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South of the island of Cuba, so much noted recently, lies the island 
of Janahina, or Jamaica. Discovered by Columbus on his second 
journey, it remained for one hundred and sixty years in possession of 
the Spanish, till it was conquered by the order of Oliver Cromwell, no 
previous declaration of war having been made. When the English 
occupied the island, so rich in gold and spices, they found already 
Spanish and Portuguese Jews settled there. 

One of the first travellers on the island was Benjamin de Mesquita, 
a relation of Jacob and Abraham Bueno de Mesquita, wealthy and 
notable citizens of Amsterdam ; and of David Bueno de Mesquita, 
who was the Resident of the Elector of Brandenburg, and general 
agent of the Duke of Brunswick-Lttneburg. About 1661 Benjamin 
petitioned the king " for relief from the provisions of the Navigation 
Act," and, at the same time, " to be granted letters of denization V 
Although his request was granted, the permit was useless to him, 
and he could not enjoy his denizenship. Some Jews of Barbadoes, 
Isaac Israel de Pisa, Aaron Israel de Pisa, and their brother, Abraham 
Israel de Pisa, who lived in Jamaica, said that they had discovered 
gold mines, and had, in this way, put Sir William Davidson to 
considerable expense and loss. Their punishment was that they were 
expelled from Barbadoes. But the same punishment was also, quite 
undeservedly, inflicted upon Benjamin Bueno de Mesquita and his 
two sons ; upon Abraham Cohen, who had sent out Aaron Israel 
de Pisa's mother with her other children to Barbadoes ; upon Jacob 
Ulhoa, and upon Abraham Soarez 2 . Abraham Israel de Pisa, who 
had indeed discovered some vanilla and pepper, but no gold, and 
was therefore called, in derision, "the gold-finder 3 ," departed for 
England. He addressed a statement to the chief lieutenant Thomas, 
the president of the Council of Jamaica, in which he made suggestions 
as to the way of discovering gold, but found hardly any credence. 
Benjamin Bueno de Mesquita and the other Jews, banished from 

1 Publications of (he American Jewish Historical Society, V, 49. 
7 Ibid., V, 69 sq. (Colonial Papers, vol. XVIII, no. 79), 91 sq. 
' Ibid., V, 69 (Calendar 0/ British State Papers). 


Jamaica, took up their abode in New York. There Benjamin died 
on the 4th of Cheshvan, 5444=October 24, 1683 '. 

It was in the year 1660 that Jacob Josua Bueno Enriques, presum- 
ably a relation of Elias Bueno Enriques and Moses Bueno Enriques, 
who lived in Amsterdam about 1675, petitioned the king to be 
allowed to work a copper mine, bought from a Spaniard, to lay 
out plantations, and to have, for these purposes, a sufficient number 
of negroes placed at his disposal. In his petition, which was composed 
in Spanish, he named, as a reference, the "Hebrew Manoel da Fonseca, 
who lived at that time in London, as interpreter of the Spanish 
ambassador, in order to learn the English language V Bueno 
Enriques, who lived in the Funta de Cagoe in Jamaica, and who was 
called by the English " the French Jew," on account of his frequent 
intercourse with the French, asked for himself, and for his brothers 
Joseph and Moses Bueno Enriques, firstly, to become naturalized, 
and, secondly, to be allowed "to live openly and undisturbed, 
according to the tenets of their religion and to have a synagogue." 

1 His Spanish (not Portuguese) epitaph is given incorrectly in Publica- 
tions, I, 9a. It reads : — 

Debajo desta Lo[s]sa sepultado 

Yace Binjamin Bueno de Mesq'* 

Falesio y deste mundo fue tornado 

En quatro de Hesvan su alma Bendita 

Aqui de los vivientes apartado 

Espera por tu Dios que resuscita 

Los muertos de su pueblo con piedades 

Para bivir sin fin de Eternidades. 


M. N. Taylor Phillips read Ya se instead of Yace, and translated accordingly 

Be who was ; he read Para Bruir — Bruir is no Spanish ; it should read 

Para bivir for vivir, Old Spanish. The English translation would be thus : 

Beneath this stone is buried 

Benjamin Bueno de Mesquita, 

Who died and whose blessed soul 

Was taken from this world 

On the fourth of Hesvan. 

Here from the living separated 

Wait for thy God who revives 

The dead of His people in mercy, 

To enjoy without end Eternity. 

* . . . un brevo de nombre Manoel da Fonseca que sta oy en Londres 
en casa del Embagador d'Espagnia de Interprete por saber hablar la 
lengua Inglesa. 

