The beginning of the long reign of George III, in which Anglo-Jewry was to witness the dawn though not the fulfilment of a new era, was marked by an innovation which ultimately was to prove exceptionally important. The recent political pre-occupations had not found the community entirely unprepared. For some while past (perhaps in imitation of the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of the Protestant Dissenters, who first met in 1737) the Spanish and Portuguese community had nominated from time to time its deputados to watch over political developments that might affect them, and to approach the government on its behalf should it be thought necessary. One such election was made, as we have seen, when the Irish Naturalization Bill was under discussion. 1 Similarly, on the accession of George III, in 1760, a standing committee was appointed to express homage and devotion to the new sovereign and thereafter to deal with any urgent political matters that might arise. Its immediate functions were satisfactorily performed. But a couple of weeks later, the sister-communities following the Ashkenazi rite presented a formal protest against their neglect on so important an occasion and nominated their own 'German Secret Committee for Public Affairs' to act for them in a similar capacity. It was preposterous for two such bodies to carry on independent activities; and towards the end of the year a motion was passed by the Deputados to the effect that, when any public affair should offer that might interest the two 'Nations', they would 'communicate to the Committee of the Dutch Jews' Synagogues' what they thought proper to be done. Thereafter joint meetings sporadically took place. This was the beginning of the London Committee of Deputies of British Jews (more commonly known today as the Board of Deputies) whose functions, though formal and intermittent until the end of the reign, were to attain considerable importance, and even statutory recognition, in the course of the nineteenth century. 2
When the Deputies performed their first function at the close of 1760 they acted in the name of a community estimated to number between 6,000 and 8,000, the overwhelming majority of whom lived in London: their number having increased twelvefold since the Glorious Revolution seventy years before. 3 A quarter perhaps of the total, comprising, however, a majority of the more anglicized as well as of the well-to-do, belonged to the Spanish and Portuguese element: the Ashkenazim, though more numerous, were on the whole less assimilated, and (with some brilliant exceptions) belonged to a lower social stratum. But, on every section, the alembic of English tolerance was working with remarkable speed and with an efficacy which, from the sectarian point of view, was only too complete. Not only was this the case with the native-born upper class, in whom the process was more notorious, but with their more modest associates as well. An immigrant from Silesia who at the outset of his career corresponded with his parents in Judaeo German and was anxious for the welfare of the religious institutions of his birthplace, could develop within twenty years into a staid British merchant, with his sons married to English girls—one a sea-captain and another in the colonial service, and Destined to be buried in Bath Abbey. 4 So, too (as we have seen) the sons of a London synagogue functionary, all born in Germany, could lose touch with their co-religionists and enter English life as playwrights, authors, physicians, and even naval officers. 5 This process was partially compensated by a modest though unmistakable trickle of proselytization, strenuously combated by the nervous communal leaders, which was to culminate most embarrassingly, notwithstanding their opposition, in the preposterous episode of the conversion to Judaism of the erstwhile Protestant champion, Lord George Gordon in 1787. 6
The change in sentiment was assisted by the spread of Freemasonry (in the English Lodges of which Jews held high office as early as 1732) which inculcated a generous degree of tolerance. 7 The mystical aberrations of the movement were strongly attracted to Jewish exponents of the occult, with results which were not without their importance in social history. Thus the notorious practical cabbalist and 'master of the Divine Name', Dr. Samuel de Falk was waited on by English and French nobles, from the Duc d'Orleans downwards, at his house in Wellclose Square. 8 Greater heights still were reached by the globe-trotting adventurer, Simon von Geldern, Great uncle of Heinrich Heine, who was one day found by Prince George of Darmstadt playing piquet with Their Majesties in St. James's Palace. 9
The process of assimilation was illustrated by the growing use of English in the communal life, for purposes for which Spanish or Judaeo-German had previously been considered indispensable. In 1735 it was at last included in the curriculum of the public school of the Sephardi community. From the close of the reign of George II sermons and special orders of service frequently appeared in English translation, though the originals were in Hebrew or one of the other of the semi-sacred tongues. Purblind authorities long opposed the publication of the prayer-book in English, but in 1770 this inhibition was raised. 10 From the last decade of the century the minutes or various communal organizations also began to be kept in the vernacular.
