Giovanni Tarantino

PIMo Action Chair

Trade and Tolerance in Early Modern Europe

I Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle terre incognite australi, ed ai Regni delle Scimie, e de’ Cinocefali (The Travels of Henry Wanton to the Undiscovered Austral Regions and the Kingdom of the Apes and of the Cynocephali), the four-volume social critical novel by Zaccaria Seriman (1709–84), Venetian author from a prominent family of Armenian merchants, purports to tell the story of an intrepid young Englishman’s journey to two unmapped countries, which turn out to be inhabited by monkeys and cynocephali. When he describes how his youthful restlessness prompted him to give up a comfortable and privileged urban lifestyle for the discomfort and uncertainty of a formative journey to the East Indies, Enrico is quick to observe:

This intellectual deception of my Father was the source of all my misadventures, because, by always forcing me towards those things that were totally different to and contrary to my inclination, and refusing me the help necessary to acquire science, towards which my intelligence was directed, he made me cut a sorry figure in the world, and I remained lacking in those notions that could have allowed me to distinguish myself. … That by the reading of my vicissitudes those Fathers might learn … not to wish to condemn their sons to a life full of bitterness out of a proud obstinacy in wishing to inflict violence on their spirits.[Zaccaria Seriman], Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle Terre Incognite Australi, ed al Paese delle Scimie. Ne’ quali si spiegano il carattere, li costumi, le scienze, e la polizia di quegli straordinari abitanti. Tradotti da un manoscritto inglese, con figure in rame, tome I (Naples: Alessio Pellecchia, 1756), 2–3; translation and emphasis mine.

A similar instruction can be found in the Libro dell’arte della mercatura by Dalmatian ‘humanist merchant’ Benk Kotruljević (in the Italian text: Benedetto Cotrugli, in Latin documents Cotrullis, c.1410–69). Completed in 1458 at Castelserpico, near Avellino, while an epidemic was sweeping through the city of Naples, and first published in 1573, it details the qualities expected of a capable merchant. Such a person needed to display, from childhood, an aptitude for competition (so as to pursue profit ‘with honour and without offence to God or their neighbour’)The quotations from Cotrugli in English translation are taken from Benedetto Cotrugli: The Book of the Art of Trade, ed. Carlo Carraro and Giovanni Favero, trans. John Francis Phillimore (Palgrave 2017). The original Italian text is quoted from Vera Ribaudo’s 2016 edition (Edizioni Ca’ Foscari)., resilience in the face of toil and privation, and even a fine physique (but without excess, ‘whence the celebrated proverb “A strong man is the ruin of a household”’)Dicie l’usato proverbio: Homo forte, danno di casa. and fair appearance. He should also be born into a family of merchants since, ‘we can readily observe, there are many similarities of feature between a father and his son, passed on naturally in his seed, and the same thing holds for interior resemblance.’Come vedemo per virtù del seme naturale [presta] multa inpressione ne la figura et similitudine dal padre a figliuolo, così anche multo presta ne l’anima interiore. Cotrugli therefore recommends that one should not initiate into commerce those who do not have a natural aptitude for it or have an inclination for other activities, because, as Cicero commented in De Senectute, never did the giants risk the wrath of the gods so much as when they dared to contradict Nature:

For this reason we need to take particular care, when we are beginning to channel the dispositions of a son, or of some one else for whom we are responsible parentally or through some other blood relationship, when directing them towards the practice of trade, because if that son has a leaning elsewhere, or towards some activity under an opposing sign, he might well not prosper in that life, or would only get on with difficulty and remain stuck half way with small profit to himself and without reaching his objective, which should be to enrich himself honourably. In this sense, during the formative years of a young person whom we wish to direct towards such an employment, it is essential to ascertain in what direction he is inclined by nature. And discovering this inclination means, during his boyhood, which is free of moral corruption, understanding what occupation the child enjoys and how he usually spends his time. And he [sic] if he is lively by nature, well turned-out and of noble character, and not too fickle nor an idler, but rather aspires to acquire both honour and profit or victory in war, then we can say that he is suitable material for a career in trade, the goal of which is honourable enrichment. And when we identify such inclinations in our children or in others closely related to us, we must direct them towards the activities they are predisposed to, and not set ourselves to fight against nature thinking to get the better of her, because she can defeat any man however strong he be. For proof of this fact we have the example of the Titans who, so the poets tell us, trusting in their immense strength, sought to usurp the kingdom of the heavens from Jupiter, who struck them down and killed them, which myth Marcus Tullius Cicero interprets in his treatise On Old Age in which he says, among other things: ‘To take on the gods, as did the Titans, is nothing less than to set oneself against Nature.’Et però è de avere singulare riguardo nel principio del volgier uno suo figlio o d’altri, per governacion o affinità congionti, de volgierli ad tal exercicio mercantile, perché se fusse inclinato ad altro o da contrario exercicio, non prosperarebe per aventura over prociederebe con difficultà et rimarebbe a meça via et con poco proficto, et non consequirebbe el fine de lo desiderio suo, el qual è d’aquistare richeçe con honor. Et a questo bisognia ben considerare ne l’età puerile de la persona che tu voi volgiere ad simille exercicio a quel che l’è naturalmente inclinato. Et di haver noticia di tal inclinatione ell’è de havere singular consideracione ne l’età puerile, non dipravata, di che exercicii si dilecta et a che naturalmente transcore. E se l’è de natura vivo e bon aspecto, et egregia indole, e non sia tropo vario, né vagabundo, et pretenda adquisto o di honore o di utile o di vincere le pugne, allora posiamo arbitrare che siano acti a tal exercicio, dove lo fine è aquistare con honore. Et secondo che nui trovamo tal inclinatione in tal nostri, o figli o altramente actinenti, li dobian volgiere ad quel exercicio dove sono inclinati et non dobianno pigliare la contesa con la natura per volerla vincere et superare, ché la vincerebbe ogni gagliardo huomo. Et di questo habiam l’exemplo di giganti e quali, secundo le favole de poeti, confidandosi de la loro ismisurata forteça, volleno tòrre lo regno a Iove, dal qual furon fulminati et morti, como si prova per la interpretation che dà di simil favola il nostro Tullio in libro De senectute, dove dicie, intra l’altre, queste parole: ‘Nichil enim aliud est cum diis gigantum more belare quam nature repugnare.’

In the appendix to M. de la Créquinière’s early eighteenth-century Conformité des Coutumes des Indiens Orientaux avec celles des Juifs et des autres Peuples de l’Antiquité, we learn that

When one would see foreign countries without danger, and pretends to make such reflections upon his travels, as may serve him for rules all the rest of his life, he should begin with laying a solid foundation of religion, which nothing is able to shake; for when one travels without this precaution, thro’ many people of different religions, it grows so customary to hear people mention God, and the worship that is due to Him, after so many different ways, that is very dangerous, lest by this means he fall into a kind of indifference about religion, which borders upon deism: and upon this account, an able man in our time, viz. Mr Bruyere, has said, That commonly a man brings home from his voyages, much less of religion than he had before.I quote from the English translation printed in London for W. Davis in 1705 (at pp. 152–53), whose attribution to the ‘deist’ John Toland has been disputed. On La Créquinière see Joan-Pau Rubiés, ‘Comparing Cultures in the Early Modern World: Hierarchies, Genealogies and the Idea of European Modernity,’ in Regimes of Comparatism: Frameworks of Comparison in History, Religion and Anthropology, ed. Renaud Gagné, Simon Goldhill, and Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2019), 154–58.

