Imatges de pÓgina
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French by Alexander Silvayn, and Englished by L. P. [i. e. Lazarus Pilot.*] London, Printed by Adam Islip, 1596.-(This book is not mentioned by Ames.) See p. 401:

"DECLAMATION 95.

"Of a Jew, who would for his debt have a pound of the flesh of a Christian.

"A Jew, unto whom a Christian merchant ought nine hundred crownes, would have summoned him for the same in Turkie : the merchant, because he would not be discredited, promised to pay the said summe within the tearme of three months, and if he paid it not, he was bound to give him a pound of the flesh of his bodie. The tearme being past some fifteene daies, the Jew refused to take his money, and demaunded the pound of flesh : the ordinarie judge of that place appointed him to cut a just pound of the Christian's flesh, and if he cut more or lesse, then his own head should be smitten off: the Jew appealed from this sentence, unto the chiefe judge, saying:

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"Impossible is it to breake the credit of trafficke amongst men without great detriment of the commonwealth wherefore no man ought to bind himselfe unto such covenants which hee cannot or will not accomplish, for by that means should no man feare to be deceaved, and credit being maintained, every man might be assured of his owne; but since deceit hath taken place, never wonder if obligations are made more rigorous and strict then they were wont, seeing that although bonds are made never so strong, yet can no man be very certaine that he shall not be a loser. It seemeth at the first sight that it is a thing no less strange than cruel, to bind a man to pay a pound of the flesh of his bodie, for want of money: surely, in that it is a thing not usuall, it appeareth to be somewhat the more admirable, but there are divers others that are more cruell, which because they are in use seeme nothing terrible at all as to binde all the bodie unto a most lothsome prison, or unto an intolerable slaverie, where not only the whole bodie but also all the sences and spirits are tormented; the which is commonly practised, not only betwixt those which are either in sect or nation contrary, but also even amongst those that are of one sect and nation; yea amongst Christians it hath been seene that the son hath imprisoned the father for monie. Likewise in the Roman commonwealth, so famous for lawes and armes, it was lawful for debt to imprison, beat, and afflict with torment the free citizens: how manie of them (do you thinke) would have thought themselves happie, if

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* Lazarus Pyot, (not Pilot,) is Anthony Mundy. RITSON.

for a small debt they might have been excused with the paiment of a pounde of their flesh? who ought then to marvile if a Jew requireth so small a thing of a Christian, to discharge him of a good round summe? A man may aske why I would not rather take silver of this man, then his flesh: I might alleage many reasons; for I might say that none but my selfe can tell what the breach of his promise hath cost me, and what I have thereby paied for want of money unto my creditors, of that which I have lost in my credit: for the miserie of those men which esteem their reputation, is so great, that oftentimes they had rather endure any thing secretlie, than to have their discredit blazed abroad, because they would not be both shamed and harmed: neverthelesse, I doe freely confesse, that I had rather lose a pound of my flesh then my credit should be in any sort cracked: I might also say, that I have need of this flesh to cure a friend of mine of a certaine maladie, which is otherwise incurable; or that I would have it to terrifie thereby the Christians for ever abusing the Jews once more hereafter: but I will onlie say, that by his obligation he oweth it me. It is lawfull to kill a souldier if he come unto the warres but an hour too late; and also to hang a theefe though he steal never so little is it then such a great matter to cause such a one to pay a pound of his flesh, that hath broken his promise manie times, or that putteth another in danger to lose both credit and reputation, yea and it may be life, and al for griefe? were it not better for him to lose that I demand, then his soule, alreadie bound by his faith? Neither am I to take that which he oweth me, but he is to deliver it to me and especiallie because no man knoweth better than he where the same may be spared to the least hurt of his person; for I might take it in such place as hee might thereby happen to lose his life: Whatte matter were it then if I should cut off his privie members, supposing that the same would altogether weigh a just pound? or els his head, should I be suffered to cut it off, although it were with the danger of mine own life? I believe, I should not; because there were as little reason therein, as there could be in the amends whereunto I should be bound: or els if I would cut off his nose, his lips, his ears, and pull out his eies, to make them altogether a pound, should I be suffered ? surely I think not, because the obligation dooth not specifie that I ought either to choose, cut, or take the same, but that he ought to give me a pound of his flesh. Of every thing that is sold, he which delivereth the same is to make waight, and he which receiveth, taketh heed that it be just seeing then that neither obligation, custome, nor law doth bind me to cut, or weigh, much lesse unto the above mentioned satisfaction, I refuse it all, and require that the same which is due should be delivered unto me."

