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  • Yosef Malka

Menasseh ben Israel and the Paradoxes of Modern Jewish Politics


In 1653, Menasseh ben Israel dispatched his son, Samuel ben Israel, from Amsterdam to London. Samuel was sent to initiate the campaign for Jewish readmission to England three and a half centuries after expulsion. Menasseh was a prominent rabbi and an intellectual celebrity across Protestant Europe, having escaped the inquisition and brought his Judaism to light in 1610. He was hesitant to cause a scandal by negotiating with Holland’s commercial adversary during the tensions of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. But this decision was not merely practical. For Menasseh, it had deeper religious significance. When he joined his son in 1655, not only was Menasseh finishing the Piedra Gloriosa, a work of messianism [1] —he also believed that his own mission was suffused with messianic power. When Menasseh married Rachel Abrabanel in 1633, he knew he would have an important son. [2] Through his mother’s lineage, Samuel joined the Davidic line which was destined to produce the messiah, and was connected to the prolific statesman and philosopher Don Isaac Abravanel. While Samuel’s trip initiated a process that would ultimately lead to resettlement, he was not the messiah: within four years, he would be dead.


Those four years would break his father. By 1657, after his own mission to England, Menasseh found himself in between London and Amsterdam, rejected by both Jewish communities and looking desperately to Oliver Cromwell for financial support. He died just two months after his son, defeated.

While Simon ben Israel and his converso companion, Manuel Martinez Dormido, sought to engineer the resettlement by writing privately to Oliver Cromwell and extolling the commercial utility and political loyalty of the Jewish people, Menasseh ben Israel’s mission was defined by advocacy in the vernacular. Menasseh published three pamphlets that were translated into English and intended to create the conditions for large-scale resettlement of the Jews in England during a period when early modern Jewry was in desperate need of a new, tolerant frontier.


Menasseh’s advocacy can be considered one of the opening acts of Jewish emancipation politics, even though he did not invoke the concept of emancipation at all. [3] Jews would have to be admitted before being emancipated. Menasseh faced many of the same dilemmas and challenges that advocates for Jewish rights and inclusion would face in the centuries that followed. Menasseh engaged with both Christian intellectuals to create horizontal alliances in an emerging public discourse and to create vertical alliances with the state based on economic utility. The confusion of his two audiences—state and public—and their incompatible objectives may explain part of Menasseh’s failure to achieve the settlement he desired.


The Fragility of Mandate: Menasseh’s Activism in its Dutch-Sephardic Political Context

Menasseh ben Israel was not a prolific merchant. Instead, his ability to speak the language of English Protestantism and his international celebrity legitimized his mandate with the Dutch Jewish community. At the same time, Menasseh had a history of causing trouble with Dutch Sephardic communal leaders precisely because of the controversial nature of his theological work and his extensive contact with Christian intellectuals. [4] At the end of the readmission campaign, Menasseh appealed not to the Jewish communal leaders in Amsterdam for financial assistance, but to Oliver Cromwell. Even his wife was apparently unable to receive assistance from the Dutch Jews and turned to Cromwell’s minister John Sadler, who intervened on her behalf with Cromwell again. Menasseh’s mandate from the Dutch Jewish community remains unproven and may have been tacit and tentative. [5]


Menasseh was skilled at making allies with people who did not like Jews. In his recent biography of Menasseh, Steven Nadler discusses his first intellectual relationships with Christian scholars like Vossius and points out their general antipathy towards the Jews, but also makes clear their willingness to defend and support Menasseh because of their respect for his erudition. Nadler claims that Menasseh engaged with them out of a universalist impulse and a genuine interest in reconciliation and peace. [6] Nevertheless, the bylaws of the community included a prohibition against engaging with gentiles in theological conversations and the Jewish communal elite was often angered by his publications. Additional moments confirm this: their disapproval of his publication of theological books, screaming matches in the sanctuary, the herem placed on Menasseh in 1640 for insubordination, the extremely low level of trust between him and the community at the time of the mission to England, and the fact that for much of his career he was not on speaking terms with senior Rabbi Saul Levi Mortera. Menasseh was a disaffected rabbi who felt underappreciated by the communal elite.


