Thursday, April 25, 2013

The treatment of the Jews by the British occupiers of St. Eustatius in 1781


On February 3, 1781, a British fleet commanded by Admiral George Rodney captured the tiny Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius, a Dutch colony that had been giving aid to American rebels in their revolution against the British Empire.

Rodney looted the homes and warehouses of many of St. Eustatius's merchants, but in particular he singled out the Jewish residents of St. Eustatius as enemies of Britain. Rodney's treatment of the Jews of St. Eustatius was so extreme that reports of their suffering under Rodney became an embarrassment to Parliament in the ensuing months.

Firebrand MP, Edmund Burke, said of the treatment of the Jews of St. Eustatius:

Edmund Burke
A resolution was taken to banish this unhappy people from the island. They suffered in common with the rest of the inhabitants, the loss of their merchandise, their bills, their houses, and their provisions; and after this they were ordered to quit the island; and only one day was given them for preparation ; they petitioned, they remonstrated against so hard a sentence, but in vain ; it was irrevocable. They asked to what part of the world they were to be transported? The answer was that they should not be informed. Must they take their property along with them? No. Must they not then take with them their wives and children? No. The only information they could obtain was, that they must prepare to depart the island the next day; and without their families, the very last comfort of wretchedness; they must appear the next day at an appointed place to embark. The next day they did appear to the number of one hundred and one, the whole that were upon the island. They were confined in a weigh-house, a place, in some respects similar to a turnpike-house, but strongly guarded and orders were given that they should be stripped, and all the linings of their clothes ripped up, that every shilling of money which they might attempt to conceal and carry off should be discovered and taken from them. This order was carried into rigid execution, and money, to the amount of eight thousand pounds, was taken from these poor, miserable outcasts; and thus deprived of the fruits of their assiduity and the comfort of their age, thirty of them were embarked on board the Shrewsbury, and carried to St. Kitt's. The rest, after being confined for three days, unheard of, and unknown, were set at liberty to return to their families, that they might be melancholy spectators of the sale of their own property.

Taken from The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, 1900, Oxford University Press

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