An extensive section of Cotrugli’s treatise – for a long time considered rather reductively to be more of a humanistic dissertation in vernacular than a merchant’s handbook dealing with measures, commodities or taxes Benedetto Cotrugli’s work, written in Venetian dialect in 1458, predates the instructional manuals of Marino de Raphaeli (1475) and Luca Pacioli (1494) by 17 and 36 years respectively. However, it has always been regarded as lacking the kind of detail distinguishing an instructional manual on double-entry bookkeeping. The main reason for this view is that until 30 years ago, the analysis and translation of Cotrugli’s text was based exclusively on a chapter in the first printed edition of his book, Libro de Larte dela Mercatura (Book of the Art of Trade), which was published in 1573, 115 years after the book was written. Although this chapter does discuss double-entry bookkeeping, there is little detail about how to actually go about it in practical terms. New evidence about this chapter came to light in 1990, when Ugo Tucci edited and produced an Italian translation of a manuscript copy of Cotrugli’s Art of Trade dated to 1484. It emerged that there were significant differences between the manuscript copy and the 1573 print edition. An even earlier manuscript copy of Cotrugli’s book, from 1475, had in the meantime appeared in 1989 in a catalogue of medieval manuscripts prepared by Paul Oskar Kristeller, who had unearthed it in the National Library of Malta. In 2009, Janeković-Römer used the 1475 manuscript to prepare what has been described as ‘a diplomatic edition, and not moreover always an accurate one.’ In 2016, a critical edition by Vera Ribaudo based on the 1475 manuscript was published in Venice. In 2017, the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice published an English-language translation by John Francis Phillimore based on an Italian translation prepared by Ribaudo. For more on the reception of Cotrugli’s work, see Alan Sangster and Franco Rossi, ‘Benedetto Cotrugli on Double Entry Bookkeeping,’ De Computis, Revista Española de Historia de la Contabilidad 15, no. 2 (2018), 22–38 and Mario Infelise, ‘The Printed Editions of Benedetto Cotrugli’s Treaty,’ in Benedetto Cotrugli: The Book of the Art of Trade, 213–18. – was also devoted to the need for a conscious and intimate devotion to God (‘man must be eager and willing to embrace religion and learning’)L’huomo deve essere cupido et appetente de religione et sapiencia. and the Christian precepts befitting a merchant, which he should cultivate and bear witness to in his daily life: study (‘merchants … do not bother to discover what is necessary to their salvation’);Li mercanti … non curano di sapere quello che l’ e necessario ala salute loro. attentive and penitent participation in the eucharistic liturgy; assiduous, discreet and contrite prayer (‘it should be accompanied by tears’);Lacrimosa and the giving away in charity of what is superfluous to requirements, first of all to relatives in a state of need (‘And remember that charity should work outwards, as Augustine says in Book 1 of De Doctrina Christiana, in this way, favouring our nearest relations before strangers’).La limosina si deve dare, come dicie Agostino in libro primo De doctrina christiana, in questo modo, … imprima ad quelli li quali sono a noi più congionti che li extranei. It should however be noted that Cotrugli, though drawing heavily on scholastic authors (including the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, the Summa de Poenitentia of Raymond Penyaforte, William of Rennes, Hostiensis and Antonine of Florence), unexpectedly stressed the incompetence of clerics when it came to trade, essentially delegitimating any attempt they might make to interfere with the timing and utility of commercial transactions, deferred payments, debt transfers and the inexorable replacement of metal coinage with a much more mobile and remunerative paper equivalent. As for certain unrealistic opinions held by theologians on matters of trade and financial movements, Cotrugli writes that they speak as the blind do of colours (‘tamquam cecus de coloribis’).
Impulses such as enmity and amity coursed through much of early modern society, forming a ‘cyclical rather than linear’ relationship. Associating with people who wilfully affirmed a ‘false’ creed generated feelings of guilt that were deflected and appeased psychologically with periodic outbreaks of prejudice and violence. After the Great Lisbon Earthquake, for example, surviving members of the northern European merchant community resident in the city found themselves watching their backs in fear, because ‘the superstitious populace had put into their heads that this sad destiny had been visited on them because of the heretics.’Quoted in Jean-Paul Poirier, ‘The 1755 Lisbon Disaster, the Earthquake that Shook Europe,’
European Review 14, no. 2 (2006): 169–80, at p. 171.
However, in actual fact, the building up of trade relations, transactional practices and forms of deferred payment that presupposed the ‘good faith’ of sellers and buyers-debtors, a mutual trust based on notions of honour and reputation, generally contributed to a practice of plurality.See Alexandra Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500-1700 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006) and Giovanni Tarantino, ‘Religion and Spirituality,’ in A Cultural History of the Emotions in the Baroque and Enlightenment Age (1600–1780), ed. Katie Barclay, David Lemmings, and Claire Walker (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), 35–51. Cotrugli, who was himself an international merchant long accustomed to mingling with people of different geographical, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, describes a scenario in which a merchant might find himself in far-off lands, perhaps dealing with Turks or Tartars or Moors, without money – this having been used up on unforeseen travel costs – and with a pressing need, for reasons of economy, to purchase large quantities of goods. In such a situation one would on the one hand have to trust that the seller, whatever his religious persuasion or confessional affiliation, would not fob him off with poor-quality goods (he complains that for credit sale a lot of merchants designate items which no one normally wants to buy and end up occupying space in their fondaci); and at the same time the merchant would need to reassure the other party that he is a good payer. Above all, the good faith of the seller-creditor also consists in not profiting from the difficult economic situation of the debtor (‘if you are in a condition of being able to help him, extend his credit and get him back on his feet, this will be a thing well done’) Et se bisogna posérlo aiutar et darli credito et rimeterlo a cavalo, farai bene. to the extent that credit appears to be an act of caritas.See Marcin Buala, ‘“Il suo credito e la salvation tua”. Good Faith in vendere al termine according to Benko Kotruljević (Benedetto Cotrugli),’ in La fiducia secondo i linguaggi del potere, ed. Paolo Prodi (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2007), 131–42. Deferred payments (‘al termine’) are therefore necessary for the vitality, success and even the humanisation of trade, and require not a shared religious faith but civic ‘good faith.’ This is based on the reputation built up in well-established business relations, or alternatively involves gauging, with a careful and experienced eye, the trustworthiness of the faces, gestures and expressions of parties one has only just met (‘And it cannot be doubted that you will rarely find a well-proportioned man with well-balanced limbs whose inner self does not correspond to his outer aspect’). Sença fallo raro trovarai homini ben proporcionati et equal disposicione che non corrisponda l’ intrinseco con quello di fuori.