Menasseh made the communal authority, or Mahamad, nervous, but he was also useful to them. A few moments in his biography highlight this tension. When Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I of England, came to Amsterdam, she wanted to see the synagogue. [7] The Mahamad decided to ask Menasseh to give the sermon that week over the more senior Rabbi Mortera. Does this mean that they respected or trusted Menasseh more? This is unlikely. They consciously took a risk by selecting Menasseh. In all likelihood, it was his intellectual celebrity that had made the synagogue a must-see for a member of the English royalty, and for many intellectuals who visited. It was Menasseh who was known to interact with Christians in Amsterdam and to win their support for his intellectual projects. This is precisely what made the Mahamad so nervous about Menasseh, but it is also what would have made them pick him to represent the community in the presence of a gentile over Saul Levi Mortera, who was known not to engage with gentiles and did not interest them.


This all points to two larger questions about the dynamics of Jewish emancipation politics. First, to what extent can a practitioner’s personal motivations—for capital, intellectual recognition, or some mix of the two—coexist with the interests of the community? Does this create an unstable situation, or is it simply an inevitable consequence of advancing a set of political goals through individual agents? [8] Second, to what extent does an emancipation-politician’s external celebrity (i.e. standing among Gentiles) confer a mandate on them to pursue the work of emancipation politics? Menasseh’s story belies a subtle problem of legitimacy and representation at work in many instances of diaspora politics, where practitioners are skilled and well-positioned for precisely the same reasons that they might not be perfect representatives of their communities.


Grounds for Inclusion: Erastian Toleration, Cromwellian Church Policy, and Mercantilism

During the period between 1640-1660, England debated the proper relationship between civil and ecclesiastical power and those in control took drastic steps to reform the English Church. Erastianism, an increasingly influential doctrine in the early 17th century, holds that the civil magistrate is the only source of valid religious law. As Eric Nelson explains, the embrace of Erastianism by early modern Protestants was coupled with a new belief that the Hebrew Bible provided a set of political principles that modern governments should adopt. [9] They believed that the Sanhedrin, or Jewish court, did not make a distinction between civil and religious law, but also that it did not attempt to punish people for spiritual transgressions. [10] On this view, civil government would be based on Godly principles and carry out religious law, but not root out unbelief. [11] Erastianism regarded God as the ultimate sovereign, but only permitted religious legislation that was necessary for civil peace. As Nelson argues, the rise of religious freedom in the West should be seen not as the result of an impulse to deny the relevance of revelation to political life or to separate church and state. Rather, toleration was the result of a transformation within the religious sphere itself.


This history is critical for understanding the terms in which the decision to readmit the Jews was debated and the reasons why Cromwell did not want to make the decision on his own authority and instead called a public conference to debate the matter at Whitehall. [12] Theories about the “Hebrew Republic” did not necessarily dispose Christians to living Jews, but they structured political debate in a way that created common ground. According to Nelson, all of the Erastians at the Westminster Assembly of Divines, which convened in 1643 in order to debate the proper form of Church governance, were accomplished Hebraists. They fiercely debated the nature of the Sanhedrin, and specifically about whether or not it was primarily a civil body. The Erastians argued that it was a civil body, and that there was no independent ecclesiastical authority in the Hebraic and Godly polity. [13] It is remarkable that the conference dedicated to determining the proper form of ecclesiastical government in England devolved into a debate about the nature of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Ancient Israel.

Among the Erastian spokesmen was Bulstrode Whitelocke. [14] Bulstrode Whiltelocke was a lawyer and Parliamentarian who served Cromwell for many years but also managed to keep a distance from the revolutionary project that allowed him to survive the Restoration. He was an operator who was useful to many people and did not cause controversy, and was dispatched in 1653 to Sweden as a diplomat. Most importantly for the history of Jewish readmission, he also served on Cromwell’s Council of State when it received a petition for readmission sent directly from Menasseh to the Council in 1651. [15]


Stowe 333, a manuscript in the British Library which has not yet been discussed in the literature, demonstrates Whitelocke’s Hebraism and links his arguments to those of Menasseh. [16] This document, “Historie of the Parlement of England and of some resemblances to the Jewish and other Councells” is an unfinished manuscript. It examines the etymology of the word parliament and claims that the English Parliament is largely based on the Jewish Sanhedrin. As the historian Jacqueline Rose has shown, the concept of “resemblances” was used by Whitelocke in his other works. It was central to his claim that there was continuity between biblical law and modern common law. [17] Whitelocke is not merely important for corroborating that political Hebraism may have had some tenuous effect on the readmission process, but for exposing an argumentative strategy shared by Menasseh and the Hebraists. While his involvement beyond the Council of State decision is unlikely, he is valuable to this story due to the similarity between his arguments and Menasseh’s.