3 A 3 


We aee, therefore, that as early as 1660 several Jewish families lived 
at Jamaica. For further information about himself, he referred to 
General Dall and the royal consuls, who lived with him on the island 
in 1658 and 1659, and also to the Englishman Peter Pino, who carried 
on a banking business in Jamaica 1 . 

The number of Jewish residents increased from year to year ; they 
were allowed to reside there on condition that they took the oath of 
allegiance before the governor. Thus in the year 1668, Salomo 
Gabay Faro and David Gomes Henriques, two years later Abraham 
de Soza Mendes, and in 167 1 Abraham Espinosa and Jacob de Torres 
came from London. They all of them possessed the rights of English 
citizens. The English government, in order to increase the number 
of industrious settlers on the island, instructed the governor, Sir 
Thomas Lynch, to absolve the new arrivals from taking the oath 
of allegiance, and to grant all inhabitants the freedom of their 
religious worship. 

Although the obligation was, to a certain extent, put upon the 
Jews who settled in Jamaica "to settle and plant 2 ," yet, they mostly 
occupied themselves with trade, and opened large shops. This aroused 
the jealousy of the English traders to such an extent, that, in 1671, 
they presented a petition to the council, urging that the Jews should 
confine themselves to wholesale commerce, and leave the retail trade 
in the hands of the Christian traders, and that all Jews who had not 
been naturalized should be expelled. There were only sixteen in 
all of the latter' description. The governor was opposed to the 
suggestion, as being against the interests of the island, for "he 
was of opinion that His Majesty could not have more profitable 
subjects than the Jews and the Hollanders ; they had great stocks 
and correspondence." These words occur in a letter from the 
governor, dated December 17, 1671, to the secretary, Lord Arlington. 
He proceeds to say that he had personally convinced himself of their 
usefulness. " He sent a Jew to the inland provinces, where the wine 
grows, to see whether he can procure any vanilla for the king 
and his lordship*." The petition was dealt with in this way, that 
the council resolved " that for the better settling and improving of 
Your Majestie's island of Jamaica, due encouragement may be given 

1 The petition is published : Publications, V, 65, from Colonial Papers, 
vol. XV, no. 74. 

8 The reply to the Baron de Belmont's petition contains the following 
words : "Their first introduction into the island was upon condition that 
they should settle and plant," Publications, II, 168. 

3 Puolications, V, 71 sq. {Calendar of British State Papers, Colonial, no. 697, 
p. 398 sqq.). The petition of the traders, ibid., V, 73 sqq. 


to the Jews, the Dutch, and other nations, to settle and inhabit 
there 1 ." 

A number of Jewish settlers soon arrived, including Moses Henriques 
Cotinho, or Coutino, who had relations in Amsterdam*, and who came 
from Barbadoes; Abraham Lopez Telles 3 and others, who came from 
Amsterdam and London. Their number was already in the year 1683 
so considerable that they appointed as their Rabbi, R. Josiahu Pardo 
of Curacao, the brother of the London Chazan David Joseph Pardo, 
and son-in-law of the Amsterdam Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira. 

Although the Jews of Jamaica possessed civic rights, they were not 
on the same footing as the English as regards taxes. When, in the 
year 1693, after an attack of the French had been repelled, a sum of 
over four thousand pounds was levied within the space of three months, 
the Jews had to contribute seven hundred and fifty pounds, almost 
a fifth of the whole sum, towards it. The council of the island did not 
tax the Jews individually, but made the wealthiest and most important 
among the Jews responsible for the prompt payment of the tax by the 
collective body. The document says "... to be rated, assessed, taxed, 
collected, and paid in by Solomon Arari, Jacob de Leon, Moses Toiro 
(Toro), Jacob Mendes Guteres, Jacob Henriques, Jacob Rodriguez de 
Leon, Moses Jesurun Cardoso, Samuel Gabay, Jacob Lopes Torres, 
Ishac Coutinho, Ishac Nunes Gonsales, and Abraham Nunes, or any 
five of them." The amount had to be paid before June 10, 1693, 
in default of which two hundred pounds more would have to be paid 
as a fine. Should one of the persons rated refuse to pay, payment 
would be legally enforced, his slaves or chattels would be confiscated 
and publicly sold ; if no goods could be found, the recalcitrant person 
would be arrested and detained in custody, till payment should have 
been made. The same regulations applied to another payment of 
one thousand pounds, which was levied from them in the same year, 
as their quota of a sum of nine thousand four hundred and seventy- 
three pounds 4 . A few years after this they were compelled to pay 
a special tax of one thousand seven hundred and sixty pounds, and on 
another occasion again, a tax of four hundred and thirty-seven pounds. 
In the years 1698 and 1699, not less than five thousand two hundred 
and fifty pounds was demanded of them. They were not able to bear 
such a crushing burden of taxation ; they were a comparatively poor 
community of not more than eighty persons ; and had besides to 
provide for the wants of their poor. The Baron de Belmonte, whom 

