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S. Joshua Kohn
"M. M Noah's Project and the Missionaries"
American Jewish Historical Quarterly
Vol. LV No. 2 (Dec. 1965)

[ 162 ]

Mordecai Manual Noah's Ararat Project
and the Missionaries

By S. Joshua Kohn


Mordecai Manuel Noah, a journalist, a politician, a playeright, an ardent and devoted Jew, dedicated Ararat, a City of Refuge, on September 15, 1825 on Grand Island in the Niagara River in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York. It was to represent a temporary settlement for all Jews who wished to be retrained in agricultural and industrial arts for their eventual return to the Holy Land, Palestine. All that remained of the experiment was the dedicatory stone which reposes in the Buffalo Historical Society.

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...


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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...


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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


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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...
                    ELIAS BOUDINOT

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....


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... 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


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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
Dear Sirs:

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,
                    I remain
                   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:


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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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Dr. 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


           M. M. NOAH'S  ARARAT  PROJECT  &  THE  MISSIONARIES           195

"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


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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...

Remainder of article not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1965 American Jewish Historical Society
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


I. Harold Sharfman
Jews on the Frontier
Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1977

210   Judaism Takes Root in Western Wilderness

... On June 15, 1812, [Mordecai M.] Noah wrote to his uncle, Naphtali Phillips, editor of the National Advocate, "In order to prevent any uneasiness, I state to you that a puppy by the name of John Canter had the insolence to send me a challenge to fight him. I accordingly met him on Sunday last and pumped him the first shot in the leg, to the joy of all Charleston... I was very cool and comfortable on the occasion."

During his stay in Charleston, he was awarded the title "major" but not because of his standing in the Militia of New York State. Challenged to a duel by one Joshua W. Toomer, Mordecai Noah winged his challenger. Two South Carolinian militia offlcers present bestowed upon the declared winner, Mordecai Manuel Noah, the title of major. Afterward he told with glee that the militia officers were the only persons present to witness the duel, the duo serving as "seconds."

Mordecai Noah stood up for the defense of the rights of others as for himself. After the War of 1812 he was appointed consul to Tunis, there seeking the freedom of American sailors seized by the pirate vessels of that nation and its neighboring Barbary States. Soon after his return to America he dreamt of a western haven for oppressed European Jews and downtrodden American Indians.

A leading exponent of the ten-tribes theory was Elias Boudinot, one-time president of the Continental Congress and later president of the Board of Directors of The American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews. Dr. Boudinot published at Trenton, New Jersey, in 1816 a booklet entitled "A Star in the West; or, A Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel." He, too, was interested in identifying the natives as Jews ripe for conversion.

But Boudinot was not satisfied with the proofs advanced by those who preceded him. He expressed the wish that absolute evidence be presented to prove that the American Indians were descended from the ancient Israelites so that they may share in the restoration of Jewry to Zion and Jerusalem.

Such proof was brought to Boudinot's attention two years later. An account by Elkanah Watson, a pioneer of the village of Pittsfield in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, dated November 10, 1815, told of the discovery of a Hebrew phylactery on the outskirts of the settlement. It was found by Captain Joseph Merrick on his farm, on a hill at the south end of Lake Onata.


Jewishness if the American Indian 211  

Boudinot learned that Pittsfield's first settlers were incorporated by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts in 1753 as "The Proprietors of the Settling lots in the Township of Poonstoosuck." With the French and Indians on the warpath, they built a fort "Indian Hill" (where the Mohegans once worshipped), which became known as "Fort Hill." While ploughing that ground, Merrick found, a few inches below the surface, the Hebrew phylactery. It was then that Elkanah Watson rushed over to Merrick's house, finding several clergymen there. One of these was probably Reverend William Allen of Pittsfield. They opined that the ancient relic found its way into the area by means of the lost descendants of Israel -- the Indians. Watson surmised that after the Ten Tribes crossed the Bering Strait and peopled the continent from pole to pole, "those in the extreme north and south, becoming the most savage, as in the milder regions they have been found the most civilized, and in possession of arts and sciences, especially in the City of Mexico and Peru."

When in 1823 Reverend Ethan Smith, Pastor of the Congregational Church of Poultney, Vermont, published his "View of the Hebrews" supporting the contention that the Indians were the Ten Lost Tribes, President Griffin of Williams College called his attention to the discovery of the phylactery in Pittsfield. Reverend Smith immediately traveled to Pittsfield to behold the find and interview settlers. He learned that townsman Sylvester Larned, anxious that the relic not be lost, had brought the phylactery to the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, Massachusetts, of which he was a member. But upon the Society's failure to honor a condition that a description of the phylactery be published in its annual report that year, Larned presented the historic find to the Honorable Elias Boudinot of New Jersey.

Dr. Boudinot was satisfied that proof positive at last had been discovered, not only in the relic itself but in the confirmation of Reverend Smith, who was told by the townspeople that "no Jew was ever known in Pittsfield." Neither Smith nor Boudinot was aware that the name of Isaac Isaacs appeared on the Pittsfield military rolls in 1780-1781, nor that Jewish traders traveled the Mohawk Trail, the main colonial thoroughfare of western Massachusetts, less than two days' travel from the trading center of Albany, New York. As far as they were concerned they possessed irrefutable evidence that the Indians and Israelites were blood-brothers of common ancestry.

M. M. Noah, playright and publisher of The New York Inquirer, the Commercial Advertiser, The Tmes and Messenger, and two New York


212   Judaism Takes Root in Western Wilderness

daily newspapers, the National Advocate and Evening Star (though not all concurrently), was a friend of publisher Solomon H. Jackson (whose niece he would marry). Jackson in 1824 edited the first American-Jewish magazine published in the United States.

The Jew: Being a Defense of Judaism Against All Adversaries and Particularly Against the Insidious Attacks of Israel's Advocate, was a polemic against Christian missionary activity (Israel's advocate), which preached conversion of the Jews.

The Jew had few readers, and was discontinued within a year. At that time, Mordecai Manuel Noah launched a project to combat a missionary plan proposed by the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews. Founded in 1820 by the Honorable Elias Boudinot, the Society was seeking 20,000 acres to accommodate 200 Jewish families to be converted. Noah's countermeasure was to establish a colony for all needy Jews, for those persecuted in other lands, and for the exiled tribes of the American Indians.

Noah was convinced that a Jewish haven in the American wilderness was feasible, for such an all-Jewish colony thrived for a century and a half in the wilds of the Surinam jungles. Jewish plantationers cultivated cane fields and built sugar refineries along the Paramaribo River in Dutch Guiana. Upon a hillock by the river, deep inland, they cleared jungle-land and built a city, Die Joden-Savannah (the JewishSavannah), complete with synagogue, court, school, fire department, and stores. Their own Jewish Militia protected their plantations and city. What was achieved in South America could be repeated in North America on a grander scale, thought Noah.

Together with a Christian friend, Samuel Leggett, Noah purchased 2,555 acres in thickly wooded Grand Island opposite Tonawanda where the newly completed Erie Canal met the Niagara River.

At dawn on September 15, 1825, the day after the Hebrew New Year, Buffalo's inhabitants were awakened by a thundering blast of cannon. At this unannounced salute, 2,500 astounded villagers rose to look out of their windows and rush into the street to the sight of parading Military and Masonic companies.

First came the marching soldiers, led by Grand Marshal Colonel John Potter. Then followed the ranks of national, state, and municipal officers. Next in step were the militia in full uniform, followed by Masons in their ceremonial regalia, accompanied by Indians bedecked with feathered war bonnets.

Marching directly behind the grand marshal and before the troops


Jewishness if the American Indian  213  

was Mordecai Manuel Noah, attired in black drape covered with a cloak of crimson silk, trimmed in white ermine.

The procession advanced solemnly to the shore of Lake Erie where there were not enough boats to transport the paraders to Grand Island. After hasty evaluation of the situation, all were led by the grand marshal back to town, to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the only building large enough to accommodate the paraders and villagers.

Referring to himself as governor of Israel, Noah announced that he had come to lay the cornerstone of a New Zion for his oppressed people. The cornerstone, taken from its cart, was placed on the communion table. The band struck up the grand march from Judas Maccubeus. After appropriate biblical readings, Noah issued a proclamation, announcing the restoration of a Jewish nation to an American Zion. The self-proclaimed governor commanded that a global census of dues be taken from all lews and a tax of three shekels in silver be levied annually. Jewish soldiers in European armies were to stay in service "until further orders." Magnanimously he allowed those Jews who wished to remain in their adopted countries to do so, but he demanded full cooperation from all.

In his call to Grand Island's Ararat, Noah particularly directed his invitation to the American Indians. He conjectured that they were of the nine and a half tribes captured by the Assyrian King, the tribes that, owing to their earlier suffering in Egyptian bondage, had wandered in a northwest direction, which brought them into the American continent.

As proofs of their Hebrew origin, Noah observed that they worship one Supreme Being, are divided into tribes as were the ancient Israelites, and that "Some of these tribes it is said are named after the Cherubimical figures that were carried on the four principal standards of Israel." Furthermore, they deemed themselves the select and beloved people of God. Their words, sonorous and bold, as their language evidenced Hebraic origin. They computed time like the Jews, dividing the year into four seasons and the months by the new Moons which commenced like "the eccelesiastical year of Moses, the first Moon after the vernal equinox." Their High Priests and prophets, towns of refuge, sacrificial cult, marriage and mourning customs, all resembled those of the Jews.

Asked Noah: "How came they on this continent, and if indigenous, when did they acquire the principles and essential forms of the Jews?"

Noah insisted that "The Indians are not Savages, they are wild and


214   Judaism Takes Root in Western Wilderness

savage in their habits, but possess great vigour of intellect and native talent -- they are a brave and eloquent people, with an Asiatic complexion, and Jewish features.

Eloquently, Noah pleaded: "If the tribes could be brought together, could be made sensible of their origin, could be civilized, and restored to their long-lost brethren, what joy to our people, what glory to our God, how clearly have the prophecies been fulfilled, how certain our dispersion, how miraculous our preservation, how providential our deliverance."

This dramatic address was reprinted in full by the New York Evening Post, on Saturday, September 24, 1825. Despite its impact, Noah found himself with few supporters.

To Erasmus H. Simon, Esq., of Utica, New York, Noah wrote a month after the Ararat dedication in a letter dated 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 measures towards our proscribed & unhappy bretheren I pray you accept my thanks.... 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 of Circumcision. Your intentions of residing amongst them and endeavouring to soften & humanise them, in 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...

Two years passed when a New Orleans newspaper reported that "Two German Jews and their families, living in Jeffersonville, Indiana, of the names of Young and Fishley are preparing to proceed to Grand Island, on the Niagara River, to inhabit the new town laid off there, by M. M. Noah, prince of Israel, called the city of refuge."

A decade passed and neither Young, Fishley, nor any other Jew had come to settle in the modern Noah's Ararat. Convinced that only the ancient homeland of Israel could become the New Zion, for only that holy and promised land possessed the mystique to attract the descendants


Jewishness if the American Indian  215  

of the twelve tribes, Noah turned his attention to Palestine, which once again would become the Land of Israel, the homeland for all oppressed Jews, including Indians. The land of the Patriarchs, Noah believed, could be acquired by purchase and most assuredly by divine intervention. But to include the return of the native Americans, he would prove that they were the lost ten tribes and as such rejoin the two tribes in their ancient hunting grounds and fishing waters.

In 1837, a year after the Creek Nation was exiled with their kin southern tribes beyond the "Great River," Mordecai Manuel Noah addressed the Mercantile Library Association of New York on "Evidences of the American Indians being the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel."

Noah affirmed that the Indians believed in the Unity of God. To the One they called the "Great Spirit" they dedicated temples and altars modeled after the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.

They set aside a day of atonement, when they dressed in white doeskin and moccasins. In the spring they celebrated the Feast of Ftowers, reminiscent of the Festival of Passover; at the beginning of summer, the Feast of First Fruits, their Pentecost; and in the fall, the Feast of Booths, like the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles.

And at the very time Noah prepared his address from the Oklahoma exile of the southern tribes came reports that the Yuchi Tribe, formerly of Carolina, were seen by travelers perambulating with plants during the autumnal full moon and dwelling in huts as did Jews the world over during that time.

Noah asked rhetorically:

Weren't the Indians organized into tribal units with the land belonging to the tribe, rather than the individual as in ancient Israel? Also, like the ancient Israelites, each tribe recognized a Chief as their head. True, many Indian tribes no longer practice circumcision, yet hadn't the Jews in their forty years of journeying into the desert set aside the rite because of dangers from the elements.

Furthermore, the Indians manifested the Jewish traits of friendliness and kindliness described in a letter from Christopher Columbus to Ferdinand and Isabella, and Noah quoted in part:

I swear to your majesties that there is not a better people in the world than these, more affectionate or mild. They love their neighbors as themselves. Their language is the sweetest, the softest and most cheerful, for they always speak smilingly.


