From: The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, February-March, 1863
|Some good-natured persons who do not watch closely the course of events,
may not discover any thing very alarming in the occurrences which are daily developed
before our eyes. They fancy that they are secure in their personal rights, because they
live in a land where freedom is at home, and have nothing to dread from the malevolence of
irresponsible power. They will point with pride to the beautiful constitution, the work of
that august assembly over which the father of his country, the model of rulers,
Washington, presided, and they consider themselves the heritors of the wealth of liberty
and equality which he helped to secure, even more by his moderation and sound common sense
than by his bravery and success in the field and sagacity in the council of war. They aver
that, as all classes of the inhabitants of the land drew in common the sword in defense of
its independence of regal and priestly rule; as on the embattled plain or the heaving
ocean the blood of all flowed alike to beat back the invader who claimed the right to
govern by ancient prescription; as the treasures of all were freely offered during the
struggle which taxed heavily the resources and perseverance of the nascent nation in its
darkest hours of trial; as the worshippers of the One Eternal shared the same dangers and
fatigues which the followers of the Trinitarian doctrines underwent, and which were not
disdained by those too who in their folly deny the revelation of the Most High or even
doubt His existence: —as all this is undeniable and universally acknowledged, they will
aver that in nothing did the revolutionary fathers show their wisdom and foresight to a
greater extent than in laying it down as one of the fundamental principles in the charter
devised for the government of the new republic that "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
By this it was intended to secure all classes, whether they be numerous, counting their
adherents by millions, or few, confined perhaps within the space of a single household, in
the full enjoyment of their conscientious convictions, to worship or not, as they may feel
inclined, without any one being empowered to coerce them to enter his church, contribute
to its support; or do aught which they would not do voluntarily and of a perfect free
will. As the supreme legislature of the country was thus not permitted to designate any
portion of the people as inferior to the others on account of their religious
predilections, it would seem to follow that no one else has the right. All the laws come
from the constitutional source, the legislators elected by the people directly, or by the
States in their sovereign capacity; and since the wisdom of the nation assembled in this
manner is strictly enjoined not to prohibit the free exercise of religion, no matter what
its name, no limitation being conveyed in the clause before us, it would appear that the
intention was to preclude for all times the exercise of this dominion by all creatures of
the law and constitution, that is to say, that no officer of government, of whatever
degree or name, should impose any disqualification on a single man or set of men for
opinions honestly entertained, and for religious practices which cannot injure his peace,
or infringe on his civil rights.
It must be indeed an unreasonable being who would ask more for himself in the matter of freedom of conscience. If he can think what he pleases, worship or not as it may suit his fancy, build churches or places of religious assembly, convents, conventicles, monasteries, and seminaries, without let or hindrance, labor when he pleases, or be idle when he deems proper to remain unemployed in obedience to his sense of duty: one would imagine that he had ample scope to carry out whatever his conscience might dictate to him, provided always that he trouble himself not about his neighbor. But herein lies the difficulty: men are not always satisfied with carrying out their own ideas of propriety, since they are frequently annoyed by what their neighbor thinks or does. They imagine that his principles are a libel on theirs; the color of his garment, the shape of his hat, nay, the latchets of his shoes are a constant source of vexation to them; and therefore they cannot rest while such a contradiction to their fancy is within their reach. If they could be induced to reflect that their neighbor may have the same cause to be displeased with their thinking and outward appearance, and have an equally good reason to follow his conviction as they have with regard to theirs: it is possible that they might be induced to sit quiet under the infliction that some differ from them in the essential matters which make up the individual or a class, without having their jealousy or hatred excited at their neighbor's singularity as they conceive it to be. But this is unfortunately not the case; for the more many are restricted by law and reason to the supervision of their own conduct, the greater becomes their desire to intermeddle with what does really not concern them; and it seems that no constitutional restraints, no prudential considerations, no impulses of common sense, are able to keep them within the bounds which we have indicated. They must meddle, they must be at mischief, they must show their superior wisdom and sanctity; and in short they will contrive all possible devices to let their antagonist, as they regard the one who innocently differs from them, feel that he has offended those who cannot imagine that any thing can be right which they do not understand, and of which they perhaps have never heard.