And we will add, about what we said in the preceding chapter, that selling on credit came about from the lack of immediately available cash, is certainly true; none the less, this kind of transaction has turned out to be so useful, necessary even, to merchants that little would be concluded, or is concluded, without it. In addition, all dealings between merchants would close down and the art of trade come to an end, to the destruction of private property and the public weal; indeed the ruin of all the families in the city would surely follow, in so far as without this facility there would be no commercial voyaging among the Turks or the Tartars or the Moors, nor among the more distant barbarians, peoples who supply us with merchandise not otherwise available to Christian folk, with consequent loss of profit.Et circa questo passo, diciamo che ’l presuposito fato di sopra, che ’l vendere al termine sia inducto per lo mancamento de pecunia numerata, è cierto et vero, nientedimeno è procieduto in tanta utilità e necessità di mercanti che ne li tempi nostri niente si farebbe, né eziamdio se fa, sença questo modo del vendere al termene; et oltra questo si torrebe via ogni commercio tra mercanti et annularebesi l’arte col disfacimento de le re familiari et de le publice, ançi ne seguirebe totalmente la ruina di tucte le case private et de le cità publice, però che intra le altre cose sença questo meço non si potrebe navigare né tra Thurchi né tra Tartari, Mori, né barbari, donde tute le mercanthie che si tragono de le predicte gente sarebono spente apresso a’ populi christiani e niuna utilità si prenderebe.

