Thursday, September 06, 2007

A bill of exchange in its origin was an instrument by which a trade debt due in one place was transferred to another place

A reference to Marius' treatise on bills of exchange, published about 1670, or Beawes' Lex Mercatoria, published about 1740, shows that the law, or rather the practice, as to bills of exchange was even then fairly well defined. Comparing the practice of that time with the law as it now stands, it will be seen that it has been modified in some important respects. For the most part, where English law differs from French law, the latter is in strict accordance with the rules laid down by Beawes. The fact is that, when Beawes wrote, the law or practice of both nations on this subject was nearly uniform. But English law has gone on growing while French law has stood still.
A bill of exchange in its origin was an instrument by which a trade debt due in one place was transferred to another place. This theory French law rigidly keeps in view. In England bills have developed into a paper currency of perfect flexibility. In France a bill represents a trade transaction; in England it is merely an instrument of credit. English law affords full play to the system of accommodation paper; French law endeavours to stamp it out. A comparison of some of the main points of difference between English and French law will show how the two theories work. In England it is no longer necessary to express on a bill that value has been given for it, for the law raises a presumption to that effect. In France the nature of the consideration must be stated, and a false statement of value avoids the bill in the hands of all parties with notice. In England a bill may be drawn and payable in the same place. In France the place where a bill is drawn should be so far distant from the place where it is payable that there may be a possible rate of exchange between the two. This so called rule of distantia loci is said to be disregarded now in practice, but the code is unaltered. As French lawyers put it, a bill of exchange necessarily presupposes a contract of exchange. In England since 1765 a bill may be drawn payable to bearer, though formerly it was otherwise. In France it must be payable to order; if it were not so it is clear that the rule requiring the consideration to be truly stated would be a nullity.
In England a bill originally payable to order becomes payable to bearer when indorsed in blank. In France an indorsement in blank merely operates as a procuration. An indorsement, to operate as a negotiation, must be to order, and must state the consideration; in short, it must conform to the conditions of an original draft. In England, if a bill is dishonoured by non-acceptance, a right of action at once accrues to the holder. In France no cause of action arises unless the bill is again dishonoured at maturity; the holder in the meantime is only entitled to demand security from the drawer and indorsers. In England a sharp distinction is drawn between current and overdue bills. In France no such distinction is drawn. In England no protest is required in the case of the dishonour of an inland bill, notice of dishonour being sufficient. In France every dishonoured bill must be protested. Opinions may differ whether the English or the French system is better calculated to serve sound commerce and promote a healthy commercial morality. But an argument in favour of the English system may be derived from the fact that as the various continental codes are from time to time revised and re-enacted, they tend to depart from the French model and to approximate to the English rule. The effect upon English law of its codification has yet to be proved.
A common objection to codification in England is that it deprives the law of its elastic character. But when principles are once settled common law has very little elasticity. On the other hand no code is final. Modern parliaments legislate very freely, and it is a much simpler task to alter statute law than to alter common law. Moreover, legislation is cheaper than litigation. One consequence of the codification of the English law relating to bills is clear gain. Nearly all the British colonies have adopted the act, and where countries are so closely connected as England and her colonies, it is an obvious advantage that their mercantile transactions should be governed by one and the same law expressed in the same words.

Longings of the Conversos who supported Columbus may be to find a refuge for the Jews across the Atlantic