216   Judaism Takes Root in Western Wilderness

Remainder of chapter not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1977 by I. Harold Sharfman
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


Jonathan D. Sarna
Jacksonian Jew, The Two Worlds of Mordecai Noah
NYC: Holmes & Meier, 1981

[ 61 ]

Chapter IV


An Asylum for the Jews

Throughout modern history, proposed Jewish colonies have aroused both excitement and rage. Proponents -- Jews and Christians alike -- have advocated self-governing Jewish communities as solutions to the "Jewish problem," and as harbingers of the millennium. Opponents have viewed the same colonies as impractical dreams and as barriers to emancipation and integration. Mordecai Noah strove, characteristically, to reconcile these positions. Visions of a meliorated Jewish condition and dreams of a coming millennium did not blind him to the patriotic duty owed his native land. His was rather a grand effort to save the world, promote America, develop New York State, improve the Jewish condition, and aggrandize himself -- at one and the same time. Noah saw no contradiction between efforts to promote simultaneously both Jewish self-government and subservience to American law. He never understood why Ararat, like all colonies torn between the Scylla of separatism and the Charybdis of assimilation, was doomed to fail. 1

From early on, advocates of Jewish colonization had directed their attention toward America. The leaders of London's Bevis Marks synagogue made an unsuccessful effort to set up a Jewish frontier colony as far back as 1734. In 1750, an impoverished Scottish nobleman named Alexander Cuming had a more ambitious plan: he proposed settling three hundred thousand Jewish families in "the Cherokee Mountains." Unsurprisingly, these eighteenth century schemes, as well as innumerable others, never got beyond the talking stage. Only in the nineteenth century did colonization efforts receive new impetus. In 1807, the first Jewish agricultural colonies in southern Russia were formed. A decade later, Lewis Way, the distinguished English churchman, also actively involved himself in efforts to colonize Jews in Russia. Outside the Jewish community, Catholics, Irish, Germans, and various utopians planned colonies for themselves in North America. At the same time, the American Colonization Society began to advocate colonies for


62   Jacksonian Jew

American Negroes in Africa. In short, all over the western world, reformers came to view colonies -- especially, but not exclusively, American frontier colonies -- as the best solution to the problems posed by minority, deviant, and oppressed groups. Rather than attempting to create an equitable pluralistic state, they proposed to create insulated communities where each individual group could flourish on its own. Many Jews found the idea alluring. 2

In America, a myriad of proposals for Jewish colonies emerged in the buoyant, self-confident years which followed the end of the War of 1812. The country's underdeveloped areas seemed like the ideal place for Jews to settle. Moses E. Levy tried to induce Jews to migrate to Florida, where he owned vast tracts of land. Samuel Myers of Norfolk, Virginia, privately advocated a broader immigration-colonization plan, one which involved the frontier areas west of the Mississippi. William D. Robinson, a Christian, later publicly advocated a very similar project in his Memoir Addressed to Persons of the Jewish Religion in Europe on the Subject of Emigration (1819). Even The American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews put forward a colonization scheme. Unlike other planners, however, the missionaries designated their colony primarily for converts. 3

Mordecai Noah's proposal was in many respects similar to these other colonization efforts. He, too, advocated Jewish immigration from Europe and settlement in a religiously homogeneous agricultural colony. He too sought to send Jews to underdeveloped areas of the country. But he went beyond the other plans -- he was familiar with them all -- and undertook practical steps to bring his program to fruition. 4

On January 16, 1820, Noah laid before the New York legislature a petition requesting that it survey, value, and sell him Grand Island in the Niagara River to serve as a colony for the Jews of the world The petition seemed extraordinary: why not merely ask to buy the land? He certainly did not need legislative approval to turn it into a colony. But Noah sought maximum publicity for his plan, and as a journalist, he knew that only the extraordinary won attention. He may also have remembered the fanfare generated by a similarly grandiose project, the Grand Canal plan, filed a few years before by De Witt Clinton. Like Clinton, he may have hoped that his project's favorable publicity would redound to his own political advantage. Unlike Clinton, he did not have to worry about the legislature's fiscal conservatism. His plan required no state money at all. Still, he clearly hoped, although he was not overly sanguine, that the state would present Grand Island to him free of charge. 5

The legislature initially reacted with caution. Various unfriendly members of the select committee which handled the bill opposed offering "preferences to any sect," fearing that "Dutch, Swiss, French &c. might wish similar assistance." Others warned that Christian-Jewish separation would be harmful. But Michael Ulshoeffer, chairman of the committee, along with several of his colleagues, expressed sympathy for the persecuted Jews in Europe -- he had anti-Jewish riots in mind -- and suggested a bill that simply transferred Grand Island to Noah in a normal way. The colonizer could then


An Asylum for the Jews  63

do with the island as he wished. As Ulshoeffer saw it, the sale of Grand Island was "a desirable object." The state had purchased the 17,381-acre island in 1815 from the Indians, and had watched idly while it filled up with squatters. In 1819, at considerable expense, the eight-mile-long island had been cleared. The squatters, however, threatened to return, and new battles loomed. Noah's proposal promised to solve the problem once and for all. Unfortunately, Ulshoeffer's "desirable object" soon faced an insurmountable barrier. Britain claimed ownership of Grand Island and demanded its return. The resolution of this diplomatic wrangle was left to a boundary commission; meanwhile, Noah's petition languished and died. 6

Noah did not give up on his efforts to find what he termed a "New Jerusalem" for his brethren. Palestine, he thought, was not the answer, since many Jews "would not inhabit [it] if they recovered it tomorrow." Buoyed by the support of Christians who, a contemporary Jew (Benjamin Hart) observed, "wish[ed] the plan well," and called Noah "the Messiah of the Jews," Noah set out to find an American home for his coreligionists. He searched for a place where Jews could both own property in their own name, and enjoy the rights and privileges which "they [did] not possess in any other part of the globe." By December, Noah had decided that Newport, Rhode Island, was "the most eligible spot for Jewish emigrants." In an article in the National Advocate (December 1, 1820), he extolled its "harbor inferior to none in the Union," its "remarkably healthy" climate, and its moderate cost of living. He also reminded Jewish readers that the city had served as "the residence of respectable Jewish merchants" in colonial days, and that it still contained "a very spacious place of worship." 7

Noah had apparently taken to heart the words of critics who attacked his plan claiming that "the Jews are not cultivators." In Newport, agricultural activities were unnecessary -- indeed, impossible; Jews would have to live by commerce and industry. Noah had also apparently taken to heart the criticism of, among others, Isaac Harby (later famous for his effort, in 1824, to modify Jewish religious practice in Charleston's Beth Elohim synagogue) who felt that Jews should assimilate into the mainstream. But, while Noah agreed that Jews should "spread themselves over the Union and be amalgamated with other citizens," he still insisted that Jews maintain their separate identity as a people. He stressed that his was an effort to promote both identity and integration, and he correctly pointed out that other American groups maintained the identical set of goals:

I certainly do admit that Jews should live among Christians and by thus mingling together endeavour to allay prejudices and become familiar with each others virtues; but even in extensive communities they form distinct associations -- In fact all other religions do the same, and this establishment was only intended as a rallying point. 8

Noah thought that Newport, even more than Grand Island, could further his dual objectives. Since it was a city, Jews could both mingle with non-Jews and


64   Jacksonian Jew

remain distinct at the same time. But Newport offered potential immigrants none of Grand Island's major attractions. The city showed no signs of recovering from the devastating effects of the Revolutionary War, which had destroyed its port, and it therefore harbored only limited prospects for aspiring businessmen. Furthermore, the European Jews most interested in America were precisely those who sought agricultural careers. Struggling for emancipation, they fervently wished to disprove the canard that Jews were "unproductive" and unwilling to work with their hands. By becoming, as Noah suggested, American merchants and traders, they would be reinforcing the very stereotype which they so desperately wanted to refute. The original choice of Grand Island, which was poised at the mouth of the soon-to-be completed Erie Canal, was a far better place for a colony. It offered both trade and agricultural possibilities, and promised a good return on investment. With Newport, Noah had no hope of success at all. Wisely, he did not pursue the plan. 9

In order personally to stimulate Jewish immigration, Noah again sought a lucrative, secure, and prestigious consular post. He asked specifically for a post at Vienna; he offered, however, to accept any position which might help him to further his colonization project. He aimed to help his fellow Jews and to help himself at the same time. But his application fell on deaf ears, probably because his past diplomatic experience had not been forgotten. Stymied on all sides, he had no choice but to abandon his project, at least until a more favorable opportunity arose. Meanwhile, his plan piqued the interest of a group of young Jews in Germany. 10

The first, somewhat confused reports of Noah's colonization ideas appeared in the Koblenzer Anzeiger of July 2, 1819. After Noah petitioned the state legislature in 1820, other German newspapers picked up the story. In the wake of the anti-Jewish hep hep riots, proposals for Jewish colonies abroad received much public attention. At least some Jews evinced interest. The Verein fur Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden, an association of young Jews in Germany dedicated to Jewish cultural development, discussed Noah's Ararat plan on April 30, 1820. Gerson Adersbach, a member of the society, boldly proposed that contact be made with the "educated, well reputed and patriotic man." But discussion was deferred The subject of emigration from Germany proved too controversial for the fledgling and ardently patriotic organization. In late 1821, Noah's project was again discussed, this time by Verein member Eliezer Kirschbaum, who considered the planned colony a harbinger of the messianic era. Fearful that Noah might abandon his project for lack of European support, the Verein members, after some debate, agreed to elect him an extraordinary member of their organization. Delighted by their action, Noah, in 1822, printed his letter of appointment in the press. Neither he nor his readers knew that idealistic young Jews in their twenties had authored the letter. These men, like Noah, felt dissatisfied with Jewish conditions. Some even had visions of creating a brighter Jewish future. Despite what Noah thought, however, the Verein members were not, in any sense, leaders of


An Asylum for the Jews  65

German Jewry. Nor did the Verein letter represent the kind of European Jewish mandate which Noah, in his ignorance, imagined. 11

In spite of Verein recognition, and in spite of the boundary commission's 1822 award of Grand Island to New York State, Noah devoted almost no further effort to his project for the next two years. Presumably, his earlier experience had chastened him. Besides, local affairs occupied all of his energies. What finally roused him to action was the legislature's decision, in April 1824, to survey and sell Grand Island. Eager to purchase it, but short of means, Noah set out to find financial backing. General Peter B. Porter, an investor in nearby Black Rock, a hero of the War of 1812, and later Secretary of War, refused to finance the undertaking by providing the ten thousand dollars Noah needed -- despite Noah's assurance that the sale of lots on Grand Island would yield "a princely fortune." Other New Yorkers found the opportunity more to their interest. By the time the sale took place, in June 1825, some of "the most spirited and enterprising" investors in New York State found themselves competing with one another for the land. Samuel Leggett represented Noah in the bidding and purchased land directly on his behalf. Eleven other merchants and lawyers -- among them Jacob Barker, Levi Beardsley, James O'Morse, Alvin Stewart, John B. Yates, Archibald McIntyre, and Peter Smith -- speculated either for themselves or on behalf of a proposed private high school. In the end Leggett managed to obtain 2,555 choice acres on the eastern shore of the island for which he paid $16,985. The entire area brought in $76,230, considerably above the already somewhat inflated $50,000 value which Noah and Buffalo officials had earlier placed on the land. 12 On November 19, 1833, Noah wrote to New York State Comptroller Azariah Flagg "Will you have the goodness to inform me how many acres I purchased in Grand Island [?]" The answer, unfortunately, is not extant, but the question demonstrates that Noah did purchase some Grand Island land, frequently cited reports to the contrary notwithstanding. 13

Grand Island having been purchased, Noah now set about trying to induce "Jewish bankers or any wealthy and respectable persons of that denomination" to immigrate. Hearing that Churchill Caldon Cambreling, a wealthy one-time mayor of New York, was about to travel to Europe, Noah enlisted his aid in the effort "to induce the enterprising to embark in the project." But Noah knew that, in order to succeed, he needed far more publicity than that. Aided and advised by E. J. Roberts, his associate on the New York National Advocate, he commenced a vigorous promotion campaign for Grand Island. He also announced advanced plans for "suitable masonic, military and religious" dedication ceremonies. Shrewdly, he scheduled these exercises to take place just before the statewide observances celebrating the completion of the Erie Canal. He wanted as much attention as possible for his own project. 14

Noah set out for Buffalo on September 8, accompanied by Abraham Benjamin Seixas, a nephew of his teacher, Shearith Israel's Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas. With the aid of Isaac S. Smith, a friend and local resident, they made final preparations for the ceremony, arranged for a


66   Jacksonian Jew

cornerstone, and issued invitations. Too late, they 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." Consequently, they shifted the ceremonies to St. Paul's Episcopal church, the only house of worship in Buffalo, and the only hall large enough for the expected crowd. The newly arrived rector of St. Paul's, Addison Searle, was acquainted with Noah and agreed to assist him. He likely knew that a precedent existed for lending his church to non-Protestants; four years earlier, St. Paul's had been lent for a worship service to Catholic families. 15

The third day of the Hebrew month of Tishre, September 15, dawned brilliantly. 16Cannoneers fired a rousing salute. The aged Seneca Chief, Red Jacket, came ashore. Crowds of spectators, most of them women, gathered to watch Noah's performance. The crowds hoped for good theater; they craved melodramas with exotic settings, impressive pageants, jubilant excitement, and holiday festivity. Noah, the accomplished dramatist, did not disappoint them. Resplendent in a Richard III costume, complete with a gold medallion neck chain -- all lent by the Park Theater -- Noah assumed his role as "Judge of Israel," and led a long procession from the masonic lodge to the church. There on the communion table lay the cornerstone, crowned with silver cups of wine, corn, and oil, and inscribed with the Hebrew words of the Sh'ma (Deut. 6:4): "Hear O Israel the Lord Our God the Lord is One." Soon, the music of the band's Judas Maccabeus and the organist's Jubilate gave way to the singing of "Before Jehovah's Awful Throne." The Rev. Searle conducted his "nonsectarian" morning service, an "ecumenical" service to dedicate a separatist Jewish colony. After a prayer, two prophetic lessons, the reading of a half-dozen Psalms (one of them in Hebrew), an ante-Communion Service and a benediction, Mordecai Noah rose to speak. 17

Noah's address before the assembled at St. Paul's Church endeavored to "unfold the principles, explain the views and detail the objects" which were contained in the magniloquent "Proclamation to the Jews" issued "By the Judge, "under the signature of "A. B. Seixas, Secretary Pro tem." earlier in the day.