Notwithstanding the rapidity of this process of acclimatization, the foreign character of the community was maintained by the continuous influx from abroad. A spirit of restlessness was pervading the Jewish world. Discomforts in Germany, wars in central Europe, expulsion in Bohemia, massacres in Poland, petty persecutions elsewhere, combined with the glamour of a new field of opportunity to foster migration. Continental Jewries heard of the golden opportunities which England provided, and their scions went forth in an unending stream to try their fortune on the other side of the North Sea. And, once a settler had established himself, his younger brothers or other connexions would come to join him.
London was still the principal magnet, as the constant increase of its synagogal accommodation during the second half of the eighteenth century eloquently demonstrated. 11 Owing to the restrictions imposed here on Jews the newcomers tended to establish themselves outside the City boundaries—in the East End near the original settlement, and to a smaller extent in the West beyond Temple Bar. The well-to-do engaged like their precursors in wholesale commerce, brokerage, stock-jobbing, and trade in precious stones. 12 Then came a middle class of shopkeepers, silversmiths, and watchmakers. Lower down in the social scale were the artisans—pencil-makers, tailors, hatters, embroiderers, glass-engravers, diamond-polishers, necklace-makers, and so on. 13 But above all, the new arrivals turned their attention to two branches of activity which had been forced upon them by the restrictions against trade and manufacture which prevailed everywhere on the Continent, and which, moreover, required neither training nor capital—trading in old clothes, and peddling.
It was an economic function of some importance that they filled. In the days before cheap tailoring (introduced by Jews in the nineteenth century) it was out of the question for the labourer to purchase a new suit of clothes at intervals; he had to content himself with the cast-off garments of the wealthier classes. Every street, lane or alley in or near the Metropolis was patrolled by some itinerant Jewish hawker, long-bearded and speaking a barbarously mutilated English, prepared to purchase second-hand wear, battered hats, hare and rabbit skins, old glass, broken metal, and almost every other conceivable article of household or personal use discarded by tidy housewives. 14 It was the mainstay of a very large proportion of the community—according to one careful authority, at the end of the century there were 1,500 Jewish old-clothes men in London alone. Rag Fair, or Rosemary Lane, near the Tower of London, became the most populous, though far from the most salubrious, part of London's Ghetto. Hither, the cast-off clothing of the upper classes, purchased after much haggling in the areas of Westminster and St. James's, was brought to be reconditioned by the dark-eyed daughters of Judah, who were famous as needle-women. Then it would set out on its travels again, to return at intervals, until the odyssey was ended as dirty rag to be pulped into paper. 15
Hardly less distinctive than the old-clothes men were the pedlars, who needed no shops and therefore could trade, even in London, without interference. They were encouraged moreover by the synagogal magnates, who, with practical benevolence, did whatever was possible to place their indigent co-religionists, newly arrived from abroad, in a position to support themselves, and advanced them sufficient capital to begin their operations. The orange men who paraded the London streets, the trinket sellers who tempted the servant girls with home-made necklaces and finery, the hawkers who inveigled schoolboys with pencils and toys, were generally Jews. (Long after, it was from a Jewish lad in the City that Castlereagh bought the knife with which he committed suicide.)
Before long the hawkers found competition in London too great, and began to push farther afield. Already in the first half of the eighteenth century the Jew pedlar was a familiar figure in the countryside. He filled an important gap in the mechanism of distribution, bringing the amenities of life within the reach of the isolated rural population, to whom they had hitherto been rarely accessible. We see him in innumerable sketches, ceramics, caricatures, engravings, and groups. He is foremost of the motley company shown jostling one another at the door of a wayside inn, in Rowlandson's expressive caricature, Unloading a wagon. suspended from his back is his pack, ready to be swung round should a potential client appear. One can imagine its contents—buckles, cutlery, watches, lace, tobacco, sealing-wax, toys, and spectacles, with a selection of trinkets and jewellery to dazzle the eyes of the rustic beauties. With the inn as his headquarters he will commence his circumambulation of the countryside, peddling his wares from door to door in the villages, pushing his way to the remotest cottage and farmhouse, and making himself understood in the universal language of bargaining notwithstanding his ignorance of all but the vaguest rudiments of the English language. The calling was not without its dangers: the lonely Jew, with his burden of valuables, partly converted into money, was sometimes an irresistible temptation to foot-pads, and the baiting of these lonely strangers was a favourite rural sport. But there were few alternative vocations, and the number of those thus engaged rapidly grew. It was thus that rural England became reacquainted with the Jew. 16
