-- Part Two --
"Mordecai Noah everyone astounded,
When he said, "A Jewish state will be founded
On Grand Island, by freedom surrounded."
(Patriots and Peddlers - Anonymous)
Resources for the Further Study of M. M. Noah,
His Israelite Gathering, and Related Topics
1815-a Books by Elias Boudinot
(Trenton: Fenton & Hutchinson, 1815)
B. A Star in the West
(Trenton: Fenton & Hutchinson, 1816)
1815-b Articles from the Washington Reporter (Wash., PA)
B. (Oct. 30, 1815) "Indian Treaty" (Grand Island)
1819-a Mordecai M. Noah graphic
Travels in England... Barbary States, etc.
(New York City: Kirk and Mercein)
1823-a Ethan Smith
A View of The Hebrews
(Poultney: Smith & Shute, 1823)
1823-b Articles from the Niles Register (Baltimore, MD).
B. (Oct. 1, 1825) "Ararat"
C. (Jan. 21, 1826) "Re-assemblage of the Jews"
1825-a Articles from the Buffalo Patriot
1825-b Articles from the Ontario Repository (Canandaigua, Ontario, NY).
B. (Jun. 15) "A Peep at the West" #1 (Noah's travels west)
C. (Jun. 22) "A Peep at the West" #2 (Noah's travels west)
D. (Jul. 20) "A Peep at the West" #3 (Noah's travels west)
E. (Sep. 28) "Revival of Jewish Government" (Noah's "Proclamation")
F. (Oct. 05) Noah's Dedication Speech of Sept. 15th in Buffalo
Note: Articles E & F (above) are substantially the same as these articles
reprinted in the Wayne Sentinel of Palmyra, NY:
A. (Sep. 27, 1825): (M.M. Noah's "Proclamation to the Jews."
B. (Oct. 04, 1825): (M.M. Noah's Sept. 15th Speech - 1st half)
C. (Oct. 11, 1825): (M.M. Noah's Sept. 15th Speech - 2nd half)
In addition to these three articles, the Wayne Sentinel also ran a follow-up
1831-a David Staats Burnet
Something New: The Golden Bible
(see: "M. M. Noah and the Mormons" in the Comments section)
1835-a Articles from M. M. Noah's Evening Star (NYC)
1835-b Article from LDS Messenger & Advocate (Kirtland, OH):
Note: Letter from W. W. Phelps to John Whitmer (editor of the LDS newspaper)
quotes The M. M. Noah "Heathen Temple" article from Noah's Evening Star.
The article was reprinted in the LDS History of the Church Vol II, p. 351.
In that volume the editor appends this comment, apparently from Joseph Smith, Jr:
"Thus much from M. M. Noah, a Jew, who had used all the influence in his power,
to dupe his fellow Jews, and make them believe that the New Jerusalem for them,
was to be built on Grand Island, whose banks are surrounded by the waters of the
same Lake Erie. The Lord reward him according to his deeds."
1837-a Mordecai M. Noah
"Discourse on the American Indians"
1837-b W. R. Callington
1837 Survey: Panorama of the Niagara River
detail of Grand Island & Niagara Falls
1845-a Mordecai M. Noah
"Restoration of the Jews"
1848-a Articles from Gospel Herald (Voree, Walworth Co., WI):
B. (Feb. 15, 1849) "Major Noah and the Temple"
Note: James J. Strang's Mormon splinter group published several different
periodicals in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Probably several these issues
carried articles on M. M. Noah. See, for example, the Gospel Herald for
Mar. 1, 1849, which printed a letter from J. Litch, commenting on that paper's
Feb. 15th article on M. M. Noah. Litch's "Major M. Noah and Solomon's
Temple" contains no useful information and is not reproduced here.
1851-a M. M. Noah obituaries
B. (April 26, 1851) from the Boston Museum
1866-a Lewis F. Allen
"Founding of the City of Ararat on Grand Island"
reprint 1: Buffalo Hist. Soc. Pub. Vol I, 1879
reprint 2: Buffalo Hist. Soc. Pub. Vol XXV, 1921
1866-b Land Plat of Grand Island
(map showing the survey divisions of the island)
1907-a Morris U. Schappes (ed)
Doc. Hist Jews in U. S. 1654-1875 NYC: Citidel Press (reprint) 1950
(prints several early letters relating to M. M. Noah)
1921-a Lewis F. Allen excerpt from the 1866 text
"The Story of the Tablet of... Ararat"
Buffalo Hist. Soc. Pub. Vol. XXV
1931-a Harry K. Gutmann
Mordecai M. Noah: the American Jew
Cincinnati 1931, np
1936-a Isaac Goldberg excerpts: VI VIII
Major Noah: American-Jewish Pioneer
Philadelphia: Alfred A. Knopf
(reprint: Jewish Publication Society 1938)
1947-a Robert W. Bingham (ed) excerpt
Niagara Frontier Miscellany,
Buffalo Hist. Soc. Pub. Vol. XXXIV
1953-a Abram Leon Sacher
A History of the Jews, 4th ed.
New York: Alfred Knopf
(Description of Noah's 1825 dedication ceremony: p. 396)
1960-a Selig Adler (ed.) excerpt
From Ararat to Suburbia... Jewish Community of Buffalo
1963-a Joseph L. Blau & Salo, W. Baron (eds.)
Jews of the US: 1790-1840, vol. 2
NYC: Columbia Univ. Press, 1963
(includes several M. M Noah letters from 1823-1833)
1963-b Joseph L. Blau & Salo, W. Baron (eds.)
Jews of the US: 1790-1840, vol. 3 excerpt
NYC: Columbia Univ. Press, 1963
(includes several M. M Noah letters from 1820-1826)
1965-a S. Joshua Kohn excerpt
"Mordecai Manual Noah's Ararat Project"
Am. Jewish Hist. Quarterly 55:2 (Dec. 1965 p. 162ff)
1968-a William L. Shulman
"The 'National Advocate' 1812-1829"
(NYC: Yashiva Univ, unpub. Ed.D. thesis)
1977-a I. Harold Sharfman excerpt
Jews on the Frontier
Chicago: Henry Regnery Co.
(Oct. 22, 1825 M. M. Noah letter on Ararat: p. 214 )
1981-a Jonathan D. Sarna (ed.) excerpt: Ararat project
Jacksonian Jew: The Two Worlds of Mordecai Noah
New York: Holmes and Meir, 1981
1981-b Edward Pessen
"Jackson Jew..." (book review)
American Jewish History
Vol. LXXI No. 1, September, 1981
1982-a Richard H. Popkin excerpt
"M. Noah, Gregoire, & Paris Sanhedrin"
Modern Judaism II:2, May 1982
1984-a Jonathan D. Sarna
"Literary Contributions of M. M. Noah" Jewish Book Annual
Volume 42, 1984-85
1985-a Jan Shipps excerpt
Mormonism: Story of a New Religious Tradition
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985
1986-a Jonathan D. Sarna (ed.)
The American Jewish Experience
New York 1986: Holmes and Meir
1986-b Dan Vogel excerpt
Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon...
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986
1987-a Abraham I. Karp
Mordecai M. Noah, the First American Jew
New York 1987: Yeshiva University Museum
(illustrated 75 page catalog of M. M. Noah historical items)
(see Karp's on-line selection of items in Library of Congress)
1989-a Jacob R. Marcus vol. 1 excerpt
United States Jewry, 1886-1985
Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1989
1992-a Steven Epperson excerpt
Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of Israel
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992
1992-b Robert N. Hullinger excerpt
Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992
1992-c Wesley Walters & H. Michael Marquardt
Inventing Mormonism... excerpt
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992
1992-d Howard M. Sachar
History of the Jews in America
NYC: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992
(comments on M. M. Noah and historical context)
1993 Grant Underwood excerpt
The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism
Urbana: University of Illinois, 1993
1998-a Ben Katchor (author & illustrator)
The Jew of New York (a graphic novel)
New York: Pantheon, 98 pp., $20
Note: This illustrated book is about the impending theatrical production
of "The Jew of New York," a fictional comedy satirizing M. M. Noah's
failed attempt to establish a Jewish homeland Grand Island. The fictional
story looks at claims for American Indians being the Tribes of Israel, etc.
1999-a Michael Schuldiner and Daniel J. Kleinfeld (eds.)
The Selected Writings of Mordecai Noah
Greenwood Press: Westport, CT 1999.
2000-a Julia Neuffer (with excerpts from Ellen G. White)
The Gathering of Israel (on-line text)
2000-b Rahel Musleah
Jewish History of Buffalo, NY (on-line text)
2000-c No Author Indicated
The History of Grand Island (on-line text)
L A T T E R D A Y S A I N T S'
MESSENGER AND ADVOCATE.
Vol. II. No. 3.] KIRTLAND OHIO, DECEMBER 1835. [Whole No. 15.
G O S P E L |__| H E R A L D.
Vol. III. No. 48.] VOREE, WIS., THURSDAY, FEB. 15, 1849. [WHOLE No. 112.
Vol. IX. PHILADELPHIA, APRIL 1851. NUMBER 1.
Vol. 3. BOSTON, MASSACHUSSETTS., SATURDAY, APRIL 26, 1851. NUMBER 46.
Buffalo Hist. Soc. Publications
Vol. XXV, 1921 (text reprinted from 1866)
[ 113 ]
Grand Island lies in the Niagara river, County of Erie, and State of New York. Its south end is about four miles below the mouth of Lake Erie, to the north, and its north end is about the same distance above the Niagara Falls. Its extreme mean length is a trifle over eight miles; its extreme breadth is a little over six miles -- but that width extends only a small distance -- the average being probably four and a half miles; containing in its whole area, by survey, 17,381 acres. It is a body of good agricultural land, and until about the year 1834, with the exception of ten or twelve hundred acres, was covered with a heavy growth of timber. Its situation along the shore of the river is exceedingly pleasant and commanding, elevated six to thirty feet above the water; and along its various coasts embraces many picturesque views of the city of Buffalo, the villages of Tonawanda and Niagara Falls, and the adjacent Canadian and American shores. At its southwestern extremity lies, separated by the small arm of Beaver creek about one
114 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
hundred feet in width, Beaver Island, containing forty acres. At its northwestern extremity, is a small inlet of deep water, called Burnt Ship bay, in which are two sunken hulks of vessels, said, by tradition (and no doubt truly), to be driven in there from Chippewa by the British forces and destroyed by their French commanders, in the French-and-English Canadian war of the year 1755. In very low water the timber heads of one of these vessels may be seen a few inches above the surface. Separated by this bay, a narrow marsh, and an insignificant streamlet of only a few feet in width, lies Buckhorn Island, containing, by survey, one hundred and forty-six and one-half acres. No other islands are immediately contiguous to Grand Island.
Spafford's Gazetteer, printed in the year 1821, relates that the State of New York, by a treaty held with the Seneca Indians at Buffalo, September 12, 1815, purchased of that tribe, Grand and several other small islands in the Niagara river. For Grand Island, this authority does not give the price paid by the State. My impression is, that I have seen in some other work that eleven thousand dollars was the consideration; and for the other small islands, Spafford states that the consideration was one thousand dollars and an annuity of five hundred dollars.
Immediately after its purchase by the State, numerous squatters flocked on to Grand Island, and built cabins along its shores on both sides -- On the west, or Canadian side, mostly -- for the purpose of cutting, and working into staves, the valuable white-oak timber which abounded there, for the Montreal and Quebec markets. From those cities the staves were shipped, mainly, to the British West India Islands. The staves were taken from Grand Island in scow-boats to Chippewa, thence wagoned around the Falls to Lewiston, and there put on board sail-vessels for Montreal and Quebec.
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At the time the State of New York purchased Grand Island, the territorial titles of the lake and river islands between the United States and Canada were undetermined, and so they remained until the year 1822, when all the islands in the Niagara river, excepting Navy Island, opposite the foot of Grand Island, were declared by the boundary commissioners, appointed by the governments of the United States and Great Britain, to belong to the United States, and consequently they came under the jurisdiction of the State of New York. Up to the year 1819, the squatters held undisputed possession of the land, amenable to neither New York nor Canadian law; setting up a sort of government of their own, wherein they settled their own disputes, if they had any, but defying the authority of either jurisdiction on the opposite shores. In a foot-note to the Field Notes of the survey of the island made in the months of October and November, in the year 1824, by Silas D. Kellogg and James Tanner, after describing Lot No. 18, on the east, or American bank of the river, the surveyors remark:
"On this lot stands the remains of a log cabin, in which the renowned Mr. Clarke used to reside. While it was undetermined to which government the island belonged, this man came on, and became generalissimo and the director of an independent judiciary, whose laws and customs were enforced and practiced like those of the King of the Outlaws."
This Mr. Clarke -- "Governor" he used to be called when administering squatter-law on the islands -- I knew very well in the year 1835. He then lived at Pendleton, in Niagara county, on the Erie canal, where he had the reputation of a good citizen. I asked him about his residence and administration at Grand Island. He evidently disliked to talk upon the subject, and waived it at every attempt I made to get a history of the affair, but acknowledged the fact of living there, and being somewhat a conspicuous man among the people. He
116 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
was then perhaps fifty years of age, but whether now living or not, I am unable to say. So annoying had the squatters on the island become to the neighboring shores, by their frequent acts of outlawry, and their depredations on the valuable timber of the island, that the New York State authorities took summary measures to remove them. An instance was related, that when a sheriff or constable, armed with a civil process, had landed there to arrest one of the squatters, several of them assembled, and treated both the officer and his authority with contempt; took his oars or paddles out of his boat, and set him adrift down the river, where he floated for some distance, until some one, touched by his distress, put out with another boat and took him over to the American shore.
Immediately after this, in the year 1819, Sheriff Cronk, of this county (then Niagara), was clothed with a requisition from the State authorities, to call out a company of the militia in and about Buffalo, to make a descent on the island, and rid it of the squatters. Colonel Benjamin Hodge (still living with us) then having the requisite military command, with a sufficient number of armed men, and accompanied by the sheriff, took boats from the "Seeley Tavern," about three miles below Black Rock, on the river shore -- landed on the island -- made its entire circuit -- drove off every squatter, either on to the Canadian or American shores, and burned every dwelling and other building to the ground. Thus was established the authority and law of the State over Grand Island. A portion of these squatters, however, immediately returned; but, as they ceased cutting timber and held themselves amenable to the law, they were not again molested by State authority. They rebuilt their cabins, cultivated their little patches of clearing, and remained peaceable citizens, taking a little timber "on the sly," only; keeping a few cattle and pigs, and
STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT 117
eking out a poor, but, to them, quite satisfactory subsistence.
Grand Island, in those days of the Niagara frontier, in its grand and deep solitude, was a charming place for those who loved to range the woods, or float on the quiet pellucid waters of the noble river encircling it. From head to foot, along the shores, or in the deepest wilderness, on a still day, the roar of the Falls below was always heard, and along its westerly shore their ascending spray was always in sight. Men of thought and reflection loved occasionally to camp for days on its shores, and fish and hunt, as the mood for either recreation impelled them; and no wonder that the ''loafing,'' desultory habits of the squatters found there a congenial dwelling place. There was the serene sky, the clear waters, the venerable trees -- all in quiet summer beauty, inviting to repose, to listlessness and laziness so congenial to squatter and roving life. Who can blame the vagabonds for loving to live and harbor there!
The woods abounded with deer; occasionally a bear, a wolf, or other large game worthy a hunter's elevated ambition, was found. Great numbers of raccoons, squirrels, and other small furry quadrupeds inhabited the woods, while myraids of ducks and other game-birds thronged the shores and waters in their proper season. The Indians from the Seneca and Tonawanda reservations, held annual hunts of days or weeks upon the island, and carried away canoe-loads of the choicest venison.
The fishing too, was magnificent. Tons of the finest muskelonge, yellow pike, sturgeon, black bass, pickerel, mullet and smaller fish were hauled up to the shore in seines in their seasons, or drawn out by the hook and line of an adroit angler. The hook-and-line fishing of the Niagara was nowhere excelled. No wonder such a paradise of hunters and sportsmen was sought and lived
118 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
upon by those to whose habits steady labor was irksome. The warm, sunny nooks of "the clearings" produced every annual garden-fruit and vegetable of the climate. Melons and other choice delicacies abounded with every one who had the industry to plant and cultivate them. Hunting parties would go down from Black Rock and Buffalo, for a week's recreation, and "drive" the woods for deer, while ";coons," squirrels, ducks, and other game were the continuous incidental trophies of their sport. So passed, for several years, the squatter and camp life of Grand Island.
In the year 1824, the State ordered a survey of the island into farm lots, and in that year a party was fitted out for the purpose. A part of the work was done under the supervision of Silas D. Kellogg, in that year. But Mr. Kellogg sickened and died before the work was completed; and, early in the next year, James Tanner was commissioned, and finished the work.
In this year (1825) an eventful history was about to open on the Niagara frontier. Those members of our Society who then lived here, in the relation of their reminiscences of that period, have been prone to mark it as an eventful year in three striking incidents relating to the history of Buffalo, viz: the visit of General Lafayette, the completion and opening of the Erie canal, and "the hanging of the three Thayers." They might have added to it another memorable occurrence, not only to Buffalo, but to the Niagara frontier. Following the survey of Grand Island into farm-lots, for settlement, of which the State authorities gave notice in the public newspapers, an idea occurred to the late Major Mordecai Manuel Noah, a distinguished Israelite, of the city of New York, then editor of a prominent political journal, called The National Advocate, that Grand Island would make a suitable asylum for the Jews of all nations, whereon they could establish a great city, and become
STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT 119
emancipated from the oppression bearing so heavily upon them in foreign countries.