In a chapter titled “On Tyranny,” Whitelocke uses passages from the Book of Samuel and the Book of Job to argue that God always punishes tyrants. [18] He discusses the “just hand and vengeance of God towards tyrants” by expounding on Job 15:20 (“The wicked who oppress others will be in torment as long as they live.”) In a nod to Machiavelli, he claims that “their life is miserable, who would rather be feared than loved…Though he may seem to prosper heer, he cannot escape punishment hereafter.” [20] This line of argument about the tendency of God to punish tyrants is important in the readmission context (though not unique to Whitelocke) because it paralleled Menasseh’s arguments in the Humble Addresses.


In the Humble Addresses and Hope of Israel, Menasseh chronicles tyrants and monarchs who have persecuted the Jews and experienced a downfall, and he posits the mistreatment of the Jews as the prime causal factor. In his preface to the Humble Addresses, he writes he came to England because he believed, “the Kingly government being now changed into that of Commonwealth, the ancient hatred towards [the Jews] would also be changed into good-will.” [21] Ironically, he addressed this work to his “highnesse” Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless, it seems that this opposition to tyranny was a major source of agreement between Menasseh and the English Erastians.


The political-theological argument that Whitelocke and Menasseh shared did not mean the same thing to both of them. Whitelocke and Menasseh had completely different intentions in appropriating the language of the Old Testament to argue against "oppression." Whitelocke's argument was not a plea for "toleration," rather, it was about the terms of the revolution that put parliament over crown. Menasseh inserted his vision of toleration into the same political-theological argument to further his own agenda.


Cromwell achieved a reorganization of the English Church by 1654, the year the readmission debate picked up in earnest. Scholars including Blair Worden and Jeffrey Collins [22] have urged historians to recognize how “toleration” was not a conscious goal of Cromwell and in fact was a “dirty word” for most Puritans. [23] Cromwell believed that he had the power and the responsibility to establish a national confession and worked “relentlessly” [24] to establish a system that would centralize control over the nation’s Churches. Cromwell was an Erastian, but that did not mean perfect toleration in practice: religious conformity and religious law in general were rationalized in support of the needs of civil peace. The deliberation about the readmission of the Jews was not the inevitable result of the spirit of religious liberty and toleration that had taken hold during the English Civil War—a Whiggish view—but instead was accommodated through the structure of Cromwell’s reformed Church.

Understanding the reception of Menasseh’s arguments also requires placing them in the context of larger, contemporaneous debates within English society about mercantilism. By the time readmission was debated, merchants no longer needed to be chartered by the government. [25] As Nuala Zahadiah has shown, this led to a set of debates about both the virtues of mercantilism and about what made a good merchant. She claims that the Jews had a “competitive advantage” in the transport trade because of their trust networks, better communal discipline, and better intelligence. [26] The Navigation Acts of 1651 were meant to create a “self-contained commercial system” by ensuring that all trade involving English colonies was funneled through England. [27] Thus, there was a body of London merchants opposed to the readmission of Jews to England on commercial grounds because they knew about the prominence of Jews in early modern colonial trade. But this prominence was precisely what made them so attractive to Cromwell in his pursuit of colonial and mercantile expansion. According to Lucien Wolf, Cromwell even discussed plans for the Jews to colonize Jamaica with one of the Conversos living in London at the time of the readmission debates. [28]


Menasseh’s Changing Alliances

Simon ben Israel’s mission, which pursued a vertical strategy by directly supplicating Oliver Cromwell (the petition was submitted by Manuel Martinez Domido [29]), was a failure. Cromwell’s decision to call a public meeting, the Whitehall Conference, to discuss the readmission question indicated that he wanted the decision to be reached by a larger body that possessed more authority than his executive power: he was unwilling to make this decision in the dark. The Whitehall Conference yielded a definitive statement that there were no laws prohibiting the readmission to England, but failed to authorize resettlement. With authorization from the Whitehall Conference, Jews would have been able to enter the country as a community. In a sense, the Whitehall Conference would have approved Judaism, while the process of endenization approved individual Jews.