The most dramatic and best known of the voyages of exploration was, of course, the one made by Columbus in 1492. The journey was spectacular not only for its length and daring, but because it led to one of the biggest surprises in history - the discovery of America. All of the biographers of Columbus recognize this great feat, but many are rather reticent concerning the discoverer's early years and ancestry. Indeed, many scholars shrink from the possibility that yje great explorer may have had Jewish ancestors. There is however, little controversy that the epoch-making expedition was largely made possible by Jews, New Christians (i.e., Conversos ) and Marranos ( nominally Conversos who secretly retained their allegiance to Judaism). There were many of them.
In Lisbon, Columbus knew and consulted with Joseph Diego Mendes Vezinho ( 1450 - 1520 ), a Jewish scientist and cosmographer at the Portuguese court. Vezinho, who was later to convert to Christianity, headed a committee of savants and experts on nautical matters chosen to consider Columbus's proposed expedition of discovery. In his work for the Portuguese monarch, Vezinho had helped develop a new and improved astronomical calendar, star tables, and more efficient nautical instruments. Although Vezinho did not favor Columbus's plan, his work for establishing direction and location at sea would prove of inestimable value to the future discoverer of the New World.
Columbus also derived valuable information from Avraham Zacuto ( c. 1450 - 1515 ), a product of the "juderia" of Saragossa, who would be forced by the expulsion of Jews from Spain to flee to Portugal. While still a professor at the University of Salamanca, Zacuto had achieved fame as a scientist, mathematician, and inventor. He is credited with constructing the first metal astrolabe as well as the development of astronomical tables that gave the exact hours for the rising of the planets and fixed stars. His table of ephemeredes was translated into Latin by Vezinho and published under the titile 'Almanach Perpetuum'. This invaluable guide to navigation was used by Columbus on his voyage across the Atlantic. Zacuto met Columbus prior to his first voyage and endorsed the venture, but considered the expedition to be an extremely hazardous undertaking.Columbus's navigational skills also owed much to the inventiveness of a handful of Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages. Outstanding among the latter was Levi ben Gershon ( 1288 - 1344 ), Biblical commentator, mathematician, and astronomer. Levi was the inventor of the cross - staff, better known as "baculus Jacob" ( Jacob's staff ). This simple instrument enabled mariners to measure angular separation between two celestial bodies. Still another nautical instrument available to Columbus was the "quadrant Judaicus", the brainchild of Jacob ben Machir ibn Tibbon ( 1236 - 1307 )Indeed, virtually all the nautical aids used by Columbus were the products of Jewish minds. Many of the discoverer's maps, for example, were the creation of Jehudah Cresques ( c. 1360 -? ), at one time head of the National Academy of Palma on Majorca ( a center of Jewish cartography during the 14th century ). In the persecutions of 1391, Cresques was forced to convert to Christianity and was given a new name - Jayme Ribes. He entered the service of the king of Portugal and became the director of the School of Navigation at Sagres - the institution founded by Henry the Navigator that marked the beginning of the Age of Discovery.
In 1485, Columbus suddenly left Portugal for Spain. Almost immediately, he began a search for a sponsor for his proposed voyage of discovery. After several frustrating false starts, he appealed to a nobleman of Andalusia, Luis de Cerda, the count of Medici -Celi. De Credo's hospitality was legendary, and he took Columbus under his wing, sheltering the mariner for almost two years. The count also offered to outfit three ships for Columbus's contacts, Luis de Cerda recommended him to his cousin, Cardinal Pedro Ganzales de Mendoza, bishop of Toledo. The cardinal and the count were related through the same Jewish grandmother, and both men had been subjected to attacks because of their descent.
De Mendoza, in his capacity as chairman of a special commission that met to consider the merits of Columbus's plans, heartily endorsed the mariner's proposals. His cousin, Luis de Cerda, also continued to lobby on behalf of Columbus; he sent a strong letter to the Spanish monarchs urging them to reconsider their opposition to Columbus's proposals and, at the very least, to grant the mariner an audience. De Cerda's appeal yielded results, and in 1486, Columbus was granted a royal audience at Cordoba. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were not entirely convinced by Columbus's presentation but agreed to submit his project to a commission of scholars. To head the commission Isabella chose her confessor, Hernando de Talavera ( 1428 - 1507 ), prior of the Prado and later archbishop of Granada. Hernando de Talavera was the grandson of a Jewish woman and in his declining years, would be accused of being a Marrano and was brought before the Inquisition. Humiliated, and unable to counter the vicious proceedings of the court headed by Rodriquez Lucerno, the inquisitor of Cordoba, the proud Hernando would die of mortification.
Columbus himself suffered patiently for several years, as the so-called experts of the de Talavera commission debated endlessly the feasibility of his proposals ( they eventually rejected his plan.) It was during these early years of tribulation in Spain that Columbus gained the support of two highly placed and influential Jews - Abraham Senior and Isaac Abravanel. Senior ( 1412 - 1493 ), during the reign of Isabells's predecessor, King Henry 1V of Castile, had served as chief tax collector of the kingdom and was appointed by the monarch to head the Jewish community of Segovia. Along with a number of other influential Jews, Senior had played a key role in arranging the marriage of Isabella to Ferdinand of Aragon. Some years later, in the power struggle between Isabella and her brother, King Henry 1V, Senior, together with a few other notables, succeeded in convincing the commander of the fortress of Segovia to hand over the city to Isabella and her consort. This act opened the way for the unification of Castile and Aragon and, eventually all of Spain.
Once in power, the grateful Catholic monarchs rewarded Senior by appointing him "rab de la corte," i.e., court rabbi and supreme judge of the Jews of Castile. He also received a large pension and was exempted from the restrictions in dress that had been imposed on Spanish Jewry. In 1468, Senior was made treasurer general of the Hermanded, a semi- military organization formed for the maintenance of law and order. In addition, as factor general to the Spanish army, Senior played a major role in facilitating the conquest of Grenada, the last remaining stronghold of the Moors in Spain.
Tradition has it that Senior met Columbus at Malaga, at which time the future admiral outlined his plan to the Jewish courtier. Columbus was well aware that his proposed expedition would require large financial commitments and welcomed the promise of the support of Senior. Don Isaac ben Judah Abravanel ( 1437 - 1508 ) a close associate of Senior, was another supporter of Columbus at the Spanish court. Born in Lisbon, Isaac was a child prodigy. His many talents eventually attracted the attention of King Alfonso of Portugal, and he became the latter's advisor, as well as the kingdom's financial minister. However, Abravanel's life took an unexpected turn with the death of his royal patron. The new king suspected Abravanel of being involved in an insurrection against his regime led by the duke of Braganca. Abravanel, fearing for his life, fled to Spain (Toledo). When Ferdinand and Isabella learned of his presence in their realm, they invited him to join their court. Some time later, Senior enlisted his aid in tax farming the kingdom's revenues. Abravanel gradually amassed a great personal fortune and loaned enormous sums to the Catholic monarchs in their war against the Moors of Granada. Indeed, it was shortly after the fall of Malaga that Abravanel, in the company of his friend, Senior, met Columbus and was first exposed to the latter's plan for a voyage of discovery across the Atlantic. Although Abravanel favored the mariner's plan, his support would come to an abrupt halt following the issuance of the edict of expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492.
Abravanel, in spite of pressure from Ferdinand and Isabella to convert to Christianity, remained steadfast in his beliefs and immigrated to Naples. When theKingdom of Naples, in 1494, fell to King Charles V111 of France, Abravanel accompanied the deposed Neapolitan monarch, whom he had served as treasurer, into exile in Sicily. After the death of the former Neapolitan ruler, Abravanel moved to Corfu and, in 1496, returned to Naples. Some years later, at the urging of his son, Joseph, he settled in Venice, where he served as a diplomat for the republic until his death in 1508.
Abraham Senior, who had served the Catholic majesties so faithfully for many years, was at first given permission to leave Spain with whatever personal possessions he wished to take along with him. However, steady pressure was exerted by Isabella and Ferdinand for Senior to convert. The queen, in particular, threatened to impose further reprisals against the departing Jews, and Senior, too old and tired to fight any longer, accepted baptism and was allowed to remain in Spain. Taking the name Fernando Munez Coronel, he was further rewarded for his apostasy by being appointed "regidor of Segovia" (governor) and made a member of the royal council, as well as chief financial administrator to the crown prince. He died shortly afterwards in 1493.
Among Columbus's highly placed patrons was Luis de Santangel, a member of one of the wealthiest and influential families of Aragon. An ancestor, Azarias Chinillo, had converted to Christianity in the early years of the 15th century in the wake of the persecutions against the Jews led by the fanatical Dominican friar, Vincent Ferrer. Azarias would become bishop of Majorca. Luis de Santangel began his career as a tax farmer and courtier. A favorite of King Ferdinand, he was appointed in 1481 'escribano de racion', a kind of comptroller general, to the royal house of Aragon. He would also later hold the post of 'contador mayor' (paymaster general) for Castile. Although nominally New Christians, the Santangel family's attachment to Catholicism was at best lukewarm, and its members were among the early targets of the Inquisition. Indeed, a kinsman of Luis was accused of complicity in the murder of Pedro de Arbues, canon of the Cathedral of Saragossa and the heart and soul of the Inquisition in Aragon. The kinsman was also charged and condemned for being a secret Jew ( i.e., a Marrano .)
In July of 1491, Luis de Santangel was also accused of being a Marrano. King Ferdinand intervened on his behalf and managed to stop the Inquisition's proceedings.Luis de Santangel first met Columbus in 1486 and was greatly impressed by the latter's personality and plans for a voyage of discovery. When, some years later, word reached him that Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had once again rejected Columbus's project and had sent him on his way, Santangel immediately requested and received an audience with Her Majesty. With great eloquence, he pleaded for Columbus's voyage of discovery and prevailed upon the queen to have the mariner brought back to the court for further discussions. The queen agreed, and a bewildered Columbus was brought back to the court to once again present arguments for his proposed expedition of discovery.
Anticipating the royal couple's anxiety on how to finance a voyage across the Atlantic, Santangel reminded the monarchs that the Santa Hermandad, of which he was one of treasurers, had a large endowment that could be borrowed against. He also indicated to the Spanish rulers that he was willing to back the Columbus expedition with a considerable sum from his personal fortune. ( He would later also call upon his Converso friends to contribute toward the financing of the expedition.) The tax farmer also reminded Ferdinand and Isabella of an overlooked debt to the Crown. It seems that the community of Palos on the southern coast of Castile had been found guilty of smuggling, and a fine had been levied against it that had gone uncollected. The town owed the Crown three months of service and two caravels. Santangel's arguments proved to be the decisive factor in swaying the Spanish sovereigns to back Columbus's project. A grateful Columbus would not forget his benefactor. It was to Luis de Santangel that he addressed the famous letter announcing his discoveries. Indeed, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand would first hear of the successful undertaking from the lips of Santangel.