1 Publications, V, 75 sq. (Colonial Entry Book, No. 95, p. 97). 

2 Ishac Henriques Coutino, Abraham Mendes Coutinho, and others. 

3 Publications, I, 108. 
* Ibid., V, 87 sqq. 


we conjecture to have been a son of Manuel de Belmonte, the Spanish 
Resident in Holland, found it, therefore, necessary to address, in the 
year 1700, a memorial in reference to this affair to Sir William 
Beeston, the governor of the island, in which he proved that the 
Jews had paid during the last years three thousand four hundred and 
seventy pounds over and above the quota which could be legally 
demanded of them. He further complained that the Jews had been 
recently compelled by several officers to bear arms, and do active 
service on Sabbaths and festivals, although no urgent circumstances 
required it l . 

The council replied to this memorial that the Jews, as a separate 
people, were separately taxed ; that their taxes bore no proportion to 
their large trading establishments, and that they must proportionally 
pay more than the English, whom they had beaten out of the field by 
their commercial capacities. " As for their bearing arms, it must be 
owned that, when any public occasion has happened or an enemy 
appeared, they have been ready and behaved themselves very well ; 
but for their being called to arms on private times, and that have 
happened upon their sabbath or festivals, they have been generally 
excused by their officers, unless by their obstinacy or ill language 
they have provoked them to the contrary ; the law of this country, 
without regard to the Jews or any other, giving power to the officers 
to call all men to arms when there is thought occasion for it." 
When Antonio Gomes Sorra, Andrew Lopez, and Moses de Medina, 
in the name of their co-religionists, again lodged a complaint, this 
time with the king, the Board of Trade of Jamaica was required to 
forward a copy of De Belmonte's memorial and of the reply thereto *. 

The Jews of Jamaica had, in spite of their being naturalized 
citizens, to submit to several exceptional laws. Thus, in the year 
1703, it was ordained: "That all Jews that are or shall be hereafter 
masters or owners of slaves within this island, shall supply their 
deficiencies by their own nation or by hired white Christian men, and 
not by indented Christian servants under the penalty of five hundred 
pounds current money of this island 3 ." Eight years later they were 
precluded, like negroes, Indians, and mulattos, "from being employed 
as clerks or any of the judicial or other offices 4 ." 

The most noted and respected Jew who lived at Jamaica for a 
number of years was the Spanish poet Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna. 
Only very few of those who wrote about him took notice of his 

1 The Memorial of the Jews about their Taxes, from Che Entry Book, Jamaica, 
57 sqq., by Prof. Dr. Charles Gross in Publications, II, 165 sqq. 
* Publications, II, p. 171. * Ibid., V, p. 89. 

4 Ibid., V, pp. 57, 9»- 


poetical work, which, be it observed, was a splendidly got-up book, 
and is now extremely rare. 

Lopez Laguna, whose parents were maranos of Southern France, 
went in his youth to Spain to study classics. There he was im- 
prisoned for several years in the terrible dungeons of the Inquisition, 
until he succeeded at length in regaining his freedom by flight. He 
found a refuge in Jamaica, where he openly confessed his Jewish 
faith, for which he had endured so many tortures. Here he put in 
song the holy poems which had offered him consolation in the times 
of his sufferings, and which had kept his hopes alive. He undertook 
a poetical paraphrasis of the Psalms, a plan conceived by him when 
still in prison. He himself gives information about the history of his 
youth and of his sufferings in the following poem, which forms the 
Acrostic, "A el zeloso Lector," "To the kind Reader": — 

"I was devoted to the Muses 
From my childhood. 
My youth was passed in France, 
And I studied in pious schools. 
I learned sciences in Spain, 
And was kept in dark prisons. 
Then I opened my eyes and looked, 
I escaped from the Inquisition. 
Now I sing to the accompaniment of my lute, 
Here the Psalms, happy and joyful 1 ." 