To understand this matter thoroughly, it is necessary to go somewhat into particulars. I knew Major Noah well. Physically, he was a man of large muscular frame, rotund person, a benignant face, and most portly bearing. Although a native of the United States, the lineaments of his race were impressed upon his features with unmistakable character; and if the blood of the elder Patriarchs or David or Solomon flowed not in his veins, then both chronology and genealogy must be at fault. He was a Jew, thorough and accomplished. His manners were genial, his heart kind, and his generous sympathies embraced all Israel, even to the end of the earth. He was learned, too, not only in the Jewish and civil ]aw, but in the ways of the world at large, and particulally in the faith and politics of "Saint Tammany" and "the Bucktail party" of the State, of which his newspaper was the organ and chief expounder in the city of New York. He was a counselor at law in onr courts, had been Consul-General for the United States at the Kingdom of Tunis, on the coast of Barbary, -- at the time he held it, a most responsible trust. Although a visionary, -- as some would call him -- and an enthusiast in his enterprises, he had won many friends among the Gentiles, who had adopted him into their political associations. He had warm attachments and few hates, and if the sharpness of his political attacks created, for the time, a personal rancor in the breasts of his opponents, his genial, frank, childlike ingenuousness healed it all at the first opportunity. He was a pundit in Hebrew law, traditions and customs. "To the manner born," he was loyal to his religion; and no argument or sophistry could swerve him from his fidelity, or uproot his hereditary faith. My friend and neighbor, William A. Bird, Esq., has related to me the following anecdote: Many
120 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
years ago, when his mother, the late Mrs. Eunice Porter Bird Pawling, resided at Troy, New York, a society was formed, auxiliary to one organized in the city of New York, for the purpose of christianizing the Jews in all parts of the world. Mrs. Pawling, an energetic doer of good work, in the then infant city of her residence, was applied to for her co-operation in that novel benefaction. She had her own doubts, both of its utility and success, of which results have proved the correctness. But, determined to act understandingly, she wrote a letter to Major Noah, asking his views on so important a subject. He replied in a letter, elaborately setting forth the principles, the faith, and the policy of the Jewish people, their ancient hereditary traditions, their venerable history, their hope of a coming Messiah; and concluded by expressing the probability that the modern Gentiles would sooner be converted to the Jewish faith, than that the Jews would be converted to theirs.
Major Noah -- as I observed, a visionary, somewhat, and an enthusiast altogether -- made two grand mistakes in his plan. In the first place, he had no power or authority over his people; and, in the next, he was utterly mistaken in their aptitude for the new calling he proposed them to fulfill. But he went on. He induced his friend, the late Samuel Leggett, of New York, to make a purchase of twenty-five hundred and fifty-five acres, partly at the head of Grand Island, and partly at its center, opposite Tonewanda, at the entrance of the Erie canal into the Niagara river. Either or both of those localities were favorable for building a city. These two tracts he thought sufficient for a settlement of his Jewish brethren; which, if successful, would result in all the lands of the island falling into their hands. Nor, on a fairly supposititious ground -- presuming the Jews, in business affairs, to be like the Gentiles -- were his theories so much mistaken. The canal, opening a new avenue
STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT 121
to the great western world, from Lake Erie to the ultima thule of civilization at that day, was about to be completed. The Lakes had no extensive commerce. Capital was unknown as a commercial power in Western New York. The Jews had untold wealth, ready to be converted into active and profitable investment. Tonawanda, in common with Black Rock and Buffalo, with a perfect and capacious natural harbor, was one of the western termini of the Erie canal, and at the foot of the commerce of the western lakes. With sufficient steam-power, every sail craft and steamship on the Lake could reach Grand Island and Tonawanda, discharge into, and take on their cargoes from canal-boats, and by their ample means thus command the western trade. Buffalo and Black Rock, although up to that time the chief recipients of the lake commerce, lacking moneyed capital, would not be able to compete with the energy and abundant resources of the proposed commercial cities to be established on Grand Island and at Tonawanda, and they must yield to the rivalry of the Jews. Such was Major Noah's theory, and such his plans. Mr. Leggett's cooperation, with abundant means for the land purchase, he had already secured. Through the columns of his own widely circulating National Advocate he promulgated his plan, and by the time the sale of the Grand Island lots was to be made at the State Land Office in Albany, other parties of capitalists had concluded to take a venture in the speculation.
The sale took place. Mr. Leggett purchased one thousand and twenty acres at the head of the island, at the cost of several thousand two hundred dollars, and fifteen hundred and thirty-five acres along the river in a compact body, above, opposite, and below Tonawanda, at the price of nine thousand seven hundred and eighty-five dollars; being about fifty per cent. above the average of what the whole body of land sold at per acre, -- that
122 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
is to say: the whole seventeen thousand three hundred and eighty-one acres sold for seventy-six thousand two hundred and thirty dollars; being an average, including Mr. Leggett's purchase, of about four dollars and thirty-eight cents per acre.
Next to Leggett, Messrs. John B. Yates and Archibald McIntyre, then proprietors, by purchase from the State, of the vast system of lotteries, embracing those for the benefit of Union College, and other eleemosynary purposes -- gambling in lotteries for the benefit of colleges and churches was thought to be a moral instrument in those days -- purchased through other parties a large amount of the land, and "Peter Smith, of Peterboro" (living, however, at Schenectady, -- and the most extensive land speculator in the state, -- father of the present Gerrit Smith) took a large share of the remainder. To sum up, briefly, the result of the sale of the Grand Island lands: Leggett and Yates and McIntyre complied with the stipulated terms of the sale, paid over to the State their one-eighth of the purchase-money, and gave their bonds for the remainder; while Smith -- wary in land-purchasing practice, when the State of New York was the seller -- did no such thing. He paid his one-eighth of the purchase money down, as did the others, but neglected to give his bond for payment of the balance. The consequence was, when the eclat of Noah's Ararat subsided, and his scheme proved a failure, the land went down in value, and Smith forfeited his first payment, and the lots fell back to the State. But on a lower re-appraisal by the State some years afterwards, Smith again bought at less than half the price at which he originally purchased, made his one-eighth payment again, and gave his bond as required; thus pocketing, by his future sale of the property, over twenty thousand dollars in the transaction!
All this, however, aside from Mr. Leggett's purchase
STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT 123
for the benefit of Major Noah, has nothing to do with our main history, and is only given as an occurrence of the times.
Major Noah, now secure in the possession of a nucleus for his coveted "City of Refuge for the Jews," addressed himself to its foundation and dedication. He had heralded his intentions through the columns of his National Advocate. His cotemporaries of the press ridiculed his scheme, and predicted its failure; yet, true to his original purpose, he determined to carry it through. Wise Jews around him shook their heads in doubt of his ability to effect his plans, and withheld from him their support. But, nothing daunted, he ventured it unaided, and almost alone. By the aid of an indomitable friend, and equally enthusiastic co-laborer, Mr. A. B. Siexas, of New York, he made due preparations; and, late in the month of August, in the year 1825, with robes of office and insignia of rank securely packed, they left the city of New York for Buffalo. He was a stranger in our then little village of twenty-five hundred people, and could rely for countenance and aid only on his old friend, the late Isaac H. Smith, then residing here, whom he had known abroad while in his consulate at Tunis. In Mr. Smith, however, he found a ready assistant in his plans. Major Noah, with his friend Siexas, arrived in Buffalo in the last days of August. He had got prepared a stone which was to be "the chief of the corner," with proper inscription and of ample dimensions for the occasion. This stone was obtained from the Cleveland, Ohio, sandstone quarries. The inscription, written by Major Noah, was cut by the late Seth Chapin of Buffalo.
As, on examination when arriving here, he could not well get to Grand Island to locate and establish his city, it was concluded to lay the corner-stone in the Episcopal church of the village, then under the rectorship of the
124 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
Rev. Addison Searle. At this strange and remarkable proceeding, and the novel act of laying a foundation for a Jewish city, with its imposing rites and formulae, its regal pomp and Jewish ceremony, in a Christian Episcopal church, with the aid of its authorized rector, may strike the present generation with surprise, a word or two may be said of the transaction.
The Rev. Mr. Searle was, at that time, the officiating clergyman in the little church of St. Paul's, in the village of Buffalo, and had been placed there as a missionary by the late, wise and excellent Bishop Hobart. He held a government commission as chaplain of the United States, and had been granted a some years' furlough from active duty. He had been on foreign cruises, -- had coasted the Mediterranean, and spent months in the chief cities of its classic shores, and visited the beautiful Greek Island of Scio, a few weeks after the burning of its towns and the massacre of its people by the Turks, in 1822. He was an accomplished and genial man, of commanding person and portly mien; his manners were bland, and his address courtly. Whether he had made the acquaintance of Major Noah abroad or in New York, or whether he first met him on this occasion at Buffalo, I know not; but their intercourse here was cordial and friendly.
On the second day of September, 1826, the imposing ceremony of laying the corner-stone of the city of Ararat, to be built on Grand Island, took place; and, as a full account of the doings of the day, written by Major Noah himself, was published at the time in The Buffalo Patriot, Extra, I take the liberty of repeating them from that paper:
It was known, at the sale of that beautiful and valuable tract called Grand Island, a few miles below this port, In the Niagara river, that it was purchased, in part, by the friends of Major Noah of New York, avowedly to offer it as an asylum
STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT 125
126 STORY OF THE TABLET OF THE CITY OF ARARAT
for his brethren of the Jewish persuasion, who, in the other parts of the world, are much oppressed; and it was likewise known that it was intended to erect upon the island a city called ARARAT. We are gratified to perceive, by the documents in this day's Extra, that coupled with this colonization is a Declaration of Independence, and the revival of the Jewish government under the protection of the United States, -- after the dispersion of that ancient and wealthy people for nearly two thousand years, -- and the appointment of Mr. Noah as first Judge. It was intended, pursuant to the public notice, to celebrate the event on the island; and a flag-staff was erected for the Grand Standard of Israel, and other arrangements made; but it was discovered that a sufficient number of boats could not be procured in time to convey all those to the island who were desirous of witnessing the ceremony, and the celebration took place this day in the village, which was both interesting and impressive. At dawn of day, a salute was fired in front of the Court House, and from the terrace facing the lake. At ten o'clock the Masonic and military companies assembled in front of the Lodge, and at eleven the line of procession was formed as follows:
ORDER OF PROCESSION.
Major Noah: American-Jewish Pioneer
Philadelphia: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936
[ 131 ]
NOAH had returned from his Grand Tour. For the moment, employment under the government was out of the question. He had left as a good Jeffersonian; he returned as a son of Saint Tammany. On the surface, these were the same thing; beneath, the division had already well begun. Naphtali Phillips, his uncle and benefactor, came once again to his aid.
Phillips was a power in the politics of New York. He had been a journalist from the beginning, having first served on Claypole's American Advertiser, one of the important newspapers of Philadelphia. As a youngster of sixteen, and the worthy son of his patriot father, Jonas, he had formed part of the cavalcade that escorted President Washington from Philadelphia to New York, for the inauguration. The Rachel to whom Noah refers in his letters to his uncle was Rachel Hannah, daughter of Moses Mendez Seixas, whom Naphtali had married in 1797. Phillips had been living in New York since the opening year of the new century, and had become proprietor of the National Advocate, which he was to own
132 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
for a considerable period. He would outlive his nephew -- and his contemporaries, indeed -- by many years, not dying until November 1, 1870, at the age of
It was Phillips, then, who placed Noah at once in the editorial chair of The National Advocate, which had been established in 1813 by Tammany Hall under the editorship of the highly capable Henry Wheaton. Wheaton, an authority on international law, had been appointed one of the Justices of the Marine Court, New York. In 1816, during the agitation over Noah's dismissal and rehabilitation, the ex-diplomat succeeded to Wheaton's position, which for the next decade he was to occupy with varying fortunes. On September 8, 1818, in the midst of his troubles with the government, he was elected a member of the New York Historical Society, to which he belonged until his resignation in 1828.
American journalism was not yet out of its black period, -- an orgy of assault, battery, libel, recrimination, accusation, bribery, scurrility, chicanery, such as makes the succeeding development of yellow journalism appear by comparison a Sunday school picnic. Such was, indeed, the tradition of journalism in our adolescent United States.
Newspapers in those days were dull, unwieldy, tasteless sheets, supported by advertisers who expected support in turn. The editors were far more interested in what was occurring in distant Washington than in what was happening directly under the editorial nose. When Noah succeeded to the throne -- he did develop a habit of assuming royal airs, and for a while commanded close attention from party leaders at Albany -- there were over three hundred newspapers in the
1 See AJHS, vol. xxi, pp. 172-174
SAINT TAMMANY AND THE PROMISED LAND 133
country, most of them weeklies, semi-weeklies or even triweeklies. At the close of the War of 1812 New York had seven dailies; the ~ldvocate had a circulation of eight hundred. Peddling of papers was in its prenatal stage and would not be born until The Sun rose in 1833; the subscriber paid in advance and the journal was delivered to him.
Boston and Philadelphia still led New York in the development of journalism. The gazette, like the national literature itself, had already emerged from theology into politics; journalism in the sense by which we know it today had not yet definitely arisen, and would not arise for ten years or more, when the stress of political revolution in Europe and in America was to alter the complexion of world affairs.
It is easy to become over-virtuous in condemnation of the political career upon which Noah was now embarking. It was even more easy for his enemies to do so, or for him, in the same half-sincere spirit, to condemn his political opponents. Allowing for all exaggeration, Noah's public career —and of how many politicians is this not true.;—at times stands in strange contrast to the idealisms of his private life.
What Noah wanted of The National ~dvocate was a living, and power to advance himself in the local, state and national politics. His eye swept the panorama, as it were, alighting now on the shrievalty, now on the contract for the state printing, again upon a foreign post that would make him once again the proud—and redeemed—representative of his nation and of his people.
During these ventures, however, he would, by very force of his lively personality rather than through any conscious purpose, be contributing to the improvement of the New York press. And certainly the press of the city could stand much in the way of improvement over its ship listings, its
134 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
(pages 134-147 not transcribed)
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d'affaires to Vienna for the promotion of them. He is an incorrect, and very ignorant, but sprightly writer, and as a partisan editor of a newspaper has considerable power. He argues with great earnestness his merits in supporting the administration, as a title to the President's favor. He is, like all editors of newspapers in this country who have any talent, an author to be let. There is not one of them whose friendship is worth having, nor one whose enmity is not formidable. They are a sort of assassins who sit with loaded blunder-busses at the corner of streets and fire them off for hire or for sport at any passenger they select. They are principally foreigners; but Noah is a native. He is salaried at a low rate by the anti-Clintonian Tammanies at New York to keep up a constant fire against his administration; and Noah pretends that this is serving the General Government, because Clinton is a standing presidential candidate and carries on an insidious war against Mr. Monroe." 1
The "great projects for colonizing Jews in this country" were already well in progress early in this same year; they must have been formed, indeed, during Noah's stay abroad, as is to be inferred from certain of his statements with regard to the condition of Jews in foreign lands. The legislative records of New York State contain entries indicating that Noah had already applied for a grant of Grand Island, the site of his never materialized colony:
Wednesday, January `9, 1820. "The memorial of Mordecai M. Noah, of New York, praying the State to authorize the sale to him of Grand Island, in the Niagara River, was read and referred to the select committee consisting of Mr. [Michael] Ulshoeffer, Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Oakley." 2
1 See Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of his Diary from 1795 to 1848. Edited by Charles Francis Adams. Philadelphia, 1875.
2 I quote &om AJHS, vol. ii, pp. 131-137, article, "New Matter Relating to Mordecai M. Noah," by G. Herbert Cone. Mr. Cone drew his material from the Assembly Journal, 1820.
SAINT TAMMANY AND THE PROMISED LAND 149
Monday, January 24, 1820. "Mr. Ulshoeffer from the select committee to whom was referred the memorial of Mordecai M. Noah, of the city of New York, relative to the purchase of Grand Island, reported:
"That the petitioner applies to the State for a grant of the said island, for the purpose of attempting to have the same settled by emigrants of the Jewish religion from Europe; that he not only considers the situation of Grand Island as well adapted for the contemplated purpose, but that the obtaining of the title from the State would be very advantageous in inducing the emigration of capitalists, as well as others.
"The committee did not doubt, but that the recent persecution of the Jews in various parts of Europe, may favor the views of the petitioner, and that the settlement of Grand Island would be a desirable object to this State. It is one of the greatest characteristics of the United States that they offer an asylum to the unfortunate and persecuted of all religious denominations; but to preserve our equal rights, it is essential, as the petitioner states, that we should offer no preference to any sect. Without reference, therefore, to any object of the petitioner, which may be supposed to present a claim for any purpose of religion, but considering that the legislature has repeatedly declared its intention of affording equal protection and enjoyment to all who may inhabit within it, and that it is for the interest of the State to dispose of the said island, there can be no objection, in the opinion of the committee, to the grant thereof to Mr. Noah for value, in the usual way.
"They have accordingly prepared a bill, providing for the survey and sale of said island, agreeably to the prayer of the petitioner, which they have directed their chairman to ask leave to bring in."
"Ordered that leave be given to bring in said bill.
"Mr. Ulshoeffer, according to leave, brought in the said bill entitled 'An act directing the commissioners of the land
150 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
office to survey and sell Grand Island, in the Niagara River, to Mordecai M. Noah,' which said bill was read the first time, and by unanimous consent was also read the second hme and committed to the committee of the house."