In those days of slow communication it was necessary for the pedlars to have some centre from which they could operate. Hence agglomerations, which gradually developed into established communities, grew up 17 throughout the country, at the more important provincial centres, market-towns, and especially seaports, where the sailors constituted a regular and open-handed clientele. The largest and oldest, probably, outside London was that of Portsmouth, established in 1747 under the auspices of a prosperous seal-cutter and engraver. In the same year the community at King's Lynn received a rudimentary organization. In Bristol a congregation was in existence in 1754. The earliest synagogue at Plymouth (where are mentioned as far back as 1740) dates to about two years earlier. The congregational burial-ground was purchased at Canterbury in 1760, and the synagogue built in 1763. By the year of Waterloo communities existed, not only at the places just named, but also at Liverpool (1750), Exeter (1763), Falmouth (1766), Manchester (1770), Birmingham (1770), Chatham (1780), Sheffield (1790), Ipswich (1792), Bedford (1803), as well as Norwich, Sheerness, Swansea, Gloucester, Bath, Coventry, Brighton, Penzance, Dover, Hull, Yarmouth and perhaps some other places. 18 In addition individuals or families were to be found in almost every town of any importance, at least in the south of the country. 19 The more wealthy traders in the seaport towns became ship's agents; for the captain of every vessel in the Service had to chose some person to act in this capacity for a period of three years, and some twenty-five per cent. appointed Jews. The official lists of navy agents at the time of the Napoleonic wars are thus almost a directory of the Jewish communities of the period. 20 Typical probably was the structure of the Plymouth congregation. Here there had been in 1740 two dealers in naval stores, two silversmiths, a grocer, a general merchant, and a slop-seller. Fifty years later, when a return was required at the time of the war with France, the community included 57 male aliens, mostly of German origin (only six having been born in Poland, five in Bohemia, and four in Holland). Their ports of arrival had been Harwich, Dover, Gravesend, and London; and many had lived in London or other places in the southern counties before settling in Plymouth. Twelve of them were silversmiths, including assistants; nine were chapmen and petty traders; eight old-clothes men; the remainder were opticians, capmakers, umbrellamakers, pen cutters, &c. 21 At the close of the Napoleonic wars, this community included about thirty licensed navy agents.
The Jews of the organized provincial centres affiliated themselves at the outset with one of the London conventiclers—generally the Great Synagogue—where probably they attended service on the more solemn occasions of the Jewish year if they were unable to make provision nearer home. Even after the local congregations had been organized (often on the model of the parent-body), this sentimental allegiance continued. Above all, the provincial communities, in which scholarship was at a premium, looked for guidance to the London Rabbinate. Hence the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue was venerated by Jews throughout England as their spiritual head, or rather intellectual guide. This was the case already at the close of the long period of office (c. 1704-56) of Rabbi Aaron Hart, brother of Moses Hart, during whose incumbency the congregation had grown from an inconsiderable handful to an influential body. But under Rabbi David Tevele Schiff (1765-92) the hegemony of the Great Synagogue and its Rabbinate was threatened, a considerable part of the Portsmouth community desiring to affiliate themselves to the Hambro' Synagogue in London and its Rabbi. There was a long and bitter dispute, which ultimately resulted not only in the acceptance of Schiff's supremacy but in its confirmation on terms carefully formulated and accepted by both sides. From this time onwards the spiritual head of the Great Synagogue was recognized as the principal, or 'Chief', Rabbi (or, to use the eighteenth-century term, 'High Priest') of the Jews not only throughout England, but ultimately throughout the Empire. 22
While the 'German' community was being recruited constantly from abroad, and establishing offshoots throughout the country, the older body was in a different position. The gradual relaxation of the vigilance of the Inquisition, coupled with the decreasing enterprise of its victims, resulted in a progressive dwindling of immigration. Aka the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 there was indeed a final stirring of consciousness on the part of the Portuguese Marranos, moved profoundly by that terrible cataclysm; and a number found their way to London. Not long after, with the reforms of Pombal, the Inquisition of Portugal lost its power, while that of Spain became less active for want of human material. Hence the tide of immigration gradually ceased. However, as late as 1795, many members of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation, in their Aliens Certificates, gave flight from the Inquisition as the reason for their coming to England; and one added the tragic detail that his mother had been burned by the Holy Office. 23
The suspension of Marrano immigration was partially compensated from other quarters. The synagogue was constantly reinforced from the mother-community of Amsterdam, with which most of its members had intimate family relations, as well as by Jewish 'Caribees' of similar origin who had made their fortune in the West Indies. But other elements, too, had by now come into evidence. One of the leading communities of the Marrano diaspora was that of Leghorn, which had been raised from a fishing-village to one of the most important seaports of the Mediterranean by the activity of the New Christians invited thither by the Grand Duke Ferdinando in 1593. This city was the headquarters of the coral trade, largely in Jewish hands. The principal outlet for this commodity was India, to which country it was exported via London and Amsterdam by Jewish gem-merchants, in return for precious stones. In connexion with this trade the Venetian trading- and banking-house of Treves established a branch in London at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and a stream of Jewish immigrants came at their heels. In 1769, out of sixteen London houses engaged in the coral industry who petitioned the Directors of the East India Company, eight were Jewish. Prominent among them was the firm of Franco, ancestors of Lords Ludlow and Roborough, and Benjamin d'Israeli, Grandfather of the prophet of British conservatism. 24