Religious persecution in all ages, if it was the effect of sincere fanaticism, has had its origin in this substratum: it was first the offense at seeing practices which were odious to the observer, and then applying the means to make things otherwise. It requires at the same time no great skill to form a sort of public opinion to sustain persecution. The vast majority of men never think; they take their mental coloring from their superiors or class-leaders; and the sudden political changes without any apparent cause, may thus be adequately accounted for in the fact, that the moulders of public opinion either did honestly change from a sincere conviction, or pretended to do so from a sinister, selfish motive of their own. Numbers being the source of power every where, it is nothing remarkable, that they should be courted even by tyrants and demagogues of all degrees to sustain them in their measures of infamy over which humanity must weep, and which cause unclouded reason to sigh over the degeneracy of men's intellect. However arbitrarily a ruler may act, he always endeavors to let the world know something of his motives, in the hope that it may approve thereof; and falsehood is not rarely resorted to in order to throw the mantle of apparent truth over the misdeeds of the powerful. The love of praise is inherent in our nature, and the highest intellect is not indifferent to the approval of the commonest laborer, and the most exalted disdain not to stoop for the applause of the vulgar. Look at the public meetings before which orators and statesmen exhibit themselves in England and America, propounding to them grave political and commercial problems which it requires a well educated state-economist to understand, and then note with what self-complacency the plaudits of the masses are received: and you will agree with us that the wiliest demagogue is anxious for the support of the brute multitude, that he may gradually frame public opinion to suit his purposes, while the true and honest are not at liberty to despise the same means to resist the evil, which the other may consummate if unopposed, by his own method. We can well believe the truth of the story that Augustus, while about to die, asked whether he had not performed well his part on the stage of the world, and that Nero mingled in the games of the circus and played on the state to obtain the bravos of the crowd, which dared not to withhold its applause from so formidable a player; both Augustus and Nero acted before an audience the temper of which they thoroughly understood, and the one overcame them first by acts of proscription and then of magnanimity, while the other terrified them into submission by buffoonery to-day and tiger-like cruelty on the morrow. And yet Rome had been free, kings had been banished, the decemvirs had been deprived of their usurped power, nay, the greatest of the Romans, Caesar, had fallen beneath the daggers of Cassius and Brutus, because he dared to put forth his hand to the regal diadem. The liberty which had been achieved by disinterested noble patriots, which had been purchased by rivers of blood and consolidated by centuries of watchfulness, was lost through the altered state of public opinion, and snatched away by men to whom ambition was every thing, to whom all means were fair, yea, treachery, murder, brutality of every kind, which conferred on them power and the means of indulging their lustful desires.
In this country and England people are not played on, as was the case in Rome, through public shows and exhibitions of lands and grain from the State treasury; but other means, to which the heathen were strangers, are resorted to in order to acquire power. Here and in England the church in its various phases which forms the nucleus of power through its effect on public opinion, which is the seat of danger to liberty of conscience and perhaps the permanence of free institutions of all kinds. It must not be said that the thing is impossible; we grant it improbable; but to our knowledge there has been so vast a change in the minds of the people regarding the rights of all within the last ten years, that it is indisputable that, should the deterioration proceed in the same ratio for the next fifty years, despotism, military and civil, may naturally succeed to overthrow a rotten State which has ceased to be free except in name, just as was the case in Rome when she submitted to the wily Augustus after slaying the truly great Julius Caesar.
In Spain also the Inquisition was resisted as an incubus which Popes desired to fasten on the people; but in the end princes and ladies, high civilians and ecclesiastics rejoiced at the approach of a gala day, and sat in state while the burning stake consumed the bodies of hecatombs of heretics perishing to glorify the name of the G-d whom they adored. What arts must not have been employed to debase public opinion to this degree; how many years were needed to transform the chivalric Castilian into the menial of the Holy Office, that infamous institution which fattened on the blood of its thousands of victims, and reveled on the sighs and tears of those it doomed to an untimely death or to banishment from their beloved native country. Israelites too loved Spain; it was not to them a land of captivity; they had grown great, learned, and renowned there, since their temple was destroyed; they were the warriors, the poets, the dramatists, the astronomers, the navigators, the financiers, the counselors, the nobles, and possessors of the soil; they had well-nigh forgotten Jerusalem and its sad traditions; they were removed from the ill-usage which weighed down their brothers in Northern Europe.
But by degrees the light of their prosperity waned, until the edict of Ferdinand the cunning and Isabella the bigot doomed, it is said, eight hundred thousand souls to all the horrors of an expatriation from the beloved soil, or a forced conversion to a creed hateful to their soul; and all this was done for the alleged glorification of the G-d of Mercy, because the presence of these heretics would pollute the land of their sojournment. The heedlessness of these Hebrews was fearfully rebuked; and yet in their wanderings they retained the language of Castile and Lusitania, and sighed for the shores of the Douro and Guadalquivir, and wept for the fields of Catalonia and the vineyards of Andalusia, and vaunted of their descent from a race superior to that of their brothers who dwelt in northern more inhospitable climes.*
"The church is in danger," was the charm which enslaved the will of the Spaniards and Portuguese; the emblems of their religion were therefore hailed at the consummation of the myriads of sacrifices as in their fitting place near the gibbet or the stake, or in the dungeons where the familiars plied their frightful trade of torture, and where the church-demons presided over the infernal orgies, where all that is hateful glutted itself on the sorrows and groans of the unresisting and helpless martyrs, whose history is unwritten, and whose names even have not been treasured up for our edification. Assuming then that the inquisitors were sincere, or not, as you may prefer, one thing is certain, that they decoyed the people into an approval, thorough and hearty, of all their enormities; they were committed, understand, reader, for the salvation of mankind, the prosperity of the church, and the glory of the Prince of Peace, as though MURDER in all its hideous forms could be needed to build up a system of universal love! Nevertheless you will not find that the heads of the Catholics will condemn the iniquity, and you will not look in vain to meet with defenders of the atrocities recorded in history as committed for the propagation of Christianity in all periods for the last eighteen hundred years.