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"The Christian's Answere.

"It is no strange matter to here those dispute of equitie which are themselves most unjust; and such as have no faith at all, desirous that others should observe the same inviolable; the which were yet the more tolerable, if such men would be contented with reasonable things, or at least not altogether unreasonable : but what reason is there that one man should unto his own prejudice desire the hurt of another? as this Jew is content to lose nine hundred crownes to have a pound of my flesh; whereby is manifestely seene the ancient and cruel hate which he beareth not only unto Christians, but unto all others which are not of his sect; yea, even unto the Turkes, who overkindly doe suffer such vermine to dwell amongst them: seeing that this presumptuous wretch dare not onely doubt, but appeale from the judgement. of a good and just judge, and afterwards he would by sophisticall reasons prove that his abhomination is equitie. Trulie, I confesse that I have suffered fifteen daies of the tearme to passe; yet who can tell whether he or I is the cause thereof? as for me, I think that by secret meanes he hath caused the monie to be delaied, which from sundry places ought to have come unto me before the tearm which I promised unto him; otherwise, I would never have been so rash as to bind myselfe so strictly: but although he were not the cause of the fault, is it therefore said, that he ought to be so impudent as to go about to prove it no strange matter that he should be willing to be paied with man's flesh, which is a thing more natural for tigres, than men, the which also was never heard of? but this divell in shape of man, seeing me oppressed with necessitie, propounded this cursed obligation unto me. Whereas he alleageth the Romaines for an example, why doth he not as well tell on, how for that crueltie in afflicting debtors over grievously, the commonwealth was almost overthrowne, and that shortly after it was forbidden to imprison men any more for debt? To breake promise is, when a man sweareth or promiseth a thing, the which he hath no desire to performe, which yet upon an extreme necessity is somewhat excusable: as for me I have promised, and accomplished my promise, yet not so soon as I would; and although I knew the danger wherein I was to satisfie the crueltie of this mischievous man with the price of my flesh and blood, yet did I not flie away, but submitted my selfe unto the discretion of the judge who hath justly repressed his beastliness. Wherein then have I falsified my promise? is it in that I would not (like him) disobey the judgement of the judge? Behold I will present a part of my bodie unto him, that he may paie himselfe, according to the contents of the judgement: where is then my promise broken? But it is no marvaile if this race be so obstinat and cruell against us; for they do it of set purpose to offend our God whom they have crucified: and wherefore? Be

cause he was holie, as he is yet so reputed of this worthy Turkish nation. But what shall I say? Their own Bible is full of their rebellion against God, against their priests, judges and leaders. What did not the very patriarchs themselves, from whom they have their beginning? They sold their brother, and had it not been for one amongst them, they had slain him for verie envie. How many adulteries and abhominations were committed amongst them? How many murthers? Absalom did he not cause his brother to be murthered? Did he not persecute his father? Is it not for their iniquitie that God hath dispersed them, without leaving them one onlie foot of ground? If then, when they had newlie received their law from God, when they saw his wonderous works with their eies, and had yet their judges amongst them, they were so wicked, what may one hope of them now, when they have neither faith nor law, but their rapines and usuries? and that they believe they do a charitable work, when they do some great wrong unto one that is not a Jew? It may please you then, most righteous judge, to consider all these circumstances, having pittie of him who doth wholly submit himselfe upon your just clemencie: hoping thereby to be delivered from this monster's crueltie." FARMER.