An identical letter was sent by Columbus to Gabriel Sanchez, one of the three influential New Christians that Luis de Santangel had gotten to help finance the explorer's initial voyage. grabriel Sanchez (d. 1505)was the high treasurer of the Kingdom of Aragon, and a member of a distinguished family of Conversos who traced their origins back to a Jew named Alazar Goluff of Saragossa. After the murder of the inquisitor Pedro de Arbues, three of the brothers of Gabriel Sanchez - Juan, Alfonso, and Guillen - were accused of having participated in the conspiracy to eliminate the Inquisitor. Juan managed to escape but was condemned to death in effigy. Alfonso, who was also accused of being a Marrano, managed to flee Aragon before the Inquisition could lay hands on him. The third brother, Guillen, was allowed by the Inquisition to repent. The father-in-law of Gabriel Sanchez, also implicated in the murder plot, was less fortunate than Guillen. He was charged with Judaizing and sentenced to death.
Grave charges were also brought against Gabriel Sanchez. He was accused of having participated in the conspiracy that led to the murder of Pedro de Arbues. Since the allegations could not be proved, and Sanchez continued to have the support of King Ferdinand, he was able to survive the efforts of the Inquisition to tar him as a heretic and backslider. As in the case of Luis de Santangel, Columbus regarded gariel Sanchez as one of his staunchest supporters. The letter the discoverer sent to Sanchez describing the findings of the first voyage to the New World was reproduced by the high treasurer, and a copy was forwarded to his brother, Juan, in Florence. The latter passed it on to his cousin Lenardo de Cosco, a Marrano, who translated it into Latin and had it published. Within a year, the Latin translation ran through nine editions, thus spreading the news of the New World throughout Europe.
Still another of Columbus's highly placed patrons was Alfonso de la Caballeria. He was the descendant of a Jewish family that had achieved prominence in Spain as early as the 13th century. During the course of the 15th century, a family schism occurred, and eight of the nine sons of the head of the household converted to Christianity. In the succeeding generations, many members of the family achieved fame and fortune in the service of the state and the Church. At the same time, by marriage, the de la Caballeria clan became closely allied with almost all the major Converso families in Spain.
Alfonso, like his father before him, started his career as a counselor at the court of Aragon and rose rapidly through the ranks of the bureaucracy. In the 1480's, he was appointed vice-chancellor of aragon. Nevertheless, in spite of his high office, he was not immune from investigation by the Inquisition. He was accused of having been involved in the Pedro de Arbues conspiracy. Allegations concerning other members of Alfonso's family, many of whom were suspected of being Marranos, were also introduced by the tribunal. Thus, Alfonso's father, Pedro, although long deceased, was described by one Inquisition witness as having posed as a Christian who frequently reverted in thoughts and deeds to his ancestral traditions. Still other members of the de la Caballeria clan were accused of still maintaining close ties with the synagogue and the Jewish community.
The judicial proceedings initiated by the Inquisition would drag on for 20 years. Finally, in 1501, the papacy confirmed Alfonso de la Caballeria's Catholic orthodoxy, and he was completely exonerated. However, the toll of the prolonged trail had been high. He was unable, for example, to prevent the Inquisition's exhumation of the bones of his grandmother, or his wife's appearance as a penitent in an 'auto-da-fe, or the burning of his brother Jaime in effigy.
Completing the list of powerful Conversos who rendered financial support to Columbus when it was most desperately needed, is that of Juan Cabrero, royal chamberlain of King Ferdinand. He was regarded as one of the king's most faithful and trusted retainers. Carero had fought at Fernando's side in the war against the Moors and was an intimate friend as well as advisor to the monarch. However, even this high-placed New Christian official's family could not escape the tentacles of the Inquisition. Juan's grandfather, Sancho de Patenoy, the grand treasurer of Aragon, was accused in the Arbues conspiracy and sentenced to death. Juan Cabrero, using all his influence at court, managed with great difficulty to have the verdict changed to life imprisonment.In addition to Luis de Santangel, Alfonso de la Caballeria, and Juan Sanchez, two other individuals merit attention as supporters of Columbus at the Spanish court. They are Marchioness de Moya, and Juan de Coloma. De Moya, a close friend and confidant of Queen Isabella, it is widely believed, was a member of a Marrano family. Although hard evidence is lacking, it is known that the marchioness associated with Marranos and Conversos and on several occasions, intervened to save such individuals, from the Inquisition.Juan de Coloma, a royal secretary, had a hand in drawing up the contract between Columbus and the Catholic monarchs. Although one of the few high officials of "Old Christian" stock involved with the initial expedition of Columbus, his wife was a New Christian - a member of the Caballeria family.
Columbus's connections with the Jews, New Christians, and Marranos, was not limited to court officials. There is the controversial matter that some of his shipmates were of Jewish stock. Five crew members are generally singled out for this distinction; Alonso de la Calle, a bursar, who eventually settled in Hispaniola and whose very name indicates that he was born in the Jewish quarter; Rodrigo de Sanchez of Segovia, who was related to Gabriel sanchez, the high treasurer of Aragon; Marco, the surgeon; Maestre Bernal of Tortosa, a physician who had been reconciled by the Inquisition in 1490, but was forced to witness his wife's death at the stake of an auto-da-fe, and Luis de Torres, the official interpreter of the expedition, who had been baptized a few days before the fleet sailed. Torres had been specifically appointed by Columbus as interpreter because he knew Hebrew, Chaldean and arabic.
This knowledge was expected to prove useful if the voyagers came across 'Asiatic" descendants of the Ten Last Tribes of Israel.Prior to his conversion, Luis de Torres had been employed as an interpreter by Juan Chacon, the governor of Murcia ( a province with a large Jewish population ). Since Columbus's first voyage coincided with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Luis's job with the governor was obviously over. There were no longer any Jews for whom he might have interpreted in their audience with the governor.
When Columbus discovered Cuba, he was convinced that he had found Marco Polo's Cinpangu (Japan). The "admiral", however, was puzzled that there were no silk clad sages, or palaces tiled with gold to be seen anywhere. Accordingly, he decided to dispatch an embassy into the interior of the island, where he believed the cities were located. Tolead the mission, he chose Luis de Torres. The interpreter was given a Latin passport, which he was to present to the chief of the natives ("the Great Khan"), as well as gifts. He also carried letters of credence from Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. An able-bodied seaman named Rodrigo de Jerez was chosen to accompany Torres. Two native Arawak Indian guides rounded out the embassy.
The mission into the island's interior proved disappointing to Columbus, for the group found nothing resembling an imperial city, or gold. However, Torres did bring back a fairly comprehensive report of the native people he and Rodrigo had encountered, their customs and manners, as well as a description of some of the island's fauna and flora.
Among the wonders that Torres had noted was a strange practice of the natives to put thin rolls of dried leaves ( tobacco) into their nostrils or mouths, lighting them, and blowing out smoke.Although Luis de Torres's linguistic skills proved useless in carrying out his mission, the resourceful interpreter, not understanding the Amerindian dialect, fell back upon sign language to carry out his instructions. Torres would later seek permission to settle in Cuba as a royal agent. His request was granted with an annual pension from the Crown. By cultivating his friendship with the native ruler of the island, Torres would, in time, aquire large tracts of land and carve out for himself a small empire. He was the first European to visit the inhabitants of the New World in their native setting, and the first to describe their life before it was corrupted by contact with the white man.
Scholars have long squabbled over the question as to why high-placed New Christians and Jews were willing to take on the enormous risk of financing Columbus's initial expedition. One possible explanation that has been suggested is that the discoverer and his patrons had a deep and ineradicable impulse to help their fellow Jews, or in the case of the Conversos such as Luis de Santangel, Alfonso de la Caballeria, and Juan Sanchez, their former co-religionists to whom they still felt linked. A biographer of Columbus, John Boyd Thatcher, putting it more succinctly, has written; "that the triumph of Columbus ---- was the triumph of the Converso Luis de Santangel, visionary and champion of the perennial lost cause of history --- the cause of the Jews." Other writers ( notably Salvador de Madariaga and Simon Wiesenthal) have speculated that the longings of the Conversos who supported Columbus may have run parallel to the dreams of the discoverer himself, namely, an obsessive dream to find a refuge for the Jews in the lands that he hoped to find across the Atlantic.
What ever the truth, it is a fact that many Marranos and Conversos listened to the tales emanating from the New World following Columbus's epic voyages and flocked to the lands that he had claimed for Iberia. They had board ships secretly, for officially they were strictly forbidden to set foot in the new territories. However, disregarding all the bans and harbor controls, they made their way across the ocean, where they hoped to make a new life.
Joseph Adler, an historian, is the author of 'The Herzl Paradox' and articles that have appeared in the Herzl Yearbook Sources:1 Amber, Jane Francis, Christopher Columbus's Jewish Roots.Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 19912 Baer, Yitzhak. A History of the Jews in Christian Spain.2 vols., Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America.19613 Birmingham, Stephen, The Grandees, New York: Harper & Row.19714 Burgos, Francisco Cantera, Abraham Zacuto, Madrid: M Aguilar.19355 Costa, Abel Fontoura da, L'Almanach Perpetuum de Abraham Zacuto:Congress International d'Histoire des Sciences.1936 pp 137-1466 Cohen, Martin A, Joseph Vezinho, Encyclopaedia Judaica vol.16.Jerusalem Keter Publishing House.1971 pp 81-827 Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, 5 vols. Philadelphia;The Jewish Publication Society of America.19568 Keller, Werner, Diaspora. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 19699 Lebeson, Anita L. Jewish Cartographers, A forgotten Chapter of Jewish history. History Judaica X1, 1949. pp 155/17410 Lebeson, Anita l. Pilgrim People. New York: Minerva Press 197511 Minkin, Jacob S. Abrabanel and the Expulsion of the Jews feom Spain: New York Berman's Jewish Book House. 193812 Morison, Samuel E. Portuguese Voyages to America in the Fifteenth Century. Cambridge: Harvard Univ.Press.194013 Morison, Samuel E. Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown Company.194214 Roth, Cecil. A History of the Marranos. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America. 193215 On the statement referring to the triumph of Luis de Santangel, see J Boyd Thatcher, Christopher Columbus, His Life, His Work, His Remains. vol.1 New York: GP Putnam's Sons.1903-04 p 45916 Simon Wiesenthal, Sails of Hope: The secret Mission of Columbus. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.1973
Published in Midstream - November 1998