Moreover, Cotrugli observes, merchants, who enable goods to circulate and enhance the well-being of their communities, live off their work. Generally, they do not possess the kind of liquid funds boasted of only by the rich, who are little inclined to risk their lives, assets and comforts in perilous commercial endeavours:

And apart from this spread of general benefits, there are the greater and more specific ones earned by those who have had the enterprise to buy on credit and provide a living for the above-mentioned categories and take home themselves an honourable profit. And all this only comes about because rich men who have ready money at their disposal are not given to travelling far from home or exposing themselves and their wealth to the uncertainties of the sea, and furthermore, in line with their social standing, are happy to avoid physical effort. Et ultra tucte queste utilita generali, ne perviene utilita particulare e grande a colloro che con la idustria (sic!) del comprare al termene pascono tucte le predicte gente et con honore dele persone loro portano guadagno ala casa. Le quali cose non seguirebeno, perche li richi che anno dinari contanti comunemente non costumano di partresi dala patria loro a metersi al periculo del navicare con la substancia et con le persone loro et ancora perche volentieri secundo costume di richi schifano l’ afanno dele persone.

Indeed, one should be wary of becoming entangled in business dealings with those social categories which, though at the top of the pyramid in the structuring networks of power and in the distribution of wealth, are not used to spending their money in the economic way and therefore appear to lack the ‘good faith’ so essential for regulating trade and containing potential conflict:

Here is an exhortation not to repose one’s confidence in nobles, priests and friars, students, scholars, soldiers, as they are not used to dealing with money and will not reimburse the payment.Guarda non credere a signori, preti, frati, scolari, doctori, giente d’arme, per essere loro fuori d’ogni consuetudine di manegiar denari et per consequens pagare ad altri; et di sua natura la pecunia è bochon ghioto et, come l’àve, l’uomo che non è uso ad spenderla li dà tanta suavità a l’animo che non la può gitar da sé et per consequens non la sa pagare.

More generally, when entering into contracts one should be suspicious of friends, always use the services of expert brokers (sensali) and prepare public documents whose perlocutionary functions are recognisable to the contracting parties even when they are expressed in culturally specific forms:

When you consign your merchandise, have a clear contract drawn up, in the form of a public document, that is, one protected by the legal safeguards in force in the place where you are signing. Because contracts are drawn up in different ways in different places, in accordance with local usage. And for every transaction be in the habit of involving a broker, because this is a worthwhile precaution; and even if he needs to play no active role, give him something to countersign the contract, for this will be money well spent, ensuring that there are no errors or improprieties in the document. And the more the other party is a friend of yours, the more you should take care, because. as the common proverb goes: ‘with an enemy one covenant, four with a friend.’Dando la tua roba, faci fare lo contracto chiaro, cioè con scriptura publica, overo quela cautela che se costuma in quella patria dove sè, perché li contracti se costumano variamente, in diversi lochi, secundo le consuetudine de le patrie. Et sempre costuma in ogni cosa fare intravenire lo sensale, perché l’è bona cosa, et quando non intravenisse, donateli qualche cossa ch’el soscriva lo mercato, pertanto che sonno benedecti denari, che non vi può intravenire errore né scandalo. Et quanto l’è più tuo amico, ingiégnate d’esservi più cauto, perché se dicie, comune proverbio, ‘Cun inimico pacto et con amico quatro.’