The Whitehall Conference had the broadest mandate and the most authority, but its attendants were deeply concerned about the potential for Jews to corrupt good Christians and encroach on their commercial interests. [30] John Dury advocated for Jews to be admitted as aliens but later expressed concerns, adding a list of restrictions to qualify his decision. [31] Menasseh and Dormido advocated for Jews to be admitted as subjects. [32] Johanna Cartwright, a blank blank, advocated for Jews to be “permitted to trade and dwell amongst you in this Land, as now they do in the Nether-lands,” which presumably meant as merchant strangers with limited rights. [33]


Dury’s qualified support for Jewish readmission as strangers was premised on his agenda of theological diplomacy and his desire to convert Jews. According to Dury and his close correspondent and collaborator, Samuel Hartlib, the Jews had a decisive role to play in the coming of the messiah. Yosef Kaplan writes that for these Protestants, who were obsessed with the cause of converting Jews, Jews had an “actual historical function in salvation history.” [34] Dury and the Hartlib circle worked to promote the study of Judaism among Protestants to aid in conversionary efforts, and they interacted with Menasseh in their quest to gain knowledge that would help them convert Jews. They believed in the doctrine of emulation, that is, the idea that Jews had not yet witnessed true Christianity. Once given the opportunity to experience non-Catholic Christians, they would grow interested as long as they were not persecuted and rushed along by force. [35] This was characteristic of even the most tolerant thinkers of the age. This was an age when people cared deeply about the salvation of one another’s souls—the idea of suspending judgment about the beliefs of others was almost unthinkable.


In his 1656 pamphlet, A Case of Conscience, Dury called on the civil magistrate to assist in the “edification” of the Jews, (meaning their ultimate conversion), by readmitting them. He supported toleration as a strategy, knowing that persecution will not attract anyone to the faith. His pamphlet also betrays the influence of the debates about civil authority over ecclesiastical matters defined above. He writes that the question of Jewish settlement has always been a matter decided by the civil magistrate, and driven by raison d'etat, rather than something handled according to religious considerations. He writes that, “it is a work, which the Civil Magistrate takes wholly into his own consideration, to do, or not to do therein, what he finds expedient for the advantage of the the State; nor do I remember, to have read or heard, that the Case hath ever been put to any of the Churches, to be scanned as a matter of conscience.” [36]


Dury wrote an overview of the situation in the German principalities, claiming that Jews were admitted by princes but despised by the Churches and ordinary Christians. He wanted this to change with Cromwell and England. He laid down a legal framework for doing so, drawn from a reading of the New Testament. His framework was essentially a distinction between “things lawful” and “things expedient.” To be truly justified according to a Christian standard, an act must be both lawful and expedient. It may be permissible to readmit the Jews, he claims, but it will only be expedient if readmission is a means towards conversion. Only if the Jews can be “made to see the goodnesse of Gods mercy to us, that he hath adopted us to be his People in their stead; Then the first Rule of Expediencie will be observed, and there wil be no great difficultie to contrive the business so.” [37] For Dury, readmission should be conditional on the adoption of a conversionary program. Only then could it become a “case of conscience” that could be agreeable to Christians and to the civil magistrate. Conveniently, he believes that readmitting the Jews will eventually cause them to accept that God “hath adopted us [Protestants] to be his people in their stead,” [38] that is, to deny the validity of their own covenant. Within the framework of the Church settlement which had recently given the civil magistrate more authority over religious matters, he argued that Cromwell had the authority to readmit the Jews, but should only do so if motivated by more than raison d’etat. [39]


