The Return – Exits and Entrances

–My heritage, part six

In 1640 Manuel settled full time in Paris leaving his family in Rouen visiting them only twice a year. The French eventually agreed to support the war for the restoration of an independent Portugal where the Duke of Braganza became on 1st December  1640 King John lV . That war lasted  until 1668 and was fought by Portugal  contemporaneously with  combatting the the Dutch efforts to become an imperial power partly at the expense of Portugal.  Vila Real although a patriot  was never  the official ambassador for Portugal. He was relied upon by the Portuguese  to achieve much as if he were their official representative including conducting negotiations but excluded from celebratory functions..

He was made a Consul of the Portuguese nation in France,  which did not have the same status, with the aim of helping develop their international trade. In this capacity he promoted the idea of exempting assets of New Christian investors in Portuguese businesses from confiscation by the Inquisition – an idea that was eventually successfully taken up. He was a Portuguese patriot who served his country well and probably for that reason returned there only to be arrested by the Inquisition, tried and burned at the stake in December 1652.

His wider family had been supportive of Portugal in other ways. One of Luis’s sons, Policarpo  (Abraham)  de Oliveira participated in “The General Company of Commerce of Brazil”  formed in 1649 by Portuguese businessmen  to finance 36 ships to be used to protect  the two  fleets that were transporting  the annual  sugar production from Brazil to Europe probably to be  unloaded in the port of  Rouen which had a  long historical relationship with Iberia and the Atlantic trade. In order to attract New Christian the idea, proposed by Vila Real, was adopted  by Brazilian Company which was allowed by  the Portuguese Crown to have a  charter that exempted its shareholders from confiscation of their  assets as a result of actions of the Portuguese Inquisition. The Inquisition was absolutely opposed to the inclusion of such an exemption and was always eventually likely to test its effectiveness. The General Company of Brazil would not prove a good investment for Policarpo and the other investors.

That there was a willingness on the part of the French rulers to turn a blind eye to the truth about many of the New Christians community never mind the evidence  is further supported by the burial arrangements for the community. In 1645,  Diego Oliveira was buried in  a Catholic chapel in St Etienne de Tonneliers specifically set aside  exclusively for the Maranos and New Christians  of the town to be interred with their brethren. Other New Christians interred there include João Rodrigues Moraes,and and Manual Fernandoes Moreis. Adam Roiz de Moraes.

A material proportion of the Rouen population were related and members of my family. A brief explanation about naming practice in Portugal might be helpful. The top strata of New Christians living in Portugal liked to consider  themselves  from noble families and their naming practices reflected this. In naming their children they looked to preserve the use of as many family names as possible  on both sides of the family. In theory all children  could have a different family name. They would be given a Portuguese first name which would be different from their ceremonial Jewish first name. Many, probably most,   of those leaving Portugal identified themselves as from noble families. If three Oliveira brothers were giving a first born son of theirs an Oliveira family name the eldest might simply call his son  “de Oliveira” the second son might  call his first born say “Lopes de Oliveira” with the third son might call his first born “de  Costa” possibly without or without adding “de Oliveira”.

In addition to their aim of preserving family names, some New Christians living abroad practicing Judaism wished to mislead the Inquisition as to who might be their relatives back in Portugal and, for this reason, might use a totally new family name but which might still be Portuguese. Where the Inquisition was  no longer considered a concern they might start just using their Hebrew first name whilst continuing to use their  noble family name. New Christian protective planning after emigration  included arranging most  marriages of one’s children. It might be thought this was always in order to keep  assets within the family. However the general practice was to pass wealth down the male  line only  and weighted to the benefit of  the first son. Parents particularly sought to avoid the risks inherent  in introducing  strangers into the family who might report family Judaism or Crypto- Judaism to the Inquisitors with potentially disastrous consequences.  Marrying outside the family would  automatically widen the number of people who would know of any Judaic practice. Cousins married cousins and sometimes aunts married nephews and uncles married nieces.

Carvajal made his  exit from Rouen and moved to London, notionally as a New Christian. Once there he started intervening on behalf of Marrano  and New Christian merchants when transactions of theirs necessitated some actions in England. He tried to help Michael  d’ Espinosa. Michael was involved in the sugar  trade in  both Brazil and in one of the  Caribbean islands whose sugar plantations were becoming competitors to Brazil. Michael  was based in Amsterdam, which for a time, was the primary destination for closet Jews fleeing Iberia who wished to openly practice Judaism. Michael, with no reason for loyalty to Iberia, had supplied information on Spanish plans to attack England to the English which should have put him in good stead with them. As an absolute irrelevant aside his son, Baruch, was to become a major philosopher whose views were so controversial  that he was banned from any interaction with the  Jewish community.