Historians sensitive to the need to carefully examine the way in which cultural, economic and diplomatic interactions played out in concrete terms in the Mediterranean have demonstrated the fruitfulness of focusing research efforts on how various go-betweens (merchants, ransom agents, Jewish brokers, renegades, dragomans and spies) effectively crossed and blurred political, religious and linguistic boundaries and moulded a ‘practical cosmopolitanism’ defined as ‘the ability to adopt, adapt, and operate across two or more different cultural codes or “vernaculars” simultaneously.’See Felicia Gottmann, ‘Commercial Cosmopolitanism? Transcultural Actors, Objects, Spaces, and Practices in the Early Modern World,’ in Commercial Cosmopolitanism? Cross-Cultural Objects, Spaces, and Institutions in the Early Modern World, ed. Felicia Gottmann (New York: Routledge, 2021), 1–20. Also see The Power of the Dispersed: Early Modern Global Travelers Beyond Integration, ed. Cornel Zwierlein (Brill, ‘Intersections,’ 77: Leiden, 2021). In an essay that takes a fresh look at the relationship between money, tolerance (as an attitude) and toleration (as a policy) and emphasises how Christian Judeophobic tropes persisted in the ars mercatoria, Francesca Trivellato points out that with the growing magnitude and influence of commerce in European politics and society, the religious faith, ethnic background and national affiliation of individual merchants came to be seen as less important than their solvency and trustworthiness, and that ‘ultimately, individuals’ quest for profit would overcome prejudice.’Francesca Trivellato, ‘Images and Self-Images of Sephardic Merchants in Early Modern Europe and the Mediterranean,’ in The Self-Perception of Early Modern Capitalists, ed. Margaret C. Jacob and Catherine Secretan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 49–74. Reference to the economic reasons for tolerance and their practical implementation in everyday life might seem a marginal and crudely pragmatic approach in comparison to loftier theories and invocations of the freedom of conscience and religious tolerance. Yet by no means rarely did they play a part as well; by preserving and building earthly interests and ignoring the inner anxieties of faith, it was possible to establish common ground across disparate cultures. Above all, it reflected a coeval and gradual secularisation and relativisation – albeit riddled with contradictions – of morality, with evident utilitarian outcomes. Anthony Collins (1676–1729), bibliophile and fervent anti-clerical freethinker, had no hesitation in arguing that when, in a mercantile and manufacturing nation, evangelic dictates were at odds with social utility, they should be rejected.Anthony Collins, A Discourse of Free-Thinking, Occasion’d by the Rise and Growth of a Sect Call’d Free-Thinkers (London, 1713), 12: ‘The Morality of the Holy Scripture is not to be precisely and distinctly understood, without an antecedent knowledg in Ethicks, or the Law of Nature. Who can without a knowledge in that Law understand wherein consist the duties of loving our enemys, of not caring for the morrow, of not having two coats, and all other dutys express’d in so universal a manner?’ And in 1675, William Penn, who went on to be an advisor to James II, described the difficulties and shortages arising from a policy of hard-line intolerance and never-ending religious conflict as follows:

Peace, Plenty and Safety, the three grand inducements to any Country to honour the Prince, and love the Government, and the best allurements to foreigners to trade with it, and transport themselves to it, are utterly lost by such intestine jars; for instead of peace, love and good neighbourhood, behold animosity and contest! … Plenty will be hereby exchanged for Poverty, by the destruction of many thousand families within this Realm, who are greatly instrumental for the carrying on the most Substantial Commerce therein, men of virtue, good contrivance, great industry, whose labours not only keep the parishes from the trouble & charge of maintaining them and theirs, but help to maintain the poor, and are great contributors to the Kings revenue by their traffick: This very severity will make more bankrupts in the Kingdom of England in 7 years than have been in it upon all other accounts in 7 ages; which consequence, how far it may consist with the credit & interest of the Government, I leave to better judgments. William Penn, England’s Present Interest Discover’d with Honour to the Prince, and Safety to the People ([London], 1675), 42. Also see J. R. Jones, The Restored Monarchy 1660–1688 (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1979), 7–8: ‘The gradual, grudging and partial acceptance of religious toleration (finally put into statutory form in 1689) is another example of the demotion of religion from its previously dominant position. … Although for us intellectual arguments for toleration seem to be indisputably superior, its ultimate establishment was due primarily to political calculation and to a spread of religious indifferentism.’

