Background of the American Revolution
No one can understand the foundations of the American nation without understanding the English Civil War from a century earlier. In September 1655, Manesseh ben Israel—with Cromwell’s support—publishes a petition requesting the Jews be allowed to return to England.
Wherefore I humbly entreat your Highnesse, that you would with a gracious eye have regard unto us, and our Petition, and grant unto us, as you have done unto others, free exercise of our Religion, that we may have our Synagogues, and keep our own publick worship, …
His Highnesse the Lord PROTECTOR
Common-wealth of ENGLAND,
SCOTLAND, and IRELAND.
The Humble Address of Menasseh Ben Israel, a Divine and Doctor of Physick, in Behalf of the Jewish Nation.
GIVE me leave, at such a juncture of time, to speak to your Highnesse, in a style and manner fitting to us Jewes and our condition. It is a thing most certaine, that the great God of Israel, Creator of Heaven and Earth, doth give and take away Dominions and Empires, according to his owne pleasure; exalting some, and overthrowing others: who, seeing he hath the hearts of Kings in his hand, he easily moves them whithersoever himselfe pleaseth, to put in execution his Divine Commands. This, my Lord, appeares most evidently out of those words of Daniel, where he, rendring thanks unto God, for revealing unto him that prodigious Dreame of Nebuchadnezar, doth say: Thou that removest Kings, and sets up Kings. And else-where, To the end the living might know, that the Highest hath dominion in Mans Kingdome, and giveth the fame to whom he please. Of the very same minde are the Thalmudists likewise, affirming that a good Government, or Governor, is a Heavenly Gift, and that there is no Governor, but is first called by God unto that dignity: and this they prove from that passage of Exodus: Behold I have called Bazalèl by name, &c. all things being governed by Divine Providence, God dispensing rewards unto Vertues, and punishment unto Vices, according to his owne good Will. This the Examples of great Monarchs make good; especially of such, who have afflicted the people of Israel: For none hath ever afflicted them, who hath not been by some ominous Exit, most heavily punished of God Almighty; as is manifest from the Histories of those Kings, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezar, Antiochus, Epiphanius, Pompey, and others. And on the contrary, none ever was a Benefactor to that people, and cherished them in their Countries, who thereupon hath not presently begun very much to flourish. In so much that the Oracle to Abraham (I will blesse them that blesse thee, and curse them that curse thee) seemeth yet daily to have its accomplishment. Hence I, one of the least among the Hebrews, since by experience I have found, that through Gods great bounty toward us, many considerable and eminent persons both for Piety and Power, are moved with sincere and inward pitty and compassion towards us, and do comfort us concerning the approaching deliverance of Israel, could not but for my self, and in the behalf of my Countrey men, make this my humble addresse to your Highness, and beseech you for Gods sake, that ye would, according to that Piety and Power wherein you are eminent beyond others, vouchsafe to grant, that the Great and Glorious Name of the Lord our God may be extolled, and solemnly worshiped and praised by us through all the bounds of this Common-wealth; and to grant us place in your Countrey, that we may have our Synagogues, and free exercise of our Religion. I nothing doubting, but that your Clemency will easily grant this most equitable Petition of ours. Pagans have of old, out of reverence to the God of Israel, & the esteem they had to his people, granted most willingly free liberty, even to apostated Jewes; as Onias the High Priest, to build another Temple in their Countrey, like unto that at Jerusalem: how much more then may we, that are not Apostate or runagate Iewes, hope it from your Highnesse and your Christian Councill, since you have so great knowledge of, and adore the same one onely God of Israel, together with us. Besides, it increases our confidence of your bounty towards us, in that so soon as ever the rumour of that most wished-for liberty, that ye were a thinking to grant us, was made known unto our Countrey-men; I, in the name of my Nation, the Iewes, that live in Holland, did congratulate and entertaine their Excellencies, the Ambassadors of England; who were received in our Synagogue with as great pomp and applause, Hymns and cheerfulnesse of minde, as ever any Soveraigne Prince was. For our people did in their owne mindes presage, that the Kingly Government being now changed into that of a Common-wealth, the antient hatred towards them, would also be changed into good-will: that those rigorous Laws (if any there be yet extant, made under the Kings) against so innocent a people, would happily be repealed. So that we hope now for better from your gentleness, & goodness, since, from the beginning of your Government of this Common-wealth, your Highnesse hath professed much respect, and savour towards us. Wherefore I humbly entreat your Highnesse, that you would with a gracious eye have regard unto us, and our Petition, and grant unto us, as you have done unto others, free exercise of our Religion, that we may have our Synagogues, and keep our own publick worship, as our brethren doe in Italy, Germany, Poland, and many other places, and we shall pray for the happinesse and Peace of this your much renowned and puissant Common-wealth.