Another staple import from Italy was the straw bonnet, associated with the name of Leghorn, which became popular in England owing to the patronage of the beautiful Misses Gunning. This industry was responsible for another small wave of immigration, which enriched English life with families of the calibre of the Montefiores. By the middle of the eighteenth century, hardly a single important Italian Jewish community lacked its representative in London. Here they attached themselves (no matter what synagogal rite they had followed at home) to the once-exclusive Spanish and Portuguese congregation. In 1787 a fierce outbreak of persecution at Rome (where a couple of children were seized for baptism without the slightest pretext) made that community think of emigration en masse to England. With pathetic optimism they wrote to London asking for advice. It is hardly surprising that the reply was discouraging; but, while such maltreatment persisted, emigration necessarily continued. 25
At the close of the century there was an influx of different origin. When Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714, the regard of its former owners for the orthodoxy of their erstwhile subjects was expressed in a clause by which Jews and Moors were forbidden to set foot on the Rock. Nevertheless in 1729 a treaty was signed with the Emperor of Morocco (who was represented on this occasion by a Jew, Moses ben Attar) empowering his subjects of whatever religion to visit the fortress for business purposes for a period not exceeding thirty days. This limitation was soon neglected, and by 1749 a regular community was in existence. 26 By 1776 the Jews constituted one-third of Gibraltar's civil population of 3,000, and almost controlled its trade. In the course of the siege of 1779-83, when they served and suffered with the other inhabitants, every attempt was made to reduce the number of useless mouths. In June 1781 there arrived in England a number of destitute families from Gibraltar, who brought with them their Chief Rabbi and the scrolls of the law, rescued at great risk from the two synagogues of the beleaguered fortress. On the restoration of peace many of these immigrants preferred to remain. 27 In subsequent years a number of polyglot Jewish envoys—Jacob Benider (1772), Isaac Sumbal (1794), Masahod Macnin (1813), and Meir Cohen Macnin (1827)—came to the Court of St. James's on missions from the Sultan of Morocco, bringing with them others of their relatives or dependants. 28 Thus the community was revitalized with fresh blood—that of berberiscos, who a century before would have been rejected from full membership.
At the height of the period of expansion of which an account has been given in preceding pages, and to a certain extent because of it, a serious menace to the well-being of the community arose from within, in the allied problems of extreme poverty and delinquency. This did not affect the older Spanish and Portuguese community to any considerable degree, by reason of its better organization, its longer settlement in the country, its greater wealth, and the smaller proportion of its indigent. Among the Ashkenazim, on the other hand, the problem was extremely serious, owing to the constant influx of poor foreigners who had great difficulty in becoming self-dependent owing to the galling restrictions with which they were hampered. The principal reason for the scale of immigration from the Continent (apart from persecution abroad) was that it was so fatally simple and inexpensive. There was a regular service of mail-packets from Brill and Helvoetsluys in Holland. Three classes of passes were available to those who wished to cross to England by this means—whole (13s), half (6s.), and gratis; and almost anyone who presented himself to the agent at the port of embarkation and pleaded poverty automatically received a free pass. Arrived in England, the ever-bountiful synagogue could be relied upon to save him at least from starvation, a pittance of one shilling weekly being granted in all by the three London Ashkenazi congregations. Hence there was a constant influx to England of poor Jews, sometimes of low moral character, who were not only a serious burden to the community, but whose conduct was an actual menace to it. 29
In 1768 a new wave of massacres began in eastern Europe, when lawless bands of rebels rose in the Ukraine and perpetrated horrors which had no parallel for generations. A fresh wave of penniless fugitives was driven across the Continent, and immigration into England assumed what was considered to be disturbing proportions. Within a period of thirty years it was estimated that the Jewish community increased threefold in numbers. Alarmed at the influx, the authorities of the Great Synagogue in London (which bore half the financial burden involved) resolved to refuse relief to foreign Jews who had left their country without good cause. 30 This restriction tended to aggravate difficulties, adding the menace of criminality to that of destitution. Public attention was drawn to the problem by a series of crimes, culminating in 1771 in a particularly brutal murder perpetrated at Chelsea by a band of Jewish malefactors with more than one infamy to their score. There was an ugly outburst of popular feeling. Jews were saluted in the streets with the cry 'Go to Chelsea’; and instances of physical violence were so common that the commiseration even of persons accustomed to continental standards of maltreatment was aroused. 31 The community found it necessary to dissociate itself from the malefactors in as public a fashion as possible, excommunicating them in the synagogue, withholding the last comforts at Tyburn, and refusing the bodies burial in consecrated ground.