The work, which the poet entitled Espejo fiel de Vidas, " Faithful 
Mirror of Life," is one of the most remarkable products of Jewish- 
Spanish literature. Abraham Pimentel, the son of the author's very 
intimate friend, Jacob Henriques Pimentel, also called Don Manuel 
de Umanes, tells us in the preface that the work was the product of 
twenty-three years' labour, and a further twenty-three years " dig- 

1 A las Musas 


E sido desde mi ynfan 


La adolecensia en la Franc 


Zagrada escuela m 

E ha dado, 

En Espana algo han 



Artes mi Yoventud 

Ojos abriendo en 


Sale de la 


Oy Yamayca en can 


Los Psalm 

Os da a mi Laud 

En my Pricion los 


Cobr6, de hacer 

Esta obra. 

See also Ps. vi. 8. 


turbed by war, fire, and tempests," elapsed before it appeared before 
the public. 

Lopez Laguna's Espejo fid de Vidas is not, as Gratz and others 
thought, " a faithful translation of the Psalms." He was not nearly 
enough master of the Hebrew language to be able to furnish "a 
translation, faithful to the original." It is a paraphrasis, in the 
composition of which the author made use of the Spanish translation 
of the Psalms with paraphrasis of Jacob Jehuda Leon, which appeared 
in Amsterdam in 1671, under the title of Las Alabancas de Santitad. 
He frequently follows Leon to the letter ; e. g. Psalms v, lxxviii, lxxx, 
and others. He is, however, honest enough to admit, in his poetical 
prologue, that he was guided by Jacob Jehuda Leon Templo, and 
that, besides, he owed much to the writings of Menasse ben Israel, 
" that brilliant and lucid sun," as he calls him l . 

As already mentioned elsewhere 2 , the poet gives quite a free 
rendering of several of the Psalms, in which he makes allusions 
to his sufferings and the tortures inflicted by the Inquisition. Thus, 
in Psalm x : — 

"We are persecuted by tribunals, 
Which malice designates as holy. 
Cursed be slanderers, and godless boasting, 
Blessing itself, may it end in shame 3 ! " 

1 Supliendo faltas de Ciencia 

Regir mi nave el Timon, 
Por Jacob Jehudah Leon 
Templo de sacra excelencia. 

Tambien logro my Pincel 
Alguna Luz del Farol 
Del clara y lucienta Sol 
Menasseh ben Israel. 
Sus lineas observo fiel 
Siguiendo la Beal doctrina 
De la Eterna Ley Divina. 

Among the works mentioned by Menasse ben Israel, as either com- 
menced or completed, but not printed, there is also the work "De la 
Divinidad de la Ley de Moseh," which was already projected in 1641. 
This unpublished book could hardly have been known to Laguna ; nor 
would it have served his purpose much. He probably consulted the 
Menasse ben Israel's Conciliador, which appeared in 163a. 

* Sephardim, Romanische Poesien der Juden in Spanien, p. 300 sqq. 

5 Presa sea el malsin que audaz se alaba. The Hebrew }'s»d , which has 
come into the Spanish vocabulary, malsin, malsindad = nwoto , the slan- 
derous accusation ; malsinar, to accuse. 


He prays to the just Judge, in Psalm xxxix : — 
"Oh, deliver me from all my sins, 
And of the terrible tribunal 
To proclaim the complaints of falsity ! " 

There is no lack of outbursts of his hatred of the religious tribunal 
and his cruel torturers ; but we will not reproduce all of them '. 

Lopez Laguna resolved at last, after much hesitation, to publish 
bis work, not for the purpose of becoming famous as a poet, as the 
above-named Abraham Henriques Pimentel asserts — no laurels could 
be obtained in those days by poetical productions— nor was he 
induced by prospects of material gain. His sole incentive was 
his pious zeal ; he only intended to make the Book of the Psalms 
accessible to such of his co-religionists as had escaped from the 
Inquisition, but who, in their ignorance of the Hebrew tongue, 
did not know what they read : he, therefore, wished to lay it before 
them "in the lovely and intelligible mother tongue, in beautiful 
diction, and musical verse." In order to enable them to read the 
Psalms on various occasions, when agitated by different moods, he 
selected all sorts of poetical forms — redondilos, quintilos, terzettos, 
decimes, madrigals, romances, &c. 

