JOURNEY TO HOLLAND
London to Amsterdam
many pages in which he discourses to his wife on the habits and customs
of the Eng1ish and the Londoners in particular, dilating upon such subjects
as trade, the Courts of Law, the climate, the use of coal, the Houses
of Par1iament, Westminster, St. James's Palace executions, the animals,
and many other matters. Concluding thus :
'Many things remain for me to tell of but I wish to leave them to writers
who wish to make of them more extended compositions. For me, what I
have collected for my own enjoyment is enough, and I merely record and
go my way, satisfied to have received honours, favours, and courtesies
from innumerable friends, especially from the Portuguese of our Community
; and thus, divided between a coach and a small carriage, on 24 October,
two hours before dawn, we left from London for Ervic [Harwich], the
principal harbour of this island for those who wish to travel to Holland'.
It was on this part of the journey that he had the good fortune to meet
King George II, and though it lies slightly outside the scope of this
article, and though historically perhaps of slight importance, the description
is worth including in full as an event in his joumey:
the North sea to Holland
the towns of Inghiston [Ingatestone] and Chelden [Kelvedon], where we
spent the night. On the way we saw a camp of 12,OOO English soldiers
and some companies of the Horse Guards - all fine fellows, marvellously
mounted, who had to serve as an escort for the King, whose return from
Hanover was awaited.
arrived at Harwich on the 25th of the month at two of the afternoon,
we stayed there till nearly midnight, then embarked in the packet-boat
with a following wind, with which we sailed for two hours. But too much
good fortune usually lasts but little, and began to change and vex us.
The wind threw us towards an island of Zeeland. As the Captain did not
wish to prolong the journey by standing away from it, and argued that
he must press on by all means, he decided to tack into the wind. Our
torment continued till the night of the 27th, when, thinking that we
were near the harbour at Fuslois [Flushing], as in fact he was, he hoisted
a jib-sail and waited for the daylight, so as not to strike some sandbanks.
Finally, on the early morning of the 28th, the Sabbath day, we entered
this harbour of Holland and sheltered in an inn, bath because of the
Sabbath and to recover from the fatigues of two days and three nights
at sea in that packet, in a crossing that normally is done in twelve
meeting the king of England
we were thanking heaven that we had arrived safe and sound, we had the
good fortune just then to meet the King of England, returning from Hanover
to England, whom we had not actually seen.
In fact, he arrived the same day after lunch in the Palace prepared
Just behind our inn was a post-chaise bearing a lady, a sign that sooner
or later the King would be there, since she travels always with him
and is never far off; in fact, two hours later, three post coaches appeared
with twelve grenadiers in each, forming the King's escort.
They dismounted and quickly drew up in front of the Palace.
Immediately behind them came a carriage with six post-horses containing
the King of England and with him two of his gentlemen. Another coach
with twelve more grenadiers followed - all of them forming up on one
side of the Palace, the others being already on guard at the other side,
thus forming two ranks. A salute of artillery was then heard, to which
the squadron of twelve warships replied.
It lay some way off the shore under the command of young Admiral Norris,
whose duty it was to escort the King to Harwich, the first point of
entry to England from these parts.
'The King did not stay more than half an hour in the Palace, then quickly
was seen to come out, dressed in scarlet, wearing a powdered black wig.
He was of comely appearance, and the two aforesaid gentlemen on either
side. But without any other formality, he walked about the place, returning
salutes with many curtseys, and again stopping to talk with two ladies,
who complimented him with endless curtseys on his arrival.
'The King stayed at Fuslois until the morning, when, as the wind was
favourable and everything was ready for his departure, he was seen to
leave the Palace quickly and walk a few steps towards the landing-stage
of the canal in front of the Palace. He got into a boat, sailed by twelve
sailors dressed in velvet. With him were his two gentlemen and the young
Admiral Norris, who took the tiller, with his Admiral's staff in his
hand, his head covered with a large cap of black velvet with a similar
'They took them to the anchorage, where they embarked on the Royal packet-boat
named The Caroline, which was draped in crimson velvet and gold. Then
the Admiral boarded the flagship of the squadron and ordered the boat
with the twelve sailors to be roused; then hoisting sails, and raising
the Royal Standard, to a Royal salute by both sets of guns, they departed,
escorting his Majesty.
Thus ended the festivity, in which we had the good fortune to see the
King many times, as we had not seen him in London, though we wished
to do so'.
Leiden on 30 October he reached Amsterdam, which is also described in
great detail. Among its population of 300,000 persons of all nations
he mentions as important the Portuguese and German Jews, who each have
their independent synagogues and their own regulations. The Germans,
as being in greater number, estimated at 30,000, had eight synagogues
and the Portuguese only one, which is considered one of the remarkable
sights of the country for its great magnificence, its lights, columns,
its Ark of the Law with doors of jacaranda wood.
The institutions and practices of the Sephardi community receive a detailed
Most of it, however , is well known and need not be summarised. He was
present both at the lavish celebrations at tending a circumcision and
at a brief address at the Medrash of Es haim delivered by a visiting
personage appealing for funds for captives in Barbary - a discourse
wich impressed him so much that he wrote it down in summary form and
gives it to us.
