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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/226

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

them to loan out their money without interest. On account of the general lack of ready money in a time when the supply of gold and silver metal was continually decreasing, and a currency to take their place had not been devised, everybody from the highest to the lowest came very frequently to a pass where they must borrow money; and since trade in money was strictly forbidden to the Christians, and could only be carried on by them when veiled under other forms of business or in roundabout ways, the Jews, who were excluded from other branches of industry and positions in life, entered upon it. An industrious people the Jews have ever been. As long as they formed a state of their own, their principal occupations were agriculture, horticulture, and the trades. In their hands Palestine had become one of the best cultivated and most fruitful lands of the earth. The Mosaic legislation was intended to encourage the improvement of the soil, and to further the cultivation of grain, wine, and oil. Further, in the first centuries after Christ, and after the destruction of the Jewish state, the people remained faithful to their old customs. Josephus, in the beginning of the second century, still praises the industry of his countrymen in their trades and in agriculture.

There is no evidence to be found in the Roman literature and the laws of the emperors that the Jews had given themselves up to shrewd bargaining and small trading, or in general had become a commercial people. The numerous Jews that lived in Rome appear to have been poor. Further, the violent and extremely bloody risings of the Jews in Egypt and Cyrene, and on the islands (of the Mediterranean) indicate that they did not form a commercial population or one dealing in small wares, for such a class of people do not often take up arms. Even as late as the tenth century, they formed a stationary population in Spain, Southern France, and even in Germany. This condition, however, they could not maintain in face of the hostility of the Church and of the people, and moreover, after the rise of the Italian maritime and commercial cities with their merchant-fleets, they lost their hold upon the commerce between the West and the Orient. The concentration of trade in the guilds and the exclusion of the Jews from ordinary intercourse with Christians made it impossible for them to become artisans. Just as little could they live on agriculture, since they were almost everywhere forbidden to own land. Cardinal James, of Vitry, who knew the Orient well, observes in the year 1244, "Among the Mohammedans the Jews ply handicrafts, although it is only the lower and despised branches that they occupy themselves with, but among the Christians they live on the business of loaning money." The thought forces itself upon us, how great a benefit would have been conferred upon the world, Christian and Jewish alike, if a cardinal or a Pope at that time had reflected upon this contrast between the Jews under the Crescent and the Jews under the Cross, and had drawn from it the practical inferences that lie so near at hand.