Front Page Titles (by Subject) II.: The Family of Abraham Ricardo - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
Return to Title Page for The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
II.: The Family of Abraham Ricardo - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany.
About Liberty Fund:
First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
Fair use statement:
The Family of Abraham Ricardo
The origins of the Ricardo family are somewhat befogged by the attempts made by nineteenth-century genealogists to present them as being of high rank and noble lineage. There is a legend that they were descended from a Spanish grandee of that name who lived in Andalusia in the sixteenth century, an offspring of whom in the middle of the seventeenth century married a Jewess and had five children, three of whom took the religion of their mother and went to settle in Holland. There is no evidence for this story, which cannot be traced back beyond a paper circulated among the family over the name of Isaac Da Costa, the Dutch poet, who was related to the Ricardos.2 The story probably arises from the fact that the Ricardos belonged to the body of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who, during the persecutions in those countries at the end of the fifteenth century, were forcibly converted to Christianity and remained there, possibly as Marranos or crypto-Jews.3 Subsequently, with the heightened rigour of the Inquisition, like many other Marranos, they emigrated and eventually came to Amsterdam. Apparently they were not yet there by 1675, for which year there is a complete list of the members of the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam (compiled on the occasion of the consecration of the Synagogue) and no Ricardos appear in this list.1 Professor Hollander accepts the view that on leaving the Iberian peninsula they first found a refuge in Livorno, settling there about 1660;2 but of this there is no confirmation in the records of the Jewish community of that city.3
Once they were abroad, and had reverted to Judaism, they must have adopted the additional family name of Israel, since it is as Israel Ricardo that they first appear in Amsterdam and afterwards in London;4 and not until Ricardo’s father had settled in London did the ‘Israel’ come to be dropped.5 Under the name of Israel Ricardo we find them established in Amsterdam early in the eighteenth century.
The first of them about whom something is known beyond the bare name and dates is Ricardo’s grandfather, Joseph Israel Ricardo, ‘of the Portuguese Jewish Nation’ in Amsterdam (as he describes himself in his will), who was a stockbroker and in that capacity took part in the drawing up of new rules for dealing in options on the Amsterdam Bourse in 1739.1 His interest in the English Funds must have been considerable since at his death in 1762 his executors found it necessary to prove his will and obtain administration of his estate in England. He was twice married; the first marriage being in 1721 to Hannah Israel, who died in 1725, the second in 1727 to Hannah Abaz, who survived till 1781.2 Of his second marriage four sons and two daughters were born. Three of his sons became stockbrokers. The eldest son, David, married and had five children (the youngest of whom, Rebecca, Ricardo knew in his boyhood in Amsterdam): he died in 1778.3 Two others were Samuel, who married Rachel Pereira, had several children and died in 1795, and Moses, who died unmarried. The youngest son was Abraham Israel Ricardo, the economist’s father.4 The date of his birth has been a matter of some doubt, since the registers of births of the Amsterdam Synagogue do not begin until 1736 and no entry concerning him is to be found from that date. A Dutch genealogy, however, which has already been referred to,5 gives 1750 as the year of birth—a date which is also adopted by Professor Hollander,1 but which can now be shown to be impossible (see below, note 7). It is strange that no attention has been paid to the statement in The Times2 and in the Gentleman’s Magazine,3 when announcing his death in 1812, that he died ‘in his eightieth year’—which establishes his date of birth as about 1733.
