Connection between the Baruch Lousadas and the great philosopher Baruch Spinoza via the de Caceres family

Gracia the sister of Moses Baruh Lousada was widowed in Barbados when David Raphael de Mercado died in 1685 and moved to Curacao where she married into the de Caceres family for she died Gracia de Caceres in 1707. Samuel de Caceres had married Miriam then Rebecca Spinosa (ref 113 pp193-5). This is perhaps our family's closest connection to Baruch Spinoza though the de Caceres family structure is not known beyond that shown the chart above. The Lousadas did however have Lamego marriage links linking them to the Rouen creditors of Michael de Spinoza.

Amsterdam held many attractions for uprooted Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews. Not only could they worship in synagogues with their fellow Jews, but they could also take advantage of the relative openness of the religiously pluralist society of the Dutch Republic, with its invitation to freedom of thought and intellectual inquiry. Some of those crypto-Jews who had been brought up in Catholic Spain and Portugal, and whose families had clandestinely continued to observe Jewish rite and teachings that had become distorted with the passage of time and fading memory found it difficult to adjust to the normative Judaism of the Amsterdam Jewish community. In spite of the risk of new encounters with the Inquisition, some of them, after rancorous confrontation with their fellow Jews, chose to return and reconvert. Others also chose to return, either for family or business reasons, or because they could not throw off the feeling that there true home lay in Spain (ref 16). Others, keen to refresh their Judaic learning, eagerly sought teaching from those who had not been separated from Jewish rites eg from Samuel Pallache (ref 17). Remarkably, Samuel Pallache is reported as having had trading links both with Spinoza’s maternal grandfather Henriques Garces aka Baruch Senior (ref 26 page 36) a merchant based in Oporto, and father Michael de Spinoza in Morocco.

Baruch Spinoza lived as a lens polisher first at Amsterdam then at The Hague; but raised sceptical questions on traditional theism and the merit of Western sages and was excommunicated by the Amsterdam community (see note 3 below). He achieved great distinction as a philosopher; and Bertrand Russell (ref 20) calls him the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers; and says intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. ‘He accepted from Descartes and his contemporaries a materialist and deterministic physics, and sought, within this framework, to find room for reverence and a life devoted to ‘the Good’. His attempt was magnificent, and rouses admiration even in those who do not think it successful.’   

The Spinoza family came to the Netherlands via Nantes where Baruch Spinoza's grand-uncle Abraham died. Baruch Spinoza's father was Michael de Spinoza who was in Morocco in 1634; and his maternal grandfather was Baruch Senior, who in 1610 was a 43 year-old merchant in Oporto and who was married to Maria (Miriam) Nunes. Hannah Deborah Senior married Michael de Spinoza in 1629 (as his second wife - his first was his cousin Rachel who died in 1627 and who was daughter of Abraham) and gave birth to Baruch Spinoza in 1632. Following ref 26 we show 4 other children all from the 2nd wife of Michael Spinoza.  Miriam (then on her death Rebecca) married Samuel de Caceres (see note 1 below). Miriam's son Daniel became Rebecca's stepson - and Rebecca had 3 children of her own (Michael, Hannah and Benjamin). Gabriel Spinoza moved to Barbados in 1664/5 to pursue the family company business, and died in Jamaica.

There is a good deal of pride taken in Spinoza in The Netherlands. For some evidence of this, click on this image:


1. Samuel de Caceres does not appear closely-related to Simon de Caceres who was prominent in the English resettlement of Jews. There was a Samuel de Caceres of Amsterdam born around 1630 who had a father named Miguel who was a different Miguel to the father of Simon de Caceres of London (as explained by ref 109). However the Samuel de Caceres in the chart appears to have had a father named Daniel as judged by his name and also by the son named after him.

2. Tony Harding suggested that the well-known and influential early Enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) of Amsterdam might be related - having the Baruch name and having family connections to Oporto near Lousada and Lamego. He was a member of a Sephardic trading family that appears to have gone to Amsterdam via Morocco on his father's side, and on his mother's side via Portugal. Our discussion on names however is a sobering reminder of the challenges involved in searching for a connection in this case.

3. Spinoza's excommunication has been often attributed to his philosophical views and his criticisms of traditional religions. However an alternative view of the excommunication is described in ref 90. In this view though Michael de Spinoza was able to establish a modestly successful import business with the aid of his uncle Abraham (the father of his first wife Rachel), the father of the excommunicated philosopher died indebted to powerful New Christian merchants of Rouen namely Duarte Rodrigues Lamego and Antonio Rodrigues de Morais and it was the son's manoeuvres to avoid these inherited debts that was a key factor in the excommunication. By this means the Amsterdam community sought to maintain its commercial reputation. The nature of life in the Amsterdam Jewish community in the mid-1600s is vividly portrayed in a recent biography of Isaac Orobio de Castro (ref 18). Orobio de Castro was a somewhat wary friend of Juan de Prado, who was excommunicated from the community at the same time as Spinoza. Orobio de Castro and de Prado debated many of the matters which led to the excommunication. Spinoza had sufficient contacts in the broader community to maintain a vital life outside it, and Orobio de Castro was a medical doctor. De Prado did not have such resources, and was fated to fight a losing battle to rejoin the community. 

4. Spinoza’s younger sister Rebecca was said to be the daughter of Esther de Solis (ref 113 p193) and hence a half-sister but ref 26 page 45 persuades us that she was a full sister.