Columbus' historic voyage was financed by wealthy and influential Jews

Bringing the world into focus through the lens of Scripture - (About Us) Home > Articles > 1996 > Bible Study > Topical > Was Columbus Jewish? Mysteries Behind Our History: PURSUE THIS TOPIC: RESOURCES The Kingdom of Blood The Feasts of Israel
Was Columbus Jewish? by Chuck Missler
On August 3, 1492, due to the Edict of Expulsion, all Jews were required to leave Spain. Boarding their vessels before midnight, and sailing one-half hour before sunrise, Columbus and his crew set out on his now-famous voyage.1
His historic voyage was financed by wealthy and influential Jews - many themselves converts - rather than a magnanimous King and Queen of Spain.
The source of Columbus' motivation was his Biblical view of scientific data as well as spiritual faith in the Scriptures.
A Second Homeland
Although their immigration into Europe technically started with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. and the Diaspora it initiated, Jews had already begun to settle on the Iberian (Spanish-Portuguese) Peninsula centuries before Christ.
From about the first century a.d. Spanish Jews, called Sephardim (from the Hebrew for the Iberian peninsula "Sepharad"), were pilgrimaging to Jerusalem. Paul even spoke of the need for missionary work among the Jews of Spain.2
After about 200 a.d., Spain became and remained a second Jewish homeland for well over a millennia. So deeply woven into the fabric of Spain are the Jews that neither history can be fully studied without considering the influence of the other.
Conversos and Marranos
The Jews in Spain became the target of pogroms and religious per-secution. Many were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism. These were known as Conversos, or converts.
Others, Marranos, feigned conversion, practicing Catholicism outwardly while remaining Jews inwardly. Marranos has two meanings in Spanish: "the damned" and "swine."
In response to a petition to Rome to introduce the Inquisition and find a final solution to their Jewish Problem, in 1487 Spain obtained a Papal Bull. The introduction of the Inquisition was motivated by the greed of King Ferdinand attempting to seize all the power and wealth in Spain. It was an instrument of avarice and political absolutism.3 Four years later tens of thousands of Jews, Marranos, and even Conversos were suffering under the Spanish Inquisition.
The Role of Islam
In the 8th century, Muslim armies from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula, fragmenting it into separate kingdoms known as the Spains. About 980 of these independent Spains began their Reconquista, War of Reconquest, against their Islamic invaders. The primary source of financing was trade with the Far East.
By the 1400s, the passages to the East were denied to the Christian West by the Muslims who controlled the main overland routes to the Orient. Bandits, desert heat and sand storms, as well as other hazards eventually made Europe's alternate overland routes too dangerous and expensive. A new route, by sea, was the challenge.
By the late 13th century, the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon had reconquered most of the Muslim-controlled territory. In 1479 the two kingdoms were united as a result of the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The last Muslim kingdom, Granada, was reconquered in 1492, which seems to have set the stage for the famous voyage. The Maritime Technology of 15th Century.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the educated of 15th century Europe held to the concept of a spherical earth.
Hebrew astronomers, like Abraham Zacuto, who the explorer Vasco Da Gama had consulted seeking a sea route to India around Africa, furnished the celestial time tables.
Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, whose mathematical system became the basis for modern trigonometry, had invented a quadrant known as Jacob's Staff. This angle- measuring de-vice was used by Columbus, Da Gama, and Ferdinand Ma-gellan, the first to circumnavigate the earth.
Abraham Ibn Esra, Jacob ben Machir, and Jacob Carsoni developed technical apparatus like the Astrolabe, used to determine the latitude and longitude of a position.
Cartography, the art and science of making maps and charts, was also an area of Jewish expertise in Europe. One such specialist was Abraham Cresques, known as "The Master of Maps and Compasses." Another was his son, Jehudah ben Cresques, who administered several schools of cartography, thus preparing for the "age of discovery" on their horizon.
It was a young mariner and cartographer who was to combine these factors into a radical plan to reach the East by sailing west across the Ocean-Sea: Christopher Columbus.
Family Background
Italy asserts that Cristoforo Colombo was born in Liguria of humble means. They claim his father, Domenico Colombo, was a tower sentinel in Genoa and later a weaver in Savona.4
Spain insists that Cristobal Colon was the son of Domingo Colon, a wool trader, and Susanna Fontanarossa, both of Pontevedra, Spain.
Other sources present the view that Columbus' family were Spaniards who lived in Italy but later returned to Spain, resuming their original family name of Colon.
Fifteenth century Portugal was Europe's dominant sea power, with Lisbon, its ocean-port capital, the center of navigational science and nautical speculation.
Arriving in Lisbon in 1476, Columbus engaged in cartography as well as working in his brother's book business. It was from the interchanges with scholars that Columbus crystallized his La Empresa de la Indies, his Enterprise of the Indies.
He felt predestined, chosen for a mission. His name, Christ-Topher ("Christ-bearer"), he felt was evidence of his destiny.
Columbus was more driven by prophecy than astronomy. He compiled a collection of Biblical passages in his Libro de las Profecias, Book of Prophecies: Proverbs 8:27, which speaks of the earth's surface as being curved; Isaiah 40:22, the spherical earth; and the ocean currents in Isaiah 43:16.5 He would later describe his discovery of the New World as "the fulfillment of what Isaiah prophesied," from Isaiah 24:15, "Isles beyond the sea," and Isaiah 60:9.6
He also would have at least suspected the existence of the American continent. In his personal library was the 1472 edition of Bibliothecae Historicae, written by Diodorus Siculus, a first century b.c. Greek historian who spoke of "a very great island many day's sailing from Africa."
Many Portuguese cartographers were aware of the "Isle of Seven Cities," Antlia, located in the Western Atlantic. Also, a passage by Roger Bacon, "the sea between the end of Spain on the west and the beginning of India on the east is navigable in a very few days if the wind is fav-orable," was cited by Columbus in a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1498 as one of the suggestions that had inspired his voyage in 1492.7
In 1483, Columbus' plan was rejected simply because they felt that the distance was too great.
In 1487, Columbus left Portugal for Spain, and in 1489 he gained an audience with Queen Isabella, and built his arguments on evangelistic aspects. She was so impressed theologically she submitted it to a special commission at the University of Salamanca, but in 1490 it was again rejected as the distance being too great.
However, the Queen assured Columbus that he could petition her again after the Reconquista was completed. When Granada, the last Muslim stronghold, fell in January of 1492, Columbus was summoned and the issue was reopened.
When asked what he required to complete his plan, Columbus, to ensure the well-being of his now impoverished family, included 10% of all treasure and trade resulting. The extent of his requirements, along with the cost of the war, made it impossible for Spain to underwrite the expedition.
Soon after Columbus was dismissed, three men, Juan Cabrero, Luis de Santangel, and Gabriel Sanchez approached the monarchs. Aside from their being Conversos, these were not ordinary Spaniards. Santangel was a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Spain, as well as the King's personal advisor. Juan Cabrero was Ferdinand's intimate friend who had fought by the King against the Muslims. Gabriel Sanchez was the Chief Treasurer of Spain. They offered to finance Columbus' project and it was accepted.
Some scholars believe that Santangel and his associates were willing to finance Columbus in the hope of finding a new Promised Land to which they might emigrate and escape the pressure of the church.8
The Inquisition
Tomas de Torquemada was appointed inquisitor-general in the autumn of 1483, providing the Inquisition with a new impetus. In less than 12 years, the Inquisition condemned no less than 13,000 Marranos, men and women who had continued to practice Judaism in secret.9
They were tortured in La Casas Santa, the Holy Houses, and burned alive at the stake while their property was divided between the Pope and the King.
When Granada fell on January 2, 1492, the drive toward complete religious unity was reinforced. On March 31, 1492, the Edit of Expulsion was signed. The deadline for Jews to leave Spain was August 3, 1492, which was, ironically, the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'av) on the Jewish calendar, a day of fasting com-memorating the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem.10
Columbus and his crew boarded their vessels before midnight, and on the August 3rd sailed before sunrise.
Was Columbus Jewish?
Columbus employed peculiar dates and phrases unique to the Hebrew people. Instead of referring to the "destruction" or "fall of Jerusalem," he used the phrase "the destruction of the second house." He also employed the Hebrew reckoning of 68 a.d. instead of 70 a.d. A marginal note dated 1481 is immediately given its Hebrew equivalent of 5241, etc.
He boasted that he was related to King David, some of his letters were described as written in an "unknown script" (Hebrew?), and he is said to have used a unique triangular signature similar to inscriptions found on gravestones of ancient Jewish cemeteries in Spain and Southern France.
Was Columbus a Gentile or a Jew? Was he a Marrano or a Converso? Was he Cristoforo Colombo the Italian Catholic or Crist: bal Col: n the Spanish Jew?
In the final analysis, Columbus' ethnic background is not the important issue, but rather-as is ultimately true for each of us also-his spiritual condition.
The Word of God instructs us to "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things will be added unto us."11
In this regard Columbus wrote: "No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His service."
Just as a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses, so Columbus' greatness does not come from his discovery of America, but because of his relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. How are you doing in this regard?
Where do you stand?
For a remarkable account from the translation of Columbus' logs, and other uplifting background on the founding of our nation, be sure to read The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Fleming H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, NJ, 1977.
We are also deeply indebted to Tom Fontanes and his sources: M. Kayserling, Christopher Columbus and the Participation of the Jews in the Spanish and Portuguese Discoveries; Salvador de Madariaga, Christopher Columbus Being the Life of the Very Magnificent Lord - don Cristobal Colon; Gianni Granzotto, Christopher Columbus; Simon Wiesenthal, Sails of Hope: The Secret Mission of Christopher Columbus; Dr. Cecil Roth, Who Was Columbus?; as published in Countdown Magazine, 9/90. This article was originally published in the
August 1996 Personal Update NewsJournal.For a FREE 1-Year Subscription, click here.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 16, p. 670f.
Romans 15:24, 28.
See our Audio Book
The Kingdom of Blood.
Columbus was no Genoese patriot: He fought on the Portuguese side in the battle of Cape St. Vincent, August 13, 1476 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 16, p. 668).
This passage, along with Psalm 77:19, also encouraged Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) to pursue mapping "the pathways in the sea" and thus become the Father of Oceanography.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 16, p. 688.
Roger Bacon, Opus maius, iv, 4; copied in the Imago mundi (1480) by Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly, quoted in Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4, p. 1010.
A regathering prophesied in Jeremiah 23:3; 29:14; and 32:37.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 15, p. 242.
For a summary of Tisha B'av, see our Audio Book
The Feasts of Israel.
Matthew 6:33.

China has 5 million Catholics today

Patriotism and religion can go hand in hand By Wu Jiao
(China Daily) Updated: 2007-09-06 06:31
Liu Bainian was the youngest among more than 200 Catholic representatives to establish the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) in 1957. The priest from East China's Shandong Province, the birthplace of Confucius, was just 24 then. Today, half a century later, Liu is CCPA's vice-president and outspoken defender of the faith in China.
Talking to China Daily, Liu reflects upon Chinese Catholic society's past in a tone tuned with pious obedience for Christ and wisdom.
"Independent selection and ordination of bishops was the only right path for spreading the Gospel in China." Liu Bainian says. Catholicism had been used as "a tool of imperialism" before the founding of New China in 1949. When the People's Republic of China was established, most of the Chinese people welcomed the new social system, but the Vatican issued an order against socialist China.
"That order placed Catholics on the opposite side of the masses," Liu says. "Through solemn praying, the 241 Catholic representatives reached a consensus that to love one's country is an order from God. We should obey the local customs and social system if we want to spread the Gospel in any country. What's more, the new social system won the support of the masses. And it was further confirmed there was nothing wrong with patriotism."
Catholics in China, therefore, decided to cut economic and political ties with the Vatican, but they continued to follow the same religious beliefs as Catholics elsewhere in the world.
In 1958, China elected two bishops and submitted a report to the Vatican, saying: "The ordinations were for the sole benefit of Catholics in China." The Vatican, however, turned down the request, threatening to excommunicate those who had attended the consecrations.
"The Catholic church in China was shocked to get such a reply from the Vatican," Liu says, because the bishops had been elected to restore and develop the church as fast as possible. So, in order to safeguard the interest of Catholics in China, representatives of priests and believers from 23 provinces decided to ordain the bishops on their own, a practice that is still adhered to.
"The ordination was initially a result of special historical circumstances. Why shouldn't the Vatican consider our special situation?" According to the history of the Catholic Church, a bishop can be selected by believers, appointed by an emperor and consecrated by a neighboring diocese, says Liu. "The practice of the Pope installing a bishop began just about two centuries ago."
The Catholic Church has prospered in China because of its "long-term practice of selecting and ordaining its bishops and managing the churches independently. This is the arrangement of Christ."
China has 5 million Catholics today compared with 2.7 million in 1958, according to CCPA statistics. "The development of the Catholic Church in China in the past 20 years has been greater than that of the 300 years before," Liu said.
In 1980, China had only 33 bishops for its 97 dioceses, and that created a grave situation for the church - according to Catholic tradition, a diocese without a bishop means there is no church. The same year, a national congress of Catholics in China decided to continue selecting and ordaining bishops independently.
China has ordained more than 110 bishops since 1979. Liu says only about 100 of the 1,100 priests China had in 1980 are still alive. "But more than 1,800 young priests are serving in over 6,000 church areas as their successors now. All of them were installed in accordance with the principle (of 1958)."
Official statistics show that by late April this year, 40 of China's 97 dioceses were without bishops and more than 30 bishops were over 80 years old. "The old bishops have to rely on their assistants for diocese work because of their health condition," Liu says.
China has sent more than 200 priests overseas to gather better knowledge and get religious training, and about 100 of them have already returned home, he says. "Reality has proven that the bishops we have selected and ordained are qualified."
The main factor hindering smooth relations between Catholics in China and the Vatican is the appointment of bishops, Liu says. "Catholics in China want to select those with high theoretical achievements and with love for the country and the people, but the Vatican wants those who are opposed to the Communist Party."
Chinese priests should be pious and patriotic, otherwise "the Catholic Church in China will suffer." A Catholic Church in China that has no love for the country will by no means be a promising church, he says.
Priests and the faithful elected the bishops according to democratic election rules and after appraising their qualification. Their theoretical achievements were taken into consideration before the election process even started.
Liu lashes out at suggestions that China should wait to appoint its bishops till diplomatic relations are established with the Vatican. "Diplomatic factors should not be considered a precondition for religious affairs," he says. "We will be sinful before Christ if we don't spread the Gospel."
He reiterates that the Vatican should accept China's two terms if it wants to normalize ties.
"The Vatican must sever 'diplomatic relations' with Taiwan and stop interfering in China's internal affairs if it wants to normalize ties with Beijing."
Cautioning people against accepting the Vatican's opinions on China as the truth, he refers to an incident after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. After the Pope's death, the Catholic society in China and the government both sent letters of condolences to the Vatican.
Also, the government expressed its wish to send representatives to the funeral if there was no delegation from Taiwan.
"It could have been a turning point in bilateral relations," Liu says. But after the Chinese representatives had already booked their plane tickets, came the news that Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian, too, would attend the funeral.
"That shows explicitly that the fundamental reason for the difficult relations between China and the Vatican is the Vatican's objection to our socialist system," Liu says.
Criticizing the Vatican's interference in China's domestic affairs, he says: "As China's selection of bishops fits into relevant rules and follows the wishes of the Catholic society, why should the Vatican object blindly to our choices simply because they belong to the patriotic association?"
"If Catholics in other countries can follow their governments, it's reasonable for the Catholics in China to cooperate with their government. As a Catholic saying goes: 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," he concludes.