The Proclamation had been directed to the widest possible audience. It announced the foundation of a city of refuge "to be called Ararat," proclaimed the re-establishment of the government of the Jewish Nation "under the auspices and protection of the constitution and laws of the United States of America," and declared Noah, "Judge of Israel."

Judge Noah then issued decrees: 10...


An Asylum for the Jews  67

... In a concluding substantive section of his Proclamation to the Jews, Noah, without obtaining their consent, appointed some of the most distinguished Jews in the world as his commissioners to further Jewish emigration. He authorized the Paris Consistory to investigate and report on Jewish conditions in the United States. He established "Roshhodesh [the new moon of the Hebrew month of] Adar, February 7th, 1826" as a special day of thanksgiving. Then he became humble. He pleaded with his fellow Jews to act properly, remember him in their prayers, and "keep the charge of the Holy God." 19

Noah's Proclamation to the Jews reads basically like a series of orders. The "Judge of Israel" explained very little. In his Ararat Address, he went further. He reviewed the state of world Jewry and sought to provide an answer to the question which still puzzles historians today: why Ararat?

Noah always stressed the humanitarian aspects of Ararat. He called Ararat "an asylum for the oppressed," and inscribed on its cornerstone the words, "A City of Refuge for the Jews." Actually, the Jewish situation in 1825 was less urgent than when Noah first proposed his colony in 1820. But if riots and persecutions had died down, the overall condition of the Jews in 1825 still cried out for improvement: "The oldest of nations, powerful in numbers and great in resources, remains isolated, without a home, a country or a


68   Jacksonian Jew

government." Jews, according to Noah, needed a "period of regeneration." In America, "under the influence of perfect freedom," he felt that Jews would study, acquire liberal principles, and qualify themselves to rule in the Land of the Patriarchs. 20

Noah envisaged Ararat as a temporary refuge where Jews would be modernized. Among his goals were such typical Enlightenment reforms as: abolition of polygamy, encouragement of agricultural and mechanical arts, and the spread of complete literacy in the native language of the country. Noah even considered calling together a seventy-member Sanhedrin, an obvious imitation of Napoleon's method for modernizing Jews. But by whatever means, he resolutely determined to spread "intelligence and education." Future generations, he promised, would be "progressively improved and enlightened." 21

Noah did not see Ararat as a surrogate Jerusalem. In 1820, he had felt that Jews would never voluntarily settle in the Holy Land, and that Grand Island would become the center of Jewry. At that time, he planned to name his colony "New Jerusalem," a name to which he still clung as late as 1824. But by 1825, perhaps influenced by new missionary interest in Palestine, he realized that no diaspora land could replace Jerusalem in the Jewish heart. His colony could at best serve as a temporary refuge, a happy if not promised land, an Ararat in the diaspora. The fact that the biblical Ararat was connected with the story of Noah only made this name more appropriate. 22

Although Noah conceded that Ararat would be a temporary resting place for the Jews, he assigned it an important role in bringing about the ultimate, millennial restoration for which vast numbers of people earnestly prayed. He began his proclamation by observing that the period when "the race of Jacob... are to be gathered from the four quarters of the globe" was approaching. Ararat, he promised, would collect together and "improve" Jews, and thus speed "that great and final restoration to their ancient heritage which the times so powerfully indicate." As Noah knew, many Christians believed that Jewish restoration was the harbinger of the millennium. The opening paragraph of his address indicates that he was well aware of the worldwide implications of his scheme. 23

Any benefits to the world from Ararat lay far in the future. America was more fortunate; as Noah saw it, the country would reap immediate benefits from the Jews. He promised that the wealthiest of his coreligionists (a group he had once identified as "enterprising merchants, silk and other manufacturers from France and Germany, mechanics wherever they are found, and agriculturalists from Poland and Ukraine") would come to America. Pending the millennium, America would have the use of their superior skills and ample capital. To make good on his promise, Noah in his writings wooed wealthy Jews and assured them of many opportunities. He reviewed Jewry's world situation, and sought to demonstrate that only in America would Jews escape oppression. He believed sincerely that Ararat would help wealthy Jews. But he believed just as sincerely that the project would have "the most important


An Asylum for the Jews  69

consequences to the country." As before, Noah wanted to prove that in aiding Jews he aided his country in ways that non-Jews couldn't match. Far from being a liability, he insisted that his Judaism served as an asset. 24

Noah applied the same argument in discussing the effects of his project on New York State. In 1820, he had assured the legislature that Jewish immigrants would "give an impetus to a brisk trade," set up "settlements of a commercial character," and establish on Grand Island "a very important frontier post." He even suggested that Jews might be "induced to purchase and hold all the state stock and eminently benefit our fiscal concerns." Now, five years later, he was in a position to make good on his promises and to prove himself a valuable citizen. Consequently, he extolled the virtues of his state to foreign Jews, and urged them to invest as much as they could: "To men of worth and industry it has every substantial attraction; the capitalist will be enabled to enjoy his resources with undoubted profit, and the mechanic cannot fail to reap the reward of enterprise in a great and growing republic; but to the industrious mechanic, manufacturer and agriculturalist it holds forth great and improving advantages." 25

In his public writings, Noah openly discussed the potential benefits of his project for his people, his nation, his state, and even for mankind's ultimate destiny. He said nothing at all, however, about the benefits which might accrue to himself. Grand Island, after all, was a prime location, one where most investors expected land values to rise. Privately, Noah once candidly admitted that he looked forward to "an immense profit." He also obviously enjoyed the accouterments in office -- the pomp, the ceremony, the title, and the speeches. He knew that if he succeeded, these and much more would be his for life. Yet, Noah did not undertake Ararat simply for reasons of fame and fortune; the sincerity of his interest in helping other Jews cannot be doubted. On the other hand, his was not a purely selfless endeavor either. Instead, both his own well-being and the well-being of others interested Noah. He was neither a complete altruist nor a complete egoist. 26

From the perspective of Mordecai Noah, Ararat seemed like an ideal plan: everybody gained, nobody lost. This outlook was quite typical of early nineteenth-century colonizers. Irish, German, and black colonization advocates never mentioned just the benefits which a colony held open to settlers. Always, they went on to extol the numerous advantages a colony might bring to all governments and peoples remotely connected with it. Like Noah, these colonizers gave scant public attention to any but the high-minded altruistic motivations behind their schemes. Yet, personal concerns, while not necessarily of prime importance, never lay far from their minds. 27

Despite these obvious similarities between Ararat and other colonization schemes, Noah adamantly insisted that he aimed "at higher objects than mere colonization." He aimed at melioration as well. In this sense, his colony resembled New Paltz colony, the Harrison, New York asylum set up for conversionist purposes by the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews. (Interestingly, one of Noah's letters of support came from


70   Jacksonian Jew

Erasmus H. Simon, an agent of that society who opposed the administrative policies of its colony. 28) Both colonies called themselves asylums; both aimed at potential Jewish immigrants; and both sought explicitly to "ameliorate the condition of the Jews" by properly educating children and by providing agricultural and mechanical training to adults. Theologically, Noah and the missionaries also had much in common. Both agreed that America was destined to play a special role in the Divine plan. Both agreed that the millennium was imminent, but in some ways dependent upon Jews. Both agreed that Jews and Christians should respect one another. And both agreed that it was up to Jews to take immediate appropriate action to ensure that they qualified for final restoration to the promised land. Of course, Noah and the missionaries still disagreed about religious fundamentals. Noah believed in ultimate Jewish regeneration, while the missionaries believed in ultimate Jewish conversion. Still, the parallels are instructive. Noah's thinking had obviously been shaped by the evangelical Protestantism of his day -- to such an extent, that he even shared many Christian views on the nature of world Jewry and how to improve it. Through Ararat, he sought to incorporate some of these Christian ideas into a framework which was staunchly Jewish. 29

Important as Evangelical Protestantism was in the early nineteenth century, it was not nearly so powerful an ideological influence on Noah as American idealism. As a patriotic citizen and an influential politician, Noah could only advocate projects which were totally in harmony with freedom, democracy, and tolerance. Ararat posed a problem: it was both sectarian and undemocratic. Noah never resolved this problem. He may not fully have understood its implications.

In his Ararat Address, Noah brushed aside the idea that Ararat and America could be in conflict: "Conforming therefore to the constitution and laws of the United States, there is no difficulty in organizing and concentrating the Jewish nation." He did not, however, elaborate as to how he would reconcile the seemingly opposite goals of maintaining a separate Jewish identity and integrating the Jews into American society as a whole. Instead, he strove to obtain legitimacy for his project. He tied it to America's three most enduring myths: the Wandering Pilgrims, the Noble Savages, and the Revolutionary Fathers. Just as "a few pilgrims, driven to our continent by European persecution, have laid the foundation of a splendid empire," so, he claimed, "a few Jews in this happy land admonished by the past, and animated by anticipations of the future, may increase rapidly and prosperously." As for the Indians, he labeled them "the lineal descendants of the Israelites," the ten lost tribes. Finally, he termed his Proclamation to the Jews, a "declaration of independence." The comparison between July 4, 1776, and September 15, 1825, was a difficult one, and wisely he did not elaborate on it. But his rhetorical reference to peace and prosperity, as well as his call for a "new society" could not have been lost on the attentive audience. 30

Unfortunately for Noah, neither his patriotic allusions nor his sweeping assertions could conceal the Ararat-America tensions inherent in his plan. If,


An Asylum for the Jews  71

as he claimed in his address, "in this free and happy country distinctions in religion are unknown," how could a separate Jewish colony be countenanced? How could a "government of the Jews" be organized if the constitution and laws of the United States were to be binding? How could Jews in Ararat be loyal to America if the asylum was "temporary and provisionary?" 31 Except for a vague reference to non-Jews being invited to settle in Grand Island, he ignored these questions. Inviting non-Jews was a standard method of avoiding charges of Jewish separatism. When, in 1843, Noah advocated a "Hebrew College" (boarding school) for the training of Jewish young men, there was again the assurance that "the school would be open to all denominations." 32

By setting up a Jewish government on Ararat, Noah effectively negated his 1820 distinction between "mingling together [with Christians]" and "distinct associations [with Jews]." As the dedication ceremony demonstrated, however, the identity-assimilation problem remained unsolved. The service at St. Paul's Church seemed neither Jewish nor Christian, and it offended many. Efforts to resolve other areas of tension, particularly polity and foreign policy, proved no more successful.

Ararat needed a leader. In order to interest "enlightened" Jews in coming to Ararat, Noah believed that it needed an exceptional leader, one who would be colorful, charismatic, and above all, traditional. Tradition, however, prevented the democratic election of a sovereign. The Bible contained no democratic elections, and besides, who would have voted? On the other hand an undemocratically elected sovereign was anathema to Americans, and certainly could not have been advocated by a Democratic politician. Noah found the solution to this problem in the Book of Judges. The Judges sprang from the people; they were not kings, and leadership did not pass to their sons. More importantly, "the manner and forms adopted in choosing the Judges of Israel" were "difficult... to decide with certainty." On the basis of so much ignorance, Noah had no trouble in convincing himself that the office of judge "conform[ed] in some respect to that of [American] Chief Magistrate." It followed that this form of leadership was "in accordance with the genius and disposition of the people of this country." Noah hoped that this explanation would satisfy his "enlightened" listeners. But he thought that the "unenlightened" abroad who read his proclamation might want something more simple. Consequently, in that document he boldly credited his office to "the grace of God." 33

Foreign policy presented another clash between Ararat and America. As an American, Mordecai Noah advocated the Greek cause in its struggle for independence from Turkey. He even wrote a pro-Greek play, The Grecian Captive, or the Fall of Athens. Yet, as a Jew, he feared for the hundreds of thousands of his brethren living under Turkish rule "who would be instantly sacrificed by their relentless rulers upon the least succor being accorded to the revolutionists." Noah, therefore, struck a compromise: he enjoined Jews "not to mingle in this contest," and at the same time, he ordered them "not to throw obstacles in the way of its [Greece's] successful advancement." 34 The compromise was a weak one. Noah the "judge" could not even begin to resolve


72   Jacksonian Jew

the tensions between Ararat and America. He ignored problems or resorted to mythic solutions. He never realized that it was impossible to integrate fully into the American mainstream, and to preserve perfectly Jewish ethnic identity at one and the same time. He never realized that the American Jew lived in a perpetual state of tension between "American" and "Jew."