As the Memoir says,4 Abraham Ricardo, ‘a native of Holland, and of very respectable connections, came over on a visit to this country, when young, and preferring it to his own, became naturalised and settled here.’ The time of his coming to England is not definitely known, and this too has been the source of some confusion.5 However, certain entries have been discovered in the records of the Bevis Marks Synagogue,6 which establish that he must have settled in London in 1760 or shortly before. From these it appears that Abraham Israel Ricardo on 15 October of that year submitted himself to the Elders for assessment,7 which was provisionally fixed at £1 per annum at the Wardens’ meeting of 19 November 1760,8 pending the triennial assessment which took place early in 1761, when it was raised to £1. 6 s. 8 d. For the year 1764 the full list of assessments of the Congregation has been published9 and from this it is possible to get some idea of the economic position of Abraham Ricardo at the time as compared with the other members of the Jewish community. While the lowest assessment on any individual is 2s. 6d. and the highest £18. 15s., Abraham Ricardo is assessed at £2 and his future father-in-law, Abraham Delvalle, at £4. 16s. 8d.1
Abraham Ricardo, like his father, was a stockbroker in Amsterdam. The Dutch at the time possessed ‘great property’ in the English Funds, as Adam Smith says,2 and these formed a large proportion of the stock dealt in on the Amsterdam Bourse. During the Seven Years War (1756–1763) the neutrality of Holland enabled them to subscribe to the English war loans and thereby increase enormously their stake in the Funds.3 It was in the middle of this boom of Dutch investment in England, which reached its climax in 1763, that Abraham Ricardo travelled to London. His visit was no doubt in connection with dealings in the Funds, and when he settled in England his business continued for some time to be largely on behalf of correspondents in Holland. As the Memoir says, ‘his transactions lay chiefly in that country’; and this is confirmed by his being listed among ‘the more prominent Jewish dealers who worked in London for Amsterdam correspondents between 1720 and 1780’.1
The first appearance of Abraham Ricardo in the Stock Ledgers of any English Funds is on 27 February 1761, as a holder of the Four per cent Annuities of 1760.2 He was active on the Stock Exchange in London at an early date and is said ‘to have been a member for several years’ before 1772, when David was born.3 In the words of the Memoir he, ‘being a man of good natural abilities, and of the strictest honour and integrity, made a corresponding progress; acquiring a respectable fortune, and possessing considerable influence within the circle in which he moved.’4
In December 1770 Abraham Ricardo and six others, who, being aliens born and ‘professing the Jewish religion, have for some years past lived in Great Britain’, petitioned for Letters of Denization ‘for their greater encouragement to settle and trade here’. This was granted by Letters Patent of 1 June 1771.5 In 1773 he was appointed to one of the twelve brokerships reserved for Jews in the City of London, which he held until 1784 when he relinquished it and was apparently succeeded by his brother-in-law, Isaac Delvalle.6 Originally these brokerships were intended to be concerned with merchandise; but many of the ‘Jew Brokers’ during the eighteenth century became increasingly specialized in stockbroking: a matter which gave rise to unfavourable comment.7
He was co-opted at a meeting of 9 January 1799 as a member of the Committee for General Purposes of the Old Stock Exchange, but six months later by a letter of 4 July he declined reappointment. When on the reorganization of the Stock Exchange in 1801 a rule was introduced that all members or ‘subscribers’ must be ballotted for, the Committee resolved unanimously that an exception be made in favour of some twenty proprietors who ‘shall be admitted subscribers without being ballotted for’, and Abraham Ricardo was one of these privileged proprietors.1 There were no exceptions, however, to the rule that henceforward applications for membership should be renewed annually. The first application of Abraham Ricardo, dated 12 February 1802 (with his son Jacob as his clerk), is signed by himself in a tremulous hand; but thereafter, although he remained a member until his death in 1812, the annual application was signed on his behalf by one of his younger sons.2
Abraham Ricardo was also a prominent figure in the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in London. He was elected in 1781 to serve for one year as a ‘Parnas’, or Warden, of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, being re-elected at approximately four-yearly intervals on five further occasions, the last time in 1802.3 He also for many years acted as broker for the Synagogue, which in those days ‘were wont to leave a large sum in the hands of their agent to be advanced in properly covered loans in the Stock Exchange. Abraham Israel Ricardo carried out many transactions of this nature to the great satisfaction of his brethren, and nearly every year a vote of thanks was awarded to him by the elders,1 for the care and zeal which enabled him to hand over to them by no means contemptible profits.’2
Abraham Ricardo was married on 30 April 1769 to Abigail Delvalle; she was only sixteen years of age and some twenty years his junior. There is a story in the family that ‘he would not marry young as he did not wish to have a large family’.3 Yet the marriage resulted in an astonishing number of children: no less than seventeen (and possibly as many as twenty-three),4 of whom fifteen grew up—nine sons and six daughters. Of the sons, six eventually followed the family profession as stockbrokers.
For many years after his marriage Abraham Ricardo lived in the City with his growing family and conducted his business from the same address; this appears from the directories of the time, in which he is entered as a stockbroker,5 and from the City Rate Books.6 In 1792 the family moved to Bow, and home and office became separated. Thereafter the directory,7 which now describes him as ‘Merchant’, gives his business address as Garraway’s Coffee House in Change Alley. As regards the home, from 1792 to 1799 Abraham Ricardo is shown in the Bow Rate Books as paying house and land tax, but the addresses of the ratepayers are not recorded.1 Near the turn of the century the family left Bow and went to live at Stoke Newington, where Abraham Ricardo dates his will in 1802 and the first codicil to it in March 1807. Finally, at Michaelmas 1807 he moved to Canonbury Lane, Islington,2 and there remained for the rest of his life. His wife Abigail had died in October 18013 (at 48 years of age) after which he continued to live with his unmarried children, dying ‘in his eightieth year’ on 21 March 1812.