Nothing, however, came of Noah's application. Yet, as ever, he rebounded from this failure with hopes undimmed. If not Grand Island, then how, for example, about Newport? In less than a year he is discovered hard at work trumpeting, through the columns of The National Advocate -- his paper, it would appear, as well as Tammany's! -- the virtues of Little Rhode Island as a temporary haven for the European Jew. In the interim he has been disabused of his notions concerning the inherited agriculturalism of Israel.
"The Jews in Europe, however, have expressed to me their doubt as to the disposition of their brethren to clear land, make settlements, and cultivate the soil, so incompatible with their present pursuits, and have rather given the preference to commercial places, where all the necessaries of life, and even luxuries may be purchased; and where immediate and beneficial application may be had for their money and enterprise. In fact there have been some earnest enquiries as to the advantages of manufacturing establishments of cloth, linens, glass, silks, and other articles, which now languish in Germany and France, and which if transferred to this country, it is hoped would yield a better profit, while they afforded the proprietors additional rights and privileges. Accordingly, a more central situation has been examined, and the State of Rhode Island appears to combine the greatest advantages.
"The Town of Newport has a Harbor inferior to none in the Union. The climate is remarkably healthy, expenses of livingg moderate; it has been the residence of respectable Jewish merchants, and has a very spacious place of worship already erected. The whole state, which is not as large as
SAINT TAMMANY AND THE PROMISED LAND 151
one county in this state, appears well calculated for manufactures and the charter on subjects of religion is as liberal as could be desired. It follows then, from the most prudent calculations that Rhode Island is at present the most eligible spot for Jewish emigrants, and will, I trust occupy their immediate attention. There is nothing visionary or even difficult in promoting an extensive Jewish emigration to this country. Men everywhere consult their safety and happiness; and when once they are satisfied that their civil and religious liberty will be respected -- their health and enterprise preserved and encouraged, they will venture upon an experiment which promises every advantage. I am tired of seeing a nation of seven millions of people, rich and intelligent, wandering about the world, without a home, which they can claim as their own, and looking to the restoration to an ancient country, which one eighth would not inhabit, if they recovered it tomorrow. Where the Jews can be protected by laws which they will have some agency in enacting, and where a laudable ambition will lead to the possession of posts of honor and confidence, and where they can mingle their voice freely in the councils of the nation and have the privilege of taking their place in the field and in the cabinet, I do consider that they will possess every temporal blessing which has been promised them. It is not however perfectly in order, to make a colony of them in this country. It could not be done. They will spread themselves over the Union, and be amalgamated with other citizens. They may be most numerous in places where their interest is best promoted." 1
This Noah fellow blows hot and cold. Agriculture? Yes -- and No. Colony? Yes --and, less than a year later, No. And, as we shall see in a few years, yet Yes again. Such alternation of mood and opinion suggests at once the opportunism of the politician and the instability of a sanguine temperament. There is no more reason, however, to question
1 See the New Hampshire Gazette, January 16,1821, which quotes a current issue of The Nanonal Advocate..
152 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
the fundamental sincerity of Noah's motives than to overlook the practical possibilities -- for him -- that accompanied such a project....
(pages 152-161 not transcribed)
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offered to buy him out, he refused. Further, he stigmatized Noah as a turncoat who was deserting Tammany and going over to their arch-enemy, Clinton. He had his man Friday censor Noah's editorials, rewriting them as he pleased. When, as the last straw, Eckford placed Judge Van Ness in the Advocate office, gradually making him the virtual editor, Noah was compelled by self-respect to resign.
There was to be an epilogue to this tale. Noah, of whom it was later said that he would have liked to edit every paper in the city, -- of whom, indeed, it has been noticed, from certain passages in his Travels, that he considered himself sufficiently able to sit in the Presidential chair of the nation, -- had one infallible remedy for journalistic trial and defeat: invariably he founded another newspaper.
The split with Eckford was very soon to cost that scheming fellow dear, and he would be sent to disgrace by the very editor whom he had ousted from the first Advocate. For New York was soon in the midst of a journalistic battle of various Advocates. Noah was determined, in founding a new paper, to retain the name of the old. When he established his own National Advocate, Eckford and Snowden (Snowden was the latest editor of the original Advocate) enjoined him from using the name. He altered the title now to Noah's New York National Advocate, was again enjoined, and this time chose the name, The New York Enquirer, 1 From a political, internal dissension, the fight gradually grew into a battle of classes, with Noah, suddenly emerging as a muckraker, in the role of St. George against the dragon of Wall Street business interests.
A Statement of Facts Relating to the Conduct of Henry Eckford, As Connected With The National Advocate. By M. M. Noah. New York, 1814.
SAINT TAMMANY AND THE PROMISED LAND 163
This episode, however, in which Noah triumphed over the forces of evil, was to culminate after the fiasco of Ararat in I825. The fury of Noah's attack, indeed, may have gathered animus from that colossal disappointment. Meantime the artistry of the man, and his social appetites, were being fed by a success on the stage and in the green-room that paralleled his never-complete vindications in the halls of justice. He was still the Major Bombastes Furioso, the "most puissant Bombastes," that the Evening Post had called him in 1821. On January 17 of that year William Coleman had printed the letter by Silvanus Miller that was to eventuate, after much ink-slinging, in the abortive trial of December, 1823.
Major Noah: American-Jewish Pioneer
Philadelphia: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936
[ 189 ]
AT daybreak of September 15, 1825, the inhabitants of the frontier village of Buffalo were startled out of their slumber by a loud detonation booming from the front of the Court House and reverberating across the Lake. Dawn was coming up like thunder. Cannon, in many-mouthed celebration, were to roar before that historic day was done. Shortly, excited communicants in Masonic and military array, accompanied by throngs of exalted civilians, would be streaming in from the general direction of New York City, to swell beyond comfort the normal population of twenty-five hundred. Sleepy Buffalo had suddenly acquired a place upon the map. Today, in the fiftieth year of American independence, was to be founded a republic within the republic, -- a haven of religious freedom within the haven of political liberty. A new, if self-appointed, redeemer had arisen in Zion.
By ten o'clock the military and Masonic companies had lined up before the Masonic Lodge. Within an hour the procession, led by Grand Marshal Colonel Potter on a prancing steed, was moving. The tramp of soldiery, of national,
190 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
state and municipal officers, advanced to the spot where the corner stone of a new Canaan was to be laid. Behind the band and the vanguard filed stewards, apprentices and representatives of their associated crafts, master masons, senior and junior deacons, senior and junior wardens, masters and past-masters of Lodges, members of the reverend clergy, more stewards bearing the symbolic corn, wine and oil, and a principal architect, with square, level and plumb, flanked on either side by a Globe, and backed by a Bible. There must have been, too, in this paradoxical pageantry, a sprinkling of the Chosen People for whom this new Promised Land, this Ararat, had been chosen . . .
And now all eyes were fixed upon a portly gentleman of forty, proudly erect of carriage, florid of face, keen of eye, sandy-haired over fleshy cheeks and an eagle's beak, who strode just ahead of the rear guard of Royal Arch Masons and Knights Templar. Over his black costume, majestically austere, were thrown rich judicial robes of crimson silk, trimmed with the purity of ermine. From his thickish neck depended a medal of gold glistening from high embossments.
It was a striking rig-out, and he himself, with a practiced theatrical eye, had designed it. More: he had designed his ephemeral eminence and its grandiose title. This was the prime mover of the day unto which would be more than sufficient the evil and good thereof. This was he who, for his redemptorist activities, had by Palestine been named Prince of the House of David... "I, Mordecai Manuel Noah, Citizen of the United States of America, late Consul of the said States for the City and Kingdom of Tunis, High Sheriff of New York, Counsellor at Law, and, by the grace of God (and printer's ink!) Governor and Judge of Israel."
EMBARKATION FOR UTOPIA 191
Through the blare of the band under this sunny sky the striding Prince beholds an apocalyptic vision. The Jews, rightful possessors of Palestine, are slaves in their own territory. In the Holy Land (outside of Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias, where there are but several hundred families, comprising three of the most ancient congregations in the world) dwell some hundred thousand of these Dispossessed of history. Suddenly, at the signal of his proclamation, the Disinherited of the nations arise beneath their burdens, and begin, across coninents, across oceans, a March to Freedom. From Erez Yisrael they come, from the shores of the Mediterranean... From the few hundreds in Samaria they come... From Crimea and the Ukraine, from the ten thousand in Cochin China, black Jews and white... From the coasts of Malabar and Coremandel, from the heart of India... From the million and a half in the dominions of the Ottoman Porte and the Barbary States, from the hundred thousand in Constantinople and Saloniki, from Cairo and Ispahan and from beyond the Euphrates... Now in straggling knots, now in regiments, tramping sturdily, inaudibly, here beside their redeemer...
God moves in ways mysterious His wonders to perform. For whither, of all places, should our Messiah and his pageant be directing their steps, if not to the one spot in Buffalo where a Jewish Messiah would be only less welcome than the Prince of Darkness, or the Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church? To the modest frame structure, then but five years old, under whose tiny four-pointed tower was housed the St. Paul's Episcopal Church... And where should the corner stone of the nascent Utopia be reposing if not -- in four-square defiance of all anathema -- upon the very communion table of St. Paul's?
192 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
Underneath a Hebrew inscription from Deuteronomy, 6.4, which every pious Jew prays in the face of danger and before delivering himself up to sleep or to death, was engraved upon the face of the stone, which is still to be seen in the Buffalo Historical Museum, the legend:
EMBARKATION FOR UTOPIA 193
Mr. Mordecai Manuel Noah, however, had just begun. That which had preceded had been but a theatrical setting for his Messianic maneuvers. Luck, too, had been with him.
The blueprint of Ararat had been mapped out not against the lanes of Buffalo but across the wilderness of Grand Island, a body of some 17,381 acres, Iying in the Niagara River, County of Erie, State of New York, about eight miles long, six miles across at the greatest breadth and, at the time of this embarkation, densely grown with timber. Noah, amid the metaphysics of his crowded plans, had little time for such practicalities as geography. Curiosity, if not adherence, attracted to the frontier village throngs far in excess of the boating facilities to Grand Island. It was necessary to find quickly a spot that should serve as symbolical proxy for the founding of the Jewish Intra-nation.
Noah knew but two souls in Buffalo, -- Isaac S. Smith, whom he had met in Africa, during the exciting consular days at Tunis, and the Reverend Mr. Addison Searle, who, in those selfsame days, had been a United States chaplain on a government ship cruising the Mediterranean waters. It was through Mr. Smith that the corner stone of Ararat had been procured from the sandstone quarries at Cleveland, Ohio; the inscription, prepared by Noah, was cut by Seth Chapin of Buffalo. And it was through the cordiality of Searle that the tiny stronghold of Episcopalianism was thrown open to Hebrew endeavor.
The Reverend Mr. Searle had entered upon his new duties on March 30 of that year, and there is every reason to believe that if he had not been rector on September 15, 1825, there would have been no dedicatory services in St. Paul's. As it turned out, Noah's latitudinarian friend-in-need was censured
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for this unwonted display of toleration and for having taken part in the play. 1
For a play it was, since nothing that was Noah could ever free itself entirely from histrionism. Against the background of the hymns and lessons and services of this kaleidoscopic morning the self-appointed Judge in Israel arose to deliver a meandering discourse, strangely, yet humanly, compounded of religiosity, theology, politics, patriotism, ethnology, delusions of grandeur and... real estate.
2. HANDS ACROSS THE CREEDSThis was, declared the Patriarch -- and Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall -- a Jewish Declaration of Independence.
Magniloquently he reaffirmed the Chosen-ness of his People, and the reestablishment of the Hebrew government. The nations of the old and new world, he said, "including the children of Africa, have had their rights acknowledged and their governments recognized. The oldest of nations, powerful in numbers and great in resources, remains isolated, without a home, country, or government... In calling the Jews together under the protection of the American Constitution and laws and governed by our happy and salutary institutions, it is proper for me to state that this asylum is temporary and provisionary. The Jews never should and never will relinquish the just hope of regaining possession of their ancient heritage, and events in the neighborhood of Palestine indicate an extraordinary change of affairs."
1 For information about the edifice in which the foundation ceremonies took place, consult History of St. Paul's Church, Buffalo, N. Y., 1817-1903, by Charles W. Evans (d. 1889) and Continued from 1889 to 1903 by Alice M. Evans Bartlett and G. Hunter Bartlett.
EMBARKATION FOR UTOPIA 195
Greece was almost independent of the Ottoman Porte. Turkey was weakening. Russia was about to march against Constantinople. Egypt was encouraging commerce and agriculture. The Turks, driven beyond the Bosphorus, might leave the land of Canaan open to its rightful owners.
For this reorganization of the Jews, Noah, after swiftly reviewing the various systems by which they had governed themselves, decided upon the latest, -- that of Judges presided over by the non-hereditary office of Chief Magistrate. Wherefore, having elected himself to that distinction, he justified his choice.
"Born in a free country, and educated in liberal principles, familiar with all the duties of government, having enjoyed the confidence of my fellow citizens in various public trusts, ardently attached to the principles of our holy faith, and having devoted years of labor and study to ameliorate the condition of the Jews, with an unsullied conscience and a firm reliance on Almighty God, I offer myself as an humble instrument of his divine will, and solicit the confidence and protection of our beloved brethren throughout the world. If there be any person possessing greater facilities and a more ardent zeal in attempting to restore the Jews to their rights as a sovereign and independent people, to such will I cheerfully surrender the trust...
"Firm of purpose, when the object is public good, I allow no difficulties to check my progress. Urged to its considera tion by strong and irresistible impulse, the project has always presented itself to me in the most cheering light, in the most alluring colors; and if the attempt shall result in ameliorating the condition of the Jews, and shall create a generous and liberal feeling towards them and open to them the avenues of science, learning, fame, honor and happiness, who shall
196 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
say that I have failed? I ask the trial -- and will abide the result."
Hereupon, Noah proceeded to orate a condensed history of the Jews in Europe, from the moment that they settled in England with Julius Caesar down to the very shores of Grand Island, anno Domini 1825. It was not an unaffecting summary, based upon something deeper than the chronology of cruelty and misunderstanding with which Noah, from long study and frequent speech-making, was so familiar; it was a dignified, if conservative, emotional epitome.
For Noah, declaiming there in booming prose, at the rector's desk in the high pulpit, to the pews and the full gallery around three sides of the little church, hope smiled down from the heavens. For his hearers, too. It was the Jubilee of the republic. The United States was still something new under God's sun. Optimism was not only a personal idiosyncrasy; it was a national mood.
"Why?" he asked, under the roof of a church into whose liturgy was still written the curse against his own people, -- "Why should Christians persecute Jews? Sprung from a common stock, and connected by human ties which should be binding; -- if those ties are empty and evanescent, where is the warrant for this intolerance? not in the religion which they profess; that teaches mildness, charity and good will to all... The Jews and Christians are only known by their hostility towards each other. This hostility neither religion recognizes... Times have undergone an important change -- we all begin to feel that we are formed of the same materials, subject to the same frailties, destined to the same death, and hoping for the same immortality. -- Here, then, in this free and happy country, distinctions in religion are
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unknown; here we enjoy liberty without licentiousness, and land without oppression."
Land... Before the Jews had been a nation they had been an agricultural people, and it was again the ambition of Noah to reestablish the Jews upon the soil. He waxed lyrical, proclaiming agriculture the natural and noble pursuit of man. The State of New York, with its six million acres of cultivated land, suddenly blossomed into a quasi-Sicilian landscape brushed by the stylus of Theocritus.
Between one sentence and another the prophecy becomes a prospectus, and Theocritus is shortly holding out to Jewish capital the inducements of profitable investments in gristmills, saw-mills, oil mills, fulling mills, carding machines, cotton and woolen factories, iron foundries, trip hammers, distilleries, tanneries, asheries, breweries and numerous etceteras. Grand Island, seat of the New Jerusalem, and surrounded by water-power, flashes forth as an ideal site for the erection of... industrial plants.
3. "IT IS MY WILL" --
198 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
enjoined it "upon all our pious and venerable Rabbis, our Priesdents and Elders of Synagogues, Chiefs of Colleges, and brethren in authority throughout the world, to circulate and make known this my proclamation, and give to it full publicity, credence and effect."
He ordered -- "It is my will" -- that a census of Jews throughout the world be taken.
He permitted to remain those Jews who preferred to remain where they were, but asked them to encourage the emigration of the young.
He enjoined all Jews who happened at the time to be in "military employment of the different sovereigns of Europe" to "keep in the ranks until further orders, and conduct themselves with bravery and fidelity." Until further orders!
He commanded that, in the impending wars between Greece and Turkey, the Jews observe strict neutrality.
He abolished forever polygamy among the Jews. At this word, the Asiatic and African Jews, presumably, were to lay aside their superfluous -- if superfluous -- wives and return meekly to double, instead of triple or quadruple, blessedness.
Prayers "shall forever be said in the Hebrew language;" Noah, however, affably permitted the delivery of discourses on the principles of the Jewish faith in the language of the country.
The wide orbit of his invitation to Utopia, circumscribing Jews of all climes and colors, included among these colors none other than Lo, the American Indian,—"in all probability, the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, which were carried captive by the King of Assyria." Noah desired finally to reunite them "with their brethren the chosen people."