Jews and ethnics generally were and remain sociologically ambivalent -- torn between the demands of their group and the demands of their country. Colonizers often claim success in resolving this dilemma. But if they simultaneously promise the blessings of both integration and segregation they are doomed, like Ararat, to fail. 35 And no wonder. Structural polarities are resolved only in utopia and the world of myth. In the everyday world, basic irresolvable tensions remain. 36

The response to Noah's 1825 extravaganza differed markedly from the reaction he had encountered in 1820. Then, the vast majority of newspapers supported him and wished his project well. After the Ararat dedication, reaction varied much more widely. Buffalo area newspapers understandably favored the project. Their region stood to gain from the endeavor, and they surely found Noah less visionary than some of the other radical and religious figures who kept western New York ("the burned over district") in a state of ferment. Elsewhere, many newspapers printed Noah's proclamation without comment, or, as in the case of the New York Statesman, confined their remarks to superficial praise of Noah's "liberal views." Noah's political opponents, however, had a field day. The New York American suggested that Noah find "a convenient apartment in the lunatic asylum," and then hinted darkly that Ararat might be designed "for swindling the wealthy Jews of Europe out of their money." The widely read and influential Niles' Weekly Register called Ararat a "land jobbing business," Noah, a potentially "great autocrat," and the entire project, nothing but "a very good business indeed." Even the New York Mirror, which was usually sympathetic to him, could not restrain its mirth: "Fall down! ye men of Israel, and worship this new Judge! Pay your capitation tax, and seven millions will forthwith enrich the treasury of your great Judge -- Mordecai Manuel Noah." 37

These criticisms were understandable, if not totally fair responses to Noah's theatrics. But they left the "judge" with an easy answer. His theatrics, he claimed, were designed for the "unenlightened" Jews of the world, not for sophisticated Americans. More important criticism came from the American Atheneum. Its learned editor wondered how Noah reconciled his support and defense of the Constitution with the undemocratic method by which he assumed his "ample and responsible" position of Judge of Israel. Perhaps, he suggested, Noah "considered himself the people, " and therefore had "no other but himself to elect and to be elected." Isaac Harby in the Charleston Courier went further. Having opposed the colony scheme from the start, he now branded Noah as impious. Jews, he said, should wait for the Messiah, "who shall lead them to New Jerusalem not to New York and shall show his divine


An Asylum for the Jews  73

credentials in a guise somewhat different" from the one assumed by Noah. Harby held Noah's judgeship to be "contrary to scriptural authority," and he advised his fellow editor to reread the biblical books of Judges and Samuel. He next levelled his guns at Noah's ceremony and proclamation. He indicated that, according to his understanding of Judaism, to put a stone with the words of the Hebrew "Shemong" [Sh'ma] on a Christian Communion table "around which the sacrament is taken" was nothing less than blasphemy. To invite Jews to come to a pagan city was "profane." To call Ararat a city of refuge, when in fact it resembled the biblical cities of refuge not at all, was simply "ignorant." As for Noah's decrees, Harby ridiculed one after another. 38

Noah dismissed Harby as a "new light" (referring, of course, to his role in the Charleston Reform Movement) and declared the southern editor "unacquainted with the essential form of the [Jewish] religion." But Harby's criticisms were widely echoed by American Jews. Moses E. Levy attacked Noah for his "folly and sacrilegious presumption." Rachel Mordecai Lazarus doubted that anyone would submit "to the self-constituted 'governor' and 'judge of Israel'," and observed that most people deemed the entire scheme "visionary." Even eight years later, Benjamin Gratz still would have nothing to do with Noah: "his trick upon our nation to make money was too shallow to gull them: filthy lucre was his object." 39

The critical reaction of his fellow Jews surprised Noah not at all. Back in 1824, he had told Peter Porter that his project was objectionable to American Jews "from the fear that the conduct of Jewish emigrants might possibly bring them into disrepute." Subsequent events did not alter his analysis. Despite the many substantive criticisms of Ararat, Noah continued to believe that status fears, fears which certainly affected later Jewish views on immigration, were the reason why "The Jews of the United States... have not been favourably inclined towards the project." Upon reflection, Noah conceded that his proclamation "should have been specifically directed to the European Jews;" it had no application or meaning to Jews living freely in the United States. Still, he remained convinced that those Jews who needed an asylum would avail themselves of the advantages which Ararat held forth. 40

Noah was wrong European Jews did not flock to Ararat. Nor was there any great support for Noah in the European Jewish press. Indeed, aside from the favorable response of some German Verein members, all Noah heard from abroad were words of ridicule. Judah Jeteles, a leader of the Austrian Jewish Enlightenment and the editor of the Hebrew journal Bikkurei Haittim, called Noah a "crazy man," and urged Jews to remain where they were. These sentiments were echoed privately by Rabbi Hayyim Joseph Pollak of Hungary. Abraham Andrade, Rabbi of Bordeaux, saw Noah as a simple charlatan. The poet Henrich Heine dismissed him as amusing. But none of these responses received nearly as much publicity as the letter sent to Noah by the Paris Chief Rabbi, Abraham de Cologna, representing himself and the Chief Rabbi of England. Cologna lampooned Ararat as "the chimerical


74   Jacksonian Jew

consulate of a pseudo-restorer" and "a mere jest." He sternly warned Noah, whom he admitted was a "visionary of good intentions," that his project was "an act of high treason against the Divine Majesty." 41

Perhaps, as Noah claimed, these rabbis merely acted on government orders. In Vienna, the police actually had seized the Ararat Proclamation. But the document received so much publicity in Europe (mentions of it have been found in newspapers from Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Hungary) that word must have filtered down to ordinary Jews. The fact that Ararat nevertheless remained desolate indicates that Noah had misread the world Jewish situation. Jews, even "unenlightened" Jews, neither needed nor wanted an isolated asylum in a faraway land ruled by a self-appointed judge. To leave the uncertainties of Europe for an ill-conceived colony riddled with internal contradictions made no sense at all. 42

A boat named Noah's Ark set sail from Grand Island in October 1825 to take part in the celebrations opening the Erie Canal. The five-ton boat was "handsomely fitted" and "freighted with all manner of animals and creepy things." It received considerable attention. Early in its journey, Noah's Ark ran into unspecified trouble. It turned back and never arrived in New York City. 43

Noah's project soon went the way of Noah's Ark. Three weeks after Ararat's dedication, the "Judge of Israel" advised a friend to delay his purchase of land on Grand Island. A few months later, on January 24, 1826, the Black Rock Gazette sadly announced that "the probability of his [Noah's] success in getting together the Jews is at an end." ...

Remainder of chapter & endnotes not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1981 by Jonathan D. Sarna 
 only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


Richard H. Popkin
"Mordecai Noah, The Abbe Gregoire, And The Paris Sanhedrin
Modern Judaism II:2, May 1982

[ 131 ]

Richard H. Popkin



In recent years there has been a growing interest in Mordecai Noah as a precursor of Zionism and as an early American Jew trying to find his place as both an American and as a Jew. The recent scholarly study by Jonathan D. Sarna, Jacksonian Jew, The Two Worlds of Mordecai Noah throws much light on Noah's intellectual life, and his search for his proper place in the developing United States. 1

However, an aspect of Noah's outlook that has gotten very little attention is his relationship with the abbe Henri Gregoire, the leader of the fight for Jewish emancipation in France, and with the Paris or Napoleonic Sanhedrin. Sarna notes that Noah met Gregoire in Paris in 1814, and that Noah was influenced by Gregoire's universal humanitarianism, and became an opponent of slavery. 2

In reading over the abbe Henri Gregoire's discussion of Jews in America in his Histoire des sectes religieuses I was struck by the seriousness with which he treated Mordecai Noah's project for a Jewish state, Ararat, on Grand Island off Buffalo. The volume of Gregoire's that deals with this was published in 1828, only three years after Noah had dedicated his project with so much fanfare. Almost half of the chapter on American Jews is devoted to Noah and is very positive about the man and his plan...

Why did Gregoire care so much about Mordecai Noah's plan? The first edition of Histoire des sectes religieuses, published and seized by the police in 1810, and issued in 1814, has no section on American Jews. His interest in the American scene grew out of at least two sources. One is that Gregoire was corresponding with the first American bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore, from 1810-1815 about the similarities and differences in their situations in France and America as religious leaders. 4~ The other is that he came into epistolary contact with Hannah Adams, the American authoress who was writing The History of the Jews from the Destruction of Jerusalem to the Present Time which was completed in 1812. She used Gregoire's published works, including the banned edition of the Histoire


132                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

Text © 1982 by Johns Hopkins University Press  
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        133

Text © 1982 by Johns Hopkins University Press  
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


134                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

... Noah set to work to develop his project. John Quincy Adams noted in his diary in 1820 that Noah "has great projects for colonizing Jews in this country" ... Noah started making moves to acquire the territory, Grand Island off Buffalo, for his colony, and also briefly considered setting up the colony in Newport, Rhode Island. 21 Finally in September 15, 1825 Noah's Ararat project was inaugurated. In its structure and in Noah's address on it, can be seen the influence of the abbe Gregoire and the Paris Sanhedrin...


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        135

... Noah took on his role as Judge of Israel only for one four year term. Then the Judge would be chosen quadriennially by the Consistory of Paris, which would receive proxies from every congregation. Next Noah named a group of commissioners from France, England, Germany, Gilbraltar, and Italy, the chief of these being "the most learned and pious Abraham de Cologna, Knight of the Iron Cross of Lombardy, Grand Rabbi of the Jews and President of the Consistory at Paris." The Paris Consistory is further authorized to name "three discreet persons of competent abilities, to visit the United States, and make such reports to the nation as the actual condition of this country shall warrant," 26 ...


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... Noah dwelt on the possibility that the lost tribes of Israel are the ancestors of the American Indians. "Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are stronglt of the opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief." After summarizing his evidence Noah observed, "Should we be right in our conjecture, what new scenes are opened to the nation -- the first people in the old world,


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        137

and the rightful inheritors of the new?" By bringing the Indians together with other Jews, the Indians "could be made sensible of their origin, could be civilized, and restored to their long-lost brethren" "what joy to our people, what glory to our God, how clearly have the prophecies been fulfilled, how certain our dispersions, how miraculous our preservation, how providential our deliverance." 36

Noah then gave his plan for putting the Jews into gainful employment at Ararat, and giving them a modern education. However, he insisted, "no part of our religion should be altered, nothing should be taken from the law." He seemed to realize in view of what was already happening in the early Reform movement, "if the power of innovation existed there would be no end to the pruning knife." 97

The one law Noah promulgated was the ban on polygamy, which Noah pointed out was not based on a religious statute. 38 As he probably well knew, the first item the Paris Sanhedrin dealt with, among the twelve questions asked of it by Napoleon, was whether Judaism allowed for polygamy. The Paris Sanhedrin had answered that Moses had neither expressly commanded multiple marriages, nor forbidden it. It had been renounced as a practice in the West in the eleventh century, but they pointed out it still occurred in the East. 39 Mordecai Noah, as chief Judge of Israel, went one step further. He had personally seen cases of polygamy among the Jews of North Africa and, "I have deemed it important as one among the first acts of the government [of Ararat], to protest against the practice, and abolish it forever." So, Noah thus completed the work of the Paris Sanhedrin in this regard. (He also carried on their enlightenment attitude by prescribing that both parties to a marriage be literate in the language of the country in which they live.) 40 With these two pronouncements against polygamy and illiteracy, Noah announced: "Thus commences auspiciously, I hope, the attempt to revive the Government of the oldest nations, and lead them if not to the promised, still to the happy land." 41

Noah's proclamation and speech in Buffalo inaugurating Ararat have several intriguing features. He carefully avoids claiming that Ararat represents the Restoration of Israel. It is, when all is said and done, a way station for Jews until God brings them back to the Promised Land. Ararat is not ordained from above. It exists, and only can exist under the auspices of the United States, and as part of the United States. (He even got the New York state legislature to spell this out, in terms of the U. S. guarantee of religious freedom for its citizens.) 42

However, Noah also sought to link his Jewish state to the Jewish world. It is presented as a culmination of Gregoire's efforts on behalf of the Jews. Gregoire is the only individual favorably mentioned in Noah's .address; the only person "to whom the Jews owe an incalculable debt of gratitude." Noah's plans for developing Jewish agriculture, and trades


138                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

are just like Gregoire's proposals at the time of the French Revolution...

