Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Statute of the Jewry
The Statute of the Jewry was a statute issued by Edward I of England in 1275. It placed a number of restrictions on Jews of England, most notably outlawing the practice of usury.[1]

[edit] Context
Since the time of the Norman Conquest, Jews had been filling a small but vital role in the English economy. Usury by Christians was banned by the church at the time, but Jews were permitted to act as moneylenders and bankers. That position enabled some Jews to amass tremendous wealth, but also earned them the enmity of the English populace[2], which added to the increasing antisemitic sentiments of the time, due to widespread indebtedness and financial ruin among the Gentile population.

When Edward returned from the Crusades in 1274, two years after his accession as King of England, he found that land had become a commodity, and that many of his subjects had become dispossessed and were in danger of destitution. Jews traded land for money, and land was often mortgaged to Jewish moneylenders.

As special direct subjects of the monarch, Jews could be taxed indiscriminately by the King. Some have described the situation as indirect usury: the monarch permitting and encouraging Jews to practice usury and then "taxing" or expropriating some of the profit. In the years leading up to the Statute, Edward taxed them heavily to help finance his forthcoming military campaigns in Wales, which commenced in 1277. One theory[citation needed] holds that he had exhausted the financial resources of the Jewish community when the Statute was passed in 1275.[1]

[edit] Provisions
Usury was outlawed in every form.
Creditors of Jews were no longer liable for certain debts.
Jews were not allowed to live outside certain cities and towns.
Any Jew above the age of seven had to wear a yellow badge of felt on his or her outer clothing, six inches by three inches.
All Jews from the age of 12 on had to pay a special tax of three pence annually.
Christians were forbidden to live among Jews.
Jews were licensed to buy farmland to make their living for the next 15 years.
Jews could thenceforth make a living in England only as merchants, farmers, craftsmen or soldiers.
The license to buy land was included so that farming, along with trading, could give Jews an opportunity to earn a living with the abolition of usury. Unfortunately, other provisions along with widespread prejudice made this difficult for many.[3]

When the 15 years passed, and it was widely discovered that the practice of usury had been secretly continued by some Jews, they, along with all other Jews, were presented with the Edict of Expulsion of 1290.[4]

Edict of Expulsion
Edict of Expulsion
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search
This article describes the Edict of Expulsion, given by Edward I of England in 1290, that expelled all Jews from England for 350 years. For information on the 1492 Edict of Expulsion from Spain, see the Alhambra decree. For other legislations expelling Jews from their homes, see Jewish refugees.

In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656. The edict was not an isolated incident but the culmination of over 200 years of conflict on the matters of usury.

[edit] Buildup to Expulsion
The first Jewish communities of significant size came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. On the conquest of England, William instituted a feudal system in the country, whereby all estates formally belonged to the king, who appointed lords over vast estates, subject to duties and obligations (financial and knights) to the king. Under the lords were further subjects such as serfs, which were bound and obligated to their lords. Merchants had a special status in the system as did Jews. Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the King,[1] unlike the rest of the population. This had advantages for Jews, in that they were not tied to any particular lord, but were subject to the whims of the king. Every successive King formally reviewed a royal charter granting Jews the right to remain in England. Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of Magna Carta[2] of 1215.

Economically, Jews played a key role in the country. The church at the time strictly forbade usury, or the lending of money for profit. This created a vacuum in the economy of Europe that only Jews were able to fill (canon law was not considered to apply to Jews, and Judaism permits loans with interest between Jews and non-Jews).[3] As a consequence, some Jews made large amounts of money. However, taking advantage of their unique status as his direct subjects, the King could expropriate Jewish assets in the form of taxation. He levied heavy taxes on Jews at will without having to summon Parliament.[4] The Jewish community acted as a kind of giant monetary filter: Jews collected interest on money loaned to the people which the King could take at his pleasure.

Jews acquired a reputation as extortionate money lenders which made them extremely unpopular with both the Church and the general public. While antisemitism was widespread in Europe, medieval England was particularly antisemitic.[2] An image of the Jew as a diabolical figure who hated Christ started to become widespread, and antisemitic myths such as the Wandering Jew and ritual murders originated and spread throughout England, as well as Scotland and Wales.[5] Jews were said to hunt for children to murder before Passover so they could use their blood to make matzah.[6] Antisemitism on a number of occasions sparked riots where many Jews were murdered, most famously in 1190 when over a hundred Jews were massacred in the city of York.[6]

[edit] Expulsion
The situation only got worse for Jews as the 13th century progressed. In 1218, England became the first European nation to require Jews to wear a marking badge.[7] Taxation grew increasingly intense. Between 1219 and 1272, 49 levies were imposed on Jews for a total of 200,000 marks, a huge amount of money.[4] The first major step towards expulsion took place in 1275, with the Statute of Jewry. The statute outlawed all usury and gave Jews fifteen years to readjust.[8] However, guilds as well as popular prejudice made Jewish movement into mercantile or agricultural pursuits almost impossible.