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The theory that the American Indian is of Semitic descent is an outcropping of the greater theory concerning the Lost Tribes of Israel. The minor theory originated contemporaneously with the study of the Indian by the earliest explorers of this continent, -- gentry, on the whole, too well versed in the literal contents of the Bible and, in the data of ethnology, too ill. To them, correspondence of custom (whether imaginary or real) spelt identity of origin. Noah's researches, of course, were nothing more brow-furrowing than the perusal of books long ago refuted. 1
It was not so many years before the issuance of this proclamation that the Governor and Judge of Israel, in his speech of 1817, had looked down upon the Indian as "the savage of the wilderness, whose repast is blood, and whose mercy is death." What had caused this volte-face? The theory that the ancient Jews had cultural relations with the Red Man is now considered obsolete and enlists no support among ethnological experts. Yet contemporary investigators, while maintaining a scientific objectivity, suggest, without endorsing it, a persistence of the notion. Thus, Mr. Walter Hart Blumenthal writes: "Although recurrent announcements that Phoenician inscriptions have been found as petroglyphs on the Amazon may be baseless, and indeed most of the allegations advanced as 'arguments,' groundless, yet there are phases of the problem that invite serious investigation. Moreover, it is not beyond the bounds of probability that indications will be discovered of ancient cultural affiliations which had their roots in the primitive Semitic area, almost certainly among the racial
1 For a rapid survey of the Lost Tribes theory as applied to the American Indian see The Lost Tribes Theory, Suggestions Toward Rewriting Hebrew History, by Allen H. Godbey, Ph.D., Durham (North Carolina), 1930, Chapter 1. Professor Godbey also gives valuable collateral references.
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strains centered of old on the Mediterranean and the Nile, -- if not within the historic vista, at least among their precursors. In other words, there are ramifications of the outworn and crude Ten Tribe theory still within the purview of scholarship..." 1
I doubt that Noah, once having accepted the theory that the American Indians were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, ever abandoned it. As late as twelve years after the building of Ararat upon a foundation of oratory he was delivering, before the Mercantile Library Association, Clinton Hall, New York, and handing over to the printer, a Discourse on the subject. Once again, beginning with the authority of Menasseh Ben Israel, who in 1650 had published in Amsterdam his Mikveh Israel (The Hope of Israel), based upon the contemporary belief that the lost tribes had been found in Red America, and quoting with an appearance of vast ethnological learning, from Lopez de Gomara, Erecella (he means Ercilla), the Abbe Clavigero, De Vega, Du Pratz, Bartram and whom not else, Noah reaffirms the Semitic origin of our aborigines. 2
The Semitico-Indian theory appeared more convincing in Noah's day than in our own. Nor, in the light of that earlier day, need Noah have been such a fool or fanatic as he may appear in the perspective of history. As he was not the first or the last to be lured by the mirage of Utopia, so in his
1 See In Old America, Random Chapters on the Early Aborigines. By Walter Hart Blumenthal. With a Foreword by George Alexander Kobut. New York. 1931. Introduction, p. vii.
2 See Discourse on The Evidences of The American Indians Being The Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. By M. M. Noah. New York. James Van Norden. 27 Pine St., 1837. The discourse was translated into German in 1838. For Menasseh Ben Israel's notions upon the subject, consult The Life of Menasseh Ben Israel, by Cecil Roth, Philadelphia, 1934, pp. 176-224.
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facile ethnological research he erred in respectable company. His stretching forth of the brotherly hand may have been dictated, too, not only by a poetic gullibility, but by a very practical consideration. When he invited the Indians to Ararat-by-the-Niagara together with all the other Jews of the world it may well have been because there were tribes of them as close by as Tonawanda, and a conciliatory gesture was good policy.
Proceeding from Indians to the practical considerations of financing Utopia, Noah invented a poll tax, to consist of three shekels in silver, per annum, or one Spanish dollar, which "is hereby levied upon each Jew throughout the world, to be collected by the Treasurers of the different congregations, for the purpose of defraying the various expenses of re-organizing the government, of aiding emigrants in the purchase of agricultural implements, providing for their immediate wants and comforts, and assisting their families in making their first settlements; together with such free-will offerings as may be generously made in the furtherance of the laudable objects connected with the restoration of the people and the glory of the Jewish nation. A Judge of Israel shall be chosen once in every four years by the Consistory at Paris, at which time proxies from every congregation shall be received."
The Proclamation concluded with a summons to the Jewish intelligentsia of Europe, and a prayer for universal peace.
"I do hereby name as Commissioners, the most learned and pious Abraham de Cologna, Knight of the Iron Crown of Lombardy, Grand Rabbi of the Jews, and President of the Consistory at Paris; likewise the Grand Rabbi Andrade of Bordeaux; and also our learned and esteemed Grand Rabbis of the German and Portugal Jews, in London, Rabbis
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Herschell and Mendola; together with the Honorable Aaron Nunez Cardoza, of Gibraltar, Abraham Busnac, of Leghorn, Benjamin Gradis, of Bordeaux, Dr. E. Gans and Professor Zunz, of Berlin, and Dr. Leo Woolf of Hamburgh; to aid and assist in carrying into effect the provisions of this my proclamation, with powers to appomt the necessary agents in the several parts of the world, and to establish Emigration societies, in order that the Jews may be concentrated and capacitated to act as a distinct body, having at the head of each kingdom or republic such presiding officers as I shall upon their recommendation appoint. Instructions to these my Commissioners shall be forthwith transmitted; and a more enlarged and general view of plan, motives and objects will be detailed in the address to the nation. The Consistory at Paris is hereby authorized and empowered to name three discreet persons of competent abilities, to visit the United States, and make such report to the nation as the actual condition of this country shall warrant.
"I do appoint Roshodes Adar, February 7th, 1826, to be observed with suitable demonstrations as a day of Thanksgiving to the Lord God of Israel, for the manifold blessings and signal protection which He has deigned to extend to his people, and in order that on that great occasion our prayers may be offered for the continuance of his divine mercy and the fulfillment of all the promises and pledges made to the race of Jacob.
"I recommend peace and union among us; charity and good-will to all; toleration and liberality to our brethren of every religious denomination, enjoined by the mild and just precepts of our holy religion; honor and good faith in the fulfillment of all our contracts; together with temperance, economy and industry in our habits.
"I humbly intreat to be remembered in your prayers; and, lastly and most earnestly, I do enjoin you to 'Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes and his commandments and his judgments and his testimonies,
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as it is written in the laws of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself.'"
The Proclamation was signed by Noah's friend, A. B. Seixas, Secretary pro tem., and given at Buffalo as of the second day of Tizri, in the year of the World, 5596, corresponding with the fifteenth day of September, 1825, and in the fiftieth year of American Independence. 1
The day had been greeted with gunpowder; it ended with music, cannonade and libation. The ceremonies over, a salute of twenty-four guns was fired by the artillery. The band burst into a medley of popular airs, after which the procession returned to the Masonic Lodge. Here disbanding, Masons and military, ready now no doubt for the real business of the day, repaired to the Eagle Tavern.
And Noah? For the local newspaper, The Buffalo Patriot, he prepared a full account of the solemn ceremonies. To it, later, he added a plan of the proposed City, and a further appeal to his brethren in Europe. Without so much as setting foot upon the City of his dreams -- it is questionable, indeed, whether he ever trod the soil of Grand Island, before this day or after -- he returned to New York, to the secular cares, to the world of harsh factuality.
It was all over... Already... A still, though not a noiseless, birth... To paraphrase the greatest of poets, the baseless fabric of Noah's vision, like an insubstantial pageant, faded and left but a rock behind -- a decaying corner stone
1 In many places September 2nd is given as the date of the founding of Ararat. This may be owing to confusion with the "second day of Tizri." It has been pointed out that Noah selected September 15th because it was the first available date after the opening of the current Hebrew New Year.
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that would haunt the unredeemed redeemer. The mockery of Europe and America would heat his ears, then silence, the mockery of mockery... Nobody had heeded the call of the latter-day savior. No flood descended from the heavens to submerge the iniquity and the indifference of the nations. Noah's Ark, grounded upon a barren Ararat, was left high, dry and empty.
It was a sardonic apotheosis, -- a cenotaph of hope and reputation. Noah had been the orator at a funeral. 1
4. VALUES -- SPIRITUAL AND REAL ESTATENoah having been at once Quixote and Sancho, it is sometimes diflicult to say whether his Grand Island scheme was predominantly an ardent ideal or a cold investment... Ararat and Barataria...
There is concrete evidence that, however high-minded our paladin may have been about his City of Refuge, he was not blind to the possibilities of Ararat as a venture in real estate. Land booms were already old phenomena in the United States. Grand Island had been purchased by the State of New York in 1815, and was shortly infested by squatters. It became the haunt of timber-pirates and outlaws in general, constituting a sort of no man's country. The State is said to have paid to the Seneca Indians $11,000. for the territory, -- a price more fair at least than the $24. for which the isle of Manhattan was purchased from the red man.
1 The chief source of information about the ceremonies attending the foundation of Ararat is an account written by Lewis F. Allen, and read by him at a meeting of the Buffalo Historical Society on March 5, 1866 It appeared, originally, in Thomas' Buffalo City Directory for 1867, pp. 25-37; it was reprinted in vol. 1 of the Society's publications, 1879, and again reprinted in vol. 25, 1921, pp. 113-144. It is to be found most easily as reprinted in aAJHS, vol. viii, pp. 98-118.
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A year before the Noachian debacle the State had surveyed the island, which was dense with timber and notable as a hunting and fishing ground. Whether any of Noah's money went into the purchase of the 2550 acres that was made by his friend, Samuel Leggett, is not certain. Surely, however, Noah hoped, with the success of his enterprise, to acquire gradually the ownership of the entire island. The 2550 acres were in two lots, one at the head of the island, the other at the center, opposite Tonawanda and, what is more important, at the entrance of the Erie canal into the Niagara River. Noah, as an anti-Clintonian, had opposed the crowning achievement of Clinton's career. He was not averse, however, to profiting from the immense volume of new business that would be opened by the inauguration of the Erie Canal. He sat now, indeed, upon the Canal celebration committee. Buffalo lacked the capital to compete with the cities that Noah planned to establish at strategical positions on the island.
His reasoning, as a commercial organizer, seemed so sound that other capitalists were led to speculate in Island lots; notably, John B. Yates and Archibald McIntyre, who had purchased from the State the system of lotteries by which, in those days, colleges and churches were often financed. Among other purchasers were Levi Beardsley, James O'Morse and Alvan Stewart, who acquired a considerable portion of the Island. Beardsley has related 1 that, having been offered a handsome advance on their purchase, they wrote for advice to Noah. Noah advised them "by no means to sell at present, as he had no doubt of the success of his project, which would greatly enhance the value of our lands."
1 See his Reminiscences, New York, 1852, pp. 156-157.
206 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
As late as October 5, 1825, Noah was writing to Alvan Stewart, "We have not as yet been able to fix upon any definitive plans relative to Grand Island, waiting to see the effect produced in Europe. Although I think the land worth more than 50 per cent advance on the purchase, I am sure it will bring more yet..." 1
Grand Island, alas, was to prove as fruitless temporally as spiritually. Whether as an investment of the soul or of the national currency, it was equally a failure. Before the new year was very old, Noah would know only too well "the effect produced in Europe."
5. AFTERMATHIt is interesting that though the futility, the vanity, the self-seeking of Noah's "Ararat" have not been forgotten, his position in the history of Jewish self-determination is on the whole a highly honored one. The intention has been taken for the achievement. He emerges as an eccentric, surely, but none the less as an important pioneer in the story of Zionistic endeavor. If his descendants in the struggle for a Jewish homeland cannot honor his head, they do all honor to his heart.
This was, with one or two exceptions, the charitable attitude even of those contemporaries who were in high positions to pass upon his megalomaniac sentimentality. The very deputies upon whom he called to assist him, in one way or another betrayed his unsolicited faith. Eduard Gans, who, together with Dr. Leopold Zunz, had, as recently as January 1, 1822, written to him so sincerely, so hopefully from Europe,
1 The original of this letter is in the private collection of Leon Huhner, Esq.
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abandoned his Jewishness and adopted Christianity in the very year of Noah's "Ararat."
The letter had told how eagerly the Jews of Europe looked to the United States as an ark of freedom, and asked for particulars concerning the Jews of the country, State by State. Curiously enough, Noah did not make the document public until October 4, 1825, when, in answer to the storm of hostile and ridiculing criticism called forth by his Messianic scheme, he printed it in The Albany Daily Advertiser. He published it, he averred, "to exhibit an evidence of the fact that, although the Jews in the United States were not prepared for emigration... yet those abroad... have been alive to the project and in expectation of events which have taken place." Still more curiously, and to show how closely hand in hand went Noah's idealism and his hopes for profitable real-estate returns, his letter to Alvan Stewart, already quoted, was written on the very next day after the Zunz document was printed, with Noah's protestations, in The Albany Advertiser.
Zunz's defection was as a premonitory symbol. In the Journal des De'bats, Abraham de Cologna, Chief Rabbi of Paris, rejecting Noah's invitation, administered the rebuke pious. This in itself was a coup de grace.
The letter to the journalistic spokesman of the French government was translated into a number of tongues and was widely reprinted in Europe and in the United States.
"Sir -- The wisdom and love of truth which distinguish your journal, and the well merited reputation it enjoys in France and in foreign countries, induce me to hope that your politeness will grant me a place in your next number for some
1 The full text of this letter, with interesting annotations, is to be found in AJHS, vol. xx, pp. 147-149.
208 MAJOR NOAH: AMERICAN-JEWISH PIONEER
observations which I address to the public in interests of reason and truth.
"The French and English papers have lately announced the singular project of a Mr. Noah, who calls himself the founder of the city Ararat, in the United States of North America. Certainly if Mr. Noah was, as he is supposed to be, the proprietor or occupier of a great extent of uncultivated land, and confined himself to the engagement of men without fortunes to run the risk of colonizing with him, promising them at the same time mountains of gold, nobody would think of disputing his right to follow the fashion of sending forth projects; but Mr. Noah aspires to play a much more elevated character. He dreams of a heavenly mission, he talks prophetically; he styles himself a judge over Israel he gives orders to all the Israelites in the world; he levies the tax upon all Hebrew heads. In his exaltation he even goes so far as to make the central Jewish consistory of France his Charge d'affaires, and he honours the President of this body with the noble rank of 'Commissioner of Emigration.' The whole is excellent; but two trifles are wanting; first, the well authenticated proof of the mission and authority of Mr. Noah. 2ndly, the prophetic text which points out a marsh in North America as the spot for re-assembling the scattered remains of Israel.
"To speak seriously, it is right at once to inform Mr. Noah, that the venerable Messrs. Herschell and Mendola, Chief Rabbis at London, and myself, thank him, but positively refuse the appointments he has been pleased to confer upon us. We declare that according to our dogmas, God alone knows the epoch of the Israelitish restoration, that he alone will make it known to the whole universe by signs entirely unequivocal, and that every attempt on our part to reassemble with any politico-national design is forbidden, as an act of high treason against the Divine Majesty. Mr. Noah has doubtless forgotten that the Israelites, faithful to the principles of their belief, are too much attached to the countries where they dwell, and devoted to the Governments
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under which they enjoy liberty and protection, not to treat as a mere jest the chimerical consulate of a pseudo-restorer.
"As however justice requires some consideration to the absent, we should be sorry to refuse him the title of a visionary of good intentions.
"Accept, Mr. Editor, the assurance of the distinguished and respectful sentiments with which I remain your most humble servant,
The Grand Rabbi. DE COLOGNA."
To this Noah made a weak reply. He was happy to be considered at least a visionary of good intentions... "The result of the experiment," he maintained, "will show something of practical utility, or I am mistaken in the character of this country and its institutions. At all events, this opposition to an incipient stage will do good; it will excite curiosity and promote inquiry, which is all I ask at present." 1
If De Cologna and Herschell were content to find Noah, at worst, guilty of blasphemy, Andrade, the Chief Rabbi of Bordeaux, declared him a plain charlatan. So did Judah Jeitteles, the leader of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) in Austria. In the pages of the journal, Bikkure Ha'Ittim, he translated the details of Noah's call unto the nations, and subjected it to blistering ridicule.
It is to be questioned whether Noah's proclamation was allowed to appear in any of the papers of Poland and Russia. The police headquarters of Vienna scented, in the Grand Island scheme, a disguised revolutionary plot aiming at the overthrow of the Hapsburg monarchy. So that, as Gelber reports, the copies of the proclamation were withheld. Russia, for like reasons, enforced a like suppression; a condensed
1 As quoted in Niles' Register, January 21, 1826, pp. 350-351. A copy, in English, of the letter from the Grand Rabbi, Abraham de Cologna, appears also in this issue.
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notice of Noah's call, however, did appear in the Moscow Telegraph.
The English, German and Austrian press were less hindered; the results among their readers were, however, equally academic.
Since the truth grows in the mouths of honest men, it appears that some of the foreign papers promoted Major Noah to the office of Mayor of New York City. The Berliner Nachrichten von Staats-und Gelehrtensachen and the Vossische Zeitung, early in November, printed accounts of Ararat that could easily have been more spiced with sarcasm. The Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung went so far as to announce that news of the restoration of the Jewish nation had been withheld by the New York press through fear that "the Stock Exchange would be thrown into a panic upon finding itself suddenly threatened by the loss of so many people and so much capital." 1
1 I find this tid-bit in Zur Vorgeschichte Des Zioniimus. Jundenstaatsprojekte in den Jahren 1695-1845. By Dr. M. M. Gelber, Vienna, 1927, p. 289, note 51. Dr. Gelber's chapter on Noah, pp. 62-84, together with the notes thereto appertaining, form the best account of the repercussion of the Utopian plan among the Jews of the world.
Other reports are to be read in Die Welt for January 31, 1902, in which Dr. Heinrich Loewe (pp. 8-10) gives a resume of clippings from various European newspapers. Dr. M. Kayserling, in Allgemeine Zeitung des Jundentums, 1898 (pp. 101-103), in the course of a brief paper on "Ein Judenstaet-Grunder," which contains the errors of biographical detail that are to be found in all contemporary accounts of Noah, has references to the foreign reception of the Grand Island plan.