By suggesting that Prato merchant and banker Francesco di Marco Datini (1335–1410) earnestly pleaded for the restitution of property (including books) to Hispanic Jewish converts forced to pursue a relatively safe exile in Pisa, the ‘Jewish documents’ reproduced in this volume (docs 1–3) show how merchants not infrequently performed supplementary, or perhaps alternative, functions with respect to official diplomatic channels, and were not averse to assisting in the redemption, mobility and integration of people fleeing religionis causa. The Protestant Reformation was notoriously the harbinger of very large movements of people, ideas and writings, and merchant ships often became vessels of subversive paper in motion. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the Iberian Inquisition tightened up its surveillance of ships bound for the territories of the Spanish Empire. Both Spanish and Portuguese institutions were involved in clamping down on heretical contamination, a practice that continued until well after the end of the Union of the Crowns. The reports written by officials from the Holy Office following the inspection of foreign-owned vessels entering the port of Lisbon (Livros para as visitas das naus) contain information about the vessels’ port of origin and cargo, the number, nationality and religion of all crew and passengers, and any books or papers on board. This inquisitorial documentation offers interesting insight into seafarers’ trading practices and how they connected spaces and cultures. And equally significantly, as Benedetta Crivelli has recently pointed out, it also emerges that the inspectors themselves were anxious not to hinder the flow of trade.Maria Fusaro et al., ‘Entrepreneurs at Sea: Trading Practices, Legal Opportunities and Early Modern Globalization,’ The International Journal of Maritime History 28, no. 4 (2016), 774–86.

Many years later, in 1740, John (or Jean) Coustos, a naturalised British citizen of Swiss birth, and son of a Huguenot exile from Guienne possibly with Jewish ancestors, moved to Lisbon. He was a diamond cutter by trade, and sought permission to go to Brazil, where diamonds had been discovered in 1729. His request was turned down by the Portuguese authorities, but he decided to stay on in Lisbon anyway. He set up a masonic lodge there, and was elected worshipful master, but on 14 March 1743 he was handed over to the Inquisition because masonic lodges were deemed to supersede confessional and social barriers. Although he was tortured nine times in the following two months, he did not reveal the secrets of the craft, and was sentenced to four years in a galley. As he was a British subject, the British minister in Lisbon intervened on his behalf, and in October 1744 he was freed on condition that he left Portugal. He arrived back in England on 15 December, and subsequently wrote an account of his experience, possibly in French. Translated into English by John Lockman with the title The Sufferings of John Coustos for Freemasonry and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon, it was published in 1746, the same year in which he died at the age of 43.John F. Shaftesley, ‘Jews in English Freemasonry in the 18th and 19th Centuries,’ Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC) 92 (1979): 25–63; Wallace E. McLeod, ‘More Light of John Coustos,’ AQC 95 (1982): 117–19; Giuseppe Marcocci and José Pedro Paiva, História da Inquisição Portuguesa (1536–1821) (Lisbon: A Esfera dos Livros, 2013), 299–300.

In December 1745, the Bibliothèque raisonnée des ouvrages des savans de l’Europe, a literary periodical published in Amsterdam between 1728 and 1753 with the declared aim of providing an anonymous platform for publicly criticising intolerant rulers and religious zealots, reported the publication of the memoirs of the ‘first martyr of freemasonry’ as one of the ‘Nouvelles litteraires de Londres.’ One of the editors of the Bibliothèque raisonnée was Jean Rousset de Missy (1686–1762), a prolific Huguenot journalist who helped to set up organised Dutch freemasonry and whose first publication had been a French translation of Collins’s Discourse of Freethinking (1714). Rousset’s father had spent time in jail for Protestantism, and Rousset himself was hotly and implacably opposed to absolutism throughout his life. This can be seen in his revolutionary stance and activities during the 1747 upheavals in the Netherlands. His writings advocated a mix of pantheism and reformist politics, and he strongly supported European freemasonry. Margaret Jacob has advanced the fascinating conjecture that the acronym ‘L.T.V.I.L.R.D.M.’ used by the editor of the (probably original) French version of Coustos’s memoirs conceals his name: ‘R.D.M.’Margaret C. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 232, n20. McLeod (‘John Coustos: His Lodges and His Book,’ 147) notes that the first German edition (1755 or 1756) amends L.T.V.I. to L.T.V.F. (le très vénérable frère?).