... Noah added to his list of those who should be admitted to Ararat the American Indians as the Lost Tribes. Gregoire, in his short discussion of what group or groups may be the Lost Tribes, mentions the Jewish-Indian theory, and cites Menasseh ben Israel's Esperanza de Israel as his source. 48 (He apparently did not pay attention to the appendix in Hannah Adams, History of the Jews, summarizing the "new" evidence by James Adair that the Indians are the Lost Tribes.) 49 Gregoire gave no indication that he took this theory seriously. Noah, however, studied the matter carefully, read the evidence offered by explorers and theologians, and was thoroughly convinced of the Jewish origins of the American Indians. His Discourse on the Evidence of the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel of 1837 is one of the best statements of this view


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        139

in terms of the evidence available at the time. 50

... Noah very favorably mentioned the [Paris] Sanhedrin in his [1825] address. In the proclamation he acted as if this body still existed and functioned, and gave it predominant status in running the affairs of Atarat. Rabbi Abraham de Cologna, the then sole survivor of the triumvirate of leaders of the Paris Sanhedrin, is referred to as the "Grand Rabbi of the Jews." The Paris Sanhedrin had met in 1806-1807. It acted as if it were to be a permanent body, settling questions of Jewish law for the whole Jewish world... The body derivative from it, the Consistory of Paris, ruled on French Jewish questions...

Noah turned over the ultimate authority of Ararat to the Consistory of Paris. They would elect all successive Judges of Israel. They represent the entire Jewish world through receiving voting proxies for every other


140                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

Jewish congregation. The first Commissioner named is Grand Rabbi Cologna, then President of the Consistory of Paris. So, Ararat would be attached to what seemed to be the leading authoritative Jewish body in the world, the Paris Sanhedrin, acting through its appendage, the Consistory of Paris. Ararat would not just be the pipe-dream of Mr. Noah. The only aspect of the plan not controlled by the Consistory of Paris or the Commissioners headed by Grand Rabbi Cologna, was the initiation of it and the appointment of the first Governor and Judge of Israel. Noah gave as justification for these steps that God has given signs that the time of Jewish fulfillment is approaching. He then stated "Therefore, I, Mordecai Noah, citizen of the United States, late Consul of said States to the City and Kingdom of Tunis, High Sheriff of New York, Counselor at law, and by the grace of God, Governor of Israel, etc." 55 It was the attribution of his appointment to the grace of God that led Grand Rabbi Cologna to denounce, and probably thereby destroy the plan.

Grand Rabbi Cologna sent a furious answer, not to Noah but to the editor of the official French newspaper, Journal des Debats politiques et litteraires, Nov. 18, 1825, which was also published in other newspapers in other languages. 56 Cologna began by noting that various French and English newspapers had announced that a Mr. Noah has founded a city, Ararat, in the United States. If Mr. Noah is, as one supposes he is, a real estate developer, who is making all sorts of wild promises, nobody would be upset... In his exaltation he goes so far as to make the central Jewish consistory of France his agent, and its president his commissioner! But what authority does Mr. Noah have for his mission, and what prophetic text indicates a swamp in America will be where the dispersed Jews will be reunited?"

... Cologna referred to a Talmudic text to justify this assertion, which was to be made over and over again against the early Zionists. Cologna went on, saying Mr. Noah has undoubtedly forgotten that Jews, faithful to their beliefs, are too attached to the countries where they are established and devoted to the governments under which they have liberty and protection, and can only regard as a joke this chimerical consulate of a pseudo-restorer. To tone down his denunciation, Grand Rabbi Cologna ended by saying that maybe we ought to consider Noah as a "visionnaire de bonne foi." 57


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        141

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142                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

... Noah may have tried to the best of his ability to help his fellow Jews given the world situation at the time, and given the possibilities for free development in the United States. As a temporary solution, it might have allowed a large number of Jews to flourish instead of suffering in the Old World, until Divine History redeemed them. At the same time the leader [?] of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, the Rev. Joseph Samuel C. F. Frey, a converted rabbi, was proposing establishing a settlement for downtrodden European Jews in New York, where they could be free and see the light and become converts...

Sarna presents some very interesting material about Noah's relations with the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, and his attempts to thwart their conversionist goals. Sarna then says that "Noah's thinking had obviously been shaped by the evangelical Protestantism of his day -- to such an extent that he even shared many Christian views...

Sadly, neither Noah's glorious Ararat nor Frey's converts' settlements attracted anybody. Nobody, not even Noah himself even seems to have set foot on Grand Island while it was a Jewish state. Noah's attempt to


Mordecai Noah and the Sanhedrin                                                        143

attach his project to the Paris Sanhedrin seems to have led to its almost instant demise. 67 The salubrious benefits of American religious freedom only became evident to European Jews a couple of decades later. Had there been such a Jewish state it is possible to speculate that there would have been a greatly altered future history of European Jewry.

Noah's project has usually been considered a joke or an embarrassment. In the Dictionary of American Biography it is said, "Though the project came to naught, it affords an interesting commentary upon an otherwise practical mind." 68 I have sought to show that Noah tried very hard to make the project practical by tying it to the ideas of Gregoire and to the Jewish governmental structure created by Napoleon. In terms of practicality it appears far better thought out than Herzl's initial formulation in Die Judensteat. It had the backing of the American authorities, at least of the New York State government, and lots of sympathetic support in the Buffalo area. It proposed an orderly way of locating, and resettling the Jews of Europe, Africa and Asia in need of asylum, and a way of making them economically, intellectually and spiritually productive. What was its undoing was the chutzpah of Mr. Noah, that he appointed himself as leader and made the European Jewish leaders his underlings.

Sarna refers to "the chimerical unreality, and deep inner contradictions which doomed Ararat from the start" and shows that it was just one of a series of failures to establish a Jewish colony, or a conversionist colony. Noah tried valiantly, perhaps with consultations with Gregoire, to launch the scheme within the theological acceptable framework of Judaism and its recently institutional structure in Paris... Rabbi Cologna would have none of it, and saw no theological or expedient reason for Noah's half-way house asylum, where the Jews could wait and refresh and rejuvenate and reunite, until the Messiah would come...


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... It seems to me that Noah's failure to gain any adherents, except for Gregoire and a few German Jews is really puzzling, as is the failure of Ararat to have had even one Jewish inhabitant. His call to start a Jewish state was contemporaneous with the call of Joseph Smith to establish a society of Latter Day Saints. The second succeeded against tremendous odds and opposition and led to the creation of a Mormon State. The first failed against no serious official local opposition. It had lots of good will from the Christian neighbors. But the opposition of the Western European rabbis across the ocean seems to have defeated the plan completely. And Noah's mixed reputation as a businessman and politician probably did not help. Even in the interlude from the inauguration of Ararat on Sept. 15, 1825, and Rabbi Cologna's letter of Nov. 18, 1825, nothing whatever happened. Nobody went to Ararat. Noah issued no more instructions or plans. Ararat became a curiosity before it even became a reality. Even its founder deserted it, and spent the rest of his life arguing for a restoration of the Jews in Palestine, and for the reunion of the Lost Tribe Jews (the American Indians) with the rest of the Jewish world...


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146                                                                             Richard H. Popkin

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Jan Shipps
Mormonism: Story of a New Religious Tradition
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985

While Mormon restorationism differs in fundamental ways from other nineteenth-century movements classified as restoration movements, enough similarity existed to make fairly common the conversion of members of other restorationist groups to Mormonism -- Sidney Rigdon and his Mentor congregation spring immediately to mind -- and, as records of Mormon apostasy suggest, the conversion of Mormons to other restorationist groups. [7 The significance of the conversion of Sidney Rigdon and his congregation is discussed in the context of restoration movements in Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), chap. 6...]

Most especially there was a similarity in appropriations of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the history of the early Christian church. On the surface, the restoration claims advanced by Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints were not unlike those advanced, for example, by Alexander Campbell and the Disciples of Christ. [8 A convenient collection of early Disciples of Christ writings, mainly composed of the writings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, is The Millennial Harbinger Abridged, ed. Benjamin Lyon Smith, 2 vols. (Rosemead, Calif.: Old Paths, 1965).]

Both groups accepted the fathership of Abraham and both accepted the Sinaitic Covenant. The members of both groups believed that theirs was the true church, organized according to what they took to be the pattern laid down in the apostolic age; and both groups stood on the simple principles of faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins.

Yet because the LDS restoration claims may not be fully comprehended apart from the manner of their presentation to the world, the similarity is more apparent than real. As opposed to the claims which Campbell deduced solely from the scriptures in completely "rational" fashion and which he presented in the form of logical arguments in the pages of the Millennial Harbinger,
Mormon restoration claims were embedded in the Book of Mormon. A curious combination of salvation history, doctrinal explication, and ex eventu prophecy, this book proposes not only to relate the story of the American experiences of an ancient Hebraic people who came in sailing ships to the western hemisphere from Israel's northern kingdom, but also to picture the sorry religio-cultural state that would prevail in the days wherein the record should be found, translated, and published to the world. Because the opening of the record would -- so both the text and the book's title page made clear -- reveal to the Indians their true identity as a remnant of God's chosen people through Ephraim's rather than Judah's line, and because it would, at the same time, convince both Jew and Gentile of the truth of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was presented therein as the preeminent event toward which all history had been tending...
... In an important Dialogue article, Melodie Moench investigated the popular notion subscribed to by many modern Latter-day Saints that the Mormon self-conception of Israel is drawn from the Old Testament. She concluded that despite strong parallels between modern Mormons and the Israelites, early Mormons used scripture in much the same way that nineteenth-century Protestants used scripture, seeing the Old Testament mainly through the eyes of the Apostle Paul and the authors of the synoptic gospels. This suggests that early Mormon images of Israel were refracted through perceptions of Israel recorded in New Testament writings. [17 Melodic Moench, "Nineteenth-Century Mormons: The New Israel," Dialogue 12 (Spring 1979): 42-45. end17]]

However, again using the Disciples of Christ for comparative purposes, a comparison of the Book of Mormon restoration promises/prophecies with the restoration claims set forth in the Millennial Harbinger reveals that although it is true that Mormon conceptions of Israel reflect New Testament understandings, there is a crucial difference in the Mormon and Disciples of Christ restoration notions. The Disciples base the connection between Israel and the church on the principle that the division among Abraham's progeny is a division between Israelite and Gentile, with the latter coming beneath the covenant by virtue of the New Testament promise that the salvation of God has been extended to the Gentiles. [18 The Millennial Harbinger Abridged, 1: 228.]

The connection established between Israel and the church in the Book of Mormon does not, on the other hand, depend so directly on the New Testament promises to the Gentiles: in the Mormon restoration, membership in the Church of Jesus Christ means that the Saints are literally adopted into Israel and are thereupon brought into the covenant by virtue of their membership in the tribes of Israel. [19 D&C 84:2 (Salt Lake City ed.) reads: "Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets...]

This means that, while for the Disciples the organization of the church according to the New Testament model was an end in itself, in Mormonism the proper organization of the church of Jesus Christ was to be but one of the opening events in the new dispensation of the fullness of times, the first step in a process that not only included the restoration of the church, but the restoration of Israel thereafter. [20 This idea is expressed clearly in the Mormon "Articles of Faith" included in the canonized work The Pearl of Great Price, and printed in a good proportion of the proselyting literature now distributed by LDS missionaries.]...

... That many very early LDS theological positions and worship practices differ little, if at all, from those of the popular Protestantism and forms of primitive Christianity of Joseph Smith's day is one of the most significant recent emphases in Mormon studies... But even as this work draws scholars toward readings of the Mormon scriptures and the writings of early Saints with eyes sensitive to trinitarian nuances and ears attuned to New Testament phrasing, the experience of the Mormon pristine community of belief must be kept constantly in mind. This is particularly true with regard to the gathering concept. Less than six months after the organization of the church, when people responded in such numbers to the "repent and be baptized" part of the LDS message, a revelation from God spoke to the Saints about the "bring[ing] to pass the gathering of mine elect" as a prelude to an ending, when "the heaven and earth shall be consumed and pass away and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth." Stated in New Testament terms, this message (now printed as section 29 in the Doctrine and Covenants of the LDS Church) can be read as a prime example of the way in which the Saints and other

Christians of that day -- and across the ages -- appropriated Old Testament concepts by way of the New Testament reappropriation of those concepts.

... It is difficult to determine exactly how long it took for the theological tensions buried in the Saints' conception of the restoration to surface. But it is fairly clear that a considerable proportion of early Mormon apostasy had its roots in the disappointment that awaited those persons who came into the church expecting to find it based as closely as possible on the apostolic model...

