Sunday, February 23, 2014

"All Jews Are Secessionists, Copperheads and Rebels"


Those of the Hebrew faith in the North did not enjoy the friendly inclusiveness of the antebellum South.  An Associated Press writer visiting Northern-occupied New Orleans wrote this chilling statement: "The Jews in New Orleans and all the South ought to be exterminated.  They run the blockade, and are always to be found at the bottom of every new villainy." 

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

"All Jews are Secessionists, Copperheads and Rebels"

"An indication of the anti-Jewish tendency of the age was the common practice of Northern newspapers to identify as a "Jew," "Israelite," or, worse yet, a "German Jew," any Jew who was apprehended in or suspected of carrying on disloyal activities. Jews who enlisted in the Army, or whose names were reported in casualty columns were never identified as such; but a wrong-doer was promptly catalogued for the public mind . . . [whether in Iowa, New York or Vermont].

This journalistic technique was at one and the same time the product of prejudice and an agency for its dissemination.  It fixed ever more strongly in the mind of the reader the myth of the dishonest, law-breaking Jew.  As one [Northern] reporter put it, "How could you expect a Jew quartermaster to be honest?"

In the political sphere, the fact that Judah P. Benjamin, high statesman of the Confederacy, was a Jew, provided a convenient slur with which all Jews could be defamed. Crude and insulting references to his religious origins were commonplace at the very beginning of the war and during election campaigns.  The catalogue of public figures who attacked him as a Jew would include, among others, Senator Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, General Benjamin F. Butler; Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts; Governor John Brough and Senator Ben Wade of Ohio.

It could only be prejudice and bigotry which would prompt an editor to single out prominent Southern Jews for special treatment.  The same conclusion must be reached in a consideration of those Republican journals and papers which accused all Northern Jews of being enemies of the Union.  Articles by the "Lounger" in Harper's Weekly said that all Jews were secessionists, copperheads and rebels.  

In California, the American Flag [newspaper] of San Francisco announced that "a large majority of the wealthier Jews of California, and particularly of San Francisco, are copperheads . . . adherents of the last, lingering, horrid despotism of the Dark Ages, which were dismal with the wail of their forefathers."  The Jews, apparently, whether there were many or few who preferred the Democratic party's policies, were not to be permitted the choice accorded to other citizens.

[Banker] August Belmont was a particular target for the Republican press and party spokesmen, even though (or perhaps because) he had married into one of America's most distinguished non-Jewish families, was rearing his children as Christians, and maintained no affiliation with Jewish activities or religious life.  In Philadelphia, a [Republican] Union League speaker made it a point to refer to "the Jew banker of New York;" an orator at the Cooper Institute of New York made some insulting comments about Belmont and his "knot" of German Jewish bankers . . . "  

(American Jewry and the Civil War, Bertram Wallace Korn, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951, pp. 158-161)