He went from Jamaica to London to have his work printed, and 
found there a Maecen in the person of Mordechai Nunes Almeyda ; he 
met also with a friendly reception from the cultured Spanish and 
Portuguese Jews of that city. Rarely has a work been so joyfully 
received and so frequently praised in verse, as that of Lopez Laguna. 
His above-mentioned Maecen, the latter's mother Manuela Nunes 
de Almeyda, his sisters Bienbenida Cohen Belmonte and D. Sarah de 
Fonseca Pina y Pimentel, her husband Manuel Fonseca Pina, his son 
Moseh de Manuel Fonseca Pina, all sang the poet's praises in Spanish 
sonnets. The same was done by the poet's eldest son, by the latter's 
nephew Jacob Lopez Laguna, by his intimate friend Jacob Henriquez 
Pimentel al. D. Manuel de Umanes, " Corrector de la Orthographia y 
Poesia," by a nephew of the Maecen, by the latter's sons Abraham 
and David Henriquez Pimentel, and by Abraham Gomez Silveyra, 
who was a member of the Academy founded in Amsterdam by 
D. Manuel de Belmonte, and published sermons 2 . The physician, 
David Chaves, and Ishac de Sequeira Samuda, sang his praises 
in Latin hexameters; Samson Guideon, a young financier 3 , and 

1 Vid. Ps. xvi. a ; xliv. 33 sqq. ; lxxiii. 14 sqq. ; civ. 4, 5 ; cix. 16 ; cxxxix. 
19 sqq. 

1 About Silveyra, v. Biblioteca Espattola-Portrtgueza-Judaica, p. 102. 

3 L. Wolf, Plan of a Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish Biography (London, 1887), 
p. 6. 


Abraham Bravo, an intimate friend of Laguna's ', lauded him in 
English verse. 

1 Members of the Bravo family lived at Jamaica. Benjamin Bravo 
and David Bravo were naturalized there in 1740. Vid. Publications of 
American Jewish Historical Society, V, 3 sq. Samson Guideon and Abraham 
Bravo belong undoubtedly to the earliest Anglo-Jewish poets. We cannot 
abstain from reproducing here the latter's poem in its entirety : — 

As when the eagle to the vaulted skies 
Aspiring mounts, and to those regions flies ; 
Delighting in the lucid fields of air 
To view the bright and shining wonders there. 
So I, to sing thy praise exalt my muse, 
Would you but her imperfect notes excuse. 

Oh, heavenly bard ! how well by you described 
Are David's psalms, how gloriously revived; 
As if thy harp, tuned by his sacred hand 
Did equal force, and melody command. 

How great's thy wisdom, how sublime thy art, 
Since you to us such heavenly truths impart ; 
Had you been present when the monarch writ 
His thoughts you could not with more truth transmit. 

Such rays of bright divinity are shed 
Throughout these works, and every line o'erspread, 
That by the streams the spring is clearly shown, 
And the translation makes the author known. 


Sure you were inspired by the God-like king 
His Hebrew prose in Spanish verse to sing ; 
Thy muse will fire with devotion those 
Whom verse admire and not the Hebrew knows. 

Even cherubims will to thy verses throng, 
And will their voices tune thy sacred song ; 
Then in chorus sung thy melodious verse, 
While we with Hallelujah the Almighty bless. 


The merit due to your immortal name 
Will be a pyramid to speak your fame ; 
Other attempts are vain; since you excel, 
Others may imitate, but not so well. 


The work, provided with an approbation in Spanish by the Haham 
R. David Nieto 1 , and ornamented with an artistic Geroglifico by 
Abraham Lopez de Oliveyra, appeared under the title Espejo fiel de 
Vidas que contiene los Psalmos de David en verso. Obra devota, util, 
y deleytable compuesta por Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna. 

Dedicado al muy benigno y generoso Senor Mordejay Nunes 

En Londres con Licencia de los Senores del Mahamad y Apro- 
vacion del Senor Haham. Afio 5480= 1720. 4. 

Lopez Laguna returned from London to Jamaica to Riki his wife, 
and his three sons, David, Jacob, and Ishac. We presume that the 
family remained on the island; Abraham, Jacob, and Rebecca Laguna 
were naturalized there in 1740 and 1743 2 . 

We do not know the date of Laguna's death ; he was nearly seventy 
when he died. 

M. Kayserling. 


Nor may you fear the poem's common lot, 
Read and commended, but withal forgot ; 
The brazen mines and marble rocks may waste, 
Yet we shall even retain thy savoury taste. 

Oh ! then let 's ever chant Laguna's praise, 
Success and glory crown his happy days. 
Ah ! may the heavens to him be ever kind 
Since he to virtue only sways his mind. 
1 Nieto says in his approbation " . . . su autor tan fecundo en lo Heroico 
como fecundo en lo Lirico, tan fiel en la translacion como energico en la 
Joseph ibn Danon commences : — 

Ml »n"nM 'iwfi JHO IOTW 01331 

•rr3i3 tfn wmoin j"p wch 

' Publications, V, nasqq.