, and the Normans by perhaps a thousand years. With the beginnings of English history their presence can be traced, the inevitable proscription appearing as far back as the time of the Heptarchy. Saxon strove with Briton, and Dane with Saxon, and all alike were at enmity with the Jew. Canute banished them to the Continent, where they took refuge in Normandy, and were well received. With the conquering William they returned to England, and for a time were protected by a kindly policy. William Rufus, in particular, showed them indulgence. He appointed a public debate in London between rabbis and bishops, and swore by the face of St. Luke that if the churchmen were defeated, he would turn Jew himself. This favor, however, was transient; the Hebrews soon found themselves again under the harrow, their suffering culminating at the accession of Richard Coeur de Lion, in 1189.
The imprudent Israelites, over-anxious to win the favor of the new reign, thronged to the coronation in rich attire, and bearing costly gifts. The crusading spirit was rife; the presence of such infidel sorcerers at the ceremony was held to be of evil omen. An attempt was made to exclude them from Westminster Abbey, which many evaded, and the boldness of the intruders cost the Jews dear throughout the entire kingdom. Not a Hebrew household in London escaped robbery and murder, and outrage proceeding through the land wreaked enormities in the provinces that exceeded those of the capital. The preaching friars, omnipresent, taught that the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre could well begin with a harrying of infidels at home; and at York, at last, occurred a tragedy which only in Israelite history can find a parallel.
The great body of the Jews sought refuge in the castle, whence they defied the fanatics. The people, fired by the exhortations of the monks, who promised salvation to such as should shed the blood of an unbeliever, and who themselves, cross in hand, in their cowls, led the attacks, soon made it plain that resistance was hopeless. As in the old days of the Maccabees, a priest was at the head of the Jews. The chief rabbi of York, a man of great learning and virtue, thus addressed them: "Men of Israel, this day the God of our fathers commands us to die for his Law--the Law which the people have cherished from the first hour it was given, which we have preserved through our captivity in all nations, and for which can we do less than die? Death is before our eyes; let us escape the tortures of the Christians, who prowl about us like wolves athirst for our blood, by surrendering, as our fathers have done before us, our lives with our own hands to our Creator. God seems to call for us; let us not be unworthy!"
The old man wept as he spoke, but the people said he had uttered words of wisdom. As the council closed, night descended, and while the besiegers watched upon their arms, lo, within the stronghold flared the blaze of a furious conflagration. In the morning an entrance was easily forced, for the walls were no longer defended. The fathers had slain with the sword their wives and children, then fallen by the hands of one another, the less distinguished yielding up their lives to the elders. These in turn had fallen by the hand of the chief rabbi. He at last stood alone; upon the congregation about him, man and maid, child and graybeard, had descended the everlasting silence. The flames that had been kindled devoured not only the possessions, but consumed the people like the sacrifice upon an altar. A final stroke and the old man lay with his fellows, leaving to the persecutors an ash-heap which entombed five hundred skeletons.
For a century longer a remnant of the Israelites maintained themselves in England; but Edward I., the "English Justinian," though in so many ways a great and good prince, drove them forth, 16,500 in number, and from that time for nearly four centuries, there is no evidence that British soil felt a Hebrew footprint. At length sat in the place of power a man mightier than Plantagenet or Tudor or Stuart,--Cromwell, the plain squire, lifted to the rulership by the uprisen people. With him pleaded for tolerance Menasseh ben Israel, a Hebrew of the synagogue of Amsterdam, wise and gentle, and the pleading was not in vain. The heart of the ruler was softened, the gates of the land swung open to admit the descendants of the banished. At first it was the barest sufferance, limited by every kind of disability; but the chain has fallen from the limbs of the children of those men. Just as this record is completed, a son of Jacob is made a peer of the realm.
Near one of the arches of London Bridge, the "bridge of sighs," beneath which the sullen current pours so gloomily seaward, there is a spot in the river where at a certain stage of the tide the waters whirl in a strange, uncanny agitation. There, says tradition, in far off, terrible days, a company of Jews were thrown in and drowned. Men once believed, and it is said there are men who still believe, that the mysterious, uneasy bubbling and rush of the flood dates from the day when it coldly stifled the death-cries of those perishing victims. It is as if that stream of tragedy, which has helped and hidden so much of ghastly crime, had somewhere a conscience of its own, and, remorseful through the ages for having been the accomplice in wickedness so terrible, betrayed its secret trouble even to the present hour.
