BENJAMIN, JUDAH PHILIP


BENJAMIN, JUDAH PHILIP
BENJAMIN, JUDAH PHILIP (1811–1884), U.S. lawyer and statesman. Benjamin was undoubtedly the most prominent 19th-century American Jew. He was a noted lawyer, whose services were requested in connection with some of the most significant legal disputes of the time, a powerful politician who was a leader in the cause of Southern rights and on behalf of the short-lived Confederacy. Born in St. Croix in the West Indies, of British parents, Benjamin was a British subject. His family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, while he was still a boy. He was at Yale University for two years, but studied law privately in New Orleans while earning a meager living as a tutor in English and as a clerk in a business establishment. Deprived of a happy home through an unsuccessful marriage to a non-Jewess, Natalie St. Martin, a high-spirited Creole who left him to live in Paris after their only child was born after ten barren years, he was free to devote himself to law and politics. His legal eminence brought him wealth, and his political activity fame. He was the first professing Jew to be elected to the United States Senate, as a Whig in 1852, and as a Democrat (after the Democratic Party espoused the cause of Southern rights) in 1856. He became a leading member of the school of Southern politicians which favored secession from the Union as the only safeguard for Southern survival and delivered a number of major addresses in the Senate defending slavery. When Louisiana seceded, he withdrew from the Senate, and was immediately called to the cabinet of the newly created Confederate government (March 1861) as attorney general. President Jefferson Davis relied heavily upon Benjamin's companionship and counsel and appointed him to the more important position of secretary of war in September 1861. Benjamin quickly succeeded in antagonizing Davis's high-strung generals with his complacent lawyerly manner and became a convenient scapegoat for a number of military disasters and chronic supply problems, causing him to resign in March 1862. Loyal to Benjamin despite antisemitic attacks, Davis promptly appointed him secretary of state, a position which he held until the collapse of the Confederacy. In this role Benjamin came close to obtaining recognition of and help for the Confederacy from England and France. But the Confederacy's cause was doomed from the first, and after Lee's surrender to Grant (April 1865. Benjamin was the only leading Confederate to choose permanent exile rather than live in the defeated South, convinced that as both a rebel and a Jew he had little future in America. He parted ways with the fleeing president in South Carolina and escaped   to England through Florida and Nassau, and there made for himself a distinguished career as barrister (he was appointed Queen's Counsel), which in many ways outshadowed his prewar American legal career. Ill health forced his retirement from active work in 1882 and he died two years later in Paris where he had finally rejoined his wife and daughter. Benjamin took no discernible interest in Jewish affairs, although he never denied his origin and was never converted to the Catholic faith of his wife. There is no record of membership on his part in any synagogue, nor did he ever give support to any Jewish cause or organization. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: B.W. Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951), index; idem, Eventful Years and Experiences: Studies in Nineteenth Century American Jewish History (1954); R. Douthat Meade, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman (1943). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E.N. Evans, Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate (1988). (Bertram Wallace Korn)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Benjamin,Judah Philip — Benjamin, Judah Philip. 1811 1884. British born American politician who served as Confederate secretary of war (1861 1862) and secretary of state (1862 1865). * * * …   Universalium

  • Benjamin, Judah Philip — (1811–84)    US lawyer and statesman. Born to British parents in the Virgin Islands, Benjamin became a successful South Carolina lawyer. In 1852 he was the first professing Jew to be elected to the US Senate. When Louisiana seceded from the Union …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Benjamin, Judah Philip — (1818 84)    American lawyer and statesman. He was born in the Virgin Islands. He was elected to the US Senate in 1852. In 1861 he became attorney general of the Confederate government and later served as secretary of state until the collapse of… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Judah Philip Benjamin — Judah Philip Benjamin. Judah Philip Benjamin (6 de agosto de 1811, St. Croix 6 de mayo de 1884, París) fue un destacado jurisconsulto estadounidense, que fue miembro del gabinete confederado. Siendo muy joven se mudó con sus padres a Carolina del …   Wikipedia Español

  • Judah Philip Benjamin — (1811 1884) Judah Philip Benjamin (* 6. August 1811 in Saint Croix, damals Dänische Kolonie, heute Teil der Amerikanischen Jungferninseln; † 8. Mai 1884 in Paris, Frankreich) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und währen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Benjamin (Name) — Benjamin ist ein männlicher Vorname, der auch als Nachname vorkommt. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Varianten 2 Etymologie 3 Bekannte Namensträger 3.1 Vorname 3.2 Familienname …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Benjamin — /ben jeuh meuhn/, n. 1. the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel, and the brother of Joseph. Gen. 35:18. 2. one of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel traditionally descended from him. 3. Asher, 1773 1845, U.S. architect and writer. 4. Judah Philip, 1811 …   Universalium

  • benjamin — /ben jeuh meuhn/, n. benzoin1 (def. 2). [1570 80; alter. (by assoc. with the proper name) of benjoin, early form of BENZOIN1] * * * (as used in expressions) Banneker Benjamin Benjamin Judah Philip Benjamin Walter Benjamin Kubelsky Bloch Marc… …   Universalium

  • Judah — /jooh deuh/, n. 1. the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Gen. 29:35. 2. one of the 12 tribes of Israel traditionally descended from him. 3. the Biblical kingdom of the Hebrews in S Palestine, including the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Cf. Ephraim… …   Universalium

  • Philip — /fil ip/, n. 1. one of the 12 apostles. Mark 3:18; John 1:43 48; 6:5 7. 2. one of the leaders of the Christian Hellenists in the early church in Jerusalem who afterwards became an evangelist and missionary. Acts 6; 8:26 40. 3. King (Metacomet),… …   Universalium


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