Sri Aurobindo has revealed to us the Secret of the Veda with more luminous rays reaching future generations

Homage to Sri Aurobindo on his 135th Birth Anniversary
Then came Sri Aurobindo on 15th August 1872 as a Renaissance of India, preceded by several great reformers and intellectuals to give a new impetus to this land of Karma Yoga. India got its independence from colonial rule on 15 August 1947, seventy-five years after the advent of our great Master's Tapasya .
India plunged into darkness and ignorance, its religions dominated by superstitions and vain rituals, politically powerless due to colonial rule, its industries abolished, its social fabric shrouded in ignorant factions of a narrow caste system and religious sub-divisions… this was India, the land of spirituality and dynamic action, the birth place of Maryada Purushottam Rama and the supreme statesman Shri Krishna, the home to Gautama Bhuddha and Adi Shankara, the land where great seers guided the polity of the kings, the land where a first dawn of earliest human civilization took place and fathomed the depths of great metaphysical truths, the land where the scientist and the philosopher, the artist and the warrior, were termed Rishis. This land was plunged for more than ten decades (from 8th to 16th century) in darkness and inaction. The great truth of the Vedas and Upanishads, the mighty action of the epic periods of Ramayana and Mahabharta were forgotten or misinterpreted. The spirit still did not die. It was protected and preserved by saints born among the common people: saints like Mirabhai , Tukaram , Chaitanya Prabhu strolling through the dusty rural areas and singing lyrics to the farmers and the craftsmen, at the same time repeating the truth of the Vedas and Upanishads expressed in a language that appealing to their spirit of Bhakthi Yoga. All those who came as conquerors, along with their diverse faiths, were absorbed into India's infinite stream of spirituality and remained part of the multi-dimensional values of the Dharma. For from the very beginning it was believed that the various faiths are only varied paths to reach the Godhead and this universe is an external manifestation of the same Divine force.
Political instability and decaying socio-economic conditions depleted the Rajasic energy of the Indian ethos resulting India's surrender to foreign domination for more than two hundred years (17th to 20th century). The people of this land on whom Goddess Saraswathi bestowed her special grace became illiterate and ignorant. Its craftsmen and farmers were poor and exploited by the feudal lords, its spirituality was reduced to meaningless religious rituals imposed upon by priests with vested interests. This was India while Europe had its Renaissance giving it a new birth from the "feudalized Europe by the old Graeco-Latin spirit and form with all the complex and momentous results which came"as Shri Aurobindo wrote in an article in Arya about the Renaissance of India. Indeed he is himself the Renaissance of India.
Tamasoma Jyothirgamaya - from darkness lead us towards light. The hour of God has to come. The ancient Rishis have again taken birth in renascent India among the middle class English-educated youth. Exposure to the rationalism of the West sowed the seeds of reasoning and kindled the fire to acquire knowledge in all domains.
It is these mighty souls who gave to India a new direction, recalled its ancient culture and ethos to be revived with a new spirit. Is it not an hour of God! Look at the number of great souls born during this period like lotuses in the mud amid the ignorance and impoverishment of India, look at those who kindled the hidden fire, and awakened a Rajasic spirit in the slumbering Indian mind until the entire nation reverberated with intellectual activity in all spheres.
Great souls like Shri Raja RamMohan Roy (Brahmasamaj) and Shri Dayananda Sarawathy (Arya Samaj) came into existence to reinterpret our scriptures and give a new direction and work towards weaving the broken threads in the socio-economic fabric of India. She again started thinking and acting. The great saint from Bengal, Shri Ramakrishna and the mighty intellect, Shri Vivekanda showed to the West and the entire world the deep universal truths of Vedanta. Art and industry drew inspiration and a new impetus. Bankim Chandra taught people to look at India not as one piece of land but as the Mother India. Along with this arose the ideas of Swadeshi or self-rule and complete independence. Sri Aurobindo after being educated in the West and fathoming the truth of the occidental philosophy, returned back home to reveal to us the truth of the Veda and Vedanta, the deep universal philosophy of the Upanishads, Darshanas and Bhagavad Gita. The children of the Renaissance in India drew their inspiration from the Karma Yoga of the Gita as imparted to the warrior Arjuna in the battle field of Kurushetra.
This spirit gave rise in its outward form to a strong political struggle to bring forth economic, political and social freedom to India. After preparing the ground and assuring himself that India's political freedom was a truth established and awaiting its realisation, Sri Aurobindo took up the work of preparing for the spiritual battle that India has to fight for humanity and the evolution of a new race of human beings. After involvement in external political activities for a short period, he withdrew from the external arena to provide the inner strength needed for action and to remind India of the true meaning of freedom, which has its roots in the Spirit.
At every juncture in Indian history higly inspired souls were born to bring back its original light with a new brightness. So it is with our great Master Sri Aurobindo. His vision was for humanity as a whole and his role in national movement was only a prelude to the greater work of transforming this earthly life into Life Divine. Every nation has something to contribute to the evolution of humanity. This great son of the renascent India revealed to the world the hidden spiritual knowledge and laid another milestone in the evolution of mankind. Sri Aurobindo has revealed to us the Secret of the Veda with more luminous rays reaching future generations, he has measured the fathomless depths of the metaphysical truths of the Upanishads and Vedanta, as Shri Krishna himself he has explained the message of Bhagavad Gita in his Essays on the Gita, and the entire nectar of Indian spirituality is packed into The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga opening doors to new evolutionary steps for mankind, the great mantric verses of Savitri, are powerful weapons for the conquest of Ignorance and Death - this is Sri Aurobindo our Master and Guru engulfing in himself, the entire essence of India's soul leading towards higher realms of spiritual research.
"The human mind in its progress marches from knowledge to knowledge or it renews or enlarges previous knowledge that has been obscured or overlaid or it seizes on old imperfect clues and is led by them to new discoveries" ( Sri Aurobindo )
To raise the world to God in deathless Light To bring God down to the world on earth we live To change the earthly life to Life Divine. ( Savitri, p. 392 )

Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya called for complete independence on 20 September, 1906

The forgotten national hero The Statesman - Kolkata, Thursday, 6 September 2007
In 1907, Bipin Chandra Pal wrote in his paper, New India : “It was this sturdy patriot, whose almost unaided exertion has brought the people of Bengal to a practically resistful attitude today. Of all men, it was he who imparted a militant character to our Swadeshi movement.” Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya, the man thus eulogised, contributed significantly to the nationalist movement.
The nature of this needs re-examination today as we proceed towards commemorating his 100th death anniversary. Upadhyaya made his Bengali daily, Sandhya into a popular newspaper, which drew the masses into the mainstream of the political movement. He lent the Bengal partition agitation of 1905 so much strength that its ultimate success may, with fairness, be traced back to him. He gave Indian nationalism a mass appeal that anticipated Gandhiji’s own move by decades. His fearlessness and selflessness were a tremendous inspiration to the nation.
On 20 September, 1906, Upadhyaya through Sandhya called for complete independence - “impossible at present. But nonetheless, that is the goal we should always keep before our eyes.” He was the first national leader to suggest this. Aurobindo Ghose had not yet entered politics, having arrived in Bengal only a month earlier. Upadhyaya became a symbol of the desire for Swaraj. The gulf between extremists and moderates widened since the Congress session at Benares in 1905. Upadhyaya took the initiative to invite Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Kharpade to Bengal and organise the Shivaji Festival.
In 1906, he opposed Surendranath Banerjea’s scheme for a dominion status and was instrumental in engineering the disengagement of the extremists from the moderates. The final split came at Surat in 1907. The extremists, with Tilak as their leader, now demanded full administrative control of the government. But Upadhyaya was not happy with this demand. Tilak’s Swaraj envisaged only administrative autonomy. In contrast, Sandhya declared in 1907: “We want complete independence. The country cannot prosper so long as the veriest shred of the feringhi’s supremacy over it is left.” There came into existence in Bengal many secret societies such as the Anusilan Samiti which preferred the cult of the bomb and the revolver. They needed a philosophy and Sandhya met this requirement. The extremists avidly read the stirring articles Upadhyaya wrote.
The agitation against the partition gathered strength from 7 August and reached its peak on 16 October, 1905. It had by then merged with the boycott and swadeshi movements. Gradually, it outgrew provincial limitations and broadened into Gandhiji’s national campaign for freedom. But its roots lay in the movement of Bengal and in such patriots as Upadhyaya, who first conceived its aims and methods. In August 1907, the premises of Sandhya were searched. In September and October of the same year two sedition cases were filed against the editor, manager and printer of the paper. One of the articles forming the subject matter of the prosecution was entitled Ekhane theke gechhi premer dai (now I am stuck on account of love) and this appeared in Sandhya on 13 August, 1907. Upadhyaya wrote:
“We have said over and over again that we are not swadeshi only so far as salt and sugar are concerned… What we want is the emancipation of India. Our aim is that India may be free, that the stranger may be driven from our homes, that the continuity of the learning, the civilisation and the system of the rishis may be preserved… O Mother! Let us be born again and again in India till your chains fall off. First, let the Mother be free, and then shall come our own release from the worldly bonds… O feringhi,… Our power is more than human. It is divine… We have all the advantages of the ancient greatness of India on our side. We are immortal… We hereby summon you to battle.”
Bail was granted to the accused, but they had to attend the court daily from the morning till evening and this weary waiting made Upadhyaya’s hernia worse and worse. The case was put off till after the Puja holidays, and so he could get himself admitted to what was then called Campbell Hospital. Upadhyaya was operated upon on 22 October. But post-operational complications set in, and on Sunday, 27 October, 1907, at 8.30 a.m., he died with the word by which he usually referred to Christ - Thakur - on his lips. Amid the pomp befitting a national hero, Upadhyaya’s body was cremated according to Hindu custom.
  • Why was Upadhyaya so soon forgotten?
  • Why was no attempt made to perpetuate his memory?
  • Why are India’s own historians so unaware of his contribution?

