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The Jewish Vote and the Nagging Question of Dual Loyalty

Charges have dogged American Jews since the 1868 election, as Jonathan Sarna explains in ‘When General Grant Expelled the Jews’

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Library of Congress and 2008 US Presidential Election map Wikipedia)
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General Frenemy

In 1862, Ulysses S. Grant issued an order expelling all Jews from his territory. Turns out, that was a good thing. Historian Jonathan Sarna explains.

Such predictions, even if wildly exaggerated, had already moved Ulysses S. Grant to act. In response to a letter from an influential B’nai B’rith leader and lawyer, Adolph Moses of Illinois, a Confederate veteran, on Sept. 14 Grant dispatched a private letter to their mutual friend, former Congressman Isaac Newton Morris, in which he unequivocally distanced himself from General Orders No. 11 and forswore prejudice. The confidential letter was not published at the time. Grant, according to Simon Wolf, the Jewish community’s unofficial government lobbyist, did not want the public to believe that “he was catering for the good wishes and possible votes of American citizens of the Jewish faith.” That, apparently, was acceptable for him to do in private but not in public.

Still, leading Jews undoubtedly saw the letter. After reading it, Moses, probably at the urging of Grant’s staff, composed a long letter of his own that appeared on the front page of the New York Times (Oct. 13, 1868), and in other newspapers, just as the election entered its home stretch. “I have … corresponded with Gen. Grant,” Moses announced dramatically, and Grant had made “a reparation.” Though Moses had earlier criticized Grant in print, he reported that having reviewed the question anew he would now follow his “political inclinations” without reference to the “side issue” of Grant’s order. “The best interests of our country,” he proclaimed, “are subserved by the election of Gen. Grant, and I have no diffidence to declare it to the community.”

Just 10 days later, a published letter in the New York Herald (Oct. 23, 1868) from another wavering Jewish Republican, a book-keeper in Cincinnati named David Eckstein, revealed that he actually had spoken to Grant for nearly two hours and was likewise now satisfied with the general’s response. Indeed, Grant’s explanations concerning General Orders No. 11 were, in Eckstein’s optimistic view, “sufficient to remove and obliterate every vestige of objection against him on the part of every fair-minded and reasonable Israelite.” He urged Jews to offer “hearty support” both to Grant and to “the party which put the General in nomination.”

What impact these and other last-minute endorsements made on Jewish voters is impossible to know. What really mattered were the results of the Nov. 3 election, and when they were tallied, Grant emerged the winner by 309,584 votes and a healthy 134 electoral vote margin. Except perhaps in New York, where Grant lost by precisely 10,000 votes and fraud was suspected, the Jewish vote could not have made much difference anywhere. Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where Jewish voters were supposed to help the Democrats, both went Republican by comfortable margins. The vote in Indiana was closer, but the Jewish vote in that state was too small to make a difference. The more than 500,000 African-American votes cast, especially in the South, most of which naturally went to Grant, made much more of a difference in the totals and may actually have swung the election in Grant’s favor.

Contemporaries disagreed as to how Jews finally voted. The Cleveland Daily Herald argued that Jews “were not deceived” by the campaign against Grant, “and very little attention was paid by them to the clamor.” The New York Times, by contrast, estimated that “nearly the entire body of voting Israelites” voted against Grant. All that we know for certain is that a young Jewish student at Yale University named Louis Ehrich, later a prominent collector and dealer of art, agonized over the question of how to cast his first presidential ballot. In the end, he voted Democratic. “My nation is too dear to me,” he explained in his diary, “to allow me to respect one who injured it.”

A fitting epilogue to the tumultuous battle for the Jewish vote appeared in newspapers across the country during the final week of November. With the election behind him, Ulysses S. Grant permitted his private letter to Isaac Newton Morris concerning General Orders No. 11 to be handed over to the press. It told Jews just what they wanted to hear from the president-elect: “I do not pretend to sustain the Order.” While Grant’s self-serving explanation—“the order was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race”—did not actually bear close scrutiny, Jews were thrilled with the general’s forthright, unambiguous, and appropriately italicized concluding declaration: “I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit. Orders No. 11 does not sustain this statement, I admit, but then I do not sustain that order. It never would have been issued if it had not been telegraphed the moment it was penned, and without reflection.”

After months of bitter internecine political battling, Jews cheerfully united in praise of Grant’s “noble and generous” letter. Isaac Mayer Wise, a prominent Reform rabbi and editor, who was the first to receive and publish it, felt sure that it “would be read with pleasure by all of our readers.” B’nai B’rith leader Benjamin F. Peixotto, who admitted to voting against Grant, rejoiced to the New York Times at how the letter “exonerates Gen. Grant from the imputation of prejudice and intolerance against the Jews, so long believed to be one of his characteristics.” The Occident, now edited by Mayer Sulzberger, a future Pennsylvania judge, perceptively viewed the letter as “a guide for those who so easily fall into [Grant’s] errors, but are so far from imitating his virtues.”