He adds that the city of Amsterdam is full of Jews who have taken refuge
after having changed their religion in other countries - that is, of
Catholics who have abandoned their faith, but of this subject and a
similar one he has already spoken when in London, but he finds here
the same practices as evidently characteristic of Protestantism.
To The Hague
On 5 December
he left Amsterdam for an excursion to The Hague.
Here he put up at the inn of St. Mark, die owner of which was an Italian
Persons of rank stayed there and he made the acquaintance of one of
them, the Duke of Arembergh,
the Queen of Hungary's General, who invited him to visit him in his
His feIlow-Jews came, according to custom, to visit him and he saw little
of the inn except to sleep. Mostly he dined out with a particular one
of them, but also with a wealthy German Jew, well received at the Ministry,
and in the house of a Portuguese, where he was served with meat on a
silver plate and with dessert on porcelain which was antique. This inspired
a thought which affords a welcome glimpse of deep human feeling :
'I cannot deny that I was glad, and my heart rejoiced at seeing such
grandeur among our people,
but at the same time I thought of our miseries of the Ghetto of Florence
and how they live there'.
(see note about the Florentine ghetto*)
The evenings were spent in varied conversations in the houses of friends
or paying visits, in which one saw the magnificence of their palaces,
their furniture, or rare gardens. One of such visits was to the Comte
de Risechoux, Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Back to Amsterdam and discussion of the diamond industry
returned to Amsterdam for further lengthy accounts. One of these concerns
the diamond trade. Since he was himself in the trade, and it was one
which was largely in Jewish hands, his remarks on this subject are of
'They possess various manual arts and amongst them that of splitting
and cutting diamonds and working them both into facets and brilliants.
A thousand persons are employed in this craft.
To them comes a certain part of the raw, or I should say crude, diamonds,
unworked, both from the old Oriental mine and direct from the new one
But the greater part of these raw diamonds (which forms the larger part
of either mine there in London) is transported under contract to Amsterdam
to be worked there.
Here is the biggest centre of all the world, which orders and gives
its commissions in Amsterdam.
There would be many more workers in this craft if there were plenty
of work, because in the years 1733 and 1734, when the new mine in Brazil
became known, the quantity of diamonds for sale was such that they were
spoken of as sold in hatfuls.
Then when everyone took to this work, of which there was too much for
all, many became masters and apprentices, who today are out of work'.
The first Ghetto had got two exits, closed by gates, one on Piazza del
Mercato and the other on via dei Succhiellinai (via Roma). On the front
main door there was the Medicean coat of arms, and the following writing:
"Cosimo de' Medici, Grand-duke of Tuscany, and his Son, the Prince
Francesco wanted (pushed by piety) Jews locked up here, separated by Christians,
but not expelled, in order they could be subdued to the very light Christ's
For the Jews began a long period full of privation, prohibitions and impositions.
Nonetheless the Medici realized that Jews were important for the trade
with the mediterranean countries, so allowed them to live freely in Leghorn,
the new tuscan harbour. Jews with italian origin were allowed then to
live in the enclosure of the quarter, but those with a levantine origin
(from Leghorn) were allowed to live outside enjoying many privileges.
In 1571 there were more or less 500 inhabitants, and so remained in the
following century too.
In the Ghetto there were two sinagogues, the italian one and the levantine,
facing Piazza della Fonte, the only source of air and light, since the
most part of the Ghetto was constituted by narrow streets and alleys covered
with vaults permitting the uplifting of the houses in order to increase
the living place.
There were also all the indispensable services of the community such as:
the slaughter-house, the bread and matzos oven, the mikvè, the
schools, the confraternity's residence. All of them were submitted to
the jus gazzagà, i.e.: the Isle of the Ghetto, so was called the
quarter, was Grand-duke's property, but the Jews could transmit to their
sons and nephews the right to live in their homes.
Things got worse when, in 1670, Cosimo III ascended the grand-ducal throne.
He was a very bigoted man, and, in 1704, decided to widen the Ghetto in
order to compel those who lived out of it (108 families) to get in.
The Ghetto Nuovo included the block nearby via De' Pecori with a new exit
on Piazza dell'Olio. Nothing changed when Cosimo III died even if the
Jews withstood his decision, until, in 1737, the Medici family came to
an end, and the Lorena came into power.
influenced by the Illuminism ideas, were well-disposed towards Jews
and since 1750 allowed them to buy the buildings where were located
the two sinagogues. Since 1755 the gates of the Ghetto were no more
closed at the sunset and in 1779 all the houses were put in sale and
shops bought by a group of jewish bankers.
When the napoleonic troops came to Italy and in Tuscany too, they brought
freedom, equality and brotherhood, the values supported by the French
Revolution, and all the prohibitions fell. After the 1815 with the Restoration
and the return of the Lorena, even if the ancient prohibitions were
restored, freedom was so deep-rooted that in 1848 the gates of the Ghetto
were pulled down; nonetheless many Jews, the poorest in particular,
went on living in it.