Tarachand, RC Majumdar and AR Desai talk about Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose, Surendranath Banerjea and Rabindranath Tagore. But the name of Upadhyaya is missing in their accounts. Pal himself had declared before independence: “The ideals of our present nationalism have been obtained from Upadhyaya Brahmabandhav to a very great extent. But it seems that people are forgetting about it. We are trying to keep alive the memory of so many people, but as regards Upadhyaya Brahmabandhav we did not have even a condolence meeting.”

Shyam Sunder Chakravarty wrote in The Bengalee on 26 October, 1924: “Upadhyaya Brahmabandhav is now an almost forgotten man. In his case we find a complete justification of the adage that the world knows very little of its greatest men”. Mohitlal Majumdar wrote in Bangadarshan in Magh 1355 (January-February, 1928): “That lion-man, the heart dedicated to the country, that sanyasi… Bengal has forgotten. They do not commemorate or remember him.”

What was the source of Upadhyaya’s courage and strength?

None other than his religio-cultural convictions. Since they represent a dynamic process of growth, it is a difficult task to pinpoint them. To begin Upadhyaya, originally Bhabani Charan Banerji, had been a disciple of Keshub Chunder Sen for some time. He was a friend of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. It was with him that Tagore founded Santiniketan. Upadhyaya came to know Jesus Christ through Sen and through his own uncle, Reverend Kalicharan Banerji. In 1891, he received baptism from an Anglican priest but, in the same year, he became a Roman Catholic. In 1894, he became a sanyasi and adopted the new name, which meant “friend of God”. From 1891 to 1901 God was his focus, God as experienced in Jesus and interpreted in terms of Hindu thought. His literary activities of this period included the editing of Sophia (January 1894 -March 1899), a Catholic monthly journal; Sophia (June 16, 1900 - December 8, 1900), a weekly; and The Twentieth Century (January 1901 - December 1901), a monthly. Because of total discouragement from the church authorities he almost stopped his theological writings in 1901. Upadhyaya then became fully engaged in the nationalist movement.

In November 1904 he brought out Sandhya (1904 - 1907) and in March 1907 Swaraj, a Bengali weekly. Upadhyaya’s religion was not sectarian but universal. He encouraged a dialogue for relational convergence of religions. Today, when India strives for communal harmony, Upadhyaya’s life can give at least useful pointers. If Hinduism and Christianity can be unified, as he demonstrated, there is no reason why the same cannot happen between Hinduism and Islam. His political commitment to his motherland again was total, for her complete liberation. He wanted us to be born again and again till Mother India’s chains fall off completely. Independence we got, but still is not our country, our Mother, in chains even today? Mother, give us some more Upadhyayas to fight for the total independence of our people today! (The writer is Professor of Religions at Bishop’s College, as well as Professor and Dean of Doctoral Programme of North India Institute of Post-Graduate Theological Studies, Kolkata. E.Mail: )

Shakespeare uses the Shylock character to critique the feudal system of feudal usury