Menasseh’s Advocacy Reinterpreted

We can now revisit Menasseh’s pamphlets and reassess his vision of diaspora politics. In the Hope of Israel and Humble Addresses, he surveyed the same communities in the German principalities that Dury discussed, writing that they are, “very much favoured by the moft mild and moft gracious Emperours, but defpifed by the people, being a nation not very finely garnifhsed by reason of their vile cloathing.” [40] He adds additional communities where Jews lived according to privileges and enriched the surrounding lands. In the Ottoman Empire, he says, they have the power to judge their own cases. [41] Regarding Poland, he adds that “in that kingdome the whole Negotiation is in the hand of the Iews, the reft of the Chriftians are either all Noble-men, or Ruftiques and kept as slaves.” [42] These are not flattering examples that would commend Jews to English Protestants. Menasseh is articulating standards for readmission that Dury would subsequently repudiate. The Humble Addresses also offered a primarily economic argument which was lodged in a redemptive narrative of diaspora history that affirmed the Jewish covenant. Dury’s A Case of Conscience was primarily dedicated to reframing the question of readmission from an economic one to a theological one, and its conversionist arguments betray the belief that the Jewish covenant was dead. Menasseh seems to confuse his audiences here; Menasseh’s purpose was to create legitimacy in the horizontal sphere, and yet, he was making an argument that was patently incompatible with those he had been sent to engage. [43]


Menasseh and Dury did, however, share a geopolitical vision of sorts. Both were fierce opponents of the Spanish, and this could have united them briefly around the question of readmission. The Jews were often invoked as the ultimate symbols of Papist oppression, and Protestants who took seriously the Christian duty to welcome the stranger could view the prospect of readmission as a means of opposing a common enemy. This is also a primary way in which mercantile visions and religious visions came together: by defeating Spain in commercial trade, Cromwell offered a Christian thinker like Dury the picture of Protestant worldly supremacy. This excited Christian messianists and conferred more legitimacy on Cromwell’s mercantile pursuits. Dury’s standard exemplified the hope that worldly and non-worldly considerations can come together. Worldly pursuits could be worthy if motivated by Godly reasons. He believed that Protestant Europe needed to unite and become more militant, and saw readmission as a step in a larger plan to defeat Spain. The debate on the readmission of the Jews was situated in this confluence between Cromwellian mercantile policy and millenarian Protestant politics, and Menasseh was Cromwell’s necessary mediator for galvanizing the millenarians. [44]


Menasseh frequently reminded readers of the Hope of Israel and the Humble Addresses that the dispersion of the Jews was a prerequisite for the coming of the messiah according to the Book of Daniel. What do pragmatic politics look like in the face of the messiah? Menasseh never said when he thought the messiah would arrive. His political actions should be seen, not as trying to prepare Jews for a messianic age, but as trying to ensure a Jewish future. [45] It was an age of expectation in the sense that Jews, and Menasseh in particular, expected a deliverance from generations of tribulation and difficult political circumstances surrounding the converso experience. As Miriam Bodian and Yosef Kaplan’s work on the Amsterdam Jewish community shows, they remained deeply tied to the situation in Iberia, helping arrange for population transfers and returning to the peninsula for re-Judaizing efforts: the persecution of the inquisition still affected them in Amsterdam.


Dury and Thomas Thorowgood believed that the Indians in New England, whom the Puritans were trying to convert, were descendants of the Jews. [46] Menasseh writes that there was a stronghold of Jews hidden in the mountains of South America, but not that all the Indians were descendents of the lost tribes. His claim throughout the Hope of Israel is that Jews are not just in America, they are everywhere—China, Ethiopia, etc. [47] As an ex-Converso writing for millenarian evangelical Protestants, the distinction Menasseh made was critical. It implied that Jews separated themselves from the surrounding population: they were not candidates for conversion and did not suppress their Judaism. Menasseh did not merely go along with the arguments being formulated by Dury and his associates, he resisted them while still insisting on some of the broad points of agreement and friendliness. [48] It must also be remembered that Menasseh’s Hope of Israel was meant for his Jewish audience because he also published a Spanish edition.


A major theme of The Hope of Israel and the Humble Addresses is the providential nature of diasporic existence. He creates what Ran Segev has recently labeled a “theology of exile.” [49] In the Hope of Israel he writes, “Hence may be seen that God hath not left us; for if one persecutes us, another receives us civilly, and courteously; and if this Prince treat us ill, another treats us well; if one banished us out of his country, another invites us by a thousand privileges…And do we not see, that those Republicques do flourish, and much increase in Trade, which admit the Israelites?” [50] The conditions of exile are precisely what make Jews good merchants, and thus the providential circle is squared: diaspora has a sound and divine logic even if it is painful and fraught. “God hath not left us”—contrary to what many Christians, including Dury, argued, Menasseh insists that the covenant of the Jews is still valid and ensures their security even in exile.


