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Gen. Grant’s Expulsion of the Jews

Looking at the infamous Civil War edict

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As a native Texan, I frequently end up dispelling the myth about Texas’ special ability to secede from the United States. If you need a primer, I’ll just say that much of it has to do with the fact that Texas won its independence from Mexico and was its own country for nine years before it was annexed by the United States. This is the reason for Texan nationalism, this is why most any Texan school child can tell you more than you’d ever thought you’d know about Stephen A. Austin, the Siege of Bexar, Davy Crockett, and William Barrett Travis, and this is why some believe a close reading of the American annexation agreement gives Texas the right to secede.

Unfortunately, there is no New York Times blog about the Texas Revolution, so I’ve had to settle for the Disunion blog about the Civil War–which is actually quite good. Today, for instance, I came across Jonathan Sarna’s piece about General Ulysses S. Grant’s order to expel the Jews from areas under his command. Grant thought it would be the most effective way to end illegal trading.

Lots of non-Jews, including many soldiers, likewise pursued fast money by trading in illicit goods. Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana (who himself secretly speculated in cotton) reported in early 1863 that “every colonel, captain of quartermaster is in secret partnership with some operator in cotton; every soldier dreams of adding a bale of cotton to his monthly pay.” In Memphis, the leading city in Grant’s territory, “the amount of plunder & bribery” was “beyond all calculation,” according to Dana. “Honesty is the exception and peculation” — that is, embezzlement — “the rule.”

Nevertheless, in the eyes of Grant and of many other Americans, all smugglers and speculators and traders were Jews, whether they were actually Jewish or not — just as Southerners dubbed all Northerners “Yankees,” whether or not they hailed from New England. Grant wanted as few of them as possible in the area under his command.

In case you were wondering, President Lincoln rescinded the order. Nevertheless, I found myself wondering, where could I read more about this crazy anti-Semitic moment in American history? And I realized, Jonathan Sarna has a wonderful book on the topic. It’s called “When Grant Expelled the Jews.”

Check it out if you haven’t.

General Grant’s Infamous Order [NYT]

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Post-war repercussions[edit]

After the Civil War, General Order No. 11 became an issue in the presidential election of 1868 in which Grant stood as the Republican candidate. The Democrats raised the order as an issue, with the prominent Democrat and rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise urging fellow Jews to vote against Grant because of his alleged anti-semitism. Grant sought to distance himself from the order, saying “I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit.”[12] He repudiated the controversial order, asserting it had been drafted by a subordinate and that he had signed it without reading, in the press of warfare.[4] He wrote in reply to a correspondent:

I do not pretend to sustain the order. At the time of its publication, I was incensed by a reprimand received from Washington for permitting acts which Jews within my lines were engaged in … The order was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a set or race to themselves, but simply as persons who had successfully … violated an order.[13]

The episode did not cause much long-term damage to Grant’s relationship with the American Jewish community. He won the presidential election, taking the majority of the Jewish vote.[4]

Grant attends synagogue dedication[edit]

In 1874, President Grant and all the members in his Cabinet attended a dedication of the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington D.C. This was the first time an American President attended a synagogue service. Many historians have taken his action as part of his continuing effort to reconcile with the Jewish community. [14]

keshibha says:

Jews have been accused of wrong doing since the beginning of Judaism. There must be a reason for such a calumny. Why can’t Jews explain the putridness and shallowness in their own culture. Jews should look inwards without becoming another gilad atzmon


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Gen. Grant’s Expulsion of the Jews

Looking at the infamous Civil War edict

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