In Italy, the hardships which the Jews were forced to suffer were somewhat less terrible than elsewhere. The land had no political unity: the great trading republics, Venice, Florence, Genoa, dominated the northern portion; the power of the Church held the centre; the influence of Spain made itself balefully felt in Sicily and at the south. There was no harmonious policy in the great peninsula, thus disintegrated. Each little state was, as regarded the Hebrews, sometimes oppressive, sometimes favorable; when in any city or district the skies grew dark for them, the Jews could often find more easily in the principalities than in the great kingdoms a convenient refuge. In the commercial states no prejudice, of course, was felt toward the Israelites from the fact that they were traders and money-lenders. What else were Venetian, Florentine, Lombard, and Cahorsin?* They were the Jew's rivals, not his contemners, and there is good reason for thinking that these Christian usurers were harsher and more extortionate than the sons of Jacob, whose calling they had appropriated. The attitude of the mercantile cities toward the Hebrews was generally that of surly tolerance, that brought, however, no exemption from insult, or indeed, bodily ill-treatment, if caprice turned that way.
In Rome, the fate of the Jews hung upon the personal character of the Popes, who sometimes bravely
* Money-lenders who probably came from Piedmont. See Depping, 175.
and humanely protected them; sometimes threw over them a shield from the selfish advantage they might reap from their presence; sometimes drove against them with fagot and sword as bitter persecutors. A little company of Hebrews had dwelt in Rome even from ante-Christian days, suffered to remain, it has been said, as a monumental symbol, presenting the Old-Testament root of Christianity. Unmixed with Romans or barbarians, they had transmitted their blood. The community had seen the ancient Roman republic, after Brutus and Cassius had fallen at Philippi, tumble about them into dust; the immeasurable marble city of the imperial time had held them in its circuit; when the maces of the Goths had dashed this into ruins they lived on in the desolation. More indestructible than a column of brass, the little troop survived the fearful Nemesis of the ages. In the days of papal splendor they prayed--yes, in our own day they pray--to the God of Abraham and Moses in the same lanes, on the bank of the Tiber, in which their fathers dwelt in the times of Consul and Cæsar.
Whenever, in medieval times, a pope was consecrated, the Hebrew congregation were among the attendants, standing with slavish gestures, full of fear or timid hope, while the chief rabbi at their head carried on his shoulder the mysterious veiled roll of the holy Law. They were accustomed to read their fate in the gloomy or genial countenance of the new pope. Was it to be toleration or oppression? While
* Güdemann: "Die Juden in Italian während des Mittelalters," p. 73.
the rabbi handed the vicar of Christ the scroll for confirmation, their eyes scanned keenly the face that turned toward him. As the scroll was handed back, this was the formula which the pope was accustomed to utter: " We recognize the Law, but we condemn the view of Judaism; for the Law is fulfilled through Christ, whom the blind people of Judah still expect as the Messiah." Sometimes shielded, sometimes hounded, they drove their bargains, exercised many a profession,--in particular, as physicians, attended peasant and prince, monk and nun, even the popes themselves; but for them, as they went and came, the frown was never far from the Christian's brow, or the curse from his lip.