Michael had consigned goods to my ancestor Antonio Rodrigues de Morais of Rouen. Notwithstanding his supply of military information a major problem had arisen because his consignee had been born in Madrid to New Christian parents. The British considered Antonio to be a  Spanish merchant notwithstanding he lived outside the country . As a result the goods were seized by the British ship “George” –  an  action they justified in view of the  ongoing war with Spain. It was ironic that refugee merchants  from Spain were still at risk because that was their  country of birth  even if their goods were being carried by Dutch ships. If only it could be accepted by the English that for Jews and closet Jews to be treated  this way was a travesty of justice particularly  as the seizing of their goods would have no detrimental effect on Spain. Moreover there could be obvious advantages to England  if they acknowledged that  New Christians and Marranos living outside Iberia should be viewed differently from Spanish residents.

There was a fundamental change in attitude in 1651.  Cromwell contacted an Amsterdam resident, Menasseh ben Israel and a friend  of d’Espinosa  with a request for him to come to London to  talk about Jews being readmitted to England . Menassah  was considered an ideal person for him  to approach since he was, as a Haham, a leading member of Amsterdam’s large Jewish community many of whom were originally Marranos or New Christians. There they were free to practice Judaism and had been openly reeducated locally  by Ashkenazi Jews  in the Jewish  religion.  Manasseh was originally  a New Christian married to Rachel ABRABANEL with  Dutch Jewish marriage records showing  him as from  La Rochelle in France – likely his first home after leaving his native country Portugal.

The Dutch economy had massively benefitted from the activities of New Christian fleeing Portugal and Cromwell wished to grab a piece of the action. Amongst the former New Christians living  in Amsterdam was one of Luis’s sons born to him in Madrid , Jacob Lopes de Oliveira who does not seem to have been a major player in the drama I am recounting . Spain and Portugal may have lost the right to expect any loyalty from New Christians and Marranos but  Manassah living in Amsterdam  in 1651 was not yet ready to talk to England.

Apart from being a religious leader Menassah  was also a merchant in a  partnership with his brother-in-law Joseph ABRABANEL. Cromwell may have been seeking Menassah to help divert some of the Dutch based  commerce to Britain. Menassah, wearing his Dutch hat on, had his attention focused on Brazil and sugar. There was an ongoing war between Holland and Portugal over Brazil and Menassah was a fervent supporter of the aims and objectives of The  Dutch West India Company formed in 1630. That  Company had sent settlers, which included members of its Jewish community, and troops to  Brazil  in an attempt to take the country  from the Portuguese. If 100% successful all the Brazilian trade would be in Dutch hands and, with the extensive knowledge of this trade gained in Portugal by some of the new residents of Brazil prior to their fleeing Portugal to escape the Inquisition, the future could be rosy. The territory of the Company also covered New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island . Menassah  and  Joseph were traders in Brazilian produce (particularly sugar) and Menassah had even planned to emigrate there to be the religious leader of its Jewish community but had been passed over in favour of Isaac  da Fonseca Aboab.

Ponder this! There were New Christians living  in Portugal associated with the Portuguese based company  formed to protect the annual sugar production being shipped from Portuguese Brazil  to Europe. There were New Christian purchasers of sugar living  in Portugal who wanted Portugal to win the battle for Brazil. There were New Christians in Rouen purchasers  of sugar who just wanted it to arrive no matter which country won the battle for Brazil. There were New Christians in Amsterdam who wanted a Dutch victory because they were investors in the Dutch West India Company or were purchasers of sugar. There were New Christians settlers in Brazil whose family had been there before the start of the conflict. There were New Christians who The Dutch West India Company had encouraged to emigrate to Brazil from Holland to work on originating sugar They all wanted the sugar to be sold but the Dutch West India Company of course did not want the Portuguese to regain control of any of the territory they were occupying. There were New Christians in the Caribbean who had  set up sugar cane  plantations which initially filled in supply gaps in Brazilian production disrupted by the conflict  and which eventually brought the sales  price down. Many New Christians would have  had conflicts of interests with other New Christians some of whom may be relatives.


Clive Russell
Clive Russell
CLIVE currently serves as Joint President of Russell Business LLC (“RB”), which is the collective name for a community of synergistic and complementary activities and businesses encompassing the International Property Market. RB is engaged in business activities that combine cutting-edge structured finance and technology geared to maximize returns from various sectors, including residential and commercial property, hotels and energy-related assets. Over the years, Clive’s forte’ has been the ability to develop and/or identify “below the radar” concepts, strategies and opportunities ripe for leveraging and ultimate success.

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  1. Hi Clive,
    I hope you get this message as I believe we are related. Abraham and Simha are my 6th grandparents. They had four daughters, two of whom you mentioned, Esther and Leah, and the other two were Rebecca and child 5, Rachel. Rachel is my 5th grandmother. She married Benjamin Isaacs and their youngest son Lewis married his first cousin, Simelia, daughter of Leah and Lazarus Phillips. Rachel and Benjamin’s oldest son Abraham is my 4th grandfather.
    I was so interested to read your article!
    Thank you

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