Merchant of Venice: A Clash of Feudal, Banking, and Commercial Capitalisms David M. Boje, Ph.D.
Updated December 17, 2000; February 10, 2002; This was a presentation of the 1999 Academy of Management session, "Reclaiming Indigenous Knowledge."
The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare, 1597 is year play is said to be first performed) presents us with a model of Princely Leadership (Boje, 2000) that is relevant to today's Business student. To me this play is a critique applicable to today's global corporate model of financial capitalism, with the relocation of Third World sweat labor and resources to First World consumers and adventurer-investors, who stay-at-home, conveniently oblivious to what goes on. Shakespeare brilliantly demonstrates, what I call the Theatrics of Leadership through art, poetics and biting critique to portray a conflict between courtly (feudal) usurer's capitalism and bourgeois merchant (commercial and financial) capitalism, the triumph of the new forms of adventuring over the old in the 16th century.
I would like to apply Burke's (1945) Pentad (act, scene, agent, agency, & purpose) but make it a Hexad by adding from from his 1937 (Attitudes Toward History). See
Boje (2002a) for more on Hexad.
1. Act – What was done? Names what took place, in thought or deed (sequence of actions). There are many Machiavellian act.
2. Scene – When or where it was done? Background of the act, the situation in which it occurred; physical, geographic and cultural environment or setting in which the act or action takes place. Acts can dramatically affect scene and vice versa; scenes can motivate or influence characters to take action (e.g. crisis on a battlefield versus reunion after give different motivation or a more comic frame). I shall argue the scene is not Venice, but England, and Shakespeare is making a veiled critique of the slave trading in Africa and the Americas.
3. Agent - Who did it? What actor or kind of person (agent) performed the act? The Actor’s identity and role- played out in terms of the action. Non-human elements can be agents, e.g. the tornado tore up the town. I shall assert that Antonio is a Royal Merchant, a corporatist who symbolizes Capital, while Shylock symbolizes the banker who charges interest and who saves (hoards).
4. Agency – How it was done? The instruments (means) agents used; how characters initiate and accomplish action. Or characters can claim there are instruments, tools of those they report to in the chain of command. Antonio's tool is the entrepreneurial adventure, taking risks to win fortunes. Shylock's tool is charging interest and saving.
5. Purpose – Why? Intended effect or outcomes of the action. There are motives (often multiple and conflicting) for each character. There is also the purpose of the author, Shakespeare.
6. Frame - Burke (1937: iii) begins with defining how Frames are comprised of terms that are attitudinal, and frame is also a process. Frames center attention on some practical/critical factors but draw attention away from others that are ignored or marginalized. Frame is also a dialectic between "Frames of Acceptance" and "Frames of Rejection." A Frame of Acceptance has an over-emphasis on what is favorable, and an under-emphasis on any unfavorable consequences. A Frame of Rejection keeps the focus on the unfavorable, on for example the "culturally dispossessed" (Burke, 1937: 40-41).
Agents - There are two antagonists in the play, Antonio who earns his money through venture/merchant capitalism, and Shylock who earns his money like a banker, by lending it at interest. Antonio's capitalism is to make investments in two types of ventures (1) he is among the Renaissance merchant capitalists who finances trading ships that head for Africa and the Americas in search of slaves and gold; (2) Antonio bankrolls Bassanio in a risk-taking adventure to win the fortune of the beautiful Portia. Antonio is a rich and successful and prosperous Royal Merchant Adventurer: this is the definition of the Trading Corporation. Antonio has been out to ruin Shylock, who is Banker Capitalism personified.
SHYLOCK ... He lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice.
Antonio hates Shylock because, as we shall explore, Shylock is a mirror on the even more perverse ways that Antonio makes his money (slavery and colonial exploitation). Whereas Shylock charges high interest (35% was the going rate for loans), Antonio gains a 1,000 or more percent in interest from successful investments in slave-plantations in Africa and the Americas. To Shylock, Antonio is a slave trader and rapacious financier of conquests and genocide. And he hates to see this in the mirror Shylock holds up to Antonio's face. So Antonio, as the story goes, tricks Shylock into loaning him 3,000 Ducats for a strange contract. In this contract to not repay in three months gives Shylock the option to cut one pound of flesh from Antonio instead of the usual 35% interest fee (
see full text of Merchant of Venice play). Here is an example of the mirror Shylock holds up to Antonio. In this scene before the judge, Shylock speaks to Antonio:
SHYLOCK. What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?You have among you many a purchas'd slave,Which, fike your asses and your dogs and mules,You use in abject and in slavish parts,Because you bought them; shall I say to you'Let them be free, marry them to your heirs-Why sweat they under burdens?- let their bedsBe made as soft as yours, and let their palatesBe season'd with such viands'? You will answer'The slaves are ours.' So do I answer you:The pound of flesh which I demand of himIs dearly bought, 'tis mine, and I will have it.If you deny me, fie upon your law!There is no force in the decrees of Venice.I stand for judgment; answer; shall I have it?
More characters (agents) are explained below.
Agency - The agency of the play is the struggle of banker's investment capitalism with merchant's venture capitalism. Antonio symbolizes investment (capital) and Shylock symbolizes money lending (banking). And a third agency, the lady Portia symbolizes Fortuna (the goddess Lady Luck). Accumulation and hoarding to the financial or merchant capitalist (Antonio) is the ultimate sin (tragic flaw of character he sees in Shylock); For Antonio it is better to keep on betting and investing (in Fortuna) and moving factories and plantations to ever-cheaper places of labor-exploitation (colonial gold and slave trade). In this aspect, the play echoes the way the modern transnational capitalism game is being played today (not with slaves, but with the global search for cheapest labor, and appropriating one country's Natural resources as another's). The Merchant of Venice play is the story of the rise of modern bourgeoisie capitalism (Shylock's banker capitalism and Antonio's investment entrepreneurship) over the feudal condition of accumulation (becoming Renaissance); but the final act has yet to be staged on the stage of global capitalism. There is also much to be learned about leadership, in this case, the alienated leader who makes monetary wagers of high risk (risking ships at sea to make mega gains), instead of actually going on an adventure (Bassanio sails on adventures, Antonio is a stay at home risk-taker, risking money not his own body) . In sum, the three agencies are banker capitalism, merchant (venture) capitalism, and risks of fortune.
Scene - Scene is where and where and when the act takes place. My thesis (following Nerlich, 1987 a, b) is that this play is about England, not Venice. Shakespeare wants to keep his head and stages the play's scenes in Venice, so he is free to satirize England. I will defend this thesis by pointing out historical facts and circumstances of Shakespeare's day.
Purpose - Purpose is the intended effect or outcomes of the action by agents (actors) and agencies. Purpose answers the question Why? Shylock's purpose, for example, is revenge for the ways that Antonio has sought to ruin his lending business (e.g. giving away money at lower rates so as to force Shylock out of business). Shylock also believes Antonio hates the Jews. Nerlich (1987a, b) disputes this common interpretation. Rather, Nerlich argues that Antonio's motivation is his hate for investors such as Shylock that do not take bigger risks, and risk their fortune. Shylock hoards his accumulation, and has disdain for the free-spending extravagances of the society around him. For Antonio this is hoarding, whereas Antonio believes wealth needs to recirculate through investment and reinvestment in order to build an economy. Their respective purposes clash over Jessica (Shylock's daughter). Shylock insists his daughter be kept in doors to keep her away from the feasting and merrymaking of the Venetians. Antonio, by contrast, believes this to be a form of bondage and slavery, and uses the wealth gained from Shylock to set her free. Throughout the play Antonio enacts the most Machiavellian motives; his moves and actions are plots to set up, then ruin Shylock; to set up Portia, so her fortune can be split between Bassanio and himself; to overturn Feudalism, through the Renaissance rise bourgeoisie values .
Frames - Frames stretch and break. There are three competing frames in the play. The Feudal frame is being stretched to hold on a bit longer against the competing frame of modern capitalism. Renaissance is a transition in values, a transvaluation between Feudalism and Modern Capitalism. Usury, once abhorred by the feudal church, is now revalued as appropriate to the times. The casuistic stretch of the Church was a revaluation, its "anti-business fiction" became an embrace of the "organization of business" (Burke, 1937: 72). The Popes gave their revenues to the Italian bankers for investment (p. 72). A third frame is the merchant capitalism, risks of adventure to attain wealth through slave trade and resource accumulation from the colonies. The stretch by and old frame (Feudalism) hanging on to oppose an emergent frame (Merchant Capitalism and Usury Capitalism) is a casuistic one.
Four Frames - First the Tragic Frame - In the Tragic Frame the heroic agent (Antonio) and counter-agent (Shylock) are magnified as embodying the historical drama. Second, there is a Comic Frame, such as Lancelot Gabbo, who embodies the Knight Errant; an anti-hero caught in acts of "happy stupidity" snatching whatever mild pleasures are at hand (Carpe Diem). Third, the Grotesque Frame can be seen in the surrender in "ironic humility: to the misfortune that is all around (slavery, colonialism); defeatism and escapism are stressed as options. It is the Grotesque frame that Shylock holds up before Antonio (and the audience of spectators) to see. Fourth, in the Burlesque Frame of Feudalism, the serf is bound to the soil through duties and obligations; the daughter Jessica is bound to her house bond, until set free in Renaissance style by Antonio's gift. Shakespeare introduces a Burlesque ambivalence in property relations, redefining Jessica and Portia as properties.
The storyline: Antonio, a Royal stay-at-home merchant (commercial) capitalist loans 3,000 Ducats to his subcontractor, Bassanio to outfit ships and a voyage to conquer the fair, but more important, rich Portia in the utopia that is Belmont. This is a tale of the wheel of fortune, the capitalist gamble to win a game of chance; to choose gold, silver or a lead casket (but of course fortune shines on Bassanio and Portia gives him hints to the correct choice).
More about the Agents (actors) - I will next give some insight into each of the characters of this Theatrical drama (
For theory and background paper, see Boje & Luhman, 1999):
Antonio is an English merchant, a stay-at-home (want a be) adventurer in Venetian garb. He personifies faceless, indifferent, and alienated capital; capital that is separates producer, owner, and consumer. He is the Royal Merchant who finances others to take the adventure, to trade in East Indies, Africa, and America. This stay-at-home adventurer has a trade business to conduct through his agents, employees and apprentices. Antonio owns a Trading Corporation. He is without family, and is a ghostly character, representing, I think, the abstractness of capital. And this alienation explains his sadness:
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, and mine a sad one.
What stuff 'tis made of, where of it is born, I am to learn; and such a want - wit sadness makes of me that I have much ado to know myself.'
He invests in the overseas adventurers (the conquerors and slavers of other nations), converts his cash to commodity capital and in this play borrows money from the Shylock. Antonio leads a shadowy existence in the play. Antonio is in search of the risk of fortune, and reinvests the gold, silver and raw materials in his trading corporation on new adventures. The action heroic theme shifts to his junior partner, Bassanio, to employees like captains and sailor, who make the journey. Antonio personifies capital, the faceless, shadow, with no private and human life and no wife or children or family at all. Why does Shakespeare do this? I think it is to reveal how Antonio's social function in an English society (made to appear Italian to avoid the consequences of open critique of the crown). Antonio, as a financial capitalist has liquid assets.
ANTONIO Believe me, No. I thank my fortune for it. My ventures are not in one bottom trusted, nor to one place; not is my whole estate upon the fortune of this present year: therefore merchandise makes me not sad.
Again, we see that what makes Antonio sad is not his financial situation. Antonio is Mr. Finance, a successful CEO of a Trading Corporation, who subcontracts to those without wealth, to finance their adventure and risk. Rather, Antonio is sad because he is the enemy of feudal capitalism. Antonio is not just a merchant capitalist, he is a "Royal Merchant Adventurer" a Trading Company chartered by the Crown. Antonio is representative of 16th century modern commercial capitalism. And he politicizes against usurer capital (represented by Shylock). He certainly does not represent the church and only pretends to be pious when attacking Shylock. Antonio only lends money to adventure, for a share of profit. There is risk in adventure, as in the fact that Antonio's ships are reported sunk and his bond agreement falls due to Shylock. The usurer charges up to 35% to make the loan against Antonio's property. Antonio pretends he has no money to pay (but this turns out to be a trap that Portia sets for Shylock). David Nerlich makes three points:
Antonio is a merchant (or commercial) adventurer who can no longer go on adventure voyages; he stays at home and others he hires or partners with go on the adventure. Antonio is mourning his own lost youth in Bassanio, who can actually go on the voyages. Antonio is only alive through the vicarious voyeurism of Bassanio's exploits and adventures. Bassanio goes on high-risk adventure, financed by stay-at-home Antonio. Bassanio is in search of gold, silver, new sources of raw materials and new markets. Antonio, on the other hand, can be seen in today's Wall Street investor, the modern day adventurer whose risk is not defined by ship wreck, but by the risk of losing one's investment in the stock market. The point is that adventure itself has been redefined from one generation of capitalism to the next.
Antonio wants to ruin Shylock and with it feudal usurer's capital. Antonio could have got the money easily from other merchants. We learn that Antonio has been dumping loans to combat Shylock's usurer capital ventures. Antonio is taking on foreign capital loans from this old feudal lending system in order to bring it and Shylock to ruin. Shylock gloats when Antonio's ship sink, but does not realize that he is in the trap.
In sum, Antonio hates Shylock not because he is a Jew, but because he is part of Feudal oppression of financial capitalism, engages in the material and spiritual slavery of his daughter Jessica as well as the servant Launcelot, and most of all for charging interest rates on loans instead of gaining profit by the wheel-of-fortune of market forces. And we could add, for hoarding his wealth instead or circulating it in investments. Antonio desires to conquer feudal capitalism and liberate financial (commercial and merchant) capitalism from feudal enslavement. He conquers Shylock by trickery and by buying up and then dumping Shylock's loans.
Bassanio - takes out loans to go on his adventures. He is representative of the victorious bourgeoisie who conquer indigenous lands, returning profit to the empire. He has no capital. He borrows 3,000 ducats from Antonio to outfit a ship, sail to Belmont, and woo Portia. Portia is his adventure and enterprise. It is her profit he pursues, love is not his priority; this is an investment. If Antonio does not finance his junior partner, then he risks losing his investment to date. It is also a way for Antonio, as leader, to see how his junior partner will do in a small private matter, before trusting him in more turbulent matters. When the suitor from Morocco, chooses gold, it represents Spanish nobility and their conquest for gold and what it will then purchase. When Anragon chooses silver, it represents nobility who in a feudal-princely worldview, originates their authority by birth. But Bassanio chooses lead, "who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." here we have a symbolic representation of fortune (the wheel of fortune), and the new capitalism. Bassanio does not accumulate gold or silver as greedy ornament; he seeks to fortune through the recirculation of capital and the betting that comes from waging one's fortune on adventure. Bassanio is the adventurer.
Salanio, Salerio & Guatiano are brokers (untrading bretheran) who provide apprentices to Antonio, but have no capital of their own.
Launcelot Gabbo - note the implication of being a Knight (Launcelot), but this knight does not engage in adventure. This Launcelot is a mere servant to Shylock and is kept like a slave.