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Dan Vogel
Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon...
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986

[p. 42]
In 1816 Elias Boudinot, a member of the U.S. Congress from 1777 to 1784 as well as founder and first president of the American Bible Society, wrote A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel (Trenton). This book drew heavily on the evidence of Adair and introduced a wide American audience to the theory of Israelite origins. [41. Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Tribes of Israel (Trenton, 1816). The assertion that Boudinot visited Palmyra in 1820 during the fourth anniversary meeting of the American Bible Society is an error based on a misreading of an article in the Palmyra Register, 7 June 1820. The Register had reprinted an article from the New York Column and the reference to the meeting held in the hotel "in this city" means the New York City hotel. The error originated in Robert N. Hullinger's Mormon Answer to Skepticism, Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1980), 33. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 234, follows Hullinger's error.]

Boudinot's title played off that of a book written by scholar Claudius Buchanan, A Star in the East. Buchanan's book, which ran through ten American editions before 1811, had asserted that the ten tribes were located east of Israel in Persia and India.

Ethan Smith, a Congregational clergyman who served as pastor to churches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, quoted both Adair and Boudinot as well as a variety of American and European sources in his 1823 book View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America. He added descriptions of Mexican antiquities and the mounds and fortifications of North America -- what Fawn Brodie would later describe as "all the items of three generations of specious scholarship and piecemeal observation on this subject." [42. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), 46. end]

The first edition of Ethan Smith's book appeared in 1823, but its popularity required a second, expanded edition two years later...  

[p. 43]
... that fall [1825] the [Palmyra] Wayne Sentinel published another story about the Indian issue, printing a speech by Mordecai M. Noah, a prominent New York Jew who purchased Grand Island in the Niagara River and there dedicated the city of Ararat as a refuge for oppressed Jews around the world. In the dedicatory speech, Noah proclaimed that the Indians were 'in all probability the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.'

Noah further remarked that the research of antiquarians showed the Indians to be 'the lineal descendants of the Israelites,' and added, 'My own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief.' [45. Noah's speech was published in two issues of the Wayne Sentinel, 4 Oct. and 11 Oct. 1825. Noah's remark on the Israelite origin of the Indians comes from the later issue. The Ararat address was widely printed in New York newspapers and finally published [sic] under the title Discourse on the Evidences of the American Indians Being Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel (New York, 1837). A 22 October 1825 letter Noah wrote from New York indicates that he was influenced by the Indian-Israelite theories of Manasseh ben Israel, James Adair, and Elias Boudinot. See I. Harold Sharfman, Jews on the Frontier (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1977), 214.]

He invited the Indians to join with their brother Jews on the Island...

[p. 103]
Wayne Sentinel (follows Palmyra Herald). Palmyra, NY, 1823-29--. Edited by E. B. Grandin and Pomeroy Tucker....

Vol. 3, 4 Oct. 1825: Contains the speech of Mordecai M. Noah delivered at the dedication of the City of Ararat (situated on Grand Island in the Niagara River) as a refuge for world Jewry.

Vol. 3, 11 Oct. 1825: Noah, whose speech is concluded in this issue, claims that the Indians are the lost ten tribes of Israel and disputes the idea that the natives are indigenous. He also argues against the idea that the Indians are savages or inherently uncivilized....

Note: Although Mr. Vogel rightly notes the importance of Mordecai M. Noah's advocating the supposed Israelite origins of the American Indians (and in a newspaper article reprinted in Palmyra, New York, practically the birth place of Mormonism), he errs in saying that Noah's 1825 Ararat speeches were connected with his 1837 Discourse. The latter expands upon only one of the various points Major Noah made at Buffalo in 1825 and does not repeat his Buffalo texts. Vogel also fails to note the millennial and messianic flavoring of Noah's 1825 Grand Island project. His "restoration of Israel" notions were in many ways similar to those of Elias Boudinot and it is not unlikely that the writings and activities of both Noah and Boudinot had a direct effect upon the initial formulation of Mormon doctrine.


Jacob R. Marcus
United States Jewry, 1886-1985, Vol 1
Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1989



One man in the Phillips clan has been given little mention as yet; he may be deemed the most important member. This was Jonas Phillips's grandson. Mordecai Manuel Noah, undoubtedly the best-known layman in the American Jewish community during the first half of the century. Noah, a fifth-generation American, was a journalist, a politician, a sheriff, Surveyor of the Port of New York, a consul, a playwright, a Jewish community activist, and a proto-Zionist. Born in Philadelphia, he was reared by his grandfather. His father had deserted the family; his mother died when Noah was but seven. The youngster then went for two or three years to the all-day school conducted in New York by Seixas. This seems to have been the full extent of his formal secular and religious schooling. Essentially Noah was self-taught. Very little is known about his life until he was about twenty-six. There were at least fifteen years of struggle until he began to find himself. Most of this time, it would seem, was spent in Philadelphia. The ambitious lad was apprenticed to a gilder and carver, who sent the youngster to Canada selling carved images, the products of the shop. One wonders whether Noah ever became a master craftsman. His was certainly a full life. He busied himself in amateur theatricals and became a young Democratic stalwart; Noah was only fourteen when he gave a Fourth of July oration; the boy was a patriot; his father and grandfather had both served as militiamen in the Revolution. It was probably during these Philadelphia days, that Noah picked up the honorary title of "major." It was, one may assume, a gubernatorial reward for hard work on the hustings. Tradition has it that he served as a reporter at the state capital in Harrisburg. By this time his career was foreshadowed: Noah was to be in the main a playwright, a politician, and a journalist.


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Noah constantly rallied to the defense of his people. He was annoyed when newspapers identified Jewish malefactors and criminals by religion. Maryland's failure to permit Jews to hold office as late as the first quarter of the nineteenth century grieved him: he wanted the emancipatory "Jew Bill" to pass. He watched with dismay as David G. Seixas was dismissed -- unjustly he believed -- from his post as head of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. Like all Jews, he deeply resented the gubernatorial and occasional presidential proclamations calling on Christians to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with prayer; Noah and his coreligionists insisted that the day was one of thanks and prayer for all American citizens. This defensor Judaeorum raised his voice in anger in the 1850's when the United States and Switzerland proposed to sign a treaty which tolerated discrimination against American Jewish citizens in certain Swiss cantons.

In one respect at least, Noah was a typical Jew: missionaries and missionizing raised his hackles. Whether he was right or wrong, he was convinced, as were many of his fellow Jews, that Jewish converts to Christianity lacked integrity. Editor and publisher Noah forebore to express this contempt publicly, knowing full well as he did that vast numbers of Christians were dedicated to the saving of souls, for them a sacrosanct task. Politician Noah did not want to offend voters and subscribers; they were all his clients. It puzzled him that John Quincy Adams, a Unitarian, was for a time a national officer of the conversionist American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews. Yet Noah, truly realistic, differed from most American Jews in his evaluation of the dominant Protestantism. His objectivity is almost startling: Jews and Christians had much in common: even the evangelical Christian societies were not to be condemned forthwith: they furthered knowledge of the Old Testament. Christianity and Judaism were historically and religiously close: Christianity was a daughter religion; much that the younger faith taught was Jewish; the two could work together. Who knows, Christians might yet become Unitarians or even Jews! However, there was an area where Noah was closer to the Christians than to the Jews. He seems not to have been opposed to current Sunday legislation which aimed to close most retail shops on the Lord's Day. The Sunday-closing law had to be observed, he thought, though he certainly knew that this meant the loss of a business day for every observant Jew. If shops were kept open on Sunday,


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Jews would disturb Christians at worship. The law of the land had to be respected...


Noah spoke and wrote like a Jewish religionist and was one. (Even in those days only a few Jews were meticulous in observance or in synagogal attendance.) To a degree, of course, his religiosity was superficial; essentially, he was an "ethnic" Jew, strongly influenced by the romantic, political impact of the American and the French Revolutions and very much inclined to believe that everyone -- Jews, too! -- had a right to life, liberty, and happiness. While still in his twenties, perhaps even earlier, he was convinced that the United States was the best place for Jews, though he wavered between predominantly Jewish settlements and free integration with non-Jews here. He was certainly not adverse to settling Jews together in groups. The United States had grown out of a series of colonies founded on religious, commercial, and philanthropic grounds. Almost as old as these early Christian settlements were those established by Jews in the West Indies and South America during the 1600's. There had been talk, too, in the 1700's of founding large Jewish colonies in North America. During the 1780's, when the Americans were driving out the British, some German Jews contemplated setting up separate enclaves here. Assuming that they meant what they said, they were prompted by the hope of sharing in American freedoms.

By the nineteenth century, this country had begun to shelter diverse colonies, religious, secular, utopian in character. No later than 1816, Jews again began talking and writing of colonizing fellow-religionists here. It


Aspects of General Culture                                                                             473

was then that Moses Elias Levy thought of settling Jews on his Florida lands, even though the province was still under Spanish rule. Then, in Germany, came the post-Napoleonic political reaction which culminated in 1819 in riots and in attacks on Jews. Economic dislocation after the Continental wars and the rise of a national religioromantic sentiment in Central Europe touched not only the Gentiles but the Jews also, predisposing the latter to emigration and colonization. That same year, William D. Robinson, a Gentile American businessman, called for the settlement of impoverished European Jews in the Mississippi Valley. There can be little question that Noah, too, was moved by the German attacks on his people. A German newspaper, the Koblenzer Anzeiger, reported that he wanted the oppressed German Jews to migrate to this haven of refuge. This much is certain: the following year, in 1820, he presented a petition to the New York state legislature, asking it to sell him Grand Island in the Niagara River as a site for a colony. The legislators were sympathetic in view of the suffering of the German Jews, but took no affirmative action. That same year, responding to a newspaper editorial in the Washington National Intelligencer which questioned the value of a rural colony for Jews, Noah thought it might he advisable to settle his European coreligionists, an urban folk, in Newport, Rhode Island. At least let them come here where they would have the right to live wherever they wished; the whole country lay before them. America offered them liberty; here they would be spared the excesses to which they had been exposed in Central Europe.

To speed the emigration of European Jews seeking a future in America, Noah hoped that the administration in Washington would give him an important post in Vienna, or The Hague, or Copenhagen, or some other continental city. He was convinced that his appointment would he a visible, tangible guarantee of the opportunities awaiting Jews in this land. Given such a position, he was sure that he could attract wealthy Jews here, men with capital. This mercantilistic plea was but a rationalization: it was imperative for him personally, psychically, to secure another diplomatic or consular assignment -- an effort in which he was never to succeed. In the meantime, during the years 1819-1820, Christian conversionists here were talking of a colony for Jewish-Christians, and in 1825, for the purpose of sheltering these converts, they did rent a farm at Harrison, in Westchester County, New York. Noah was aware of what they were doing; they were equally aware of his plans. He continued to reach out in all directions. In 1821, he and a handful of Jewish enthusiasts set out to create a national organization for the purpose of establishing a colony for children and young adults in the West. The prime goal of these devotees was to stop the inroads of apathy and assimilation. In 1825, Noah was back where he had started in 1819. He had conjured up grandiose


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plans to bring Europe's oppressed Jews to Grand Island. He proposed to set up "a City of Refuge for the Jews" to be called Ararat -- reminding everyone of the mountain top on which in the Bible the ark of the primeval Noah, after the deluge, had finally found rest. Here again his travail was in vain.

Noah's 1820 petition to the state legislature asking for the purchase of Grand Island, the 1821 flirtation with Moses Levy's Institution, the 1825 Ararat colonial scheme: all these were a form of territorialism, the desire for an autonomous Jewish close settlement in some -- any land. This reaching out by Noah was only one phase of his determination to help World Jewry.... In the 1790's there were rumors that Napoleon might give Palestine back to the Jews. Seixas, the New York minister, began then to dream of restoration, though his expectations were never unequivocally clear. In 1807, he dared to hope that Napoleon, fulfilling a prophecy in Hosea 6:2, was about to establish the third Jewish commonwealth. It is frequently difficult or impossible to determine whether American Jewish "Zionist" utterances were merely mouthing of standard liturgical phrases or whether Jews of that day actually hoped for a reborn Palestinian state in their own time.

Nationalism began flourishing in Europe and America in the early nineteenth century; Noah was not exempt from this influence. There were ideological, political, and economic upheavals and ferment in Europe after 1815 and in the Middle East from the 1820's on. Perhaps Noah never knew the phrase "birth-pangs of the Messiah," but he might very well have hoped that something would happen or was about to happen, to bring forth a Jewish state. When in 1825 he dedicated the Ararat colony, he renounced it "temporary and provisionary." It was the "declaration of independence" of the real state that was yet to he horn in the Holy Land. At Ararat, Jews here in the free United States, were to he taught how to govern themselves so that they would know what to do when they finally returned to Jerusalem. Noah, orthodox in his theology,


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had no choice but to believe that God would one day gather together his scattered Jews and restore them to their land. Nevertheless, he was quite willing to give God and thc Messiah a push. As a territorialist, he was willing for the time being to estahlish a preparatory colony here in the United States; the ultimate state must of course rise in the Promised Land. That time, he believed, was not far off.

