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Under Henry III. the Jews, as before, held offices of State; and one in particular, Don Meir, physician to the King, was high in honour and trust; yet, in the same reign, especially during the minority of the King, several violent outbreaks and bloody persecutions were raised against the Jewish inhabitants of different cities. At Seville, the Archbishop in person stirred up
, the populace, by a sermon, to fall upon the Jews, and the tumult was with difficulty quelled by the severe measures of the civil and military authorities.
In the year following, 1391, these disturbances were repeated, and the Jewish quarter attacked and burnt to ashes. This fearful example spread, as by contagion, to the towns of Cordova, Madrid, Toledo, over the whole of Catalonia, and even to the Isle of Majorca, where John I. of Arragon caused its leaders to be severely punished. The number of Jews said to have lost their life is estimated at ten thousand, and the places in which the outbreak occurred are numbered at seventy. Many fled to Africa to escape persecution, among whom was the Rabbi Bar Zemach, of Oran, celebrated for his learned writings, and his elegies on the events of that period. Others in the terror of the moment went over to the Romish Church.
The first years of the reign of John II., who succeeded his father while yet a child (1406), were unfavourable to the Jews. A royal mandate, dated Valladolid, 1412, in a series of twenty-four articles, contained the most oppressive enactments which had ever been promulgated against them, since the time of the later Visigothic kings. The Jews, and also the Moors, were thenceforth to confine themselves to a separate quarter, on pain of death, -not to converse with Christians, or to have Christians in their service,
-not to practise as physicians or apothecaries,-not to be high treasurer to the King, or steward to any of the nobility, not even to work at trades for the Christians. They were no longer to have judges of their own nation, nor to observe their peculiar laws and customs; they might not even tax them. selves for the maintenance of the synagogue, nor share as they liked the taxes imposed by the King. They were ordered to wear a peculiar dress, the form even of which was prescribed to them. The title of Don was forbidden, and the power of quitting the kingdom at will, taken from them. These laws were too absurd to be put in force, and the Jews knew that they possessed too much power and influence to be compelled to submit to them. Yet, though under a different name, they continued, during the reign of John II, (for nearly fifty years), and that of his son Henry IV. (from 1454 to 1474), to retain their former connexion with the State. They were baptized in crowds in different parts of Spain, either in consequence of intolerable persecution, or, in some cases, of real conviction, of which we shall soon mention some bright examples. These families formed an entirely new body, who were long distinguished from the old Christian population by the designation of “ Conversos,” or New Christians. The influence of these converts became, in the fifteenth century, as extensive and important as that of the unconverted or unbaptized Jews of earlier times. They held the chief offices of state, and were about the person of the King, being especially favoured by Don Alvar de Lema, the powerful minister of John II. The preference shown both to the Conversos and to the Jews in the reign of Henry IV. was made matter of complaint against that monarch, who naturally looked upon them as his most faithful partizans; and sanguinary contests were often the consequence. On one occasion, when the populace made an attack upon the Jews and Conversos at Jaen, the high constable, Don Miguel Lucas Tranga, who had taken their part, was put to death while attending mass. The town of Cordova, and many others, witnessed similar scenes of civil war, arising from religious or political jealousies. The Jews and Conversos in this time of anarchy took up arms in all parts of Castile, hired troops to defend themselves, or removed to Palma and Seville. From thence a considerable party, with Pedro de Herrera at its head, went to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and opened a negotiation with him, requesting that the town and fortress of Gibraltar might, on the payment of a considerable sum, be made over to the Conversos as their own possession.
This scheme failed, owing to the interference of the people of Seville, from whom, on this account, the Jewish quarter had again much to endure. The glorious period during which Isabella, the sister of Henry IV., with her husband, Don Ferdinand of Arragon, governed Castile, brought a complete change over the whole face of the country, and became to the Jews, and also to the New Christians, the time of a most striking crisis, the relation of which belongs to a later period.
MISSIONS TO THE JEWS.
LONDON. Extract from the Journal of the Rev. F. C. Ewald.
The brother of one of the Converts baptized at the Chapel on Feb. 1st, wrote:
“ Thou hast separated thyself from the synagogue, thou hast denied the Jewish faith, therefore thou ceasest to be my brother; from henceforth I do not know thee and thou not me. I shall never more see thee, thou shalt never come to me."
Another of them received the following letter from a learned Jew in London, while under instruction :
“ Dear friend, I inform you herewith that I have recived a letter from your mother, in which she earnestly entreats me to speak to you, and to tell you words of exhortation; especially shall I tell you that the step you have taken has plunged her into a desperate condition. Your mother assures me, that if she does not soon learn that you have returned to the religion of your fathers, you will be to her the angel of death.
“ If you will convince yourself of the truth of my statement, please call on me. I have also a letter for you. In the hope of seeing you soon, I sign myself" &c.
The letter here alluded to, was from the father, and runs thus :
W., Sept. 24th, 1851. “ Your first letter has caused us much grief; we immediately perceived that you had fallen into the hands of the Missionaries; and your
And those who treat us now with scorn,
for that expected morn,
“ All Israel shall be sav'd." Temple.
London : Printed at the Operative Jewish Converts'Institution,
Palestine Place, Bethnal Green.