In this country there was a hope, as we said in starting, that the Constitution would forever disarm religious malevolence of all power to inflict injury, and we still trust that it may be so. But we should not be surprised if a latent sentiment inimical to Judaism were already existing, and that it would spread still farther. A cause may be found first in the increasing numbers and prosperity of Israelites, thus attracting to them a good deal of public attention, and then the many efforts made through various channels for their conversion, both here and in England, which have resulted hitherto, we are glad to say, in a miserable failure. But the attempt fixes the attention of strangers to Judaism on us in an unpleasant manner; we become much too often the objects of animadversion; and since comparatively few only have any knowledge of our people, except what they conceive us to be by taking some itinerant Jewish gaberlunzie [peddler], to borrow a Scottish word, as the real type of the identical Jews, of whom their preacher speaks when he sketches the wicked Christ killers, who caused their god to expire on the cross for the sins of mankind; it is no wonder that a deep-seated prejudice has by degrees been implanted in the minds of many honest, though ignorant persons, who become horrified the more they discover the Jewish countenance multiplied before them. Those, who are zealots for their opinions, must naturally feel themselves called upon to undertake something for the removal of the unbelievers, who, notwithstanding the many overwhelming evidences of the truth of the new religion, continue to reject it, and even glory in the crime of having put to an ignominious death the savior of the world. This is the mildest manner in which we are viewed, and is the most moderate method of putting us down or abating the nuisance, which increases sooner than diminishes by the slow process of absorption, of which the leaders say so much, but of which so little is actually realized.
Let it not be forgotten also that the opinion formed of Israelites is based on the observation made on the crowd of needy adventurers, who travel or glide rather through the highways and byways of the land in quest of gain, often we fear unlawful, who in their material labors are perfectly indifferent to the duties of their religion, and not rarely conceal it by a pretended conformity, which nevertheless does not succeed to hide their hypocrisy from the eyes of the commonest observer. While by a bold avowal of opinions and a careful conformity to duty they might challenge respect, especially if their dealings were characterized by faithfulness נשא ונותן באמונה as our law directs, Israelites could perchance obtain the esteem of all, though their hard fate and narrow means should condemn them to acquire a living by going from house to house to sell, buy, or barter; the opposite course, which so many, alas! follow, only secures contempt and dislike, not alone to those who so richly deserve it, but to those too who are ornaments to their religion and the human race.
From all dislike to the contrivance of means to injure the objects thereof is but a single step; and hence it is nowise surprising to us that, the present crisis in the affairs of the country has in various ways brought us unpleasantly before the public, and has made us feel that notwithstanding the boasted progress of the age, we are still in bondage, yes, this is the correct word, and have yet to dread the decrees of those in power, who are not restrained by any feeling of humanity and justice from inflicting injury on us.
To come to the point. On December 17th, Major General Grant issued from Oxford, Mississippi a decree, which will be found in a subsequent part of this article, expelling all the Jews from his department within twenty-four hours, and we learn that one merchant at least of the highest standing in Paducah, Kentucky, has left his place of residence and taken refuge at Cincinnati, outside of the military district just named. A deputation, so we see, waited on the President of the United States about the close of December, who in consequence ordered the commander-in-chief of the army, General Halleck, to revoke General Grant's order, wherefore the Israelites can continue to live in Western Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, within the military lines of the Union. But an attempt made by Mr. Lazarus Powell, Senator from Kentucky, to bring the matter before the Senate, at first resulted on January 5th, when Congress re-assembled after an adjournment of nearly two weeks, in laying the resolution over; and on the 9th the result was as follows, which we copy from the congressional proceedings in the daily papers:
Mr. Powell (KY) called up the resolution censuring General Grant's order, expelling the Jews.
Mr. Hale said the order had already been revoked.
Mr. Powell was glad of that, and commended the President for his action in the case; but he wished the resolution to be passed, in order to show the opinion of the Senate of such an order, leveled against a class of our citizens.
Mr. Clark (NH) thought the order was wrong, but he was not willing to censure General Grant, now fighting in the field, unheard. He moved to postpone the resolution indefinitely.
Mr. Wilson (MA) said that General Grant had issued an order which no one thought right, and which had been promptly revoked, and there he thought the matter ought to rest.
Mr. Hale moved to lay the resolution on the table, which was agreed to—yeas 30, nays 7.
The Senate has thus said that General Grant acted properly in assuming sovereign powers which the constitution did not confer on congress even; for else, why not say that he has done wrong in exceeding his authority?
But in the House of Representatives the matter was not managed much better, though the majority was not so large against right and justice. On the 7th the following is recorded in the proceedings:
Mr. Pendleton (OH) introduced a preamble, reciting General Grant's order of the 17th of December, excluding the Jews, as a class, from the army lines, and saying that, in pursuance thereof, General Grant had caused many peaceable citizens and residents in the said department to be expelled therefrom without any allegation of misconduct, and with no other proof than that they were members of a certain religious denomination.
