How did Oliver Cromwell help Jews in England in 1649-1654 begin their very first steps to immigrating to the New World and the low country? Jews in England in 1290 were expelled by “the Edict of Expulsion”, a royal decree issued by King Edward I. This was after over 200 years of increasing persecution of Jews, such as in 1218 when Henry III with the “Edict of the Badge” required Jews to wear a badge marking them as Jews. As Henry III was doing this, he was also taxing Jews heavily and segregating them from the rest of the population. It was not until 1657, almost 400 years later, that Oliver Cromwell began unofficially to readmit Jews.
Did the development of religious toleration in England under Cromwell help convince Jews both in England and Europe to want to immigrate to the New World? How did all this affect the settling of the early colonies, especially Carolina and the rest of the Colonies? Those Jews who had been expelled in 1290 were under “The Cromwellian Protectorate “and were allowed to return. Why? Among the reasons, one was financial; international trade and commerce with the Jewish community of Amsterdam, among other European cities, would be good for London and England. Such trade also would be good for England because of Jewish ties to the East and West Indies as well as to the New World. Second, the doctrinal reason; one that has existed for over two thousand years, “the conversion of Jews to Christianity” as it was essential before “the messiah” could return to earth.
I think the Jews in England, as well as Spain and Holland, were looking for “Persecution Free” land to live as Jews, work in their trades, or professions and secure their families' security. This was a background, so to speak, for Jews seeking this type of security in the New World where they could grow and flourish as could their families. So, they come to the New World and find they are well accepted; particularly since Sir James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony, writes to the King that “he allowed the Jews to stay “on his own responsibility and the industriousness of them and Dr. Nunez.” Jews were welcome in Georgia and as we’ve discussed before in South Carolina ( remember John Locke who wrote the charter for the colony of South Carolina allowing Jews and dissenters freedom of religion). This was a major change from both England and Europe. It was a good sign and an auspicious signal for Jews in both England and Europe to come try out this new land, especially the colonies of Georgia and South Carolina.
Submitted by Linda N. Hoffman