The matter of the press-reception of Noah's project, owing to the difficulties in gaining access to files of domestic and foreign papers of the period, is still more hazy than it should be. Though there is no doubt as to what happened -- or, rather, did not happen -- it would make an interesting monograph if some competent person would compile a digest of the comments that greeted the call to Ararat when it was sent forth from the Ark of Grand Island.
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In the current ridicule of Noah, even Heinrich Heine participated. The humorist, in a letter dated April 23, 1826, addressed to Moses Moser -- First Vice Secretary of the Verein fuer Kultur und Wissenschaft der Juden, of which Gans and Zunz were, respectively, President and Vice President, and which, by their letter of January 1, 1822, had notified Noah of his election to the association -- pretended to have seen Gans and Noah in a dream. Noah, it appeared, had performed the miracle of silencing Gans ("Gans war, oh Wunder! stumm wie ein Fisch.") That Gabriel Riesser was interested in Noah's project is evident from a letter sent to him by his father on January 24, 1826, antedating by many years the verdict of Jewish posterity. "It seems to me that this man took as his model not the Prophets, but rather the Patriarchs... As petty or ridiculous as the matter may appear at present, need and time and circumstance may cause our descendants to judge it altogether differently..." 1
The ridicule, like the flood that had sustained the original Noah through the forty days of cosmic cleansing, at last abated. The perspective of history has washed away much of the fanaticism inherent in his project and has left, among the historians of Zionism, the image of a worthy pioneer.
Raisin discovers in Noah the "first real Zionist," and one who was by no means a fanatic. Noah's Zionism was political, and it was his destiny to have come two or three generations before his time. He was a precursor of the newer Zionism, of Herzl, Pinsker, Hess and Smolenskin. "While the Zionism of the leaders from Hess onward was more or less the result of oppression and persecution from without, Noah's Zionism was an inner recognition that there would be no place for
1 For the Heine and Riesser references see Gelber, op. cit., pp. 288-289.
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Israel... unless the Jew returned to the land of his ancestors." Noah, indeed, on the score of his later pronouncements, delivered almost twenty years after the fiasco of Ararat, becomes in Raisin's eyes a great prophet of Israel sounding forth a great prophecy. 1
Gelber, a quarter of a century after Raisin, ratifies in its essentials this judgement. 2 He agrees with Raisin that Noah never presented a clear picture of the projected State. "Nevertheless, he is certainly the first Jewish initiator of the Jewish State idea in the nineteenth century," and a forerunner of Theodor Herzl by more than fifty years.
In the story of Zionism, indeed, Noah is more than this. He is, as Dr. Abram Lipsky called him, 3 the "first American Zionist". He is, as Gelber recognizes, "surely the first one actually to have undertaken the realisation of a Jewish State."
Gottheil, though he sees the grotesquerie of Noah's project, insists that it was "built upon principles which have found acceptance in later days. He saw clearly the need for the Jews of some segregation, of a return to the cultivation of the soil, that though only a certain number of Jews could be benefited by a segregation, the whole Jewish race would profit by it, that it was necessary to cultivate the land, -- and, finally, that his scheme provided only for a half way house to Palestine..." 4
1 See Mordecai Manuel Noah, Zionist, Author and Statesman. By the Rev. Max Raisin, B. A. Warsaw, 1905. (In Hebrew)
2 Op. cit., Ch. VIII.
3 See TheMaccabean, December, 1908. "The First American Zionist." By Abram Lipsky, Ph.D.
3 Zionism, by Richard J. H. Gottheil, Philadelphia, 1914, pp. 38-39.
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So, too, Kallen, who, finding the Utopia of Noah "overlaid a little with elements of mountebankery and melodrama... damned from the outset by its charlatanic character," nevertheless perceives at its core "good sense and sound statesmanship." 1
As Noah had used the heroes of his nation to lend heroism and dignity to his plays, so he in turn, because of Ararat chiefly, became a character in Jewish fiction and drama. It was Zangwill who, in 1899, first brought him into fiction, making of him, in the tale "Noah's Ark," one of They That Walk In Darkness. Harry Sackler, in his Yiddish play, Major Noah, turns the gentleman of Ararat into the material of a comedy. The honeymooners of Howells' Their Wedding Journey still sigh over him, and make the mistake -- still made of believing that Noah laid his foundation-stone on the Island itself. Alfred H. Lewis's novel, Peggy O'Neal, appearing four years after Zangwill's tale, romanticizes the American Jewish paladin with all the license of a fictioneer.... The man, clearly, has passed into American legend...
It was not only as a figure for fiction that Noah impressed Zangwill. In a speech delivered before the London University Society, on December 16, 1916, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Pinsker's death, the great writer did not hesitate to associate with the names of Pinsker and Herzl that of the American Jewish pioneer. This time, it appeared, Noah was one of those that walk in the Light.
"Pinsker's 'Auto-Emancipation,' published in 1881," said Zangwill, was a "brilliant anticipation of much later history
1 Zionism and World Politics, by Horace M. Kalien, Ph.D., New York, 1921, pp. 41-42.
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and literature, and its brilliance was not that of flowers or of jewels but of fire . . . It was a great book. Yet Herzl, when he wrote his 'Judenstaat,' in 1895, had probably never heard of it... I said that Pinsker was the father of Auto-Emancipation. But it is a wise child that knows his own father, and I, too, had never seen this book till years after the Ito was established. Before Pinsker, there had been the American Sephardi, Mordecai Manuel Noah, who, in 1825, not only planned a great Jewish colony on an island in the State of New York, but actually bought land for it, and issued an invitation to the ghettos of Europe to flock to his Ararat, and even held the Dedication Service -- as readers of my story, 'Noah's Ark,' may remember. How comes it that a Russian like Pinsker, an Austrian like Herzl, an American like Noah, and an Englishman like myself, are still putting forth the same solution of the Jewish problem? Is it plagiarism? Not at all. Herzl, Pinsker, Noah, were in sublime unconsciousness of one another. It is because there is what the advertisements call 'a felt want,' and this want prompts everywhere the same suggestion for meeting it. The bulk of our troubles springing from our lack of a common land or even of a majority anywhere, it is a natural suggestion that we should reestablish ourselves upon a normal, national basis.
"The interesting fact remains that Herzl's Congress, called for Territorialism, ended in the adoption of Palestine as its goal, -- that Pinsker's Congress, called for Territorialism, ended in a society to aid Palestine immigrants, and that even Noah's institution, 'Ararat,' was replaced by a rallying call to Zion." 1
It is curious to discover the relation of Noah's foundered enterprise to the temper of his times. Ever since human
1 See A. B. Makover's pamphlet, Mordecas Manu~Noah, p. 83.
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groups became conscious of their gregariousness and of their common interests, they have been looking back, or forward -- psychologically these directions are the samc to a paradise lost or a paradise regained. Cities of God, Utopias, phalansteries, farms, colonies -- these are but different names for man's optimism in the face of religious and social dissension. Even in this respect, Noah was immediately in advance of his day. A full quarter of a century after Noah's Folly, Emerson was writing from Boston, "We are a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform; not a leading man but has a draft of a new community in his waistcoat pocket." Noah's colonizing illness, then, older far than Plato, was pandemic.
Robert W. Bingham
"History of Grand Island"
Niagara Frontier Miscellany
Pubs. of Buffalo Hist. Soc. vol. XXXIV
[ 59 ]
When the Iroquoian nations invaded, conquered and occupied the woodlands of the Algonkian people in the Great Lakes region, the Neuters settled the Niagara peninsula. With the long houses of the Hurons to the west, the Eries to the south, and the Senecas and other nations of this great culture to the east, the conquerors established their domain.
A village site on Lot No. ~ ~, (on the East River, Grand Island, south of the Fix Road) on which potsherds, bone and flint implements were excavated, testifies to the former habitation of these people. Another site of like character in the hlltnediate vicinity, with a cemetery about a quarter mile distant, yielding artifacts of a similar nature and among other articles—iron axes, knives, awls, brass kettles and a Jesuit ring, proves beyond a doubt the habitation of the Neuter people during the period of transition and also a certain contact with the French at an early period. After the destruction and absorption of the Hurons, Neuters and Eries, during the mid-seventeenth century by the League, the Seneca hunting grounds embraced the Niagara valley and naturally the great island was a favorite rendezvous. The woods abounded witl1 deer, and a bear, wolf or other large game was not the infrequent target of the hunter's weapon. Raccoons, squirrels and other fur-bearing small game roamed the woodlands in large numbers attracting hunting parties from far distant villages. In proper season, ducks and other game birds thronged the shores, and inland fields and woods, while the waters surrounding the island were the habitation of the finest muskellunge, yellow pike, sturgeon, black bass, pickerel, mullet and smaller members of the finny tribe.
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Lieutenants Hodge and Osborn marched by the River Road to the place of embarkation opposite Grand Island.
Four craft manned by twenty boatmen were in readiness to convey the soldiers to the Island. As it had been rumored that the squatters were prepared to resist eviction, the militia were ordered to load their muskets with ball cartridges. Thus prepared, the sheriff accompanied by his armed guard embarked and landed on the shore of Grand Island about five o'clock in the afternoon. On account of the lateness of the hour, the officers decided to defer eviction proceedings until the following day. Accordingly, camp was pitched and a guard and pickets placed. The following day, immediately after breakfast, the militia was divided into three details, the first to read the Governor's orders, the second to forcibly remove all property left in the buildings and the third to destroy the structures. These details were marched to the Canadian side of the Island. The first house encountered was occupied by a man and woman. The orders were read and the sheriff gave the occupants their choice of being taken to either Canada or the United States. The squatters chose the former and with their property were quickly loaded into a waiting boat and conveyed to the opposite shore. The building was fired and the first squatters had felt the power of the law of the State. This having been accomplished, the militia marched on, repeating the action throughout the day until by sundown seven or eight houses had been destroyed.
The expedition of eviction continued in action throughout the third and fourth days of service. On the fifth, they reached the home of Pendleton Clark on the American side of the Island. The "governor" was evidently prepared, for his personal property was loaded on flatboats, in readiness for departure. A short parley ensued and without further discussion, Clark left the Island for the American shore; his "term of office" had expired. Sheriff Cronk reported that two buildings filled with grain, which had been left until that day, were emptied of their contents and fired.
The orders of the Governor having been carried to completion, the militia returned to Buffalo and were dismissed.
A short time later Messrs. Greig Wiggins, Lundy, Morton and Dennison with their families, who had been transported
NIAGARA FRONTIER MISCELLANY 67
to the Canadian shores, returned to Grand Island. They claimed that as they had been put off the island and as Cronk's orders had been executed, he was not authorized to remove them again. Those four families, it appears, were allowed to stay.
The bill of expense in expelling these squatters from the island as itemized by James Cronk, Sheriff, amounted to $578 99
According to Article 6, of the Treaty of Ghent, a boundary commission was appointed, with General Peter B. Porter as one of its members, to decide the disputed points of the Frontier boundary between the United States and Canada. As the articles determined the boundary to be midstream of the Niagara River, the question arose as to which arm of the Niagara encircling Grand Island could be considered as the main stream. As the water on the west side of the Island proved to be deeper, the commission finally decided to run the boundary through its center. Through this decision, rendered in the year ~822, Grand Island and all the islands in the river with the exception of Navy Island which was awarded to Canada, became the property of the United States.
By order of the State a survey of Grand Island into farm lots was begun by Silas D. Kellogg, in the year 1824. Before the work was completed Kellogg died and the survey was finished in 1825, by James Tanner.
The State immediately advertised for sale at the State Land Office in Albany the Grand Island lots. The sale took place. Mr. Samuel Leggett of New York, acting for Major Mordecai Noah purchased one thousand twenty acres, at the head of the Island, at the cost of $7,200, and one thousand five hundred thirty-five acres along the river, opposite and below Tonawanda, at a price of $9,785. The entire amount realized by the State for the land on Grand Island amounted to seventy-six thousand, two hundred thirty dollars.
Messrs. John B. Yates and Archibald McIntyre through their agents purchased a large amount of the land and "Peter Smith of Peterboro" whose actual residence was in Schenectady bought a large share of the remainder.
Leggett, Yates and McIntyre complied with the terms of the sale, paying one-eighth of the purchase price, and giving bonds
68 NIAGARA FRONTIER MISCELLANY
for the balance. Smith although paying one-eighth of his total bid neglected to give his bond. By non-payment of the installments he forfeited the land which he repurchased on a lower appraisal some years later at a saving of twenty thousand dollars.
Major Mordecai Noah for whom Leggett had purchased the tract on Grand Island was a prominent Israelite and the editor of the "National Advocate." To him had occurred the idea of founding a great city where his oppressed brethren could congregate and live in peace. There also he had planned to bring again to the Jewish fold, the Indian people who, he asserted, were the lost tribes and Grand Island had been selected as the location of this "city of dreams."
Major Noah, according to Lewis F. Allen who knew him personally, was a man of large muscular frame, rather rotund. His features were characteristic of his race; his manner genial and his nature kindly as well as sympathetic.
He was learned not only in the Jewish and civil law, but in the ways of the world at large. He was counselor at law in our own courts and had held the important post of Consul General for the United States at Tunis.
Noah was a "visionary and an enthusiast" who exhausted all available measures to convert his dream into a reality. His first move in the founding of his visionary Zion was to induce his friend Samuel Leggett to purchase the two plots of land on Grand Island, aggregating 2,555 acres. Although either one of the purchased plots was considered ample for a beginning, his final plan incorporated the acquisition of the entire Island. Noah's ambitious dream even visioned great commercial centers developing upon the Island, and these backed by the wealth of his race, finally usurping the commerce of the frontier.
The propaganda regarding the proposed city of refuge had been spread through the columns of the "National Advocate" and although failure was predicted for the enterprise, Mordecai Noah was steadfast in his purpose. Even when those of his own race foresaw disaster and withheld their support, he refused to recognize the possibility of miscarriage of his plans.
In August 1825, feeling that the opportune moment had arrived for the inauguration of his endeavor, Mordecai Noah as well as A. B. Siexas, his enthusiastic assistant, packing their
NIAGARA FRONTIER MISCELLANY 69
"robes of office and insignia of rank" left New York City bound for Buffalo.
A rectangular piece of sandstone that had been ordered from the Cleveland quarries soon arrived at Buffalo and Seth Chapin cut upon it an inscription. The first line in Hebrew characters taken from Deut. VI, 4; followed by the English words: "Ararat, A city of Refuge for the Jews, Founded by Mordecai Noah in the month Tizri 5586, Sept. 1825 & in the 50th year of American Independence."
The inscription was composed by Noah and the stone was designed to be the comer stone of the proposed city of refuge.
The original intention was to lay the corner stone on the Island on the 15th of September, and press notices to that effect were circulated. Near the appointed time, however, Noah, finding that transportation could not be satisfactorily arranged, managed to have the ceremonies transferred to St. Paul's Church in the village of Buffalo. The press, however, was not notified in time and it is said "the shore of the Niagara in the vicinity of Tonawanda was lined with wagons, while cake and beer, cold meats, fruits and pies prepared by the villagers, expecting the ceremony to take place on the Island," were also in evidence.
According to the altered plans, it was within the village of Buffalo that the actual ceremony of consecration was consummated on that day. At sunrise, the thundering of cannon, manned by the artillery-men of Captain Crary's Company in front of the Court House, as well as on the terrace facing the lake, proclaimed a salute in honor of the "twelve Tribes of Israel." At ten o'clock the bells chimed as the parade led by the village band and including the militia, Masonic orders, clergy and officers of the corporation marched from the Court House to St. Paul's Church where on the altar the cornerstone of Ararat was consecrated with elaborate ceremonies. Prominent in this function was Mordecai Noah as the "Judge of Israel" attired in black and wearing the judicial robes of crimson silk, trimmed with ermine.
The ceremony with all its pomp and glory, passed into history and a day or two later Major Noah departed for New York City.
The cornerstone, left without orders at the church -- apparently forsaken, was finally taken from the edifice by the
70 NIAGARA FRONTIER MISCELLANY
sexton and laid outside against the rear wall. The dream of empire had passed leaving but the inscribed stone as a memento of a vanished hope.
Noah and his whole scheme were denounced by prominent Rabbis throughout the world, and others heaped indignities upon his name. The dreamer for a time defended himself through the columns of his newspaper until the excitement waned and the story of the promised city passed into the pages of history.
The stone, however, remained for some time at the rear of St. Paul's Church until Peter B. Porter at the request of Mordecai Noah removed it for safe keeping to his home at Black Rock.
In spite of attempted activities, the Island remained a wilderness and was practically uninhabited for a decade after its survey by the State. It was the large quantity of white oak timber suitable for ship-building, that made the Island desirable to the East Boston Company which purchased most of the land in 1833.
Lewis F. Allen, who was associated with this Company, conducted negotiations with Messrs. Leggett, Yates, McIntyre and several other smaller overseers, purchasing from them in the name of the East Boston Company about $6,000 acres for a little over five dollars per acre. It was the intention of the Company to cut the timber and convey it to the shipyards at Boston and New York.
