Between Assembly and Crown

The Debate Over Jewish Taxation in Jamaica (1692–1740)

In: Journal of Early American History

This article explores the issue of discriminatory taxation against colonial Jamaican Jews and the trans-Atlantic Jewish lobby. Based on colonial correspondences, this article makes two main arguments. First, Collective Jewish taxation was debated in colonial correspondences to a far greater extent than its actual financial significance, as it became an issue symbolic of the growing rift between the Jamaican Assembly and the Board of Trade/Crown. Second, while Caribbean Jewish communities are usually understood as satellite dependencies on the Western Sephardic metropoles of Amsterdam or London, placing the Jewish tax in local Jamaican context reveals that colonial Jews deferred to Europe to intercede on their behalf by necessity rather than default. When local circumstances favored the Jews they attempted to lobby against it themselves.

  • 5

    O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided, 109.

  • 6

    Jack P. Greene, “The Jamaica Privilege Controversy, 1764–66: An Episode in the Process of Constitutional Definition in the Early Modern British Empire” in Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville, va and London, u.k: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 350–393.

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  • 10

     See Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, A Nation Upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal’s Atlantic Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492–1640 (Oxford, u.k.: Oxford University Press, 2007).

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  • 15

    Leslie, A New and Exact Account of Jamaica, 279–280.

  • 19

     See Ronnie Perelis, “Daniel Israel López Laguna’s ‘Espejo fiel de Vidas’ and the Ghosts of Marrano Autobiography”, in The Jews in the Caribbean, 319–328.

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  • 22

    Faber, Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade, 58. Based on The North American and the West Indian Gazetteer (London, u.k.: G. Robinson, 1776), “Jamaica.”

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  • 24

    Fortunatus Judah, “The Jews’ Tribute in Jamaica,” 18.

  • 27

    Friedenwald, “Material for the History of the Jews in the British West Indies”, 88.

  • 43

    Fortunatus Judah, “The Jews’ Tribute in Jamaica”, 21.

  • 48

     See Lee B. Wilson, “A ‘Manifest Violation’ of Rights of Englishmen: Rights Talk and the Law of Property in Early Eighteenth-Century Jamaica”, Law and History Review 33, no. 3 (2015): 543–575.

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  • 51

    Cundall, The Governors of Jamaica in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century, 78.

  • 55

     See Cundall, The Governors of Jamaica in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century, 74–103.

  • 58

    Fortunatus Judah, “The Jews’ Tribute in Jamaica”, 22–23. See also, Cundall, The Governors of Jamaica in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century, 131.

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  • 61

     See Metcalf, Royal Government and Political Conflict in Jamaica, 47–55.

  • 63

    Fortunatus Judah, “The Jews’ Tribute in Jamaica”, 24.

  • 78

    Marcus, The Colonial American Jew 1, 108.

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