In Southern Italy the Jews had an especial note as artisans. They were the principal dyers, raisers and manufacturers of silk, blacksmiths, locksmiths, silversmiths. Ferdinand the Catholic forbade them to carry on noisy labors upon Christian holidays. They were also builders and miners. When the mournful banishment of the Jews from the dominions of Spain came about, the story of which has been related, Sicily, as a country subject to Ferdinand, suffered with the rest. The foremost magistrates and officials of the island, however, interposed a protest, an eloquent testimony to the character of the exiles, a few words of which it will be well to quote:
"A difficulty arises from the circumstance that in this land almost all the handicraftsmen are Jews. If, then, all depart at once, there will be a want of workmen for the Christians--especially of workmen able to carry on the iron industry,--the shoeing of horses, the manufacturing of farming-tools, the making of vehicles, of ships and galleys." The document continues in the same strain, illustrating convincingly, as a Jewish scholar urges, how the Hebrews have labored with eagerness wherever narrow-minded guilds and a spirit of envy did not forbid them to do so. If we may trust Sicilian testimony, relations of unusual friendliness existed between the island population and the Israelites thus suddenly banished. "It was an entire race which went into banishment. An other race with which it had lived for centuries, stood dumb, astonished, weeping, upon the city walls, the galleries, and roofs of the neighboring buildings, to give and receive a last greeting. The Jews abandoned Sicily--the land which had beheld so many successive generations of their forefathers, holding their ashes in its bosom. The despot who thus punished and drove forth the innocent, could not measure the infinite bitterness of such a separation. The catastrophe of 1492 remains indelibly inscribed among the saddest memories which the rule of Spain has left in this island."*
It is worth while to dwell for a moment upon the spectacle of this compassionate Christian multitude, gathered there upon the shore of the summer sea, weeping as they watched in the distance the departing sails of the exiled Hebrews. Rarely indeed did the dark world of those times afford such a scene. In a night of tempest the clouds will sometimes divide for a moment and suffer to fall a gentle beam
* La Lumia: "The Sicilian Hebrews," quoted by Güdemann, p. 291.
of moonlight. For the Jews it was everywhere storm and thick darkness--and how seldom came any parting of those wrath-charged shadows!
For some time after the Jews of England and Germany had found themselves oppressed, the situation of their brethren in France, was an enviable one. They were spread abroad even among the villages--on the farms, and in the vineyards, as well as in the towns, devoting themselves to agriculture, to medicine, to the mechanic arts, to study; traders and money-changers, however, they were for the most part. The skies were usually favorable, a fitful hail of persecution beating upon them only now and then; not until the accession of Philip Augustus, in 1180, did prince and populace, the upper and the nether millstone, begin their pitiless grinding. For a time it was less the fanatical hatred of the people, than the avarice of the king and lords, that bore hard. The treasures of the Hebrews were wrung from them in all cruel ways; where torture was unavailing, massacre was brought to bear, and at last a plundered remnant were cast as off-scourings beyond the frontiers. The term of exile was short. The rejected crept once more to their homes, to find they were henceforth to be held as the serfs of the king--themselves and their havings utterly subject to his disposal. The blessed St. Louis,* whom history and legend have so exalted, could sell his Jews like a troop of cattle, while he did so tearing from them, as a work of blasphemy, the beloved book, which in
* Reinach: "Histoire des Juifs," p. 160.
the midst of sufferings was their supreme consolation, the safeguard of their morality, and the bond of their religious unity--the Talmud. St. Louis burned the books of the Jews; Philip the Fair burned the Jews themselves. In 1306, on the morrow of the fast commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem, all the Jews of France, men, women, and children, to the number of 100,000, stripped of every possession for the benefit of the royal treasury, were cast naked out of the land. As in the case of the proscription of Philip Augustus, this, too, did not endure. The kingdom languished for want of them, and in ten years such as survived were recalled. They were scarcely re-established when there was a new experience of steel and fire; the "Pastoureaux," bands of fanatical shepherds and malefactors, swept them away by thousands. Soon the "Black Pest" was upon the land; the Israelites protected in a measure by observing the hygienic prescriptions of their law, felt the sickness somewhat less; that the pestilence spared them caused them to be suspected; the spear, the caldron, and the devouring flame were again at work until victims failed and exhaustion fell upon the persecutors. The cold extortions of heartless princes, enforced by dungeons and the rack--the anathemas of bishop and monk-the whirling cyclones of popular fury--how among them all could a single one be saved! From these times a tragic Hebrew lay has been handed down to us, which affords a glimpse into the souls of those who thus suffered. It describes the immolation upon the funeral pile of a rabbi and his family,--a chant characteristically Jewish, pathetic, tenderly affectionate, but bitterly scornful to the last, and audacious in its imprecations. A few passages from this follow*:
"Israel is in mourning, bewailing its brave martyred saints. Thou, O God, dost behold our flowing tears. Without thy help we perish!
"O Sage, who day and night grew pale over the Bible, for the Bible you have died.