On Grand Island opposite Tonawanda the land was cleared and a steam gristmill and sawmill one hundred fifty feet square, with room for fifteen gangs of saws, was erected. This mill, in 1840, was said to have been the largest in the world. Several dwellings and a building used as a school and church were built and the settlement was named Whitehaven in honor of Stephen White who resided on Tonawanda Island. To complete the establishment, the company constructed a large wharf several hundred feet in length and a dock of piles for storing and securing lumber. As has been stated, the purpose of the company was to prepare timber for vessels being constructed for navigation of the lakes and ocean and fitting the frames to the models submitted. In carrying on their work, they not only availed themselves of their special resources on the Island but
NIAGARA FRONTIER MISCELLANY 71
Note: this text copyright © 1947 Buffalo Historical Society
Selig Adler and Thomas E. Connolly
From Ararat to Suburbia
Philadelphia: Jewish Pub. Society, 1960
[ 3 ]
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Seixas gradually warmed to his subject, and he spiced his words, in the fashion of the day, with repetitious biblical allusions about the horrors of war. With appropriate Hebrew quotations, which he translated into English so that his congregants might grasp their meaning, he shifted his attention to the plight of the people of Buffalo. "Witness," he said, "the distressed situation of our fellow citizens, on our frontier settlements, in the northern boundaries of our State." He spoke of the sack of houses, blood-stained villages, destitution, lack of shelter, and then he visualized for the city dwellers the ferocious savages of the frontier. Seixas expanded on the "piercing cold" in Buffalo, "which is much more forcibly felt in those parts, than we can be properly sensible of." He ordered special prayers said each weekday at Minha, as well as a prayer for the government which was to be recited in English. He also directed that special offerings be made at Minha and that those contributing dedicate their gifts "to the relief of the inhabitants of the Northwestern part of this State who are in trouble and are sorely afflicted." 2
We have no record of how much money was collected and sent to the people of Buffalo, and consequently it is impossible to measure the material effect of this historic Sabbath sermon. The city of Buffalo had, however, entered the stream of Jewish consciousness.
Meanwhile, a Jew had actually been stationed on the Niagara Frontier during the war. Mordecai Myers, Captain of the Thirteenth United States Pennsylvania Infantry, was, so far as is known, the first of his faith to remain for any length of time in this area. Myers was born in the United States in 1776, in Newport, Rhode Island, which, until the occupation of that city by the British during the Revolutionary War, vied with New York City as the chief center of American Jewish life. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Myers was launched on a rather full military career during which, if he cannot be said to have distinguished himself, he certainly served well in several responsible assignments. He fought at Sackets Harbor in July 1812, and he began his service on the Niagara Frontier as commander of the cantonment at Williamsville, a small village a few miles northeast of Buffalo, from which place he wrote in a jesting vein to Naphtali Phillips on March 31, 1813: "I find I am Indebted to your politeness for the National Advocate it being marked Kasher (kosher) induces me to believe you are one of the Proprietors. Please send it again." 3
He went on to say that he had been in Buffalo in February 1813, and that he enjoyed his present assignment. He made a point of saying that he was treated with respect by both his equals and his "inferiors." He told Phillips of his assignment. He was in charge of the sick and convalescent of three regiments and, in addition, he conducted the courts-martial. He somewhat apologetically discussed his position as commander
IN THE BEGINNING... [ 5
of the small garrison. "I have been for two week and am yeate in command of the Cantonment, the most of our troops being at Buffalo and Black Rock; a greate man once sayed he would rether be the first in a small viledge then second in rome." 4 No great speller, Myers, but, if the reader is appalled by this fact, he is directed to consider the spelling of the greatest hero of the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson, of whom legend has it that he attempted to express his approval of an action by writing that it was "oll korrect."
"Marching to Buffalo so frequently was very severe duty," Myers recalled many years later. "I occupied my quarters only one night after their completion; the remainder of the time I quartered in a tent either at Buffalo, or at the Cantonment. I often encamped in the street in Buffalo, there being no quarters to be had." 5
Myers was present at Fort George on July 8, 1813. Later that year, in November, he was assigned to recruiting duty at French Mills. In the ensuing battle nearby at Chrysler's Field, on November 11, 1813, Myers was seriously wounded. He was eventually removed to New York on February 24, 1814, and he was subsequently returned to service on March 25, 1814, in time to fight in a skirmish on June 30, 1814.
After the war, Myers went to New York where he continued his activity in Jewish affairs and became a trustee of Shearith Israel. In New York City he entered politics and joined the Society of Tammany. Not much is known of his early interest in politics except that he expressed anti-slavery sentiments. Myers became very active in the Masons and was elected Grand Master of New York State, but he would not accept the office. In later life Myers turned seriously to political activity and served in the New York legislature as a representative from New York City from 1831 to 1834. He also served several terms as Mayor of Schenectady. He died in 1871 in his ninety-fifth year.
Mordecai Myers married out of the Jewish faith, and his children were assimilated into the surrounding community and completely lost their Jewish identity. To facilitate this assimilation, they added their mother's maiden name to their father's name and the family became known as Bailey-Myers. After his military service Mordecai Myers played no major part in the development of Buffalo. 6
Far more significant in the course of Jewish history was the appearance on the Niagara Frontier of the second "Israelite" (as the common appellation then went). A little more than a decade after Mordecai Myers left the Buffalo area, another Mordecai -- Mordecai Manuel Noah -- attempted to establish a homeland for the Jews on Grand Island. This "first American Zionist' was a widely talented Jack of all trades -- politician, soldier, playwright, editor, judge, duelist, and, for a brief period, diplomat. He became
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rabidly conscious of Jewish nationalism during a serious personal crisis, while on a diplomatic mission in Tunis from which he believed that he was removed because he was a Jew. The Tunis incident fanned into fire the smoldering coals of Judaism in Noah's breast, and he formulated the Grand Island scheme. The year 1825 was memorable for Buffalo: the aging General Lafayette visited the village that year; the Erie Canal was opened and linked Buffalo with the chief American port of entry for immigrants; the three Thayers were hanged for hacking and shooting to death their hard-bitten and ironically named creditor, John Love; and Mordecai Manuel Noah decided to found a haven for the Jews on Grand Island in the Niagara River.
Five years earlier Noah had become interested in the Grand Island location and had petitioned the New York State legislature for the island; but the bill, introduced in 1820, never passed. Noah had read in the papers that the state was about to subdivide the island into farm lots. Without benefit, therefore, of state legislative support, Noah began to set his plan in motion. He persuaded a friend, Samuel Leggett of New York City, to buy 2,555 acres on the island. Part of this land was at the head of the island, and the remainder was at the center, opposite Tonawanda at the point where the Erie Canal met the Niagara River. In his early enthusiasm, Noah was not very much concerned with the problem of acquiring the rest of the island. His plan was not quite as chimerical as it has sometimes been portrayed. He had chosen a spot which might, with suitable management, have developed into a rival of Buffalo and Black Rock. Capital was needed here at the terminus to exploit the opportunities offered by the newly opened Erie Canal. The community that Noah envisioned might very well have grown to a great metropolis, given the impetus of Jewish capital and immigrant brawn.
What sort of man was this visionary, Mordecai Noah? Lewis F. Allen, uncle by marriage to Grover Cleveland, has left an account of him. Allen owned a farm on Grand Island where he was a breeder and improver of cattle. It was through his Grand Island land-holdings that Allen became interested in Noah of whom he wrote: "I knew Major Noah well. Physically, he was a man of large muscular frame, rotund, with a benignant face and portly bearing. Although a native of the United States, the lineaments of his race were impressed upon his features.... He was a Jew, thorough and accomplished." Noah was a New York Tammany man who, because of this association, had many Gentile friends "who adopted him into their political associations." Allen recounts the tale of Noah, the loyal Jew, imbued with the bumptious optimism of the early nineteenth century, telling a Christian missionary that one day the Gentiles would become Jews rather than vice versa. 7
IN THE BEGINNING... [ 7
At the time of Noah's scheme, Grand Island was a fairly wild place. The island is eight miles long and at its broadest is six miles wide. It is a fertile piece of land; but in 1825, it was heavily wooded. The island had been acquired by New York State in 1815 after a treaty with the Seneca Nation which was concluded in Buffalo on September 12, 1813. Squatters soon invaded the place to strip the forests of their lumber. They were a rowdy lot, and by 1819 the state had to intervene to keep order. Eventually it became a sportsman's paradise, rich in game until the isolation of this Eden of hunters and fishers was destroyed by the bridge which in 1935 was financed by the New Deal to connect the island with the mainland.
Noah began publicizing his plan after the failure of the State Legislature to act on the 1820 bill. In the New York City paper the National Advocate, of which he was editor, he urged the Grand Island project. Other newspapers supported the plan. Even during the time that the measure was pending in the legislature, the Niagara Journal stated that the plan would help the village and would contribute to local prosperity. As plans for the dedication ceremony were reaching a final stage, the Black Rock Gazette, although noting with surprise that so few Jews were interested in the venture, hoped to see the Jewish capitalists, merchants, farmers, and mechanics settle in the area. The local newspapers were no doubt prompted not a little by self-interest.
Finally, in late August 1825, Mordecai Manuel Noah arrived in Buffalo "with his robes of office and insignia of rank securely packed." 8 He had designed the elaborate costume himself. He was accompanied by A. B. Seixas of New York who had, since 1820, helped Noah in his scheme. In the village of 2,500 souls, Noah's only friend was Isaac S. Smith, an acquaintance from his Tunis days. He was ready for the dedication ceremonies that were to climax his dream of the establishment of an American Zion. Unfortunately, natural conditions conspired to frustrate even the dedication ceremony. It was impossible to hold the services on Grand Island for the simple reason that at that time it was too hard to cross the river. Instead, the ceremony was held on September 15, 1825, in Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Buffalo. It is possible that the rector, Addison Searle, had known Noah during the latter's Tunis mission. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to notify the general public of the change in plans, and crowds consequently lined the shore of the Niagara River. The residents of Tonawanda, believing that the ceremony would take place on Grand Island, awaited Noah with a "supply of cakes and ale, pastries and pies and cold meats to give them (the Jews) a good stomach for their undertaking." 9
Meanwhile, back at St. Paul's Church, the "Masonic and military" procession
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had begun. The ceremony was described by an eyewitness, John C. Lord, a young school teacher who was to become a lawyer and still later an outstanding Presbyterian divine; it was a strange mixture of Hebrew and Christian rites. Lewis Allen later commented on the unusual quality of this unique ceremony which he described as "this strange and remarkable proceeding, so novel as that of laying a foundation for a Jewish city, with its imposing rites and formula, its regal pomp and Jewish ceremony, in a Christian Episcopal Church, with the aid of its authorized rector." 10
After the reading of morning prayers, Mordecai Noah addressed the assembly with what he liked to think of as the "Jewish Declaration of Independence." The speech that he delivered that morning was a rough paraphrase of the "Proclamation to the Jews" which, though dated at Buffalo September 15, 1825, and signed by A. B. Seixas as Secretary pro tem., had actually been sent out to world Jewry sometime earlier. It was a pompous speech. Noah began by noticing that it was a good time to act, for peace then prevailed throughout the world. For the oldest of the nations of the world, he hoped that the projected Grand Island plan would provide a "temporary and provisionary" home. Some historians point to this part of his speech as evidence that he had never really given up the Messianic idea of a return to Palestine. The speaker gathered force, and the pomposity increased: "I have deemed it expedient to reorganize the nation under the direction of the Judges." He actually went so far as to appoint himself a Judge of Israel. He proposed to levy taxes on Jews throughout the world for the support of the community. Each Jew was to be taxed three shekels. He invited, in addition to ordinary Jews, the Karaites (schismatic Jews), Samaritans, black Jews, and even the American Indians, whom he naively accepted as the ten lost tribes of Israel, to join the community. Noah's spread-eagle optimism soon knew no limit. He spoke of expanding to the Pacific; he foresaw a "free and happy country" in which religious differences would be tolerated. He visioned the community that he thought he was founding that day as a lure that would invite capital "into the Western District of this State." "Grand Island," he realistically pointed out, "is surrounded by water power, and is admitted to be an eligible spot for the erection of manufactures." Swept on by his own rhetoric, he called upon Jews to exercise a strict neutrality in the war then raging between the Greeks and the Turks. He even undertook to abolish polygamy in those remote Jewish communities of the eastern world where it still existed. In his peroration, Mordecai Noah recommitted his people to the protection of the Lord: "To Him who shelters and protects the whole family of Mankind, the great omnipotent and
IN THE BEGINNING... [ 9
omnipresent God, do I commit the destinies of Israel, and pray that he may have you all in his safe and holy keeping." 11
The Buffalo Emporium reported the meeting under the caption "Revival of the Jewish Government." The editor stated that it was important to Christians that "the oldest of nations, from whom every nation and religion have their origin," be revived. After the ceremony, the paper reported, the people adjourned for refreshments to the Eagle Tavern, which stood on Main Street near the corner of Court Street. A grand salute of twenty-four guns climaxed the affair while the band played a medley of patriotic airs. 12
As part of the ceremony, a cornerstone was brought from Cleveland, and Seth Chapin of Buffalo cut the stone and inscribed it:
After this grand beginning, Mordecai Manuel Noah packed his robes of office and left Buffalo a day or so later, having never, to the best of anyone's knowledge, set foot on Grand Island. The whole idea of a city of refuge was denounced and ridiculed by foreign rabbis and by American Jews. The Buffalo Emporium subsequently reported that Grand Rabbi Abraham de Cologna of Paris demanded proof of Noah's authority and mission. He sarcastically called for the prophetic text which consigned a marsh in North America as a spot for the "scattered remains of Israel." 13 Eventually Noah turned to Palestine as a place of refuge for the Jews, settled for a much more modest judgeship in New York City, married a wealthy Jewish woman, and forgot about Grand Island in the Niagara River. He died in 1851.
The cornerstone that was never mounted is all that remains of Noah's grand dream. It is now a prize possession of the Buffalo Historical Society, but it had a strange history and journey before it finally came to rest there. Lewis F. Allen, who came to Buffalo a few years after the dedication ceremony, later recalled that he found the stone "leaning against" the foundation of St. Paul's Church near Pearl Street in Buffalo. He next saw the stone in 1884 on the lawn in front of the home of General Peter B. Porter at Black Rock. Because Noah had asked him to see that the stone was cared for, Allen transported it to Grand Island where he had it installed in a shrine so that it could be seen by passengers on passing vessels. Until 1850, it remained enshrined there, but then it was removed to a farm on Grand Island. Later it appeared at the Canadian resort
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"Sheen Water." It was finally taken to the Buffalo Historical Society on January 2, 1866, where it now stands as a memorial to one man's wild and fruitless dream. l4
In 1825, when Mordecai Manuel Noah's Grand Island venture flared into momentary brilliance, Buffalo was a small town of little more than 2,500 people. To this point in its history, the city, although it was the natural metropolis of the surrounding area, had been very slow in developing. At the close of the Revolution only a few squatters, traders, and Seneca Indians lived at the mouth of Buffalo Creek. The Indian titles to this land were gradually extinguished after 1781, but it was only after another fifty years that the wilderness of western New York was subdued. In 1792-93, Robert Morris sold a tract of 3,300,000 acres west of the Genesee River to the Dutch speculators who formed the Holland Land Company, and a short time later the company acquired a tract of land at the mouth of the Buffalo Creek. The Holland Land Company, composed of four Dutch banking houses that had decided to speculate in the young country, had been formed as a stock company in 1795. In the same year Joseph Ellicott, the real founder of Buffalo, joined the company. Two years later, the general agent of the company appointed Ellicott to survey its lands in western New York, and under Ellicott's administrative leadership headquarters were established at Batavia. Townships were laid out, Indian reservations were established, and religious groups were given land in an effort to stimulate settlement in the area. The few early settlers that straggled in were mostly New England Yankees. On the whole, however, the project got off to a slow start principally because settlers could get free land in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys from the Federal Government and were consequently reluctant to buy it from the Holland Land Company.
Finally, on Ellicott's advice, the company decided to found a village on Buffalo Creek, and Ellicott surveyed the site, laid out streets, and cut the first wagon trail in that part of the state. For the little village that was at first called New Amsterdam, Ellicott devised a plan similar to that used in laying out Washington, D. C. 15
By 1813, Buffalo had a population of only 500, when the British and Indians wiped it off the map during the War of 1812. They burned the town and left only seven buildings standing. The village had to start all over again and was incorporated in 1816, but very little growth occurred until 1820 when the mouth of Buffalo Creek was deepened to permit lake vessels to enter and deposit their cargoes. This improvement unfortunately was not permanent, for the mouth of the creek filled up again and once more lake boats were unable to land. Buffalo, however, remained
IN THE BEGINNING... [ 11
Note: this text copyright © 1960 Jewish Publication Society
Joseph L. Blau & Salo, W. Baron (eds.)
Jews of the US: 1790-1840, vol. 3
NYC: Columbia Univ. Press, 1963
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886 American Jews and World Jewry
311. MORDECAI M. NOAH TO J. Q. ADAMS, 1820
The enclosed letter, has been written at the suggestion & request of many friends who have assured me, that the important Subject to which it relates, will receive the attention of Government. After an arduous political contest in this State, in which the General administration has been strenuously supported, I feel that some relief, some change of scene should be allowed me, and I cannot profit better by an interregnum, than interesting the Government in the project detailed in the within communication. In soliciting a foreign appointment, I am not influenced by motives of gain, on the contrary, I decline the acceptance of a more valuable station, which the indulgence of my political friends assure me, will be provided for me next winter. But you, who have been made acquainted with my transactions with the Government while Consul at Tunis, will feel that I am Governed by laudable motives, in wishing to shew to the world, that I have not forfeited the Confidence of the President.
I am satisfied, that I can render important Services abroad, in the furtherance of the objects detailed, & wishing to be absent only for a limited period, I am anxious that a favourable Consideration may be afforded to this application, which will carry with it the approbation & good wishes of a large portion of the Community. In either case however, I beg that you will believe me to be, very truly & respectfully, Sir, your obedient Servant.
