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Grant, Ulysses Simpson°


GRANT, ULYSSES SIMPSON ° (1822–1885), victorious Union Army general of the Civil War and 18th president of the United States (1869–77). Grant's name has been linked irrevocably with anti-Jewish prejudice through his signature on General Order Number 11, issued at his headquarters of the Department of the Tennessee, located in Holly Springs, Miss., on December 17, 1862: "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order. Post commanders will see that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application for trade permits." It cannot be proven indisputably whether this blanket condemnation and order of expulsion, executed in the area under Grant's military control in parts of the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, was composed by Grant himself or by an underling, on the inspiration of an official of the War Department or in response to complaints by General W.T. Sherman, or in accordance with the wishes of gentile cotton-buyers in the area. Extensive research has uncovered much anti-Jewish prejudice on the part of military officers and civilian officials, but no conclusive key to the identity of the specific instigator of Grant's Order. The general himself had instructed one of his subordinates on Nov. 10, 1862, to insure that "no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad south from any point… they are such an intolerable nuisance that the department must be purged of them." On the same day that he signed Order No. 11, he reported to an assistant secretary of war that "I instructed the commanding officer of Columbus [Mississippi] to refuse all permits to Jews to come South, and I have frequently had them expelled from the department…. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel everywhere …" An explanation which Grant offered on September 14, 1868, in the thick of the presidential campaign, implied that reports to him from the field and a reprimand from Washington had led him to issue and publish the order "without reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race to themselves but simply as persons who had successfully … violated an order …" It is also possible that the fact that Grant's own father was involved in business dealings with Jews at this time had something to do with his frame of mind.

Lincoln insisted that the order be revoked, despite Grant's unique facility for winning battles. Debates about the order took place on the floor of both the House and Senate, but opinion was divided fairly closely along party lines. During Grant's victorious presidential campaigns of 1868 and 1872, discussion of the anti-Jewish order appeared in the public and Jewish press, and some Jews and non-Jews were torn between their admiration for General Grant and their detestation of Order Number 11.

No single act or word, let alone edict, of another president or federal official, in all of American history, compares with the Grant order for rank generalization, harshness, or physical consequences. Yet Grant did not previously, nor subsequently, reveal animus toward Jews or Judaism. He appointed a number of Jews to important office during his presidency, offering the secretaryship of the Treasury to Joseph *Seligman, whose family included long-term friends of Grant dating back as far as 1849. In 1870 Grant appointed the former head of the American B'nai B'rith, Benjamin Franklin *Peixotto, to the unsalaried position of consul at Bucharest as part of an effort to persuade the Romanian government to relent from its violent campaign of pogroms against its Jews. Simon *Wolf, a vigorous, albeit unofficial and unsupervised, representative of Jewish concerns in Washington, believed that Grant "did more on and in behalf of American citizens of Jewish faith, at home and abroad, than all the Presidents of the United States prior thereto or since." But Grant was a Republican, and so was Wolf, and Grant appointed Wolf recorder of deeds of the District of Columbia in 1869.

The Grant affair underlines the unconscious assimilation by many Americans of traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes, and the constant search for scapegoats which took place during the traumatic experience of the Civil War as it did in other periods of social and psychological crisis.


S. Wolf, Presidents I Have Known (1918), 63–98; J. Isaacs, in: aja, 17 (1965), 3–16; B. Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951), ch. 6; L. Gartner, in: ajhq, 58 (1968), 24–117. add. bibliography: J. Sarna, American Judaism (2004), 120–22.

[Bertram Wallace Korn]

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