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Dutch Republic was Europe’s cultural and intellectual clearing house, and home to a well-established and very competitive publishing industry and book trade (paper in motion!). This partly explains why the Dutch, especially the Huguenot refugees, played such a prominent role in the international transmission of knowledge and ideas. Coustos’s memoirs, a colourful account (in the English translation) of the fortitude he displayed in withstanding his examiners, whose ferocity is barely masked by the legalism of inquisitorial procedures, might have served two purposes. On the one hand, it may have furthered the anti-Jacobite cause by playing on the deep-rooted fears and the xenophobia of the English mobs (the adjective most commonly applied to Catholics was ‘outlandish’). On the other, it may have spoken to like-minded intellectual elites across Europe, helping to promote a new, syncretistic and cosmopolitan religious vision rooted in Huguenot mercantile culture, in which ritual practice was less important than morality, and the terror of the Fathers was opposed by the benevolence of the Brothers.See Giovanni Tarantino, ‘The Mysteries of Popery Unveiled: Affective Language in John Coustos’ and Anthony Gavín’s Accounts of the Inquisition,’ in Spaces for Feeling: Emotions and Sociabilities in Britain, 1650–1850, ed. Susan Broomhall (London: Routledge, 2015), 35–51.
But let us conclude with Benedetto Cotrugli’s telling words about the merchant’s last years:

After so many hours put in on projects, white nights, trafficking, book-keeping, drawing up contracts, travelling by sea and by land, quarrelling, sweating, flattering, trusting, finally, after so much worry and immense labour of mind and body, it is good that he rest. He wanted money: he has it; good name: he has it; possessions: he has them; he has married off his sons and daughters, he has made his pile, fathered and reared children, he has seen them learn his trade, he is fifty or sixty years old: what more does he want? … Never let yourself be idle, praying, writing, dictating, reading, engaging in manual activities; be active always, and your life will be prolonged in tranquillity, peace of body and mind; speak sparingly with men of the world, and live thus until Almighty God close your earthly eyes and lead you to eternal life. … This is the life the blessed live, like that of the saints, which alone allows us to serve God and philosophy: happy the man that reaches this point! Be content with having enough to eat and to wear and nourish your soul on virtue; do your best in this life to hone your intelligence, enter into a dialogue with men who have written on the good things of the universe.Et dopoi di tanti orlogii, disegni, vigilie, trafichi, scrictitare, contracti, navegare per mare et per terra, alterchare, sudare, lusingare, contare, et infine, dopoi tante solecitudini et fatiche immense di mente et di corpo, ch’el se repossi. Egli à voluto denari, e n’à, credito, e n’à, possessioni, e n’à, maritato figli et figlie, acumulato, fato et alevato li figlioli, ne l’arte sua vedeli amaistrati, et ha l o lx anni: che vòi di più? … [E]t non star mai ocioso, orando, scrivendo, dictando, legiendo, operando manualmente, sempre in fare, et cusì dure la vita tua in quiete, in pacie de la anima et de lo corpo, et multo poco conversa con omeni mundani, et così finché l’Altissimo Dio ti chiuda li ochi corporali et conduca in vita eterna. … Questa è la vita che fano li homini beati et equali a’ sancti, la quale sola ne fa servire a Dio et a la philosophia: felicie chi quivi arriva! Consiste in solo victo et vestito et nutrica l’anima ne le virtù, vigila questa vitain fare acuto l’ingegnio, conversa con li homini li qualli hanno scripto ciò che contiene di virtù l’universo.