Gregorio Leti, in his Life of Sixtus V. translated by Ellis Farneworth, 1754, has likewise this kind of story.

It was currently reported in Rome that Drake had taken and plundered S. Domingo in Hispaniola, and carried off an immense booty: this account came in a private letter to Paul Secchi, a very considerable merchant in the city, who had large concerns in those parts which he had insured. Upon the receiving this news he sent for the insurer Samson Ceneda, a Jew, and acquainted him with it. The Jew, whose interest it was to have such a report thought false, gave many reasons why it could not possibly be true: and at last worked himself up into such a passion, that he said, "I'll lay you a pound of my flesh that it is a lie."

Secchi, who was of a fiery hot temper, replied, "If you like it, I'll lay you a thousand crowns against a pound of your flesh that it is true." The Jew accepted the wager, and articles were immediately executed between them, the substance of which was, "That if Secchi won, he should himself cut the flesh with a sharp knife from whatever part of the Jew's body he pleased." Unfortunately for the Jew, the truth of the account was soon after confirmed, by other advices from the West-Indies, which threw him almost into distraction; especially when he was informed that Secchi had solemnly sworn he would compel him to the exact literal performance of his contract, and was determined to cut a pound of flesh from that part of his body which it is not necessary to mention. Upon this he went to the governor of Rome and begged he would interpose in the affair, and use his

authority to prevail with Secchi to accept of a thousand pistoles as an equivalent for the pound of flesh: but the governor not daring to take upon him to determine a case of so uncommon a nature, made a report of it to the pope, who sent for them both, and having heard the articles read, and informed himself perfectly of the whole affair from their own mouths, said, "When contracts are made, it is just they should be fulfilled, as we intend this shall. Take a knife, therefore, Secchi, and cut a pound of flesh from any part you please of the Jew's body. We would advise you, however, to be very careful; for if you cut but a scruple or grain more or less than your due, you shall certainly be hanged. Go, and bring hither a knife, and a pair of scales, and let it be done in our presence."

The merchant, at these words, began to tremble like an aspinleaf, and throwing himself at his holiness's feet, with tears in his eyes, protested, "It was far from his thoughts to insist upon the performance of the contract." And being asked by the pope what he demanded; answered, "Nothing, holy father, but your benediction, and that the articles may be torn in pieces." Then turning to the Jew, he asked him, "What he had to say, and whether he was content." The Jew answered, "That he thought himself extremely happy to come off at so easy a rate, and that he was perfectly content."-" But we are not content," replied Sixtus," nor is there sufficient satisfaction made to our laws. We desire to know what authority you have to lay such wagers? The subjects of princes are the property of the state, and have no right to dispose of their bodies, nor any part of them, without the express consent of their sovereigns.”

They were both immediately sent to prison, and the governor ordered to proceed against them with the utmost severity of the law, that others might be deterred by their example from laying any more such wagers.-[The governor interceding for them, and proposing a fine of a thousand crowns each, Sixtus ordered him to condemn them both to death, the Jew for selling his life, by consenting to have a pound of flesh cut from his body, which he said was direct suicide, and the merchant for premeditated murder, in making a contract with the other that he knew must be the occasion of his death.]

As Secchi was of a very good family, having many great friends and relations, and the Jew one of the most leading men in the synagogue, they both had recourse to petitions. Strong application was made to Cardinal Montalto, to intercede with his holiness at least to spare their lives. Sixtus, who did not really design to put them to death, but to deter others from such practices, at last consented to change the sentence into that of the galleys, with liberty to buy off that too, by paying each of them two thousand crowns, to be applied to the use of the hospital which he had lately founded, before they were released.

Life of Sixtus V. fol. b. vii. p. 293, &c. STEEVENS.

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