And whereas, such a sweeping order made no distinction between the innocent and the guilty, and is illegal, unjust, tyrannical, and cruel: therefore,
Resolved, That the said order deserves the sternest condemnation of this house and of the President as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.
On motion of Mr. Washburne (IL) the resolution was tabled—yeas 56, nays 53.
We will not give full expression to all we think and feel on the subject; it requires not a word from us to fire the heart of every Israelite, nay, of every friend of humanity, with indignation that these things could be done in free America. We are not surprised that, as the papers report, on the 8th, the day following, the Israelites of New York were aroused at the outrage. What else could be expected? Should we sit down and confess that the infamous act was right? That we deserved, as a class, to be treated with medieval cruelty and banished at the pleasure of an irresponsible military despot? Irresponsible we say, because neither Senate nor House of Representatives will even censure him, as though the safety of the country depended on the retention by the general of the Thirteenth Army Corps of his command, and not throwing it up, if the representatives of the people were to express by their vote the conviction that he had usurped an authority never confided to him? Is it just that those who have been chosen to legislate for the country have not officially declared that they do condemn an act which all enlightened men will say is only equaled by similar occurrences in the middle ages, when priestcraft, aided by the ignorance of the masses, could perpetuate outrages which the light of modern civilization, as was thought, has banished forever?
It is admitted that the President revoked the order; but suppose he had not thought proper to do so, then it would have gone into effect, long before congressmen could have found it convenient, or compatible with public safety, to institute an inquiry to see whether the report were true; for it is not to be imagines that the honorable gentlemen would have been moved to any expression of opinion until the official announcement had reached them, say from the Secretary of the Interior, to whose department we suppose it may belong, "that the General commanding, &c., with the assent of the President, had expelled the Jews, without discrimination, from his district, and that they were already scattered in all directions, abandoning homes, business, synagogues, and the graves of those dear to them, to the tender mercies of a lawless soldiery." Fortunately for the country, the President would not be the instrument of such cruelty; but the majority in congress have no claim on our gratitude for their treatment, and deserve rather the condemnation due for their disregard of their obligations as conservators of the rights of the people, which ought to be safe under the guaranties of the constitution. In order to let the general public know that we felt the insult offered to us and justice, we sent the subjoined to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, where it promptly appeared the next day:
Messrs. Editors: Your New York correspondent of this morning states that the Jews of that city are indignant at the strange proceedings in the House of Representatives yesterday in laying Mr. Pendleton's resolution condemnatory of General Grant's outrage against Israelites on the table. It is no wonder that such a transaction should made the blood boil in the veins of the most phlegmatic. Has it come to this, that a crime like that of the just named commander, vested with the limited authority conferred on him by the President, who can remove him at pleasure, shall be passed by in silence, while those whom he has aggrieved have no chance of redress, not even that of making themselves heard through the mouth of such congressmen as are willing to take their part?
It would be unnatural if Israelites should rest quiet under such an infliction, which is analogous to the expulsions and persecutions they have had to endure under princes and ecclesiastics elsewhere. But is it not strange, marvelous, that congressmen, who have sworn to support the constitution, do not see that no greater violation of its provisions was ever manifested than in the procedure of General Grant? Is personal liberty merely to be held at the pleasure of a military official? Or, at best, under the kind revocation of the order of banishment by the President, to whom free citizens of the republic have appealed not to drive them from their homes?
Will not the enlightened and the brave patriots and friends of liberty, of all creeds, unite with us Israelites to put down incipient tyranny, which sooner or later will seek, unless checked, a wider field than is afforded by the small numbers of our race in the Union? Think, Messrs. Editors, what an outcry would have been raised had a similar measure been pursued toward any Christian denomination; and still, "Is Israel a slave or a bondman born in the house" of a master? All thanks to Messrs. Powell and Pendleton! And we will not honor them the less that their voices of inquiry was stifled by the louder vociferations of an unthinking majority.
Our readers abroad will hardly credit us that this could have happened in this age and in the United States of America, and, what is more, that it should have met with an apologist in the Secretary of the Federal Senate, who is the editor of the Washington Chronicle. But so it is nevertheless; and we therefore insert his article in full, that it may be seen that bigotry is not confined to Russia, or to the Roman States, now happily reduced to a mere patch of land.
THE JEWS IN TENNESSEE (From the Washington
A resolution has been introduced into the Senate, censuring General Grant for the following order, issued by him, banishing all Jews from his department:
We are no advocates of class legislation. It always works injustice. Our own country has, up to the present time, afforded an instance where this species of tyranny has been carried to an exaction unparalleled in history, and we hope the day for that sort of action has passed away forever. This order of General Grant cannot be justified as it stands. It is too sweeping. But before it is wholly condemned, we must recollect that General Grant has never before been guilty of wanton tyranny or cruelty, and that it is probable he had what appeared to him good reason for issuing this order.
