Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When General Grant Expelled the Jews - By Jonathan Sarna - The Tablet


When General Grant Expelled the Jews

By Jonathan Sarna
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“Ulysses S. Grant’s order expelling Jews from his war zone has long helped insure his eternal disgrace. Supposedly, the drunken, bloodthirsty crook was also an anti-Semite! Jonathan Sarna’s excellent, painstaking reevaluation of what really happened helps rescue Grant’s reputation; it is long overdue. It also affirms Sarna’s unsurpassed standing as a historian of American Jewry.”
Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln “An excellent study [from the] gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna . . . His account shines brightest around the edges of the story, offering valuable new insights into ethnic politics, press power, and the onetime ability of leaders to flip-flop with grace . . . A compelling page-turner.”Harold Holzer, The Washington Post “Thoroughly researched and crisply written, this is a very fine work that will interest students of both American and modern Jewish history.” —Publishers Weekly “Sarna expertly navigates the repercussions of Grant’s shocking order, which galvanized the American Jewish community into action, reminding many who were refugees from European expulsions how insecure they were even in America. . . . Sarna weighs the short-lived order against important Jewish appointments in Grant’s administration, his humanitarian support for oppressed Jews around the world, and lasting friendships with Jews. A well-argued exoneration of a president and a sturdy scholarly study.” —Kirkus Reviews “In this compelling and focused study, Jonathan D. Sarna explores the causes—and assesses the little-known impact—of one of the most troubling incidents in the life of the Union's greatest commander.”Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor of The Civil War “An absorbing account of a lamentable act by the North’s greatest general, a dishonorable act committed by an honorable man. This fair and balanced treatment of the event places the commander and the Jews in the context of great conflict. Fortunately, redemption and rapprochement would follow.”Frank J. Williams, president, Ulysses S. Grant Association
On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued a sweeping order, General Orders #11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone. It remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. The order came back to haunt Grant in 1868 when he ran for president. Never before had Jews been so widely noticed 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. During his two terms in the White House, the memory of the “obnoxious order” shaped Grant’s relationship with the American Jewish community. Surprisingly, he did more for Jews than any other president to his time. How this happened, and why, sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on America itself.

About the Author

Jonathan Sarna

Jonathan Sarna
Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University. He also chairs the Academic Advisory and Editorial Board of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in … Continue reading

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