Abraham Ricardo was a man of considerable wealth, and at his death left a fortune which was valued for probate at £45,000. In his will4 he was at pains to see that no distinction was made between sons and daughters. There were fifteen surviving children, and to each of them with the exception of David (on whom see below, p. 37–8) he left a legacy of £3000 in South Sea Stock (then quoted at 65), or the equivalent,5 and an equal share in the residuary estate. The portion of the younger children was left in trust until they came of age or married; the annual allowance for the ‘maintenance, dress and education’ of each to be £80 up to 14 years of age and £90 thereafter. He left all household goods and furniture for the use and enjoyment of his unmarried children, ‘provided they live together’. At the same time, he directed that ‘the diamonds, jewels and paraphernalia’ of his ‘late dear wife’ should be sold immediately after his death.1 The family servants were also remembered in the will. First there was ‘my servant Jacob de Joel’ to whom he left a life annuity of £21, ‘being the amount of the annual wages I now pay to him’; this was independently of ‘whether he shall continue in the service of any of my family or not’, but if he did so continue, ‘the same to be considered and taken by him in lieu of wages’. (The annuity was reduced, however, from twenty guineas to ten by the codicil of 1807, ‘considering that he cannot require so much’.) Secondly, ‘my servant Mary Rundle’ was to receive a bequest of £10 if in his service at his death, and he recommended to his children ‘to take care of her the said Mary Rundle if it shall be in their power’. Finally, in the codicil of 1807 he left £5 to ‘William Primmer my late Coachman’.
[2 ]This paper does not appear to have been published. Copies of English translations were supplied to the editor by Mr Frank Ricardo and Mr J. N. Nabarro. On Isaac Da Costa, see below, p. 207.
[3 ]Cp. J. H. Hollander, David Ricardo: A Centenary Estimate, Baltimore, 1910, p. 23.
[1 ]The list is given in full by D. Henriques de Castro in 1675–1875, De Synagoge der Portugeesch-Israelietische Gemeente te Amsterdam, The Hague, 1875, pp. xlviii-lix. It is to be noted, however, that according to Hollander (David Ricardo: A Centenary Estimate, p. 25, n. 3) the municipal archives of Amsterdam record in February 1673 the birth of a child to Rehuel Cohen Lobatto and Rebecca Israel Ricardo.
[2 ]Hollander gives as his source ‘a genealogical tree, now in the possession of the main stem of the family in Amsterdam’ (op. cit. p. 23).
[3 ]The editor is indebted to Dr Umberto Nahon for researches in the archives of the Comunità israelitica of Livorno in 1932, and to Dr Elio Toaff for further researches in 1953 both in what survives of those records and in the State archive of Livorno.
[4 ]It is even possible that for a time the name Israel was substituted altogether for that of Ricardo; if so this would explain why it is so difficult to trace the family back into the seventeenth century, specially at Livorno where that name is common. (The suggestion as to the substitution of the name is made in a Dutch genealogy, now in the possession of Miss S. Ricardo, who has kindly made it available to the editor; this is probably the same genealogy that was used by Hollander and is mentioned in n. 2 above.)
[5 ]In the Synagogue records, however, he continued to be entered as Abraham Israel Ricardo. (See A. M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England, London, 1951, p. 437 ff. and Bevis Marks Records, Part II, Abstracts of the Ketubot or Marriage-contracts from Earliest Times until 1837, ed. by L. D. Barnett, Oxford, 1949, No. 1563.)
[1 ]H. I. Bloom, The Economic Activities of the Jews of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1937, p. 188.
[2 ]The dates have been supplied by Mr J. N. Nabarro from the registers of the Amsterdam Synagogue.
[3 ]In 1764 he was one of a committee which formulated the regulations for the Bourse settlement of time bargains, particularly in the English Funds. (Bloom, ib. p. 189 and cp. M. F. J. Smith, Tijd-affaires in effecten aan de Amsterdamsche Beurs, The Hague, 1919, pp. 142–3.) He is usually described as ‘junior’, his grandfather’s name having also been David.
[4 ]That he was the youngest son is stated by his great-nephew Isaac Da Costa, in his book Israel and the Gentiles, London, 1850, p. 456.
[5 ]Above, p. 18, n. 4.
[1 ]David Ricardo: A Centenary Estimate, p. 24.
[2 ]23 March 1812.
[3 ]April 1812, p. 395.
[4 ]Above, p. 3.