After the capture of Memphis by our gunboats, General Grant found himself in command of a department comprising fifteen counties in the richest part of Tennessee. On one side of them is the Mississippi River, and through their center runs the Mobile and Ohio railroad. This country was full of cotton, but it was also full of guerillas. The guerillas were mere banditti, who, being penniless themselves, had a great disinclination to see any one else in the possession of wealth, and for that reason, as much as any, they roamed about the country, burning all the cotton they could lay their hands on. The people, who depended on their cotton to keep them from starvation, were anxious to sell immediately; and at first, before our forces had thoroughly occupied the country, they would sell at any price they could get—five, six, or eight cents a pound. As the cotton, when hauled to the landing, was worth from twenty to thirty cents a pound, it will readily be conjectured that the prospect of such enormous profits drew crowds of speculators to this favored locality.
The principal risks to be met by cotton buyers were two: first, of losing their money or their cotton; and second, of being made prisoners or shot. The Jews have, since the very unhandsome trick played by Jacob on his brother, been notorious for their fondness for illegitimate, or, at least, unusual modes of making money. Perhaps the pharisaical complacency of the rest of the world, which has refused them free admission into social, political, or commercial circles, has had something to do in sharpening their natural proclivities. Be that as it may, they are the scavengers and the pioneers of commerce. Wherever great risk promises great profit a Jew will venture. If he loses, he will try again, for with all their covetousness the Jews are the boldest speculators in the world. The state of the cotton trade in Tennessee, during the summer, attracted swarms of Jews to Memphis, Columbus, Jackson, and other centers of the cotton region. Very few Americans ventured, and those who did were mostly secessionists. In order to save themselves, all persons buying cotton were obliged sometimes to profess sympathy for the rebels. Very frequently secession spies pretended to be buying cotton and more than once the Jewish cotton buyers were detected in correspondence with the enemy; so that it was often impossible to distinguish between cotton buyers pretending secession, and secessionists pretending to buy cotton. Thus it has come about that the Jews in West Tennessee are looked on with suspicion by all commanders of posts, and their suspicions have, at last, probably had some effect on General Grant. We must not forget to add that the evil, if it be such, of allowing everybody and anybody to buy, and to use any species of money, from gold and silver to Confederate shinplasters; a policy which never had the sanction or approval of any military commander in the West.
Since the first occupation of West Tennessee, the cotton business has undergone a great change. Cotton has risen from five to fifty cents a pound, and even higher. Where, with a small capital of five hundred dollars, a man could, last summer, buy ten bales of cotton, and double or triple his investment, he can now buy but one bale, and make only reasonable mercantile profit. While this change has not affected the more wealthy and respectable Jews, (for there are many such, and by none are the wretches who make the Hebrew nation so unpleasantly notorious more heartily despised,) it has driven those of small capital into the hundred other illegitimate channels of trade which abound in the track of a large army. They hawk "notions," cigars, and fruit about the camps; they sell whiskey to the soldiers; they loan money on small pledges; they are eternally applying for passes and permits, and abusing the same for purposes of smuggling and communicating with the enemy; as the cotton trade legitimizes all kinds of currency, they sell contraband goods, such as boots and shoes, clothing, blankets, medicines, to the enemy; they receive stolen goods from petty warehouse and wharf thieves; it is the universal opinion of army correspondents and all who had opportunities for extensive observation, that the Jewish peddlers who set up independent travelling sutlers' stalls in every town and village where the army makes a halt, and scour the country, both within and without the pickets, with their wares, purchase immunity and toleration from each side, by giving all the information the possess about military movements on the other.
There are the reasons why the prejudice which exists in all communities against Jews is intensified in the army, and, harsh and unjust as this order is in its operation on those Jews who actually reside within the Department of West Tennessee, and have gained an honorable and respectable name by the legitimate pursuit of commerce, we do not believe there will be found a dozen men in the army who will not approve it. We are glad to see that it has been rescinded by General Halleck, but it is right that the people should understand that, if there was no good reason, there was, at least, some excuse for its promulgation.
We will not stop to comment on an article so devoid of common sense, which does us a moral wrong in the same degree as Grant attempted a physical one, by treating all Israelites alike, whether guilty or not of the charges laid against them. But it will tend to prove that no system of laws will destroy the spirit of persecution, and that both fools and knaves are to be met with under every form of government. In the meanwhile the editors of the daily press have been singularly silent, and have barely breathed a dissent as far as has come under our observation; the matter did not concern them of course, the parties threatened with such ill-usage were not Christians, not even Negroes, nothing but Jews! Nothing but Jews! And these, every one knows, are the enemies of Christ and his apostles. Perhaps the editors did not think so altogether, but still a little religious prejudice was lurking in the back chambers of their hearts, and permitted them to look on a little persecution of "those loved for their fathers' sake" as an infliction which can be composedly endured. It may be thought that we write with bitterness; yes, we do; we are conscious in every fiber of our heart that the world does not love us, and if opportunity were given, the expulsions of ancient days, or even modern ones, would be renewed. It is not so very long ago that similar things took place in Europe, so that their recurrence here is nothing very wonderful, considering that the agents have actually the same belief after all. Vigilance on our part is needed to arouse the mind of the liberal of all classes to the danger that two worthy young men at Washington at once replied to the scandalous piece in the Chronicle of the 6th; and as the subject must be of the utmost interest to all our readers, we subjoin both replies, to let the writers have an opportunity to have their good work embodied in our pages.