What the Times characterized as this “frank and manly confession” lifted the taint of “Haman” from upon Grant’s shoulders. It did much to rehabilitate his image in Jewish eyes, restored Jews’ confidence in the country’s ideals, and added to the spirit of buoyant optimism that characterized American Jewish life as a whole at this time. Across the United States in the late 1860s, Jews were building magnificent synagogues and temples and looking forward with eager anticipation to a glorious “new era” characterized by liberalism, universalism, and interreligious cooperation. In calling for each individual to be judged according to his own merit, Grant’s letter provided reassurance that he shared many of these same lofty goals.

The so-called “upstanding Israelites,” many of them American bred, who labored to bring forth this new era of religious good feeling were far removed from the “Jews as a class” that Grant had expelled in 1862 for trading, smuggling, and speculating. Some of them, particularly Simon Wolf and the Seligman brothers, merchants and bankers, had contributed significantly to the Republican victory. They were, for the most part, self-made men who had been born poor, worked hard, and succeeded—just like the president-elect himself. The question, as Ulysses S. Grant now prepared for his inauguration, was what his future relationship with these upstanding Israelites would be.

This essay was excerpted and adapted from When General Grant Expelled the Jews, out today from Nextbook Press.

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Gsarry says:

Grant’s order is not some recently discovered document but has been known for 150 years. What is new is charging Jews with the vicious canard of dual loyalty. Dual loyalty to whom? IS their a voter anywhere who doesn’t vote his or he interests?. American Jews, in their slavish loyalty to the Democratic Party have a dual loyalty. But seriously, show me one ethnic group in America that does not vote for its perceived interests. Stop worrying and bashing American Jewish voters. We have the same rights as all other Americans, and what’s more, we intend to use them.

Floyd says:

Please explain to us what you think the dual loyalty is to?

Rocky says:

The most famous blockade runner during the Civil War was Rhett Butler, Margaret Mitchell’s fictional character in “Gone With the Wind”. I don’t think he was Jewish.

General Grant was antisemitic, as were many Americans in those days, even if they did not know any Jews. Some states didn’t even allow Jews to run for public office in those days. The article really has nothing to do with dual loyalties(putting Israeli interests above American interests), in the usual meaning of the term.

Bennett Muraskin says:

Grant was no anti-Semite. He apologized for his anti-Semetic act and as President offered a cabinet post to a Jew, Joseph Seligman. Seligman declined.

Nearly 40 yeears later, Teddy Roosevelt appointed the first Jewish cabinet member–Oscar Straus.

Kmansfield says:

Attachments to other countries by certain factions has always been an issue, now NATO, empire/globalism, Int’l finance, it’s all ruinous.

Washington’s Farewell Address 1796
The unity of government which constitutes you one people ..is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize…from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness…

Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations…

…they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments… but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

Kmansfield says:

The Anglo-American Alliance gave Britannia it’s colony back, now we’re it’s military wing, so this isn’t just an Jewish American-Israel issue.
more..

..a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils…. facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. [Libya stands out, Syria is domino] It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure.. by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate..
And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, [called anti-semite, muslim] while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Arandi Oreno says:

Nonsense ..Today in America the majority of Jews are White..Jews have now crossed over into whiteness life the other european immigrants..

Arandi Oreno says:

Those jews in America who are in peril are Black jews who face racism from even white jews now…

There are blacks who have ‘converted’ but very few of their conversions were done by orthodox rabbis. These people are not recognized as Jews. In the era of the first black president and his black attorney general Holder whose decisions have been pro-black and anti-white, it is funny to see someone still playing the race card.

Why do Jews always have to vote Democrat? I know we mostly live in the big cities and go to college, but it’s more than that. And it can’t just be that Hitler was conservative.

The confederacy was much more friendly to Jews. And Lee was the better man.

Pollard.

so the accusation of dual loyalty has a history, what about Jewish responses to it? Are there similarities in that too?

Hard Little Machine says:

Except of course MOST states didn’t give Jews the vote in the US until years after the ratification of the 13-14-15 amendments giving freedom and the vote to blacks. NC not until 1868, New Hampshire not until 1876. So all this Tablet crypto world proletariat nonsense is just that, nonsense.

Marlene says:

FYI

2000

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The Jewish Vote and the Nagging Question of Dual Loyalty

Charges have dogged American Jews since the 1868 election, as Jonathan Sarna explains in ‘When General Grant Expelled the Jews’

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