When General Grant Expelled the Jews

When General Grant Expelled the Jews

Book - 2012
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Finalist, 2012 National Jewish Book Awards

A riveting account of General Ulysses S. Grant's decision, in the middle of the Civil War, to order the expulsion of all Jews from the territory under his command, and the reverberations of that decision on Grant's political career, on the nascent American Jewish community, and on the American political process.
On December 17, 1862, just weeks before Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, General Grant issued what remains the most notorious anti-Jewish order by a government official in American history. His attempt to eliminate black marketeers by targeting for expulsion all Jews "as a class" unleashed a firestorm of controversy that made newspaper headlines and terrified and enraged the approximately 150,000 Jews then living in the United States, who feared the importation of European antisemitism onto American soil.
Although the order was quickly rescinded by a horrified Abraham Lincoln, the scandal came back to haunt Grant when he ran for president in 1868. Never before had Jews become an issue in a presidential contest, and never before had they been confronted so publicly with the question of how to balance their "American" and "Jewish" interests. Award-winning historian Jonathan D. Sarna gives us the first complete account of this little-known episode--including Grant's subsequent apology, his groundbreaking appointment of Jews to prominent positions in his administration, and his unprecedented visit to the land of Israel. Sarna sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on the ongoing debate between group loyalty and national loyalty that continues to roil American political and social discourse.


Publisher: New York : Nextbook : Schocken, c2012.
ISBN: 9780805242799
Branch Call Number: 973.708 Sarna 03/2012
Characteristics: xiii, 201 p. :,ill.,23 cm.


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Dec 01, 2016

Interesting story that hasn't been widely spread 150 years on. Except maybe for the ancestors of the Jews who experienced the disgraceful order. However, the expulsion was never implemented. Jewish and gentile leaders from around the country descended on Washington DC and made President Lincoln aware of Grant's outrageous order to expel Jews from the area under his control and Lincoln quickly overruled him.
At this point in the narrative I lost interest and never finished the book. Yet I'd still recommend it. It is a pretty good read.

oldhag Dec 29, 2012

Although this book's title suggests that General Ulysses S. Grant signed an order, known as General Orders No.11, to expel Jews from "Holly Springs, Trenton, Corinth, Paducah, Jackson, and other places" in the war zone known as the "Department of the Tennessee...stretching from Northern Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River", the document reproduced in the book, and labeled as the "official text" of the order was signed by "JNO. A. Rawlins, Assistant Adjutant-General, and was issued on December 17, 1862. Grant's signature is not on it. That there were four or five other texts also known as "General Orders No.11" (plus a supposedly similiar "General Orders No. 12) only confuses the issue further. The order was revoked on January 6, 1863 in a telegram quoted in the book, "By direction of the General in Chief of the Army at Washington...the General Order from these Head Quarters expelling Jews from this Department is hereby revoked". Since any signature on the revocation is not reproduced in the book, it's unclear which "General" is being referred to (Would Lincoln be Chief of the Army?), or which "Head Quarters" (Washington?). Within the 22 days that the order was in effect, the author notes that, "it seems to have affected fewer than one hundred [Jews]". To further complicate the mystery, after Grant's death, several people attested that "The order issued during the war, excluding certain Jewish traders from a given military district, did not originate with him...but came from higher authority, and was not against the religion of the Jews". "It is, of course, understandable why Jewish history should vilify a leader who blamed 'Jews as a class' for the sins of smugglers and traders, and then expelled 'Jews as a class' from the entire territory under his command. Yet Ulysses S. Grant deserved better...He appointed more Jews to public office than any of his predecessors. He sought to bring Jews (as well as Blacks) into the mainstream of American political life. He acted to promote human rights for Jews around the world."


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