Mr. Editor:— With surprise and regret this morning did I read an editorial in the Daily Chronicle regarding the recent order issued by Gen. Grant, of the Department of West Tennessee, concerning the expulsion of Israelites from within the lines of the same. Although no public writer, I feel it my duty to reply to a portion of the same. It must appear to every reasoning mind, at once, that the order was unjust and tyrannical; as well as illegal, and would be well worthy the order of some foreign despot, instead of the commander of an important military department under a Government which guarantees to every citizen those sacred rights which are guaranteed by but few countries, if by any other in the world. The order shows upon its face the biased opinions of Gen. Grant, and has been condemned by most people as a gross outrage. To show that the editor of the Chronicle has represented certain things which tend to prejudice the public mind against the class of persons referred to in the order, is the object of the writer.
The editor first pretends to make an apology for Gen. Grant in having issued the order, or for condemning it; because Gen. Grant has never before been guilty of wanton tyranny, &c. This is indeed but a very feeble excuse, and which at once shows the cause is unjust. He then goes on to say "the Jews have been always notorious for their fondness for illegitimate trading, or at least unusual modes of making money," and supposes that this has been the cause of depriving them "of admission into social and political or commercial circles." As to the fondness of Israelites for illegitimate trading, I do not think this mode of trading is inherited alone by these people; I feel very confident in saying that this mode can be traced to many, aye, very many of the same believers in the same faith as the editor of the Chronicle. By this I do not by any means desire to justify the deed, and no matter whoever performed it, should receive the proper punishment they are liable to. The Israelites, as a general thing, are engaged in mercantile pursuits; there are very few cities or towns but more or less of them are to be found so engaged; their industry and preference for making money in this way, has often called forth unnecessary and unjust slanders on this race by prejudiced and unprincipled people.
I do not know of any instance, and I do not think the editor of the Chronicle can cite one, where the Israelites, as a race, (in this country), have been excluded from free admission into social, political, or commercial circles. I know there are many amongst them who have and still hold high positions in all three of the above named branches of society. This fact must be well known to the editor of the Chronicle, who, I believe, has long been a resident of a large city. Would space and time permit it, instances could be cited. Styling them scavengers as well as pioneers of commerce is at the same time a compliment and a slut, and is hardly worthy of remark, for he also acknowledges that they have boldness and perseverance superior to any other race in the world. The comparison is at once sufficient for the decision. The cotton trade, no doubt, having been thought (and afterwards proved true) to be a good investment, many Israelites, in common with others, embarked in the speculation; and were the matter thoroughly sifted, others than Israelites would be implicated in the offences charged in the order, and for which the same punishment should be inflicted, without regard to religious belief. Whether all the persons who were in this business were Americans, Secessionists, or any other class, I am unable to say. There is no doubt but what there were very many good Union people who were also amongst them.
I have often met persons who were impressed with the idea that all the Israelites were foreigners. I see the editor of the Chronicle seems to partake of the same idea, if I understand rightly the sentence: "Very few Americans ventured, and those who did were mostly secessionists." At this I am really surprised, as he most certainly be aware, that the Israelites are composed of Americans as well as those of foreign birth. The editor seems to infer that a spirit of jealousy has been excited amongst the Jews in consequence of the more wealthy portion having been fortunate in their speculations, and which has induced those of the less fortunate ones to embark in different plans of making money, such as following the army, selling various articles to the soldiers. He again desires to be understood that the Jews are the only ones who do this. On this score I can say decidedly he is wrong; for I know that there are men of all kinds of religion and character who have adopted this plan of making money. In business circles it is well known that a good market attracts many vendors. The army being such, it is perfectly natural that all who can will participate in the profits from this source; and if this is called dishonest, the dishonesty must be charged on a large class of people—gentiles as well as Jews. It is but very rarely that Jews have been implicated in the many dishonest practices charged on them by the editor, such as dealing in stolen goods, giving information to the enemy, and sundry other charges. I think they are only imaginary for the most part. That there are many amongst them who are not perfect, and acted contrary to law, I do not attempt to deny. I do say though they are no greater, and probably not as great, in proportion to the number of their race, than amongst any other people.
There are many merchants in the Department of West Tennessee of Israelitish faith who have resided there for years, who are and have been firm Union men, who bear as high reputation and as good character as any residents of that section of the country, who have been placed in a very unpleasant and delicate situation by the promulgation of this extraordinary and unjust order. It must be extremely gratifying to the people of the country to know that it has received the immediate and just revocation of the General-in-chief of the Army, and that the nation's highest power has taken steps in regard to the same.