Shylock after the Trial
Shylock - Shylock is representative of the banker, someone who charges interest on loans or repossesses collateral. Following Nerlich, I contend that this play is about the transition in England (not Italy) from the early phases of capitalism (usurer's capital) to merchant's (adventure) capital. Shylock is a lender who says "repay 3,000 in 3 months or I cut out a pound of flesh." Usurers accumulate money in ways Antonio thinks hinder trade; the money is hoarded and used to increase the accumulation of possessions for Shylock. The point, I think, of Merchant of Venice is the libratory power of commercial capital. Human freedom is possible by investing one's capital in adventurers of fortune and gaining liberator (liberty) power. Feudalism, by contrast, makes human freedom impossible (the rich accumulate by charging excessive interest and do not recirculate their gains). In addition, Shylock keeps his servant on starvation rations, much the same way as today's Robber Barons (global corporate capitalists) keep Third World labor on poverty wages. Shylock even keeps his own daughter, Jessica, as an in-house prisoner, locked away from the world.
Many critics have assumed that Shakespeare is an Anti-Semitic, but my read is Shakespeare is writing about the clash of two forms of capitalism. Shakespeare does not appear to approve of Antonio's slimy pseudo-Christian polemics. There is ample text to argue neither Jew nor Christian is without prejudice. Shakespeare assaults the bourgeois illusions of utopia (Belmont) and the spiritual prejudice of his day. Shylock has the great lines. In response to Portia (who is pretending to be a lawyer):
PORTIA To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me. Hail a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted by bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew.
SHYLOCK What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?You have among you many a purchas'd slave,Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,You use in abject and in slavish parts,Because you bought them; shall I say to you'Let them be free, marry them to your heirs-Why sweat they under burdens?- let their bedsBe made as soft as yours, and let their palatesBe season'd with such viands'? You will answer'The slaves are ours.' So do I answer you:The pound of flesh which I demand of himIs dearly bought, 'tis mine, and I will have it.If you deny me, fie upon your law!There is no force in the decrees of Venice.I stand for judgment; answer; shall I have it?
Shakespeare uses the Shylock character to critique the feudal system of feudal usury and in a more radical move to severely criticize the methods of commercial capitalism (the stay-at-home, faceless, want-a-be adventurer who is a hypocrite, complaining of 35% bankers' interest as too high, when he is gaining a 1000 or more percent from investing in slave trade and human carnage). For example, Drake's voyage netted 4,700% profit. Shakespeare is holding up a mirror the the new world of commercial capitalism, and he sees many atrocities in the reflection. And what we see, is the critique of global capitalism, the alienation of capital when it separates investment, production in a foreign land, and consumption of goods by the rich nations whose consumers are able to deny all complicity in the sweat and burden, denying Third World the soft beds and plates of the First.
First, the concentration of capital by commercial trading companies goes against the ethic of fortune (to recirculate and risk capital). He describes that commercial traders engage in wolfish, bloody, starvation, and ravenous tactics in the West Indies, and Mexico (p. 159). "You have among you many purchased slaves" says Shylock, commenting on Antonio's form of capitalism. "The pound of flesh, which I demand of him, is deadly bought" (p. 160). This is further evidence that Shakespeare is not crafting an Anti-Semitism, but is doing a self-reflective critique of British commercial (or merchant) capitalism, as well as commenting on the transition from usurer capitalism to commercial capitalism (and their contest played out in the characters of his theatrics).
Second, Antonio is "a participant in this looting, enslavement, and murder" (p. 159). Commercial capitalism (what we call global capitalism today) shuts its eyes to the horror of slavery, exploitation, murder, and plunder" (p. 161). There is much indigenous enslavement, murder, and appropriation in Shakespeare's England. England makes fun of Spain's conquests of the New World, but engages in its own bloody adventures.
Finally, Shakespeare appears to disapprove of religious intolerance towards the Jews, and his play is a critique of all forms of religious fanaticism. Therefore this play is not about anti-Semitism, it is about the critique of leaders of global capitalism.
For example, about Shylock (Klein, 1998):
Quickly, the audience learns that he lends money because there are laws which prevent him from pursuing any other career. He resents that Antonio lends to his friends without charging interest, thus cutting into Shylock's market. When Bassanio requests a loan, Shylock clearly feels he at last has an upper hand in his dealings with Antonio. He takes full advantage of his edge, asking not for his standard fee, but rather for a pound of flesh should the debt not be repaid in three months' time. Since Antonio is sure his ships will return by then, he is not afraid to make the deal.
... the plight of Shylock is tragic by anyone's account. His controlled rage at the beginning of the play, fueled by a life of discrimination and isolation, gives way to a thirstful quest forrevenge. Indeed, the Jew appears as a complex character, molded by the lot life has given him, full of wrath born of mistreatment, spreading hate which spills from him without control. It is not difficult to understand how treatment by oppressors can beget anti-social, hateful behaviors. It is the stuff of many modern-day sociological studies of the ghettos.
Portia - Portia represents the Goddess Fortuna. She is the symbol of adventure for the adventurers who would win her fortune. She is also the ultimate symbol of the Goddess Fortuna; All of Antonio's ships are reported sunk (but fortune smiles on Antonio and they are all returned). A wheel of fortune is a machine of investment and risk (in this story the choice of gold, silver or lead casket). She is already a rich and beautiful heiress. Suitors are after her fortune, they want to win her money not her love. The beautiful Portia is prisoner to her dead father's bond, that she can only marry the man who solves the riddle of the three metal caskets. Portia and Jessica are both in bond to their father.
She returns to Venice disguised as a lawyer and tricks Shylock into taking the pound of flesh wager, providing that not one drop of blood is spilled in the transaction. She is well aware that the law of the time, is that if a Jew spills a drop of blood of a non-Jew then they forfeit all their estate. Portia returns secretly from Belmont disguised as a lawyer and says "pound of flesh. But do not spill one drop of blood." Since for a Jew to spill the blood of a Christian was a capital offense. And Shylock in this play ends up giving one half of his estate to the Venetian State (actual British, since Venetian is a metaphor to prevent Shakespeare from being tortured for his criticism). The other half of the Shylock estate goes to Antonio, who gives it to Jessica, Shylock's daughter, who is marrying a Christian, and being freed from paternalistic bondage. The point of Portia's character is the transition from feudal capitalism to merchant capitalism, from nobles and lords to bourgeois merchants and commercial investors in the adventures of fortune.
All is resolved in the ending of this play. Antonio's lost ships return, making him even richer than before. In the end, Antonio annihilates his enemy Shylock, just as commercial capitalism is triumphant over feudal capitalism. But, Shylock has given Antonio a black eye. Shakespeare knew what was going on in the colonies of the British Empire (the Italian empire was defunct by the time Shakespeare wrote this play). The Las Casa diaries of the Spanish conquest of the West Indies as an eye witness account of the lack of heroism of the Spaniards in their rape and pillage of the Americas was well known at the time Shakespeare wrote this play. And Shakespeare and the audience know that this play is not about Merchants of Venice it is about the Merchants of the British Empire who are behaving in like manner to the Spaniards. Christopher Columbus was not yet invented by the US as a hero; During Shakespeare's day, he was relatively unknown, just one more slave trader and mass murderer. Columbus as hero, was an invention of the US to have a national hero to celebrate, a fiction invented by Washington Irving, that departs from the greed for accumulating possessions (gold, slaves, and women) that was his avarice (See Yewell, Dodge & DeSirey, 1992).
During the time Shakespeare wrote Merchant of Venice, the treatment of indigenous people in plantation-colonies was brutal and bloody. The slave plantations set up exclusive export trade between the Third and the First World, between poor and rich countries. Mexico, Africa, and India were given over to plunder and depopulation, to genocide. Slaving was a growth industry for Shakespearean global capitalism, just was sweatshops are of today's global capitalism. Genocide of Native Americans was well underway in Shakespeare's time. It was justified to consumers and investors by the belief that since native tribes did not own the land, all territories were now open, and could be occupied by sedentary stay-at-home investors or by settlers. Genocide was also a way to rid the land of the indigenous, who did not provide higher levels of yield and productivity that the 1st World settlers could provide (in later analysis this productivity turns out to be mythic, i.e. free range farming and organic practices are more healthy and efficient than burning out the land so only with expensive chemicals high-yield crops can be grown.
And in the Information Age, we have computer manufacturers and software vendors who employ Net-Slaves, while hoarding their accumulation. And we see a market of sty-at-home investors who are defined as modern adventurer's but have never seen what does on inside the Third World or the Inner city sweatshops of the First World. The adventurers of today manipulate TV and Web screen symbols, substituting image and simulacra for first hand immersion into the world of sweatshop work; then engaging in Machiavellian denial that any sweatshops exist. And hiring Price Waterhouse Coopers to verify that some 6,000 overseas subcontract factories to corporate capitalism are model factories and not sweatshops at all. Meanwhile journalist and academic reports expose the illusion as a clever and deceptive lie that does Wag the Dog.
Implications for Theatrics of Leadership
Shakespeare is the premier leadership theory text far surpassing anything that has come from the science of leadership with all its surveys and gurus. We learn from Shakespeare that Antonio is the dark Prince, a false hero, who is formless, abstract, without family and alienated from real life adventure (Boje, 2000). This leader pretends to be a hero in a noble cause, to conquer feudalism and the repression of Shylock. But he is a hypocrite who is complaining about a 35% interest fee when he charges a 1000 percent. Shylock is the miser, the bureaucratic leader, who hoards his possessions. Portia is the superwoman, able to endure men waging for her riches, and able to reinvent herself as a lawyer and a man to pull the rug out from under Shylock. Bassanio is a middle manager, another dark prince, who conquers indigenous people appropriating their bodies and worldly resources. He is like the new MBA, in debt from investments in the marketplace, seeking the tutelage and finances of a master schemer.
References: Boje, D. M. (2002a). Beyond Pentad to Hexad.
Boje, D. M. (2000a)
Leadership in and Out of The Box: The Leadership of Princes, Heroes, Bureaucrats, and Supermen & Superwomen.
Boje, D. M. (2000b) "
Global Theatrics of Capitalism." Paper for the 2001 Academy of Management symposium on Theatrics, Washington D.C. August.
Klein, Judith (1998). '
Merchant of Venice' Entertains and Disturbs. The Jewish Journal Archive. Volume 23; Issue 4: October 16'98 - October 29'98.
Nerlich, M. (1987a). Ideology of Adventure: Studies in Modern Consciousness 1100-1750. Vol. 1. Trans. By Ruth Crowley. MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Nerlich, M. (1987b). Ideology of Adventure: Studies in Modern Consciousness 1100-1750. Vol. 2. Trans. By Ruth Crowley. MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Shakespeare - main web site (Also see full text of Merchant of Venice play).
Yewell, John, Dodge, Chris & DeSirey, Jan (1992) Confronting Columbus: An Anthology. NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers.
Photos For additional references consult Boje & Luhman, 1999