The Wardens of the Great Synagogue (who, five years earlier, had offered their services to the authorities in the hope of checking Jewish delinquency) now took vigorous steps in consultation with Sir John Fielding, the blind Metropolitan magistrate who had tried the case. They insisted that the responsibility for the existence in London of large numbers of poor Jews without any means of livelihood did not rest with them, but with the disturbed state of Poland, and above all, the facilities afforded by the government itself for immigration from the Continent. In consequence of their representations the Secretary of State issued instructions to the Postmaster General that in future no Jews were to be permitted to come to England on His Majesty's packet-boats except such as had paid their passages in full, and were furnished with passports from one of the ambassadors or ministers abroad. At the same time raids were made on Jewish pedlars throughout the country, and the Lord Mayor publicly offered free passes to any poor Jews who wished to leave England and return to their native lands. 32 By this means something was done to check the influx of undesirable elements, and the tide of criminality, if not turned back, was at least stemmed.
The problem of the Jewish poor was brought forward again in 1795, when the London magistrate and sociologist Patrick Colquhoun published his famous work on the Police of the Metropolis, which was to be the basis of Sir Robert Peel's reorganization of the Police Force thirty-four years later. The account which he presented of the lower classes of the London Jews and their general tendencies was a depressing one, and he insisted on the urgency for constructive action to save them from their degradation and criminal propensities. His observations attracted much attention. In particular Dr. Joshua van Oven, physician to the Great Synagogue, entered into correspondence with the author and suggested a scheme for the amelioration of the condition of the Jewish poor by setting up a systematic method of outdoor relief, supplemented by a grandiose House of Industry. The finances to support this (it was in this that the kernel of the proposals lay) were to be provided out of a Jewish Poor Fund, established by Act of Parliament, and with two main sources of income: first, a compulsory levy on the synagogues and all Jewish householders, and secondly, an appropriation of the poor rate paid by Jewish parishioners but never utilized for the benefit of their co-religionists, who were so sedulously kept from being a burden on the public purse. The policy was approved by Colquhoun and taken up by some leading personalities in politics as well as in synagogal affairs. Opposition quickly developed from the parishes affected by the scheme, and the provision that part of the rates of Jewish districts was to go to the new Board was accordingly omitted. The revised plan was embodied in a Bill authorizing special taxation of the Jews for these purposes, which received the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At this stage objections were raised by the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which argued that its members would contribute a disproportionate amount of the money but enjoy only an exiguous share of the benefits, and determined to petition Parliament against the scheme. An attenuated measure on the same lines, dealing with the 'German' Jewish communities only, was then prepared, and a petition in support of it was presented by George Tierney in the Commons on February 25th, 1802. But meanwhile the proposals had come under fire within the community, pamphleteers pointing out that the scheme would act as a magnet to the poor of eastern Europe, who would stream over in such numbers as to make it bankrupt from the very outset, and that it was useless to teach the English Jews handicrafts unless they could be ensured that prejudices and snobbery would be modified so as to permit them to obtain employment once they were trained. In consequence the grandiose plan was reduced to the establishment in London, with money collected for this object some time previous, from benevolent Christians as well as Jews, of an Asylum and School for the poor of the Ashkenazi community—clearly a mild expedient which would only touch the surface of the question. That no success crowned this attempt, one hundred and fifty years after the Resettlement, to make English Jewry a separate fiscal entity was not altogether a misfortune; and it was remarkable how, within a generation, with growing liberality on both sides and the widening of opportunity, the specific problem which had attracted so much attention in the decade before Trafalgar quietly and spontaneously disappeared. 33
