Samuel Pallache

Samuel Pallache

Samuel Pallache (Fez, ca. 1550 - The Hague, February 4, 1616) was a Jewish-Moroccan merchant, diplomat and pirate who was sent as an envoy to the Dutch Republic in 1608.

Pallache's family originated from Islamic Spain, where his father had served as rabbi in Córdoba. Sometime in the first half of the 16th Century, following the Christian conquest of Islamic Spain (the "Reconquista" ), the family fled to Morocco, where Jews, like Christians, were tolerated as long as they accepted Islam as the official religion. This allowed a vibrant Jewish community to emerge in Morocco, serving as a bridgehead between the Islamic, Christian and Jewish worlds.

After a delegation from the Dutch Republic visited Morocco to discuss a common alliance against Spain and the Barbary pirates, sultan Zidan Abu Maali in 1608 appointed the merchant Samuel Pallache to be his envoy to the Dutch government in The Hague. Officially, Pallache was his "agent", not ambassador.

On June 23, 1608, Pallache met stadholder Maurice of Nassau and the States-General in The Hague to negotiate an alliance of mutual assistance against Spain. On December 24th, 1610, the two nations signed a treaty recognising free commerce between the Netherlands and Morocco, and allowing the sultan to purchase ships, arms and munitions from the Dutch. This was the first-ever official treaty between a European country and a non-Christian nation.

The story goes that, one day, Pallache's horse-drawn carriage met the carriage of the Spanish ambassador in the Hague. The two carriages were unable to pass one another and, to cheers from onlookers, the Spanish ambassador's carriage had to make way for Pallache's carriage.

Research has shown that Pallache secretly acted as a double agent. He maintained close ties with the Spanish court and passed classified information about Dutch-Moroccan relations on to the Spanish. At the same time, he was passing information about Spain back to the Dutch and Moroccans. When this eventually came to light, he fell out of favor with the sultan.

In addition to his diplomatic affairs, Pallache also continued his activities as a merchant, actively trading between the Netherlands and Morocco. He also got permission from Prince Maurice for privateering activities. The goods obtained through these pirating activities were sold along the Moroccan coast.

In 1614 he captured a Portuguese ship and, unable to bring its cargo ashore in Morocco, sailed for the Netherlands. A heavy storm forced him to seek refuge in an English port where, by request of the Spanish ambassador, he was arrrested and imprisoned. Eventually prince Maurice came to his aid and managed to bring him back to the Netherlands. However, he had lost all his money by then and fell ill shortly thereafter. On February 4th, 1616, he died in The Hague, and was buried in the Sephardi-Jewish cemetery Beth Haim in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, near Amsterdam.


* [ Anno: Joodse Marokkaan onder christenen] (Dutch)
* [ Universiteit Leiden: Openingscollege 400 jaar Marokkaans - Nederlandse betrekkingen] (Dutch)
* [ Review van Gerard Wiegers en Mercedes García-Arenal, "Man of three worlds. Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew in Catholic and Protestant Europe"] (Dutch)
* [ Wereldomroep: Diplomaat, handelaar, kaper en geleerde] (Dutch)

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