Menasseh attempted to couple an ethnocentric picture of providential diasporic existence with a picture of Jews’ intense loyalty to and economic support for the governments which host them. [51] He wants to portray a marriage of convenience. But this was not attractive to the people who he needed to court in 1655: the Christians who occupied the public sphere were not as interested in mercantile policy as they were in theological diplomacy and evangelism. Menasseh’s ethnocentrism probably struck Dury upon reading the Humble Addresses as a sign that conversion would not be an easy task. The change from his earlier support for readmission to claims that Jews could “undermine the state” may have simply reflected his own unease and crumbling expectations for the coming of the messiah and the prospects for the conversion of the Jews.


Menasseh’s experience reveals the perils of pursuing emancipation and toleration by courting Christian public opinion, the paradoxes of communal representation, and the fluidity of alliances in civil societies. Ultimately, tolerationist arguments were not the reason that the Jews were eventually readmitted: they were let in through the side door because of their commercial prowess after full scale resettlement proved unpalatable to the general public. Menasseh sought to instrumentalize his horizontal alliances to build the legitimacy that Cromwell needed to shepherd full readmission. But his strategy broke down when he used the same arguments to manufacture his horizontal alliances as he had used to court his vertical allies.

 

Notes:

1. Nadler, Steven, and Victor Tiribás. “Jewish Censorship of Menasseh Ben Israel’s Piedra Gloriosa: A New Document from the Archives.” Jewish Quarterly Review 111, no. 2 (2021): 323–34. The Dutch Sephardi communal authority, the Mahamad, ordered Menasseh to stop production of the book after reviewing it.

2. Nadler, Steven M. Menasseh Ben Israel : Rabbi of Amsterdam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018, 36.

3. In addition to Simone de Luzzatto. See Ravid, Benjamin “The Venetian Context Of The Discourse” in Luzzatto, Simone, Veltri, Giuseppe and Lissa, Anna. Discourse on the State of the Jews: Bilingual Edition. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2019, 274. Luzzatto advocated in the vernacular, and many of Menasseh’s arguments are pulled directly from his work, but he ultimately pursued a maintenance of the status quo rather than a theologically-informed project of resettlement.

4. The Dutch Sephardic community was extremely conservative. Not only did they internalize a sense of ethnic superiority from their Iberian oppressors, they also had to maintain decorum and solidarity (“bom judesmo”) because of the fragile status quo in Amsterdam. The burgher class had to block insistent attempts by the Protestant clergy to resist the Jews’ presence, and this presence was entirely dependent on their vital role in Dutch commercial success. See ”Gente Política: The Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam vis-à-vis Dutch Society. In: Chaya Brasz/Yosef Kaplan (eds.): Dutch Jews as Perceived by Themselves and by Others. Leiden, Boston, Köln 2001, pp. 21–40 and Bodian, Miriam. Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1997.

5. See: Wolf, Lucien. “Menasseh Ben Israel’s Study in London.” Transactions (Jewish Historical Society of England) 3 (1896): 144–50.

6. “Manasseh was a most tolerant man. He allowed that under the true Messiah there would be a place in the world to come for the righteous of all nations. As someone who was widely regarded by gentiles as the spokesman for the Jewish world, he felt an obligation to play along with the Millenarians and try to minimize the differences between their theological views. However, he was not going to abandon the fundamental tenets of Judaism. Manasseh’s messianic agenda certainly did not include the conversation of his people.” Nadler, Steven M. Menasseh Ben Israel , 138. This universalist conception of the messiah will be important later in the analysis.

7. See: Nadler, Menasseh Ben Israel, 109.

8. The history of shtadlanut among other communities reflects these same concerns.

9. Nelson, Eric. The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010, 16.

10. Nelson, The Hebrew Republic, 93-4.

11. Because, “who judgeth the heart but God?” Erastus quoted in Ibid., 94.

12. Wolf, Lucien. Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, XXXV.

13. Nelson, The Hebrew Republic, 112-113.

14. Ibid., 190n114. One of the other spokesmen was John Selden.

15. Katz, Philosemitism and the Readmission of Jews to England, 184. The petition is lost, but Menasseh was issued a passport in November of 1651. See Calendar of State Papers 25/35 f.58.