"When his noble wife saw the flames burst forth, 'My love calls me,' she cried. 'As he died, I would die.' His youngest child trembled and wept. 'Courage!' said the elder. 'In this hour Paradise will open.' And the rabbi's daughter, the gentle maid! 'Abjure your creed,' they cry. 'A faithful knight stands here who dies for love of thee.' 'Death by fire rather than renounce my God! it is God whom I desire for my spouse.'
"'Choose,' said the priest, 'the cross or the torture'; but the rabbi said: 'Priest, I owe my body to God, who now requires it,' and tranquilly he mounts the pile.
"Together in the midst of the unchained flames, like cheerful friends at a festival, they raise high and clear the hymn of deliverance, and their feet would move in dances were they not bound in fetters.
"God of vengeance, chastise the impious!
"Doth thy wrath sleep?
"What are the crimes which I am forced to expiate under the torch of these felons?
"Answer, O Lord, for long have we suffered; answer, for we count the hours!"
* Reinach, 163.
We need look no further in that lurid mediaeval world. The Hebrew story is everywhere the same substantially--a constant moan as it were, with variations indeed, but seldom a note in which we miss the quality of agony. In their best estate, the Jews were but chattels of the sovereign, who sometimes followed his interest in protecting them. The king kept his Jews as the farmer keeps his bees, creatures whose power for mischief is to be feared, but tolerated for their marvellous faculty of storing up something held to be of value. As the price of his protection, the prince helped himself from the Jew's hoard, sometimes leaving the Jew enough for a livelihood,--enough sometimes, indeed, to maintain a rich state. If they increased, however, the potentate did not scruple to sell them, as the farmer sells his superfluous swarms; and if fanaticism drove out in the royal mind the sense of greed, as in the case of Richard Coeur de Lion, St. Louis, and Isabella, the Jew had no defence against a world in arms before him. If sickness prevailed, it was because the Jews had poisoned the wells; if a Christian child were lost, it had been crucified at a Jewish ceremony; if a church sacristan was careless, it was the Jews who had stolen the Host from the altar, to stab it with knives at the time of the Passover. In many periods in almost all lands, whoever sinned or suffered, the Jew was accused, and the occasion straightway made use of for attacks in which hundreds or thousands might perish. The wild cry of the rabble, "Hep! hep!" said to be derived from the Latin formula, "Hierosolyma est perdita," might break out at any time. The Jew was made conspicuous, sometimes by a badge in the shape of a wheel, red, yellow, or parti-colored, fixed upon the breast. In some lands the mark was square and placed upon the shoulder or hat. At Avignon the sign was a pointed yellow cap; at Prague, a sleeve of the same color; in Italy and Germany, a horn-shaped head-dress, red or green. This distinguishing mark or dress the Jew was forced to wear, and when the "Hep, Hep!" was heard, he might well raise his hands in despair. He might indeed flee to the Turk; but the tender mercies of the Turk, tolerant as he was as compared with the Christian, were often very cruel.
As time advanced, the spirit of early Protestantism was often no milder toward them than that of the old faith, though it may have refrained from fagots and the rack. Men wise before their age have not been able to rise to the height of charity for the Jew.
Said Luther: "Know, dear Christian, and doubt it not, that next to the Devil himself, thou hast no more bitter, poisonous, violent enemy than a Jew, who is set upon being a Jew,"--a judgment of the great reformer perhaps not far wrong, for the Jew is, indeed, the best of haters. Luther's means, however, for opposing Hebrew enmity was not the law of kindness, but to set against it a more energetic enmity. In a similar spirit, the great Puritan body, which in Cromwell's day lifted England into glory, through their representative men, the ministers, set their faces steadily against all tolerance of the Jew; and it should be counted among the great Protector's chief titles to a noble fame, that he bore down, with all the weight of his tremendous personality, the stubborn prejudice of his friends and upholders, insisted that the decree of Edward I. should be abrogated, and that the Israelite should once more have a place in England.
Men standing quite aloof from Christianity, even in times close to our own, have had regard scarcely kinder. To Gibbon they stand as an obstinate and sullen company who merit only his much-celebrated sneer. Voltaire could speak of them as "an ignorant and barbarous people, who for a long time have joined the foulest creed to the most frightful superstition, and most unconquerable hate against all who endure and enrich them." Even Buckle can say nothing kinder than to call them "that ignorant and obstinate race."