A decisive factor in this change was the practical cessation of immigration from the Continent during the Wars of the French Revolution From now on English Jewry was of necessity more or less self-contained, and those of its members who had succeeded in acclimatizing themselves in the country were no longer retarded or embarrassed by the constant influx of penniless co-religionists from abroad. The burst of xenophobia at the outset of the struggle, indeed, involved the Jews also, who were inevitably suspected of Jacobin sympathies; and at Ipswich the magistrates had to intervene to save them from assault. 34 The Aliens Act of 1793, which placed foreigners settled in England under strict control, resulted in sporadic raids on Jewish pedlars and petty traders throughout the country, and the deportation of a number of them. Thereafter there were recurrent alarms. When the French occupied Venice it was reported by the British representative there that the Jews of the city were in treasonable correspondence with their co-religionists in London. Such suggestions were not taken seriously: indeed, the Synagogues were entrusted with the registration of Jews born abroad, while the Seditious Meetings Bill of 1795 was modified so as not to penalize them. 35
The reaction of the Jews at the time of crisis was much the same as that of any other class of Englishmen, though they were debarred from holding commissions. As early as the middle of the eighteenth century, some had served before the mast in the Royal Navy. In 1778 it was suggested that application should be made for relief from the provisions of the Act for impressing men for the king's service, but the proposal was considered unwise, and in consequence a number of Jewish sailors fought under Nelson. In the army, too, they were to be found, though in smaller numbers. 36 On the renewal of the War with France, hundreds of Jews enlisted in the volunteer corps, the Chief Rabbi having expressed his highest concurrence to their taking the oaths of fidelity and allegiance to their king and country; and at the great review in Hyde Park on October 26th, 1803 the king was impressed at the prevalence of zoophoric names (such as Hart, Bear and Lyon) in a regiment recruited in the east of London, At Dover, Plymouth, Bristol, Exeter, Liverpool, and Gosport, Jews were enrolled; though at Portsmouth the mayor at first refused to accept their services. 37
The exigencies of war gave an opening for outstanding service in a sphere with which Jewish ability is more usually associated—that of finance. This time it was the younger element in the community which was to the fore. The crisis in the affairs of the Dutch East India Company in the third quarter of the century had proved all but disastrous to many magnates of the Spanish and Portuguese group, whose families had long been in the practice of investing their money in it, and now found their capital reduced by some 90 per cent. For the first time the finances of the community were in disorder; and at the period of national crisis the opportunity was seized by new men. The vast requirements of the British Treasury gave opportunities for the talents of two brothers, Benjamin and Abraham Goldsmid, members of the Dutch-Jewish family long established in England. 38 After having been in business in London as brokers for some years, the brothers began in 1792 to bid for government business, impinging on what had previously been regarded as the prerogative of a group of old-established banking firms, who had formed a ring to keep down prices. After one or two successful issues they took their place among the principal loan contractors in the City of London, handling a majority of the government issues. Their acumen, if immensely profitable to themselves, was greatly to the public advantage. The placing of loans ceased to be a source of patronage: the unfair manipulations at the expense of the taxpayer ceased: the public henceforth had the best market-terms for their money; and the average rate of issue rose by at least three per cent, the Treasury benefiting by the difference. 39 The Goldsmids were thus the first Jews since the Middle Ages whose share in English financial history—at a period when finance was the life-blood of national existence—was of real significance. In the realm of charity they also played a distinguished part, both inside and outside the Jewish community. Benjamin committed suicide during a fit of insanity in 1808, and his brother on the failure of the government loan of 1810. By this time, however, Nathan Meyer Rothschild had begun his fabulous career in England, with foreign connexions so widespread and so faithful that he had an advantage over all his competitors, and sources of information so reliable that news of first importance often reached his ears before it came to the knowledge of the government. During the closing stages of the Napoleonic wars he was used for the transmission of subsidies abroad, and a masterpiece of organization made it possible for him to forward via Paris the bullion required for the payment of Wellington's forces in the Peninsula. Jewish capitalists had occasionally been useful to the government; now, for the first and probably the only time, they proved themselves irreplaceable. It was Rothschild (who had been attempting to keep up prices on the Exchange by extensive buying, in the face of an incredulous and falling market) who brought the news of Waterloo to the anxious Prime Minister. With the restoration of peace, a new era began.