Noah was at the least a proto-Zionist. His belief in an ultimate Restoration was probably influenced by current Protestant concepts; sooner or later God would bring his people back to the land which he had promised them. These Christian hopes for the Return were strongly held not only in the United States but also in England, where they went back at least to 1608. In the mid-seventeenth century the appearance of the Jewish "Messiah" Shabbethai Zevi served only to convince the English Christians that the Restoration was imminent. Easily a dozen works on the subject had appeared in that century; by 1818, books and pamphlets numbered more than thirty-five. Because it meant much to English Christians to convert the Jews of Palestine --thereby proving the superiority of the Christian faith -- they estahlished a mission at Jerusalem in the nineteenth century. To cap their enterprise and anticipate their hopes. they installed a convert as Anglican bishop. This was meet and proper. If Jesus should reappear in the long awaited Second Advent, he would he greeted by the bishop, a fellow Jew....


476                                                                         United States Jewry, 1776-1985

... Noah in his dream of Restoration had the sympathy of the evangelicals. These religimlists were sure that the Jews would be restored to the land of their fathers because of the biblical promises. Ultimately, said these Christians, all Jews will come to Jesus; he will then reappear and usher in the Millennium. (There are variations of this grand design.) To a degree, Jewry went along with this Restoration concept. The Jewish Messiah will yet make his appearance, but there will be no conversion of Jews -- it is the Christians and all the nations who will come to Judaism, as the Bible has promised. Though Noah's Restoration hopes were dependent on the Holy One -- Blessed Be He -- who would one day implement his promises to his people, they could give him a helping hand. With God's help, hut also with Jewish muscle and money, and with the benevolence of the Great Powers, the Palestine state would yet rise again from its ashes.

Noah's Zionism actually came to the fore no later than 1818. As has heen suggested above, Jews throughout history have had their politico-religious pseudo-Messiahs who were prepared to reestablish the Jewish state. This desire goes back at least to the first centuy of the Christian era. In a sense, Noah was a link in that millennial chain. On April 17, 1818, he made an address at the consecration of the rebuilt Mill Street synagogue. A new building was needed; the old one had heen erected in 1730 when at the most there were 500 Jewish souls in all of North America: now there were at least 3,000. The editor rehearsed his hopes. The Christian clergy must stop attacking Jews. The Jews here must improve themselves morally and culturally. Let them foresake commerce and go into crafts and farming. The prospects for the Restoration are now excellent... But, he hastened to add, until all this comes to pass, America is Jewry's chosen land....

Remainder of this section is not transcribed.
Contents © 1989 by Wayne State Univ. Press  
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are given here.


Steven Epperson
Mormons and Jews...
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992

[p. 7]
... the confusion resulting [among Christians] from multiple prophetic chronologies enabled exegetes as diverse as Joachim of Fiore, Michael Sattler, and Joseph Smith to look in fresh ways at social and political events and argue differently for God's faithfulness, providence, and promises.

Christian exegetes confronted with the text of Hebrew Scriptures have been hard pressed to reconcile prophecies about the restoration of national Israel with confident expectations of the universal, millennial triumph of the Christian church. Traditionally church apologists denied that these prophecies had anything to do with "old" Israel...  

[p. 8]
In effect, Christianity appropriated Israel's patrimony and taught that gentile converts to Christianity constituted the new Israel....

Traditional theologians also discouraged any notion of the revival of a national Israel by denying a material, future, messianic reign.... The teaching of a literal, future millennium was suppressed through the sixteenth century by the Roman church...

More literalistic Christian views of the Millennium... led [some Christians] to anticipate that the last days were imminent and that they would live to witness the inauguration of the millennial reign of Christ with his saints. Linked to these beliefs was the conviction that restoring the Jewish people to a nation in the Holy Land and converting them en masse to Christianity were necessary precursor events to the Millennium... 

[p. 9]
... English divines, New England Puritans, new Divinity men, and interdenominational missionaries anxiously believed that gathering Jews "into one fold together with the Gentiles …shall be life from the dead to the Gentiles," that a general Jewish conversion "would stimulate the conversion of the nations bringing on the millennium."... [this] restoration would thus validate "prophetic" Christianity and induce non-believers and members of nominal Christian churches to become truly converted.... 

[p. 10]
...British prophetic diviners [like Richard Brothers]... yearned to identify their nation, which after the naval battle at Trafalgar rode almost unchallenged upon the seas, with that maritime nation obscurely sketched in Isaiah 18, which would be God's chosen vessel to bring about Israel's renascence.

The ascent of prophecy's popularity in the decades between 1790 and 1840 received further stimulus from evangelical "awakenings" in England and America. The fires of the revivals illuminated both urban and rural populations. Pre- and post-millennialists, apocalyptics and meliorists, were all quickened by heightened prophetic expectations....

Millennial interest began to focus on Jewish conversion. Beginning in 1809 with the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews (London Society) [see R. H. Martin, "United Conversionist Activities, 457-58, 440.] and then in 1816 and 1820 with the American Society for Evangelizing the Jews and the American Society for Meliorating the Conditions of the Jews (ASMJC), [see George L. Berlin, "Solomon Jackson's The Jew: An Early American Jewish Response to the Missionaries," American Jewish History 71 (Sept. 1981): 11.] missionary work was vigorously prosecuted and widely published. [see Lorman Ratner, "Conversion of the Jews and Pre-Civil War Reform," American Quarterly 13 (Spring 1961): 50.]... 

[p. 11]
... During the nineteenth century hundreds of societies were formed and labored all over the world to convert the children of Abraham... By 1824 in America alone, Joseph Frey's ASMCJ was established in nearly two hundred local groups. [see Berlin, "Solomon Jackson's The Jew," 11.]

Israel's Advocate, the official publication of the ASMCJ, was reportedly sent to more than two thousand homes in the United States. [see S. Joshua Kohn, "Mordecai Manual Noah's Ararat Project and the Missionaries," American Jewish Historical Quarterly 55 (Dec. 1965): 184.]...

The various governing boards of the ASMCJ included such notables as Elias Boudinot, past member of the House of Representatives and director of Jew Jersey-Princeton; John Livingston, president of Queens College-Rutgers; Jeremiah Day, president of Yale; and U.S. presidents James Monroe and John Q. Adams. [see Eichhorn, Evangelizing the American Jews, 50-51.]

  Boudinot delivered the inaugural address of the ASMCJ on 12 May 1820 and later willed four thousand acres in Pennsylvania to the society to assist in its project of establishing a colony for European Jewish converts to Christianity. [see Ratnet, "Conversion of the Jews," 45.] Later a farm of four hundred acres in

[p. 12]
Harrison, Westchester County, much closer to New York City and Jewish settlements, was leased for seven years. An agent representing the society was selected to work in Europe "to collect the dispersed of Israel." [see Kohn, "Mordecai Manual Noah..." 180.]

Though the colony scheme was never fully realized and the society's domestic conversion activity was a relative failure, interest in the ASMCJ and allied societies was sustained at a high level of interest and support...

S. J. Kohn has shown how Mordecai Manuel Noah's 'Ararat' project to establish a Jewish settlement on Grand Island, New York, as a means of preparing for national restoration in Palestine, was mounted in large measure to counter 'the tremendous propaganda to convert Jews to Christianity by the new Evangelical movement.' A colorful political figure in municipal, state, and national politics, Noah was also an observant Jew who 'dreamed of, prayed for the restoration of Israel in the Holy Land.' [see Joshua Kohn, "Mordecai Manual Noah's Ararat Project and the Missionaries," American Jewish Historical Quarterly 55 (Dec. 1965): 166.]

He saw Ararat as a testing ground for new Jewish political-national ideas and as a partial answer to problems of persecution and assimilation in Europe and the United States. [The Ararat speech of Noah at the dedication ceremony is reprinted in Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 21 (1915): 250-52. For an account of the Ararat project, see Jonathan D. Sarna, Jacksonian Jew: The Two Worlds of Mordecai Noah (New York: Homes and Meier, 1981), chap. 4.]

[p. 21]
... The message of this [Joseph Smith's purported 1823] revelation turned upon a reading of the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, which deals with the coming of a messianic kingdom of righteousness and peace, the gathering of the dispersed of Israel, and the ending of enmity between Judah and Ephraim. [see LDS History of the Church 1:33-44.]

This revelation provided Smith and his church with the core terms and blueprint for their restoration movement...

Covenant, election, restoration, gathering, and reconciliation between hostile families within the household of Israel and between gentiles and Jews figured prominently in the text of the Book of Mormon and were, hereafter, to be fixed preoccupations of Smith.

The Book of Mormon featured narrative and doctrinal elaboration of these themes... 

[p. 22]
... To the untroubled core of the faithful, the Book of Mormon is a literal history of ancient Americans... The book presents a complicated frame for its contents, which is the first obstacle for attention to the book's emphasis on Israel...

[p. 23]
... As editor of the book, Mormon has abundantly marbled into the text, both in its ante-and post-Christian chapters, veins of his own post-resurrection belief. The purpose of his redaction is to witness to the remnants of his people in future eras that the risen Lord, of whom he is a disciple, is the "messenger of covenant" and the "Holy One of Israel." The unwary reader may be jarred by resulting anachronisms, including placing explicitly christological details and formulations in pre-Christian settings....

Mormon is untroubled by anachronism and never disguises his literary and theological purposes. Narratives are arranged and earlier texts emended according to his doctrinal aim... 

[p. 24]
...The explicit messianism of the text, the stated time frame of its production, and its intended, distant audience are obviously crucial elements of the Book of Mormon.... The Book of Mormon initially presents itself as the product of devout sectaries... anticipating the coming of an eschatological prophet, "even a Messiah," "their Lord and their Redeemer." This figure, the leaders, prophets, and priests steadfastly affirm, will help realize Israel's redemption by presiding over and acting through the terms of covenantal promise made by God with Abraham (1 Ne. 22:9-10, 12, 14; 5 Ne. 20). The messiah would vouchsafe Israel's territorial inheritance... 

[p. 30]
... [according to the Book of Mormon] In the penultimate days leading to the messianic kingdom, two great gatherings of scattered Israel were to occur. First, the "remnants" or "seed" of the families of the Nephites would gather to Zion, the "New Jerusalem," to be reared in the Americas. Then Judah along with those of Israel long since scattered in the "north countries" (Eth. 15:11) would again be established and restored in Israel with Jerusalem as their capital. The Book of Mormon repeatedly asserts that Israel's restoration depends on realizing the territorial terms of the covenant not in its conversion to, or identity with, the church.... 

[p. 33]
... Such were the views on Israel, its covenant and future, as expressed in a book coming off a modest printing press in a small Erie Canal town in the spring of 1830. At first reading there is no mistaking the intense christocentrism of the Book of Mormon.... Given this emphasis on Christ in the structuring of the Book of Mormon, it is not so surprising that gentiles reading the book since 1830 generally missed its distinctive theology of Israel and Judaism. Christian readers bring other expectations to the book which obscure important distinctions....  

[p. 34]
... the consciously orchestrated text of the Book of Mormon is for all its christocentrism peculiarly pitched toward the realization of God's covenant with Israel.... God's covenant with Israel as it is worked out through the text of the Book of Mormon is an ever valid, living reality between Israel's God and Israel's whole family. The authenticity of this covenant will be manifest to all nations when Israel gathers to its territorial patrimonies, is restored as a people and nation, and thus will become a light unto the gentiles. The publication of the text of the Book of Mormon in 1830 also was understood by its readers as heralding the imminent end of the "fulness of the gentiles." In Smith's eyes it was important that gentile readers heed its call to repent and gather to a refuge designated by the Lord. 

[p. 35]
... The Book of Mormon designated the geographical sites for this great gathering of Israel 1 Ne. 22:6) and indicated to whom exactly the land would be "deeded" by the Lord (Eth. 13:1-12).26 In a country poised at the edge of a decade of intense nationalism and possessed with a grandiose vision of America's "manifest destiny," Joseph Smith published a book in which rights to the land being settled by men and women of European descent were granted by a solemn covenant of the Almighty to "our western tribes of Indians."... Smith understood that the land's rightful inhabitants were the Israelite remnants of the people of the Book of Mormon of whom Smith believed the American Indians to be a part.... 

[p. 36]
... statements by leading figures in the first decades of the LDS church explicitly linking Book of Mormon passages to calls for the evangelizing and converting of Jews are scarce. Jewish missions were explicitly rejected by most leaders of the LDS church and were never part of the church's program in the nineteenth century.

The repudiation of missions on the one hand or the feeble and scattered advocacy of conversion on the other can be seen as a product of the Book of Mormon itself. The conversion of the Jewish people to the church is never mentioned nor advocated in the Book of Mormon. Indeed according to the Book of Mormon, it is the Gentiles who are to convert... 

[p. 65]
... [the] open letter "To the Elders of the Church of the Latter-day Saints" in September 1835 employs John's vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2,3) to confirm... [LDS] doctrine, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, the elect must be gathered from the four quarters of the earth."... prooftexts from Deuteronomy 50:1-4, 7 and the Book of Mormon... support... the gathering, its literal fulfillment, and its double location.