[5 ]On the basis of the reference to his coming over ‘when young’ combined with a confusion about names to be noticed below, Professor Hollander has concluded that his arrival in London must have occurred ‘while a lad of fourteen’; which, according to his own dating of Abraham’s birth, meant in 1764 (op. cit. p. 26).
[6 ]By Mr J. N. Nabarro.
[7 ]Elders’ Minute Book, 1760. This implied being not less than 21 years of age, since one could not be an assessed member before that age.
[8 ]Wardens’ Minute Book.
[9 ]In M. Gaster’s History of the Ancient Synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews...situate in Bevis Marks, London, 1901, pp. 146–8.
[1 ]A curious mistake has arisen in connection with this list of 1764 which, in accordance with ancient Jewish custom, is made out according to the first names (these being arranged in the chronological order in which they occur in the Bible) and not in the alphabetical order of the surnames. Thus, all the persons whose first name is Abraham are listed together. Within the group of Abrahams, for each person after the first, two commas (to denote ‘ditto’) are placed in the column under the name ‘Abraham’. Accordingly, Abraham Israel Ricardo appears as ‘,, Israel Ricardo’. Hollander, overlooking these commas, has been led astray and describes him as ‘Israel Ricardo, probably an uncle of the economist’; hence his supposition about the Ricardo family arriving in 1764 bringing with them the ‘lad’ Abraham (op. cit. p. 26).
[2 ]Wealth of Nations, Bk. I, ch. ix; vol. I, p. 93.
[3 ]See C. H. Wilson, Anglo-Dutch Commerce and Finance in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge, 1941, pp. 160, 166–7.
[1 ]Wilson, ib. p. 117. The statement is based on records in the Notarial Archives of Amsterdam.
[2 ]The Stock Ledgers are at the Bank of England Record Office at Roehampton.
[3 ]In the article in the Penny Cyclopaedia, 1841, on David Ricardo, attributed to the latter’s brother-inlaw, G. R. Porter.
[4 ]Above, p. 3.
[5 ]Petitions, pp. 203 and 207, Home Office Papers S.P. Domestic, Entry Book 265; and Patent Rolls 11 Geo. III (1771), Fifth part, No. 17 (Public Record Office).
[6 ]See list in Dudley Abrahams, ‘Jew Brokers of the City of London’, Miscellanies of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Part iii, London, 1937, p. 91.
[7 ]ib. p. 87.
[1 ]‘Minutes of the Committee of the Old Stock Exchange’. (Of these, the oldest Minutes extant, there are two overlapping volumes, which together cover meetings from December 1798 to March 1802; some entries are undated, and others seem to have been added or revised later. MSS in the possession of the Stock Exchange.)
[2 ]The original application forms have been preserved and are in the possession of the Stock Exchange.
[3 ]The annual lists are given in A. M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England, A History of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community 1492–1951, London, 1951, pp. 437–9.
[1 ]Printed ‘electors’. But as Mr Nabarro points out it was the Elders who, e.g. on 13 Oct. 1799, passed a special vote of thanks to Abraham Israel Ricardo for his services in connection with ‘backwardations’.
[2 ]J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, London, 1875, p. 220.
[3 ]The story is related by his grandson Mr Percy Ricardo, who was supposed to know more about the history of the family than anyone else, in a private letter of 14 Jan. 1890, mentioned below, p. 54.
[4 ]For the authority for the higher figure, which may, however, include still-births, see below, p. 54.
[5 ]In Lowndes Directory for 1772 the address is ‘36 Broad-str. buildings’; in Kent’s Directory for 1774, ‘No. 1, Bury-street, St. Mary-ax’, where it remains till 1791.
[6 ]Details from these are given below in connection with the birth and childhood of David.
[7 ]Kent’s Directory.
[1 ]In 1796 he is listed among the subscribers to the Loyalty Loan as of ‘Old Ford, Middlesex’. Cp. below, p. 75, n. 2.
[2 ]Information kindly supplied by the Borough Librarian of Islington from the local Rate Books.
[3 ]She was buried at the Jewish cemetery at Mile End, 22 Oct. 1801.
[4 ]The will, dated 11 Feb. 1802 with codicils of 4 March 1807 and 30 May 1808, was proved on 3 April 1812. The original executors of the will were his son Jacob Ricardo, Raphael Brandon and David Samuda. By the codicil of 1807 another son, Joseph, replaced Brandon, and David was added as a fourth executor.
[5 ]Including in this figure what some of them had received during his lifetime.
[1 ]To each of his four eldest children (including David) he left the £100 share in the Irish Tontine of 1775 which stood in that child’s name.