16. It is not clear that this offers completely new insights because Whitelocke did discuss the similarities between the Hebrew Republic and English institutions in other works and had a reputation as a Hebraist. Settling this question would require more research and background knowledge, especially about the English Common Law and the debates around its reform that occurred in the 17th century, to assess what might have been creative in Whitelocke’s approach and how the manuscript explored here was similar or different to his other arguments.

17. See Rose, Jacqueline. “A Godly Law? Bulstrode Whitelocke, Puritanism and the Common Law in Seventeenth-Century England.” Studies in Church History 56 (June 2020): 282 for an explanation of Whitelocke’s support for the Common Law through his Hebraic scholarship.

18. Citing the Book of Samuel was common among “republican exclusivists” who opposed monarchy. Whitelocke, however, made a distinction between monarchy and tyranny, and only opposed the latter. See Nelson, The Hebrew Republic, Chapter 1.

19. Brit. Lib., Stowe MS 333, fos. 98-99.

20. Ibid., fos. 99-100.

21. Wolf, Lucien. Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, 77.

22. Collins is worth quoting at length for context. “If the Interregnum was partly marked by a nascent toleration and disorienting religious pluralism, it also witnessed the institutional realization of the Erastian programme of the Long Parliament. Cromwell once characterized this balance thus: ‘Is not Liberty of Conscience in religion a fundamental? So long as there is liberty of conscience for the supreme magistrate to exercise his conscience in erecting what form of church government he is satisfied should be set up . . .’” See Collins, Jeffrey R. The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 169. See also Worden, Blair. “Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate.” Studies in Church History 21 (ed 1984): 199.

23. Worden, God’s Instruments, 199.

24. Collins, Jeffrey R. “The Church Settlement of Oliver Cromwell.” History 87, no. 285 (2002): 36.

25. Zahedieh, Nuala. “Making Mercantilism Work: London Merchants and Atlantic Trade in the Seventeenth Century.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 9 (1999): 158.

26. Intelligence means flow of information. Zahedieh, “Making Mercantilism Work,” 157. This is a Weberian thesis which is borne out in many ways by Miriam Bodian’s Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation, which demonstrates the deep solidarity and international networks established by the Portuguese Jews centered in Spain. This argument was also made explicitly by Luzzatto and Menasseh.

27. Zahedieh, “Making Mercantilism Work,” 154.

28. Wolf, Lucien. Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, XXXVII.

29. Dormido submitted two petitions: one personally asking Cromwell to help him recover assets seized by the Portuguese government, and another asking for toleration of the Jewish community. Cromwell personally saw to it that this letter was written, but opted for a public approach to the question of communal resettlement, indicating the transition away from the vertical alliance in modern Jewish politics conducted in emerging civil societies.

30. Jessey, Henry. A Narrative of the Late Proceeds at White-Hall, London, 1656, 1-3.

31. “There is no doubt, but they may lawfully be received in to any civil Societie of men, to live and have a beeing therein, as strangers.” Dury, John. A Case of Conscience, Whether It Be Lawful to Admit Jews into a Christian Common-Wealth? London: 1656, 3. Dury later wrote in correspondence concerning Menasseh that, “his demands are great, & the use which they make of great priviledges is not much to their commendation here & elsewhere: they haue wayes beyond all other men, to undermine a state, & to insinuate into those that are in offices & preiudge the trade of others, & therefore if they bee not wisely restrained they will in short time bee oppressive, if they bee such as are here in Germany.” Dury quoted in Kaplan, Yosef. “Jews and Judaism in the Hartlib Circle.” Studia Rosenthaliana 38/39 (2005): 208.

32. Dormido’s petition of November 3, 1654 asks for liberty to dwell in England “with the same equalness and conveniences, which ye inland borne subjects do enjoy.” Brit. Lib., MS Eger. 1049 f.7. Menasseh’s petition of November 13, 1655 to the Council of State asked them “to take us as citizens under your protection; and for our greater security, to order your chiefs and generals-at-arms to defend us on all occasions.” See Calendar of State Papers 18/101 f.237 (“Requests to the Protector by Manasseh Ben Israel, on behalf of the Hebrew nation”).

33. Cartwright, J. The petition of the Jewes for the Repealing of the Act of Parliament for their Banishment out of England, 1649.