While in Gascony in 1287, Edward ordered English Jews expelled. All their property was seized by the crown and all outstanding debts payable to Jews were transferred to the King’s name.[9] It was a bleak sign of things to come. Edward’s personal views on Jews are something of a mystery. In the glimpses we have of his dealings with them, he seems interested but unsympathetic. His mother, however, does seem to have been anti-semitic.[10] Whatever his personal feelings, by the time he returned to England in 1289 Edward was deeply in debt. The next summer he summoned his knights to impose a steep tax. To make the tax more palatable, Edward in exchange essentially offered to expel all Jews.[11] The heavy tax was passed, and three days later, on July 18, the Edict of Expulsion was issued. One official reason for the expulsion was that Jews had neglected to follow the Statute of Jewry. The edict of expulsion was widely popular and met with little resistance, and the expulsion was quickly carried out.

The Jewish population in England at the time was relatively small. While population estimates vary, probably less than 1% of England was Jewish; perhaps 3,000 people.[12] The expulsion process went fairly smoothly, although there were a few horrific stories. One story told of a captain taking a ship full of Jews to the Thames while the tide was going out and convincing them to go out for a walk with him. He then lost them and made it back to his ship before the tide came back in, leaving them all to drown.[10] Other stories exist of Jews being robbed or killed, but the majority of the Jews seem to have crossed the channel in safety.

They emigrated to countries such as Poland that protected them by law.

[edit] The intermediate period
Between the expulsion of Jews in 1290 and their formal return in 1655, there is no official trace of Jews as such on English soil except in connection with the Domus Conversorum, which kept a number of them within its precincts up to 1551 and even later. An attempt was made to obtain a revocation of the edict of expulsion as early as 1310, but in vain. Notwithstanding, a certain number of them appear to have come back; for complaints were made to the king in 1376 that some of those trading as Lombards were Jews ("Rot. Parl." ii. 332a).

Occasionally permits were given to individuals to visit England, as in the case of Dr. Elyas Sabot in 1410, but it was not until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 that any considerable number of Sephardic Jews found refuge in England.[citation needed] One of these as early as 1493 attempted to recover no less a sum than 428,000 maravedis which the refugees from Spain had entrusted to Diego de Soria.[citation needed] In 1542 many were arrested on the suspicion of being Jews, and throughout the sixteenth century a number of persons named Lopez, possibly all of the same family, took refuge in England, the best known of them being Rodrigo Lopez, physician to Queen Elizabeth, and who is said to have been the origin of Shylock.[citation needed] Besides certain distinguished converts like Immanuel Tremellius and Philip Ferdinand, the most remarkable visitor was Joachim Gaunse, who introduced new methods of mining into England.[citation needed] Occasional visitors, like Alonzo de Herrera and Simon Palache in 1614, are recorded.[citation needed] The writings of John Weemes provided a positive view in favor of the resettlement of the Jews in England.[citation needed]

The longest hatred An Examination of Anti-Gentilism
Publisher's Foreword

IT IS NOT a very commendable truism that in the Christian West today, we live in a materialistic society. But was it always so?
There must be enlightenment somewhere if we only knew where to look for it.
A good starting point is undoubtedly The Bible where, for instance, in the New Testament we find St. Matthew's warning in Chapter 6, Verse 24 of his Gospel: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon"—i.e. worldliness, riches and greed. Those six words of caution immediately suggest Christian soundness and common sense. We should remember too that it was Christ himself who angrily drove the money-lenders out of the Temple.
Left to their own devices and their somewhat unusual ideas of a contented, rewarding life, native Britons in the past instinctively shunned great wealth, preferring simpler tastes, pastimes and possessions, free from the massive financial entanglements which bear so heavily on us as we approach the 21st Century.
So, what has gone wrong? How can we start to give money its proper place in 'the daily round and common task' of life, without the burdens of insatiable borrowing which bestow a crippling legacy of interest-bearing debt upon our hapless children?
Try taking a close look at what this little book has to say about the problems confronting all of us. It makes a lot of sense, as you can see for yourself, and "serving mammon" really has so little going for it. "Serving God", on the other hand, could quickly remind us that the 'power without responsibility' wielded by those who largely underpin and manipulate our day-to-day lives through money-mania, is no substitute for honest-to-goodness living.

Jane Birdwood, London
July 1991


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