This reply has not been made with any prejudiced feelings; for the writer, although a member of the Israelitish faith, is known by, and associates with, members of both religions. He proscribes no man on account of his faith, but wishes to show (or at least endeavor to do so) the public that the Jews as a race are not the degraded ones the editor of the Chronicle represents them to be, are sensitive to a wrong, and are willing to justify themselves whenever it may be inflicted.
To the Editor of the Chronicle:
SIR:—During the reign of the First Napoleon, large deputations of Christian citizens of France waited upon him, denouncing the Israelites en masse, jobbers, brokers, contractors, and for holding the best places under the Government. His answer was, and it should be the watchword of every enlightened mind: "I know no Israelites; I only know them as Frenchmen."
How noble and magnanimous would General Grant's conduct have been had he acted in the spirit of that lofty, enlarged view, as taken by the man of the century.
Now, not for a moment do I desire, or even wish to be understood in that sense, to excuse or palliate crime, let it be Christian or Jew, much as I love and revere the nation of which of which I am proud to be a member. I am yet not so far gone in self-delusion or deceit as to challenge a world in arms as to our purity, probity, legal honesty, &c.,—as individuals,—as a nation, I most unequivocally do. Crime, the lust of power, and the covetous desire after gain is confined to no sect, to no country; and why we, at this day of emancipation and disenthralment, should be visited by those time-despised prejudices that have disgraced the past, is a matter of serious regret and dire apprehension.
While I do not, as already remarked, desire to countenance the least infraction of law, or what might be construed as detrimental to the good of the nation and its cause, I yet do most earnestly, as a matter of living, vital principle, protest, and for the reasons following, to wit:
1st. Because as a nation (religious) we have shown as much devotion to the Union we swore to sustain, as much adhesion to the Constitution we swore to defend, as any other sect or nation, North.
2d. We have contributed as liberally and bountifully toward the maintenance of this struggle, as far as the means allowed, as any other class.
3d. Because our brethren have been in every regiment, division, and corps of the various armies of the Republic, doing this duty as men and soldiers in whatever position placed, and the blood of hundreds has stained the various sanguinary fields, attesting with their life their devotion to the good cause of union and liberty.
4th. Because it stands as a precedent, as a landmark, whereby still less conscientious commanders can unscrupulously hurl forth their bulls against an unoffending and unnecessarily despised race.
For it matters not whether the American Senate or the press do us justice: History will—for the dark ages have passed. You can no longer enslave the mind; and the Jew, with an equal chance, will not only be a competitor in the grand race for intellectual and physical wealth, but reach the goal far in advance. My hope is in a verdict from the good common sense of the American people, and there let it rest.
In addition to the little piece inserted in the Ledger, we were anxious that other channels should be employed to call public attention to the ill-usage of our people. We therefore wrote the following and took it in person to the Philadelphia Public Ledger; nay. called twice again and sent two messages besides; still, after promising to print it, the editors could not find room for an honest complaint over a glaring wrong, while they had ample space to report the doings of meetings of negroes, one held in South Carolina, and one in an obscure and vicious quarter of this city, where decent persons can hardly make their appearance. The mind of the times seems turned into one direction, and every thing else sinks into insignificance before it. Knowing this, we would not go about begging for a corner in any general publication, and we therefore lay our views before the public in our own work, where we hope they may do some good, although not to the great extent they could if inserted in a paper of extensive circulation.
ARE ISRAELITES SLAVES?
Messrs. Editors— The report to which you gave publicity last Friday, to the effect that Gen. U.S. Grant had expelled the Israelites from his military district, sounded very much like fiction, though the proceedings of Congress yesterday prove that the reported outrage is only too well founded in fact. Is this then the reward which the sons of the Patriarchs are to receive for their steady devotion to the Union and its interests from those in military command, since this is the third act in the drama of oppression lately brought to public notice? Do not hundreds of our comparatively small number fight in the ranks of the Union army? Have Major Rosengarten, Captain Brickner, and Lieutenant Wimpfheimer, all of this city, fallen at Murfreesboro, Manassas, and Sharpsburg, in a contest which is designed by those in authority to give freedom to the negro, only to bring expulsion from the Union territory to the descendants of the Hebrew race, to whom sorrow and persecution are neither rare nor merely of ancient date? I only mention the above three young men of our own city, as they were officers and therefore prominent in my memory; but many privates belonging here have also been slain, besides numerous others, officers no less than privates, belonging to other places, and the full catalogue, could the authentic lists be properly made out, would exhibit that in this fearful contest, where brother's hand is lifted up against a brother's life, Israelites have borne their full share, equally as in the revolutionary war, and have suffered in a greater ratio than their fellow-combatants of other persuasions.
