The Dutch were eventually defeated at Recife at the hands of Portugal by which time the price of sugar had fallen substantially. The Brazilian industry would take years to recover. The Dutch West India Company had proved a bad investment. Plantations in Brazil had proved a bad investment. The General Company of Commerce of Brazil had proved investment because it had borne costs of the war. However the King of Portugal was able to celebrate that Brazil had been regained at no cost to the Crown.
With Portugal again in charge some descendents of the 5,000 closet Jews in Brazil fled to the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. Peter Stuyvesant tried to stop them and seized their money and imprisoned two of them. He asked the Dutch West India Company for permission to expel the Jews but the Amsterdam Jewish community obtained a decision from them that their fellow Jews could stay. The frustrated Governor continued to openly display his undoubted antisemitic attitude towards them. The Dutch colony was soon to be absorbed into the British American colony and New Amsterdam would become New York .Dutch imperial ambitions had been severely constrained.
Following the failure of the Brazilian project in 1654 Isaac da Fonseca Aboab left Brazil and returned to Amsterdam rather than moving -as many Brazilian settlers did- to New Amsterdam. On his return Isaac renewed his local community rivalry with Menassah. This acted as an incentive for Menasseh to seek to move to England to put the English Channel between them. Menasseh finally made a visit to London in 1655. Oliver Cromwell could seriously seek to curry favor with influential Sephardim now, with no loyalty to Spain and Portugal, with the offer of another country for them to live in with religious freedom. In return England would benefit from both additional trade and provision of military intelligence. The possibility of re-entry into England was very much on the table.
Menasseh approached these talks with a far more esoteric objective. In his 1650 book “The Hope of Israel” he expresses his excitement about reports that New Christian explorer Antonio Montezinos had discovered in Brazil one of the lost tribes of Israel – that of Reuben. Menasseh believed this discovery presaged Jewry’s return to Israel for the coming of the Messiah which required, as a precursor, Jews to be spread throughout the world. In his view, readmission of Jews into England was an essential continuation of the spreading process. Millennial Christians believed this too except that, for them, it would be the second coming of the Messiah.
Accompanying Menasseh to London was David Abrabanel aka Manoel Martines Dormido. David’s family claimed to be descended from Don Isaac Abrabanel, Don Isaac had advised Kings of Portugal before fleeing to Spain where he then advised Isabel and Ferdinand. . Records freely available today show several generations born in Amsterdam. so I would not be surprised if their claim were justified. David came from Andalusia, then to France and then Amsterdam. His business activities were possibly linked to the sugar related activities of Mennasseh Over the years he had supplied intelligence potentially useful to England for military purposes. By 1654 he already had a home in London. In 1673 Clara Abrabanel married Joseph Cohen DE LARA whose family name of de Lara appears in my tree as the family name of an ancestor.
Another legal case assisted the process for readmission, Antonio Robles, in London – albeit born in Portugal and not Spain, had his goods seized. He petitioned for relief with evidence given by twenty London based Jewish families that he should not be treated as Spanish and Catholic but as a Marrano refugee from the inquisition. He succeeds and his goods are restored.
In1656 Menasseh ben Israel, David Abrabanel, Antonio Carvajal, Abraham Cohen Gonsales, Jacob de Caceres, Abraham Israel de Brito and Isaac Lopes Chillon to Cromwell, on behalf of all the Jewish families of the community, petitioned for the freedom to fully practice their religion and to have their own burial grounds. Previously Cromwell had allowed them to practice their religion but only in the privacy of their homes. By the end of the year they were given oral but not written permission to open a synagogue and to organize a burial ground. What more was there to wish for? It was with much rejoicing that a house purchased in Creechurch Lane in the City of London was put into use as the community Synagogue and land in Stepney was bought to be Beth Haim – the first burial ground.
Menasseh unfortunately did not live to see the full fruits of his efforts. He died believing that the results of the petition were not really that successful, meeting only worldly concerns. Disillusioned and with his only surviving son dying, he returned to Amsterdam where he also soon passed away.
Polycarpo was very much enjoying life as part of the openly Jewish London community. Then in 1658 some legal problems emerged that required special attention from him and which Carvajal tried to help sort out. Polycarpo was the holder of cash for the purchase of fish by Antonio ffernando Carvajal and Antonio Rodrigues Morais and Jeronimo and Raphael Rodrigues Morais – a transaction also involving Jose Perera for Antonio Rodrigues de Oliveira , Jeronimo and Raphael Rodrigues Lamego. Most of the parties bear family names which are in my tree! I do not know whether or not Polycarpo was at fault but I do know his attention was elsewhere!
If only I could peer into the mind of Polycarpo to find out why he thought it might be worth his while to journey to Portugal and what a risk indeed that proved to be ! On 9th June 1658 he was arrested by the “Inquisao de Coimbra” who proceeded to conduct the “Processo de Policarpo de Oliveira”. That he was part of the reestablished openly Jewish community in London ,was probably well known to the Inquisition. Ironically with his given name of “Polycarpo” being that of an early Christian martyr perversely he was now facing the definite possibility of dying a Jewish martyr. In the course of his inquisition which took place in Coimbra , his inquisitors sought to establish all the names of his relatives and associates and of their Jewish practices whether or not they currently were in Portugal or abroad. When I was in Coimbra amongst students celebrating their graduation I stood outside the building now part of the University on a spot where his screams would have been audible.