Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 14: News from St. Eustatius

   In its 16 April 1781 issue, The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Advertiser, a Tory-themed newspaper published in British-occupied New York City, published a letter from the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, dated February 14, 1781.  The writer mentioned, “The Jews it is said will be banished.” 
   Rivington’s paper reported that around on Tuesday night, April 10, 1781, 500 prisoners arrived from St. Eustatius for detention in New York.  “The number of prisoners French, Spaniards, Americans and Dutch in this island, is said to amount to near 2000.”
   On February 3, 1781, British Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney led an invasion of the Dutch island of St. Eustatius.  Given that Rodney brought three regiments of troops, the Dutch garrison of sixty men surrendered.
   Historian Mordehay Arbell describes Rodney's administration of the island as "a reign of terror."  On February 13, Rodney summoned all Jewish adult males.  The admiral ordered the 101 men who appeared stripped of any property they carried.  Rodney dismissed the Jewish victims of his plunder--to arrange the sale of their remaining property.  Ultimately, Rodney sent 30 Jews to St. Kitts and another group to Antigua.
   It was with considerable justification that Jewish-Americans in Philadelphia mentioned in their 1783 petition to the Council of Censors of Pennsylvania "that the Jews of Charlestown [Charleston, South Carolina], New York, New-port and other posts, occupied by the British troops, have distinguishedly suffered for their attachment to the Revolution principles; and their brethren at St. Eustatius, for the same cause, experienced the most severe resentments of the British commanders."  
   For the compelling story, told in great detail and with great skill, please consult Mordehay Arbell, The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean: The Spanish-Portuguese Settlements in the Caribbean and the Guianas (Jerusalem, Israel: Gefen Publishing House, 2002), pages 183-184.
   For accounts of Jewish-Americans among the prisoners suffering in the British prison ship Nancy, off Savannah, Georgia, please visit the post "Sheftall's Messmates," about American Patriot Mordecai Sheftall, Sheftall's son, and Congregational minister Rev. Moses Allen.  
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