I had written thus far, when the minister of one of our Synagogues entered my office to request me to attend the burial of a Hebrew soldier belonging to the 71st New York regiment, who had died unknown and among strangers at the Summit House hospital. There was before us one who in early and vigorous manhood had left the earth and its cares, fighting for what he conceived probably to be the liberties of the land of his adoption, since his name betrayed him to have been a German Jew, a term of reproach to many a thoughtless native of this country. In following his lonely bier, bitter thoughts crowded on my mind, at the infatuation of mankind in believing themselves engaged in a sacred cause, the defence of the dearest human rights, when in fact they who have been the playball of a malignant fortune, ay, we the children of Israel, are not yet received as equals into the family of nations. Is there to be freedom for the colored races, who have never furnished a genius of towering intellect to the world, while we who have produced for Israel and all mankind the greatest of mortals, Moses the son of Amram, and for the Christians the founder of their faith, Jesus of Nazareth, who, whatever claim of divinity is made for him, was outwardly in his conduct and by descent from his mother a son of Israel, are even now to be ill-used and stigmatized for adhering to our faith? Why are tears shed for the sufferings of the African in his bondage, by which his moral condition has been immensely improved, in spite of all that may be alleged to the contrary, whereas for the Hebrews every one has words of contempt or acts of violence? In churches our faith is assailed as though we were enemies to G-d and man, and in political life every petty or great tyrant, whether here or elsewhere, makes us feel the weight of his power, whenever not checked by one greater than himself. O Liberty, how little has thy essence yet entered the hearts of man! O how little art thou, Equality, appreciated even by those who bear thee constantly on their lips!
The little scraps of information that I can glean from the published accounts which have met my eyes, do not permit any one to appreciate fully the evil which General Grant's ukase might inflict, nor the sins, if any, which have provoked his wrath. Let us assume that the act of banishment should affect but a dozen families only: still what right has a general or even the legislature of the nation to banish any class of believers as such from any district or portion of the land? Have we a constitution or not? Is there a law above the arbitrary will of civil and military rulers or not? If there is, then no one has the power to punish any class of believers, since religion is not made subject to any one's supervision under the constitution, so far as I understand it, and if I am wrong, I am willing to be corrected. But it may perhaps be alleged that the Jews in General Grant's department have violated the laws, or the articles of war; I can neither affirm nor deny this, not being cognizant of any facts bearing on the subject, nor does the order as published recite any reason for the edict. Yet be this as it may, if some Jews have sinned, name them, call them before a military tribunal or civil court, punish them to the full extent of the law or regulation, as malefactors, but not as Jews; for in the latter capacity they ought to be good citizens, faithfully fulfilling all the demands of the laws. In Europe we have always been distinguished for peaceful submission to the duties imposed on us as subjects, for in few States only were we till lately citizens; and I have yet to learn that here we are any more obnoxious to political transgressions than men of other creeds. At all events, the innocent should not have been confounded with the guilty, and the edict of expulsion was therefore both unjust and irrational, whatever reason there was for it, not to mention its being contrary to the laws of the country, which has clothes U.S. Grant with an authority of which he makes so unworthy a use.
It is true that the President has promptly revoked, as I see in the telegraphic accounts from Washington, the mandate of the Western general; but this is not a full satisfaction to our wounded and outraged feelings. The President could do no less than disapprove of an act which he has himself no authority even under the "war power" to commit; but he ought to have accompanied the dissent with such a declaration as would have restrained forever all the subordinates of the government, of whatever degree, from offending so in future. Where so much power is held in the hands of military commanders, where the civil laws are overawed by the men of the sword, where as formerly in Rome "inter arma silent leges," those who like us have no numerical strength to enforce their rights, have an undoubted claim to ask additional guaranties from the Executive, that their personal, civil, and religious privileges shall not be infringed on, as has been done, by men who hold the whole region, where they have command, in absolute subjection. Turn the question as you may, and you, Messrs. Editors, must agree with me, that nothing less will or ought to satisfy men who love freedom as the dearest thing on earth, next to their religion; for the latter they have suffered through many, many ages, and for the former they have shown themselves always ready to dare the most with the best and bravest of their neighbors.
One thing strikes me as remarkable, and this is, that the papers printed here have been silent as the grave on the shameful infringement of our rights, and not a syllable has been uttered in the midst of the multifarious comments on public affairs, few of which strike me as of greater importance. For, once admit that any particular religious society may be singled out by name for an indiscriminate diminution of their rights or banishment from any part of the country, and as the expulsion from one district includes the right to do so for the whole Union as the district of the commander-in-chief: and you expose one persuasion after the other to a similar treatment, the moment a combination for its suppression strong enough to make itself felt can be formed. How would the Baptists or Methodists like to drink the same cup if presented to their lips by Presbyterians or Catholics? And yet the case is a probable one, if the wrongs over which we now complain be not promptly rebuked and their recurrence rendered impossible.
I will not dilate any farther, though I could pour out my just indignation over a large number of pages. These few words however are enough, I trust, to open the eyes of our fellow-citizens, in the hope that they may aid us to secure for ourselves and thereby for themselves unabridged the right of worshipping G-d after the dictates of each individual's conscience, without being subject thereby to any civil or military disability.
I am yours,