34. Kaplan, “Jews and Judaism in the Hartlib Circle,” 191.

35. Ibid., 192.

36. Dury, John. A Case of Conscience, Whether It Be Lawful to Admit Jews into a Christian Common-Wealth? London: 1656, 1-3.

37. Dury, A Case of Conscience, 6.

38. Ibid.

39. Dury explicitly stated that he did not want the readmission to occur for economic reasons. “I conceive matters may be so ordered towards them, that they may be made to understand, that the intention of the State in admitting of them, is not to have profit or temporall advantages by them; (which may be had aswell by our owne industrie, and perhaps better, without theirs) but rather out of Christian love and compassion towards them, and in witness of our thankfulness to God, for the good which hath been derived from them to us; and for the hope which we have, that all his goodness shall be fulfilled both in them and us, when the Messiah shall returne in his Glory.” Ibid., 7.

40. Wolf, Menasseh Ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, 86.

41. Ibid. In his November 13, 1655 petition to the Council of State Menasseh requested “that we may not trouble the justices of peace with our contests, to license the chief of the synagogue, with 2 almoners, to reconcile differences according to the Mosaic law, with right of appeal to the civil law, first depositing the sum in which the party has been condemned.” See Calendar of State Papers 18/101 f.237

42. Ibid., 87.

43. See the anti-economic argument above. It is clearly a repudiation of Menasseh’s focus on commerce, which had not been a topic of discussion in their correspondence before Menasseh’s mission.

44. “For Dury, Jews and Protestants might share a common future in the communion of saints, but his collaboration with Menasseh ben Israel persuaded him that they most certainly shared a common plight as victims of Catholic cruelty, carried out especially by the Habsburg monarchies of Austria and Spain.” See Fradkin, Jeremy. “Protestant Unity and Anti-Catholicism: The Irenicism and Philo-Semitism of John Dury in Context.” Journal of British Studies 56, no. 2 (April 2017): 273–94. It must also be remembered that the Puritans themselves had memories of similar persecution under Archbishop Laud who burned dissenters in the 1630s.

45. See Fisch, Harold. “The Messianic Politics of Menasseh ben Israel.” In Kaplan, Yosef., Popkin, Richard H., and Méchoulan, Henry. Menasseh Ben Israel and His World. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989.

46. Thorowgood was another Millenarian who believed that the Indians to which evangelical Puritans in America were missionizing were Jewish. See Thorowgood, Thomas, Iewes in America, Or, Probabilities That the Americans are of that Race. With…earnest desires…to make them Christian (1650).

47. Wolf, Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, 11-17.

48. Typical of this sort of attitude of friendliness was the statement of Moses Wall, the translator of Hope of Israel, that “The Jews are children; they by the bond-woman, but we by the free; but notwithstanding, Abraham is our common father, and therefore we should love as brethren.” Wolf, Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, 59.

49. Segev, Ran. “An Iberian Covenant: Mosaic Law and Theology of Exile in Menasseh Ben Israel’s Thought.” The Journal of Religion 102 (4) (2022): 507-528.

50. Wolf, Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell, 50-51.

51. See Ran Segev, Segev, Ran. “An Iberian Covenant: Mosaic Law and Theology of Exile in Menasseh Ben Israel’s Thought.” The Journal of Religion 102 (4) (2022): 507-528. Segev’s recent article argues that Menasseh’s theological writings indicate a commitment to the re-judaization of the Converso community rather than a cosmopolitan mediation of Jewish knowledge. Arguing against scholars such as Steven Nadler who have stressed Menasseh’s role in Jewish-Christian dialogue, Segev examines Menasseh’s Conciliador to support his argument. He writes that this book puts forth an ethnocentric vision of diaspora existence that sought to galvanize Jews who were reluctant to engage with rabbinic Judaism. It did so by offering essentially the same arguments outlined above: a historical narrative that stresses that the covenant with Israel has survived into the diaspora and can be seen in the Jews’ remarkable ability to survive and relocate. Segev’s article is flawed and incomplete because he fails to note that the arguments in his theological works meant for the Jewish community were made again in his works for a non-Jewish audience and for the readmission of Jews to England. He does not mention the Humble Addresses anywhere in his article. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant reconstruction of Menasseh’s logic and the fact that the continuity does exist across his oeuvre reveals something about Menasseh’s political works.



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