M. M Noah
New York July 24 1820
312. MORDECAI M. NOAH'S PROPOSAL, 1820
New York, July 24 1820
At the last Session of the Legislature of this state, I made application for the passage of a law, authorizing the sale of Grand
Mordecai M. Noah Takes a Hand 887
Island in the Niagara River, for the purpose of making thereon a Commercial City, to he inhabited by enterprising Jews from Europe. Various circumstances united to the political Situation of the State prevented the transfer of that island, the position of which, is extremely well calculated for Commercial objects. Upon a reconsideration of the original plan I have at length concluded that it would be most prudent to urge the Jewish settlers to spread themselves throughout the Union. Selecting such places of residence, as may comport with their interest, and he favourable to their healthy pursuits, by which mode, they will shortly become amalgamated with other Citizens and prevent those jealousies & religious prejudices, which may arise from associations of wealthy individuals, engaged in commerce or monopolies of any kind. It is however desirable, that a portion of these emigrants should be directed to the state of Rhode Island. The town of New Port, having been for many years settled by Jews, whose enterprize & commercial resources have, at an early period, very materially benefited the Commerce of the Eastern States, having a spacious place to worship already erected & the Charter of the State, together with soil, climate, & location, being uncommonly favourable, it is supposed that by directing a portion of Jewish Capital into that quarter, a very important object will be attained, & a powerful influence given to that section of the Union.
The Jews are prepared to immigrate to the United States, they require personal information to confirm what has been repeatedly written to them. This is a subject which has for years occupied my attention; I have long been persuaded, that this is the only country where the Jews can be completely regenerated, where in the enjoyment of perfect civil & religious liberty, free from the operation & effect of national or religious prejudices, under the protection of the laws, their faculties could be developed, their talents & enterprize encouraged; their persons & property protected and themselves respected and esteemed, as their conduct and deportment shall merit. The effects produced by this enlightened example, would in time, be extended to others throughout the world, and gradually lead to emancipation & happiness. It is not surprising, that under such impressions & with such views, that I should have sought from the General Government a foreign
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appointment some years ago, which would have enabled me at leisure, to carry my plans of emigration into effect. The unfortunate termination of my mission, deranged all those plans & the disappointment joined to other circumstances may have led to a more warm & feeling expression on the subject, than would have been warranted under any other state of things. Five years have elapsed, since my suspension from office, during which period, I have labored to convince the Government & people, that my public conduct, although inseparable from error was by no means criminal. Under the impression, that no unfavourable sentiments are entertained by the Government, I am about renewing my efforts, and seek to interest the administration in my views. The present situation of Europe, has checked the profitable circulation of a great portion of Jewish Capital. Furnishing at least two thirds of the supplies for the armies on the continent, these facilities of profit and speculation are suddenly checked, and their wealth, returning to their Coffers remains unproductive. The Jews not accustomed to tranquillity, on the Continent, are devising means to employ their Capital, while at the same time, the illiberal treatment experienced from some of the Germanic powers, has prepared them for a change of residence. This is therefore the period to impress upon their minds, the great political & commercial advantages, which await them in the United States; but it must be done by personal intercourse, by addressing ourselves to the most intelligent & wealthy affording such oral information of this Country, its soil, climate, and Government as may be calculated to awaken their curiosity, Secure their confidence, and lead to the desirable events which we reasonably anticipate. Thus impressed, I have been urged by my friends to bring the Subject before the Government, & endeavour to interest them in the project so worthy of their countenance, by soliciting a foreign appointment of weight & respectability, under the influence of which, I may successfully impress upon the minds of the Jews, the great advantages which they may secure to themselves & posterity, by emigrating to the United States. The question may be asked, what portion of the Jewish population do you contemplate inviting to this Country? I reply men of wealth, enterprising merchants, silk & other manufacturers from France & Germany, Mechanics wherever they are
Mordecai M. Noah Takes a Hand 889
to be found, and agriculturalists from Poland & the Ukraine, thus securing at once, the best portion of the Jewish population. It is true, that most of the old inhabitants, long settled to a place, when their habits & associations have become fixed, will not be disposed to emigrate, but their children & relations, governed by more enlightened views, and desirous of establishing a character under more liberal Governments will eagerly embrace the Opportunity and bring with them wealth & enterprize, the current of migration once setting towards this Country, and which shall be found to correspond with my representations, will continue to flow in an uninterrupted stream, Communications directly & indirectly have been opened with the most distinguished Jews in Europe on the Subject, a list of them, I herewith transmit, & which constitutes the most wealthy intelligent & enterprising of the nation. The desirable results which I have anticipated, can only be promoted by personal representation, as it is not within the scope of correspondence, to answer all the enquiries which have been & will be made on the subject. These representations must come from one of their nation, who unites in his person the confidence of his people, his Government, & fellow Citizens. His advice will be eagerly embraced, it will set the machine in motion, lead to the organization of emigration Societies, and present at one view to the Jews, a country which they want, and which wants them.
It will be obvious that in soliciting a foreign appointment the prosecution of this plan, cannot be made the subject of official duty & instruction, neither can the Government directly recognise my views, but the President may confer an appointment, justly appreciating these views & benefits which may result to the Country, and my Jewish brethren, seeing in me an evidence of the liberality of our institutions, and the perfect equality of our laws, will at once give full faith & credit to my representations.
The appointment calculated to carry weight with it, & which I may be justified in asking for, is Charge des affaires at Vienna, at the Hague, at Denmark, or any other court in Europe. Consul General at Algiers which I learn is, or will be vacant & which with some privileges would answer the purpose; but the most beneficial would be at Vienna, as the Emperor of Austria has appointed a Charge des Affaires in the United States & has named
890 American Jews and World Jewry
Mr. Rothchild the Jewish Banker his Consul General at London, under whose influence a most favourable reception can be obtained.
I have thus Sir, frankly but briefly, explained my views to you and I persuade myself, that you will see in them some good results to our Country. Many instances are recorded of great efforts made by different Governments to encourage the emigration of the Jews, by affording them additional rights & privileges, and Spain & Portugal, in the most flourishing & tolerant periods of their history, are proofs of what the Jews could effect. The commerce of a great portion of Europe is under their control, & by transferring their capital & enterprize to the United States, they may more fully develope our resources, point out new avenues to trade, encourage manufactures, benefit our finances, & probably make large purchases of our public lands. These are weighty considerations, which can never be lost upon an enlightened Government, whose views are extensive. The times require some extraordinary efforts and when it is considered that toleration, freedom & prosperity are open to the Jews in this country, in a greater degree than they ever possessed, the prospect which I have long matured & have now detailed to you, will not be pronounced visionary.
Should the President he disposed to countenance my views, & concur in the belief that some benefit may accure to the United States, I am at all times ready to appear at the seat of Government, & enter into more extensive details on the subject, & likewise to procure any recommendation from the people of this Country, which thc President may be pleased to name.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully Sir, Your obedient
humble Servant M M Noah
John Quincy Adams Esquire
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The exercises, in which both the militia and the Masons as well as officials of local, state and national governments had a place, did not take place at Grand Island. Noah's practicality had not extended to the provision of an adequate number of boats to ferry the throng to Grand Island for the laying of the cornerstone of Ararat. So the ceremonies were held in Buffalo's small Episcopalian church, St. Paul's.
Despite the fanfare, Noah's scheme was a spectacular failure. It never went beyond the blueprint stage, and, though it found defenders, the prevailing reaction, both in the United States and Europe, was vigorously unfavorable. Those friends of Noah who had purchased the land on which Ararat was to stand and who anticipated large profits on their investment were doomed to disappointment. But Noah himself, undaunted, went on to other dreams and other projects.
314. NOAH'S PROCLAMATION TO
THE JEWS, 1825
Whereas, it has pleased Almighty God to manifest to his chosen people the approach of that period when, in fulfillment of the
Ararat, City of Refuge 895
Pp. 895-900 not transcribed -- see 1825 newspaper texts
Ararat, City of Refuge 901
[Ararat. Mr. Noah, editor of the New York National Advocate, as the agent for some land speculators, having purchased Grand] Island, which lies in the Niagara river, proceeded, on the 15th ult. to the performance, (at Buffalo), of certain ceremonies, as founding a new city to be built on thc island, and called "Ararat."
Pp. 901-902 not fully transcribed -- see Niles' Register article
902 American Jews and World Jewry
... Our readers will be interested to learn some striking news. We are publishing here a manifesto of the governor Mordecai Manuel Noah to the Jews of the whole world. For the better understanding of that particular document, we shall preface a few explanatory remarks:
There is a Jewish citizen in North America by the name of Mordecai Manual Noah. This gentleman was at one time the North American Ambassador in Tunis and later occupied the
Ararat, City of Refuge 903
position of sheriff in the city of New York. Recently he rceived the generous idea of building a city for the settlement of Jews. He plans to establish that city by the Niagara River, in the state of New York, and has now sent out a letter concerning the planned settlement to the Jews throughout the world. He begins his letter by assumilig the dignity of governor of this new settlement and of judge in Israel. He tells his people that, with the help of God (he poses as God's messenger), he is confiderit of being ahle to found a city of refuge for all the Jews. He has graciously selected the site of the city on Grand Island, near Niagara Falls, because that island has a very large area and affords the opportunity of building on it a big and strong city. The ;ocation is well chosen, as it is splendidly adapted for a great commercial center. The Hon. Mordecai Manuel Noah then goes on to command his people as though he were their undisputed ruler whose beck and call they must obey....
904 American Jews and World Jewry
The New York newspapers give a curious account of the project. One of them writes: "Israel will be restored. The Jewish nation will now be revived. One of their faith has been inspired to raise once more the banner of the Jews. A large plot of ground has already been accepted on Grand Island which is to be the permanent possession of the Jews. It is planned to establish there a large city which shall be called Ararat. To this city will come the Jews from all countries of the world. It will be autonomous and independent of any government and will enjoy the protection of North America. Thus the happy days of old have come again for the Jews. They will once again have their own judges and rulers. The Hon. Mordecai Manuel Noah will be the commander and governor of hs people,,,
The remainder of this section has not been transcribed
S. Joshua Kohn
"M. M Noah's Project and the Missionaries"
American Jewish Historical Quarterly
Vol. LV No. 2 (Dec. 1965)
[ 162 ]
What prompted Noah to try to establish a temporary colony for Jews in the United States? Did he plan and execute it all by himself? Did other Jews help him? And why did the Ararat project die aborning...
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... The after-effects of the Napoleonic wars with their uphevals in Europe gave religious Christians the idea that the second coming of the Messiah was at hand. In order to bring this great event about it was necessary as a prerequisite to convert the Jews to the true faith -- Christianity; to establish a colony for the Jewish Christians in the free atmosphere of America and later to restore them to Palestine. Then the Messiah would come to the world...
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 169
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... In order to understand Noah and his Ararat project it is important to know the personality and character of Noah. Be it emphasized that he was an Orthodox Jew, a fact that is minimized, if not overooked by historians. He was devoted in his observance of Judaism, even if he did express liberal views. He took seriously the prayers that spoke of redemption and the restoration of Israel to the Holy Land. Noah observed the Sabbath scrupulously. Though he was Editor of the National Advocate he did not work on the Sabbath. He believed with a perfect faith that the Messiah would come and that Israel would be restored to the Holy Land. He believed that the American Indians were the Lost Ten Tribes and that they, too, would be restored to the Holy Land. This view was popularized in the United States by Elias Boudinot. The medieval European world was crumbling; the results of the Napoleonic wars emphasized the rise of nationalism in Europe and throwing off their yoke of oppression. It is also a fact that in the middle of the eighteenth century Jews from Eastern Europe were emigrating to the Holy Land, especially to Safed and then to Jerusalem. He could, because of his experiences in the Moslem world, see the downfall of the Turkish empire. It is therefore not far-fetched for Noah with his imaginative mind to see the possibilities of 100,000 Jews taking up arms, as he envisioned, and liberating Palestine. Since sober thinking convinced him of its improbability why not build a temporary state in the free, wide open-spaced America, especially when other nationalities were coming here from all parts of Europe....
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... In 1809, Joseph Samuel C. F. Frey, with the generous financial help of Lewis Way and other Churchmen, formed the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. Lewis Way gave up the law and entered the Church in order to devote to Church purposes a large legacy which was left him by a stranger named John Way. The story of the London Society and its work was very extensively disseminated in the United States...
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 173
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... The initial impetus to establish a Jewish-Christian colony came originally from a young German nobleman, Adelbert Count von der Recke-Volmerstein, who had established a settlement for converted Jews on a 40 acre farm near Dusseldorf which he purchased in 1819...
In an address before the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, a Jewish convert, J. C. Jacobi, told the third annual meeting of the Society on May 13, 1825, of the origin of the idea of a Christian-Jewish settlement. He quoted the Reverend
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 175
Alexander McCaul, one of the London Society's Missionaries who was then in Frankfort on the Main and on his way to Poland. McCaul in a letter from Warsaw, dated October 17, 1821, favored such a colony.
From all I can see, there is but one way, to bring about the object of the Society, that is, by erecting a Judea Christian community, a city of refuge, where all who wish to be baptised could be supplied with the means of earning their bread. Is it nothing, I would ask, to bring such persons under the sound of the Gospel?
The idea of such a colony was transferred to America and the two converts most responsible for the proposal of a Judea-Christian cmmunity were Frey and Marc. The Third Report of the American Society for Meliorating the Condtion of the Jews goes on to state that it was "brother (J. D.) Marc" from Darmstadt who first suggested to "brother Frey" the idea of establishing a Hebrew Christian settlement in America and that it grew out of the experiences of converted Jews in Germany who were cared for on a farm by Adelbert Count von der Recke. It was Frey's opinion that in Germany as in most places in Europe a Christian-Jewish settlement not favorable.
The greatest difficulty lies in the way of the poor. Where is he to seek for help and assistance in time of Need? He stands alone in the world; he is forsaken by his Jewish brethren; and to apply to Christians -- the very thought is painful to his feelings, and from their past conduct to Jews, he is apprehensive to be looked upon, nay, even treated, as a self-interested hypocrite.
Therefore he advocated a settlement for 200 families and also to facilitate their passage from Europe in American vessels.
Mr. Frey set out to interest and enlist the support of Elias Boudinot, President of the American Bible Society, who believed that the Indians were the Lost Ten Tribes. He formed an Auxiliary Society and convinced Boudinot that the present state of the Jews was favorable for their conversion. He spoke of the many conversions in Vilna, Grodno and Berdichev. Boudinot was so impressed that he urged Frey to apply for a charter as soon as possible. He wrote to him as follows:
Rev. and Dear Sir:
... My wish would be to revive, as soon as convenient, the late Society for Evangelizing the Jews, established in New York a few
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years since—that should apply for a charter of inCorporati the Legislature at their next session...
REV. J. S. C. F. FREY
The American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews was formed on February 8, 1820, and on April 14, 1820, the Act of Incorporation was passed by the New York State Legislature. It is interesting to note that Frey was not satisfied with the name of Society because the real object of the Society was to form a Jewish-Christian colony.
The original title of the Society, viz. The American Society for Colonizing and Evangelizing the Jews was much better than the present... The former was the means to accomplish the latter. The Jews were to be gathered into a Colony, that they might have an opportunity of earnlng their bread by their own industry, at the same time be instructed and established in the Doctrines and Principles of Christianity.
The Legislature of New York refused to accept the original and therefore had the name altered.
At the first annual meeting of the Society on May 12, 1820, the Honorable Elias Boudinot delivered an address. The Constitution of the Society was presented with the Act of Incorporation granted by the Legislature of the State of New York. It provided for the establishment of a Jewish Christian colony. Mr. Boudinot died on October 24, 1821, and in his will he left 4,000 acres of land in Warren County, Pennsylvania, as a settlement for converted Jews and which provided fifty acres for each family....
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 177
... What happened to Boudinot's land? The account in Israel's Adrocate quoted Mr. Heildeksper, agent of Mr. Boudinot, as saying to the Society:
I am unable to tell what specific portion of these lands (meaning a tract of 43,000 acres which belonged to Mr. Boudinot) has been bequeathed to you.
The committee then voted against the Pennsylvania site, sold it lor $1000.00 at twenty-five cents per acre to Mr. Heildeksper and decided to establish the colony in the State of New York.
The First Report of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, presented to the membership on May 9, 1823, gives a glowing account of the ideals, their "successful" work and their preparations for the Jewish-Christian colony. At this meeting young Polish converted Jew, Bernard Jadownicky, spoke in favor of a Christian-Jewish colony...
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... The members of the Society felt that they had good reason to be satisfied with their work because they actually started on their preparatory work for the colony. They hired
a commodious house about three miles from the city... This house contains fifteen convenient rooms, and has attached to it three acres of land, and the place is rented for three hundred dollars. Here the Jews who may come over from the establishment of Count Von der Recke will be accommodated as one family by the Society till they are otherwise provided for under the auspices of the Board.
This was a temporary shelter for the newly-arrived immigrants. In July of 1823 the Society decided to advertise for a large tract of land to accommodate about 200 families, a tract of about 20,000 acres in upper New York State.
