Moses, Raphael J.

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MOSES, RAPHAEL J. (1812–1893), U.S. lawyer and state legislator. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, into a family of colonial American origin, Moses attended grade school but left school at the age of 13. After an apprenticeship in business, he set himself up in Charleston as a merchant. After the 1838 fire destroyed his business, he moved to St. Joseph, Florida, then to Apalachicola, Florida, where he studied law and opened his own practice. He then moved to Columbus, Georgia, where his practice flourished and he became a leader of the bar. He also ventured into fruit growing. Before the Civil War he was the first to ship Georgia peaches to Savannah and thence by steamer to New York City. An ardent secessionist, Moses, although over military age, quickly volunteered his services at the outbreak of the Civil War. He rose to the rank of major and served as Confederate Commissary for the State of Georgia until the war's end. Moses retained his deep feeling for the "Lost Cause" to the end of his life.

Returning to Columbus, Moses resumed his law practice and was elected to the first postwar Georgia state legislature, where he was made chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 1878, while campaigning for the U.S. Congress, Moses heard that his opponent, W.O. Tuggle, had taunted him with being a Jew. In "An Open Letter to the Hon. W.O. Tuggle," first published in the Columbus Daily Times (Aug. 29, 1878) and reprinted many times, he eloquently answered: "… I feel it an honor to be one of a race whom persecution cannot crush… whom prejudice has in vain endeavored to subdue… who… after nearly nineteen centuries of persecution still survive as a nation and assert their manhood and intelligence… Would you honor me? Call me Jew. Would you place in unenviable prominence your unchristian prejudices and narrow bigotry? Call me Jew." Moses lost the election nevertheless.


B.A. Elzas, Jews of South Carolina (1905), 199–202; C. Reznikoff and U.Z. Engelmann, Jews of Charleston (1950), 289–90 (reprint of letter to Tuggle).

[Thomas J. Tobias]