COLONY OF JEWS -- Some weeks since we published a notice to landholders, from the society for meliorating the condition of the Jews, proposing to purchase land for the formation of a colony, to be located in the State of New York. We now understand that it is probable the society will purchase 20,000 acres of township No. 5, about 25 miles west of Plattsburg, and near the military turnpike. An agent has been on to view the premises, and is satisfied with the soil and situation. The society has in view the estaablishment of an asylum for the oppressed of that people who profess a
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 179
faith in Christ, or desire to be instructed in the doctrines of the the Christian religion. [see July 9, 1823 New York American]
Opposition to the idea of a segregated Jewish-Christian colony especially to a "tract of land on the west side of Lake Champlain" in the wilderness was voiced by John H. Livingston but the opponents to the project were few in number. The Society then discovered that it did not possess enough money and began looking snother site. In the meantime other "converts" arrived from Europe who had heard of the project and who gave encouragement...
... The Second Report of the Society on May 14, 1824, reported the excellent progress of Mr. Frey in collecting funds in the South and in New England and the increase of patronage and circulation of Israel's Advocate to 2,000 copies monthly. The Society found that it could not purchase 20,000 acres and looked for a smaller site.
Finally, in May, 1825, a site was obtained, a farm in the town of Harrison in West-Chester County consisting of 400 acres at an anual rental of $700.00 per year and with a lease for seven years.
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M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 181
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... Simon published a circular, in the middle of July, dated June 7, 1825, accusing the [ASFMTCOTJ] Board of not keeping its word; that in his travels he solicited money for the purpose of a large tract of land; that laws for the settlement were made without the converts being consulted;that the Board was wasting money. The Board countered by stating that the Reverend Mr. Frey voted for the Plan; that Simon spent $500.00 in his tours; that his family lived free of rent in the house on Murray Hill; that he made himself an agent to different places without their authorization and that the converts "they want sole control of our funds, and of the settlement it may purchase." Simon scandalized them a second time by accusing the Board that Commissioners they sent to investigate the purchase of a site in New York spent extravagantly, between $3,000.00 and $4,000.00 on their travelling expenses, for the site, maps, etc. The Board gave an account showing that the sum was only $565.00 and that the Commissioners went as far as Rome, and not Niagara or its Falls.
The reference to "Niagara or its falls" is a clear indication that they were very cognizant of Noah's projected Jewish settlement. Erasmus H. Simon issued another circular with his accusations reflecting on the dignity of the Board, dated Utica, New York, August 30, 1825. It seems that Erasmus H. Simon now resided in Utica. The Board of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews had good reason when it accused him of secretly planning against them. The proof comes from a letter which Mordecai Manuel Noah wrote to Simon on October 22, 1825 in answer to Simon's words of approval of Noah's Ararat project:
To -- ERASMUS H. SIMON, Esq., Utica NY
New York 22 October 1825
Your favour from Utica has been duly received, -- and for the oblidging terms in which you are pleased to approve my recent
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 183
measures towards our proscribed & unhappy bretheren I pray you accept my thanks. -- I did not venture on this bold & novel projeet, without anticipating all that prejudice, suspicion, doubt, ill will & superstition would say; the experience which public life has afforded, warned me of all the obstacles which I should encounter, in the successful completion of the great object in view. -- Looking upon these things with the coldness of a Philosopher, & not with the fretful impatience of a visionary enthusiast, I have deliberately acted & stand as the pioneer of the great work, leaving others to complete it, & reap their share of honor & glory, contenting myself with the assurance, that this is the country which the Almighty has blessed, & in which Israel & Judah may repose in safety & happiness. When sneers and mockery shall have had their day, when the presence of many Jewish emigrants in this country shall dissipate all doubts, then my motives & objects will have been duly estimated & rewarded in the only way I aspire to, with public approbation. -- I feel happy to perceive that you concur with me in opinion, that the aborigines of America, are the descendants of our lost tribes. You may not be apprised of the fact, that Manasseh ben Israel wrote a work 200 years ago, attempting to shew that they are the remnant of the lost tribes, relying upon facts produced to him by the first voyagers to Mexico. -- [James] Adair & [Elias] Budinot have both written interesting works on the subject, & Sir Alexander McKenzie in his travels on the North West Coast affirms, that the Indians near the Copper Islands preserve the right [sic] of Circumcision. Your intentions of residing amongst them and endeavouring to soften & humanise them, is honorable to your feelings & creditable to your principles. -- I shall not fail in the project I have undertaken, & shall settle a small congregation on Grand Island, from which tender plant may in time spring up a goodly & flourishing tree.
I ask no recognition of power, no submission to authority, but such as honor, conscience & good faith shall warrant. Wishing you success in every effort which may tend to confirm & perpetuate a belief in the unity & omnipotence of our ever living God, & in extending the happiness of all mankind,
Respectfully & truly
Your friend & well wisher
M. M. NOAH
By mail I send you two or three papers, should I pass through Utica I shall call & see you.
Noah was rather polite to Simon although he knew that Simon was a convert and that the religious press in New York City had
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M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 185
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M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 187
... How about Mordecai Manuel Noah? Is it not strange that [Solomon] Jackson does not mention Noah in his periodical ["The Jew'], nor is there a reference to Noah's plan? What is even stranger is that Noah and Jackson both lived in New York City and that Noah was soon to become Jackson's brother-in-law. He married Rebecca Jackson on November 28, 1827. Did Noah plan his project all by himself? Were there Jews assisting him? Surely there would have been some references somewhere? This strange silence is somewhat enigmatic but perhaps it can be explained. Noah, like Jackson, knew full well the plans of the missionaries, the activity of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, the work of Frey and his fellow converts. They were public secrets, openly promulgated in the press and in the pulpit. Noah, unlike Jackson, being a politician, tried to outmaneuver the missionaries. When it came to specifically Jewish matters he avoided a public display. This attitude was true of his recall from Tunis and even more so of his Ararat project, which he enlarged to include other than Jews. He was too much of a politician to limit himself publicly to Jewish problems only.
One might conjecture from the few available references in the contemporary periodical press that Mordecai Manuel Noah's contact with conditions in Europe, Africa and the United States -- religious, political and economic -- would stir him to try to find a solution to the Jewish problem and to fight against conversion.
On May 13, 1813, Noah had stepped abroad the schooner Joel Barlow, on his way to Tunis, and on July 4, 1813, he was captured by the British off the Bay of Biscay. He was taken to London as a prisoner of war. He made good use of his time, seeing and learning London. Is it too much to expect that he would also come in contact with the missionary movement of the London Bible Society; with, perhaps, Lewis Way the founder and the benefactor, with the Reverend J. S. C. F. Frey, the man who organized the London Bible Society in 1809 and who missionized in London until 1816? It is very conceivable that he learned of the missionary school for Jewish children which Frey founded and conducted. When Noah returned to New York in 1816 Frey, too, arrived in New York City.
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Was Noah's plan his own invention or was he associated with others and if so, with whom? These questions have not yet been satisfactorily answered and they are crucial...
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... The Christian world that was discussing Jewish emancipation definitely wanted the Jew released from the ghetto, to be retrained and educated to productive work in industry and in agriculture. Emancipation was meant to be an end to money-lending and peddling and this was the view of enlightened Christians. There is another factor that has been overlooked -- the return to the Holy Land that was started in the latter quarter of the eighteenth century by Jews from Eastern Europe to Safed and Jerusalem.
That Noah was aware of the missionaries and their activity there be no doubt but the greater influence was that of the local variety, the work of Rev. Frey in New York City, the printed sermons of the American ministers, the writings of Elias Boudinot, the reports of the American Bible Society and later the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews.
In 1817, Noah delivered the address on the forty-first anniversary of American independence. He viewed the United States as a haven for the oppressed and beheld it, naturally, as a temporary home for the Wandering Jew and his future restoration in the land of Palestine.
A year later, on April 17, 1818, Noah spoke at the consecration of Kahal Kadosh Shearith Israel. He advanced and projected the same ideas as in 1817 but he emphasized religious freedom, political security and the idea that in the United States Jews should obtain
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vocational training and return to agriculture, "the cradle of virtue and the school of patriotism." He developed the idea of an eventual return to Zion. He claimed that there were seven million Jews in the world, three thousand in the United States and one thousand in New York City. They had wealth and power and could probably muster 100,000 men in the field to take Syria (meaning Palestine) from the Turkish empire.
His experiences in Africa in the Barbary States, his knowledge of conditions in Europe where the Jews were oppressed, his glorious conception of free, liberal, independent America were speaking for him. But the scene in New York City was one in which Frey and the missionaries were propagandizing. The reports, widely disseminated in the Christian religious press, about the many conversions of Jews, though exaggerated, were disturbing. The economic plight of European Jewry was appalling; the political conditions unsatisfactory, and there was a return to Palestine by some Jews with a Messianic hope. The idea of a Jewish colony was his answer to the idea of a Jewish Christian colony. On the other hand, at this time, Frey who had emigrated to the United States in 1816 became the moving spirit of the idea of a Christian Jewish settlement. For years he had been in contact with Lewis Way. He made this known to the Christian divines and especially to Elias Boudinot who endorsed it heartily and soon after left a legacy of 4,000 acres.
The sequence of events between 1818 and 1825 with regard to the project of colonizing converted Jews seems to explain more adequately Noah's actions. Adelbert's farm project was becoming known in the United States. Frey interested Elias Boudinot in the idea of a Christian Jewish colony as Boudinot's letter of November 26, 1819 clearly indicates. Noah immediately on January 19, 1820 memorialized the Legislature of the State of New York to authorize the sale of Grand Island to him to settle immigrant Jews. A bill was prepared to survey the land. The survey of Grand Island was not begun until 1824 and the delay disappointed Noah. He also became convinced that Jews from Europe were not fitted for clearing virgin forests, working as farmers or in trades. He therefore suggested -- in 1820 -- Newport, Rhode Island, as a settlement. It was a great trading center in which Jews could excel in commeercial activity. According to a newspaper report:
M. M. NOAH'S ARARAT PROJECT & THE MISSIONARIES 191
Mr. Noah, of New York, disappointed in his application for the gant of Grand Island on Niagara, was encouraged by communications from persons of the Jewish persuasion in Europe, turned his attention to Rhode Island, which has the advantage of the excellent harbour of Newport, and a Synagogue and Hebrew burial place. Mr. N. remarks, that he is tired of seeing a nation of 7 millions of people, rich and intelligent, wandering about the world, without a home which they can claim as their own, and looking to the restoration of an ancient country, which one eighth would not inhabit, if they recovered it tomorrow.
The Jewish bankers at London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and in Germany, Poland, Russia and Turkey, can transmit to this country a sum in specie capable of paying the national debt of the United States. They have fifty millions of dollars employed in the commerce of Italy alone, and it is very much the interest of the Union to encourage their emigration and attract a portion of their floating capital. [New England Palladium, Dec. 5, 1820]
Elias Boudinot spurred on the immediate formation of the American Society for Ameliorating the Condition of the Jews wbich was incorporated on February 14, 1820. Their purpose was well known -- to bring over Jews from Europe for conversion and colonization. Noah changed his plans from Grand Island to Newport, Rhode Island. He was anxious to go to Europe to advocate his colonization project in order to obviate the missionary plan. He wrote to John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, on July 24, 1820, seeking an appointment as Charge des Affaires at Vienna, at the Hague, at Denmark or any other in Europe. With the request he also outlined his grandiose colonization project. Not until September 7, 1820, did his letter and project receive the attention of John Quincy Adams, who in his Diary records a very unfavorable view of Noah. Noah was interested in gaining stature before the governments of Europe and with the Jewish people.
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Again Noah was disappointed. This neglect of Noah by Adams accounts for Noah's changes in his plans from Newport, Rhode Island, back again to Grand Island a few years later in 1824. It was not his mood or instability...
When the West-Chester farm settlement became known and ready early in May, 1825, Noah went to work on his Ararat project once again and its dedication in September, even though the Jewish Christian settlement was a failure. Perhaps it was too late to call off his Ararat dedication.
What was the reaction to Noah's Ararat dedication? In Europe the French rabbinate considered him a charlatan, and others a visionary. Noah considered himself a pioneer and a practical dreamer. What about the Christians in the United States -- the very ones who favored a Jewish-Christian colony? What was their reaction to Noah's Ararat and to his flamboyant proclamation in a Christian Church? To those who did not condemn him they had this answer:
We confess that the whole of this business appears to us anomalous. It may, however, be one of the inscrutable means by which the Lord is fulfilling his wise purpose toward the children of men. We know that the Jews shall be brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles; and the indications from every part of the globe, in fulfillment of unerring prophecy, make it certain, that the dayof salvation is near at hand. May the Lord hasten it in his own good time. [from the New York Religious Chronicle, Oct 8, 1825]
To Christians who questioned the propriety and the assumption of authority by Noah -- "Who made thee Judge in Israel?" Noah published the letter in the New York Religious Chronicle which received almost four years earlier from Edward Gans and Leopold Zunz, dated Berlin, January 1, 1822, in which he was made a member of the Verein fur Kultur unt Wissenchaft der Juden. The letter was a non-committal answer to his colonization scheme which he had proposed in 1820.
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THE DEDICATION AND THE SILENCEDr. Bernard D. Weinryb writes:
The truth, however, seems to be the ceremony of September 15, 1825, was rather an anti-climax, to what had been planned six years earlier.
He attributes the discontinuance of the project to Noah's improved prestige, his political reward as Surveyor of the Port of New York, and his fortunate marriage in 1827 to a rich girl twenty-five years his junior. Noah was now content to cease being a Judge in Israel, a Messiah delivering his people from oppression. It is difficult to see how one can reach such a conclusion after the dedication of Ararat and the silence that followed. It is noteworthy that his real political Zionism came in 1837 and in 1844.
This is an unjust characterization. What was the sequence of events? In 1819 Boudinot formed a plan for a Jewish-Christian colony. Noah decided on Grand Island, which was then unsurveyed. He, therefore, changed to the Newport project. In 1822, the Committee of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews decided to reject the 4,000 acre gift of Boudinot and to look for a 20,000 acre site in upper New York State. They advertised, sent agents to investigate, had a proposed site 25 miles west of Plattsburg and then rejected that site for a contemplated settlement for converted Jewish emigrants because of lack of financial means. Not until 1824 did they decide on a smaller venture. In May, 1825, the Society leased the farm of 400 acres in Harrison, West-Chester County. Noah again went into action. Grand Island had been surveyed, the United States Government took control of the Island from the squatters and he had his friend Samuel Leggett buy 2,555 acres for the future city of refuge. Again, Noah wanted to counteract the missionaries' plan. He decided on Grand Island and had his friend purchase the land.
After Noah had dedicated his Ararat on September 15, 1825, he returned to New York and the proposed Jewish colony was heard of no more. What happened? The strange and sorry end of the West-chester farm, the disappointment of the leaders of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews in their Converts and in their colony scheme did not need a Jewish champion for the Jews anymore. Besides, the greater and broader vistas of
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American life held forth greater promise for downtrodden Jews in all phases of American life. Noah's ideal of Israel returning to the Holy Land became a clearer vision some twenty years later in his Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews....
The metamorphosis of Noah's idea about Jewish restoration to the Holy Land runs in the following course. Like all religious Jews he recited in his prayers "And may our eyes behold our return to Zion." He expressed this idea in his speeches of 1817 and 1818. He was in accord with the Jews of Europe and Africa and Asia who also dreamed of a Messianic appearance and a return to the Holy Land. He inwardly rebelled against the Christian missionary movements but adopted, strange to say, their verbal ideology -- "ameliorating or meliorating the condition of the Jews," "an asylum," "the city of refuge" but turned these phrases with a Jewish bend. Why not help to alleviate the economic and political condition of the persecuted Jew? Why not build a city of refuge? Since Noah's ark rested on Mount Ararat why not call "the Asylum," the City of Refuge" -- the very same terms used by the missionaries -- in conjunction with his Biblical name? He was so devotedly Jewish that in his proclamation of Ararat, City of Refuge, on the 3rd day of Tishri, 5586, corresponding to the 15th day of September, 1825, he also proclaimed a Jewish Thanksgiving Day to start the following year -- Rosh Hodesh Adar, February 7, 1826. Why Rosh Hodesh Adar? Because it is good Jewish tradition, according to the Talmud, "When Adar arrives we increase our joy." He asked the that he be remembered for good in their prayers like Mordecai of old.
The letter which Noah wrote in answer to the convert Erasmus H. Simon of Utica, New York, dated "New York 22 October 182," just a little more than a month after this dedication of Ararat, tells in simple terms the genuine, true story of his work and vision. He did it for his "proscribed and unhappy brethren." He anticipated
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"prejudice, suspicion, doubt, ill will." He also wrote that he "deliberately acted and stand[s] as the pioneer of the great work, leaving others to complete it." ...
The Christian-Jewish colony failed because the few converts were no asset to Christianity and they did not help to bring the Millennium. They brought disappointment to many sincere Christians.
The Ararat project as a City of Refuge became unnecessary in of the failure of the Jewish-Christian colony.
Noah's dreams of a Return to Palestine by the Jewish people became more crystallized as a political dream in his addresses of 1844 and 1845. His colonization endeavors can be attributed to his religious convictions as an observant Jew and as one who saw the need for national redemption in Palestine.
Noah's ideas of redemption and restoration became clearer in the context of his life's experiences and the historic conditions of the Jewish people and the development of the free, democratic United States. His views in 1817 and 1818 represent the United States as the blessed, chosen country for the Jewish people as well as for all others. His experiences in Africa and Europe convinced him that the time was near for the break-up of the Turkish Empire and ripe for the conquest of Palestine by the Jewish people. When
196 AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
the Newport project faded into silence, so did Noah for a while... When, in1825, it looked as if the Jewish Christian colony might be a reality Noah returned to his original idea to combat the missionaries by building a better colony than their conversionist Jewish-Christian settlement... His views on the restoration of Israel developed into an amalgamation of Messianic hope and practical international politics...
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