... The task of the Saints was to gather the scattered members of the Lord's gentile vessel. The fruit of their labors would be a city, the New Jerusalem raised by human hands, established on "this continent by way of distinction to the ones to be rebuilt on the eastern continent."... [the] church and its priesthood could assist in Israel's physical ingathering through the prayers of the righteous and their own acts of gathering and temple building.

For many Christians the logical step following from such emphasis on restoration and gathering in the last days would be emphasis on conversion.... The "molding influence" of these [evangelical] commentators in America was considerable.... 

[p. 66]
Oliver Cowdery was "associate" president of the church with Smith. He wrote that the restoration of Israel would be according to the "new covenant" of Jeremiah: having "forsaken the Lord ... worshipping other gods, which were no gods," they would yet "know the voice of the Shepherd … [and] be favored with the gospel in its fulness." [see Oliver Cowdery, "Letter VI" to W. W. Phelps in Messenger and Advocate 1 (Apr. 1855): 111.]

Sidney Rigdon, once an influential minister in the Campbellite movement, was converted to Mormonism and called to be "a spokesman unto my Servant Joseph." Rigdon wrote in January 1834 about Israel's restoration. It would, he believed, be wrought "not by virtue of any previous covenant with the house of Israel but by one which was to be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah in the last days...The house of Israel in the last days, was to be taught by a people of stammering lips and another tongue... In former days they had enlightened the Gentiles: in latter days the Gentiles were to enlighten them." [see Sidney Rigdon, 'The Millennium," Evening and Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 126.]

For Cowdery and Rigdon, as well as most contemporary prophetical expositors and evangelists, the necessary corollary of the gathering of the Jewish people was their conversion to "the gospel in its fulness." Though Joseph Smith was in these early years eclipsed by the learning and polish of his second elder, Cowdery, and of his counselor, Rigdon, he was reluctant to draw their confident conclusions.

Instead Smith reread the Apocalypse of John in such a way as to re-interpret the triumph of the church. By focusing on the restoration of sacred, covenantal space and on "the elect" to inhabit two sanctuaries an ocean and continents apart, he contributed to an understanding of the Lord as the good shepherd of both Christians and Jews. This was perhaps the figure most felicitously appropriate to embody Smith's concern with and belief in the necessity of gathering Jews and righteous gentiles....

[p. 80]
On the last day of 1835, Smith entered into his journal an extract entitled 'Heathen Temple on Lake Erie' from Mordecai Manual Noah's Jewish newspaper, the New York Evening Star. For Smith this entry summed up outside opinion about 'the cause of God':

To show the spirit of the public journals, such as the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, New York Daily Advertiser, Sunday Morning News, and the press generally, the past year, towards me and the cause of God, which I have fearlessly espoused, I quote the following, as a specimen of the whole, from M. M. Noah's New York Evening Star...

Remainder of chapter not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1992 by Signature Books
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.

Transcriber's Note: Mr. Epperson mistakenly thought that the above quote first appeared as an entry for Dec. 31, 1835 in Joseph Smith's Journal. The quote he cites is actually from a later manuscript for the LDS History of thy Church and is printed on page 351 of the second published volume of that history. See also the LDS Messenger & Advocate for Dec. 1835.


Robert N. Hullinger
Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992

[p. 54]
...Contact with Indian tribes and antiquities led some to conclude that no one would ever discover the origin of the Indians and the lost race. In fact, many were using the mystery of Indian origins to demonstrate the incompleteness of the Bible. For example, Jedidiah Morse, one of the leading ministers of New England, wrote of the controversy in 1793: "Those who call in question the authority of the sacred writings say, the American [Indians] are not descendants from Adam, that he was the father of the Asiatics only, and that God created other men to be the patriarchs of the Europeans, Africans and Americans. But this is one among the many weak hypotheses of unbelievers, and is wholly unsupported by history." [23 Jedidiah Morse, The American Universal Geography, 2 vols. (Boston, 1793), 1:75. Morris's book was on sale at Pomeroy Tucker's bookstore in Palmyra, New York. See Wayne Sentinel, 5 May-7 July 1824. For a discussion and other sources dealing with the pre-Adamite theory of Indian origins and its use by unbelievers, see Vogel, 35-39.]

The discovery of Indians in the New World raised a serious theological issue: If the Flood had left only Noah and his family in the Old World, where did the Indians come from? Unbelievers argued that the Indians were racially unrelated to Old World peoples and could not possibly have migrated to the New World thousands of years before nagivation.

Against these theological attacks, believers began proposing theories connecting Indians with the Old World. Some identified the Indians with the legend of the lost ten tribes. [24 While the Indian-Israelite theory was one among many, it nevertheless had a significant following. See Vogel, 35-69, for a detailed discussion, and 103-44, for an extensive annotated bibliography of numerous pre-1830 sources. Lynn Glaser, Indians or Jews? An Introduction to a Reprint of Manasseh ben Israel's The Hope of Israel (Gilroy, CA: Roy V. Boswell, 1973), surveys the changing shape of that belief over the centuries. Robert Wauchope, "Lost Tribes and the Mormons," in Lost Tribes & Sunken Continents: Myth and Method in the Study of American Indians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 50-68, gives a broader and more scholarly survey. Robert Silverberg presents the archaeological evidence and evaluates the Indian-Israelite theory within developing archaeological understanding from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries in Mound Builders of Ancient America: The Archaeology of a Myth (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968)] ...

... The Indian-Israelite connection was accepted by some Puritans and prominent American clergy, set forth in a series of books in the early 1800s, [27 Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews; or the Ten Tribes of Israel in America, 2d ed. (Poultney, VT: Smith & Shute, 1825), was only one of many.] and debated by members of the New York Historical Society. [28 Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or A Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel Preparatory to the Return to their Beloved City, Jerusalem (Trenton, NJ: Fenton, S. Hutchinson, and J. Dunham, 1816) made the identification. Samuel Latham Mitchill spoke for an Asiatic origin in his "The Original Inhabitants of America Shown to Be of the Same Family with Those of Asia," American Antiquarian Society Transactions, 1 (1820). -- Samuel Farmer Jarvis challenged James Adair and Elias Boudinot in "A Discourse on the Relations of the Indian Tribes of North America: Delivered Before the New-York Historical Society, December 20, 1819," in Collections of the New York Historical Society, for the Year 1821 (New York: Bliss & White, 1821), 183. After citing Boudinot's book and judging James Adair's The History of the American Indians (London: Edward and Charles Dilly, 1775) of "little use," Jarvis acknowledged Boudinot's advocacy, saying that his "exalted character renders every opinion he may defend a subject of respectful attention." Boudinot, Mitchill, M. M. Noah, and Jarvis are listed as historical society members in the Collections (pp. 11, 17).]

In September 1825 Mordecai M. Noah, prominent in publishing and political circles in New York, dedicated the City of Ararat as a refuge for world Jewry. He issued a proclamation to that effect and delivered a speech setting forth the rationale of his enterprise.  He had an explanation for the origin of the Indians and their

[p. 55]
predecessors. Given their manners, customs, and 'admitted Asiatic origin,' he proclaimed that the Indians were 'in all probability the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.' He added, 'Measures will be adopted to make them sensible of their origin, to cultivate their minds, soften their condition and finally re-unite them with their brethren the chosen people.' [29 Wayne Sentinel, 27 Sept. 1825.]

His speech was printed in the two following issues of the Wayne Sentinel along with further comment:
'The discovery of the lost tribes of Israel, has never ceased to be a subject of deep interest to the Jews. That divine protection which has been bestowed upon the chosen people... has, without doubt, been equally extended to the missing tribes, and if, as I have reason to believe, our lost brethren were the ancestors of the Indians of the American Continent, the inscrutable decrees of the Almighty have been fulfilled in spreading unity and omnipotence in every quarter of the globe... It is... probable that from the previous sufferings of the tribes in Egyptian bondage, that they bent their course in a northwest direction, which brought them within a few leagues of the American continent, and which they finallyreached. Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief.'

Noah listed similarities between Indians and Jews which he felt supported the identification. He concluded:
'Should we be right in our conjecture, what new scenes are opened to the nation -- the first of people in the old world, and the rightful inheritors of the new? Spread from the confines of the northwest coast of Cape Horn, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. If the tribes could be brought together, could be made sensible of their origin, could be civilized, and restored to their long lost brethren, what joy to our people, what glory to our God, how clearly have the prophecies been fulfilled, how certain our dispersion, how miraculous our preservation, how providential our deliverance.' [30 Ibid.]

  [p. 58]
... The possibility of Israelite identity for American Indians offered America a profound opportunity. According to Ethan Smith's view of Isaiah 18, Isaiah was appealing to the future European Christian stock in America to restore the gospel to the outcast Israelite-Indian tribes. [44 View of the Hebrews, 229-30, 127. Boudinot in A Star in the West wrote in the same vein: "Who knows but God has raised up these United States in these latter days, for the very purpose of accomplishing his will in bringing his beloved people [the Israelites] to their own land" (p. 297). Boudinot (1740-1820) was an attorney active in the Revolutionary War. He served in Congress from 1777-84 and was a strong Federalist supporter of Washington. His three books before A Star in the West involved the deistic controversy.]

After such restoration, which included the return of the Bible to the Indians, American Christians would be able to christianize them. [Ethan] Smith had God say through Isaiah: "[W]ere not your fathers sent into that far distant world, not only to be (in their posterity) built up a great protecting nation; but also to be the instruments of gathering, or recovering the miserable remnant of my outcasts there, in the last days?" [45 E. Smith, 246-55.]

By converting the Indians, Christians could help inaugurate the Millennium.

[Ethan] Smith spelled out the theory's value in the ongoing debate with skeptics: "New evidence is hence furnished of the divinity of our holy scriptures... striking characteristics are found of the truth of ancient revelations." [46 Ibid., 253. Boudinot (pp. 279-80) appreciated this earlier than Ethan Smith. He wrote: "What could possibly bring greater declarative glory to God, or tend more essentially to affect and rouse the nations of earth, with a deeper sense of the certainty of the prophetic declarations of the holy scriptures, and thus call their attention to the truth of divine revelation, than a full discovery, that, these wandering nations of Indians are the long lost tribes of Israel...?"] ...

The restoration of the ten tribes would confound infidelity, wrote Ethan Smith. Indian traditions were beginning to exhibit the new evidence, "a powerful evidence of the truth of revelation." The preservation of the Jews was a "kind of standing miracle in support of the truth of revelation.... But the arguments furnished from the preservation and traditions of the tribes, in the wilds of America from a much longer period, must be viewed as furnishing, if possible, a more commanding testimony." [48 Ibid., 266-67.]

The Indian-Israelite identification confounded popular deism, vindicated God, and proved the Bible true....

The Pittsfield parchment story seemed to prove that the Indians
[p. 59]
had once possessed the Old Testament, and the story may have circulated in the Palmyra region years before Ethan Smith's second edition of 1825. Sylvester Larned and Elias Boudinot were two men responsible for the story's getting to Ethan Smith. Larned, a young, well-known preacher in the Congregational church, preached in the Canandaigua Congregational church in 1817 and 1818. Boudinot, long active in Indian affairs before he came to head the American Bible Society in 1816, used the Indian-Israelite identification in his Star in the West to combat deism, and was certainly influential in western New York.

Joseph Smith in his teens was, according to his mother, a thoughtful youth inclined to ponder life's issues. He could take current topics of interest and entertain others with them. He recited stories about Indians, their fortifications, customs, and life as if he had lived among them. [49 Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 84, 90.]

Years later Smith would see the Book of Mormon as a morality play with the ancestors of the American Indians cast in the leading roles. This is particularly evident in the book of Alma. The name of God given there is the Great Spirit, who is identified with the God of the Bible, the world's creator. There we read of Indians waging endless tribal warfare. They had tremendous battles in which tens of thousands were slain and built fortification mounds topped with palisades and towers with moats in front....
[p. 60]
... What Book of Mormon Lamanites were to play out was the fulfillment of the government's dream for an ideal Indian policy. Christian mission efforts among native Americans had had some results, but these were few and slow. The Book of Mormon gave American natives a past and an identity as the people of God and reason to make peace with each other and Anglos and to become exemplary Christians.

The Book of Mormon echoed what had appeared in contemporary books and newspapers, and the apologetic value for countering deists and rationalists which Ethan Smith saw in the Indian-Israelite theory was realized in the Book of Mormon as well. [50 See Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2d ed. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1971), 4449, and Vogel, for the way Indian lore is woven into the Book of Mormon. David Marks, The Life of David Marks to the 26th Year of His Age (Limerick, ME: Office of the Morning Star, 1831), demonstrated that the impression created by the Book of Mormon on those who had heard it seemed to offer insights into Indian antiquities. "When I was in Ohio, I had quite a curiosity to know the origin of the numerous mounds and remains of ancient fortifications that abound in that section of the country; but could not find that any thing satisfactory was known on the subject. Having been told, that the 'Book of Mormon' gave a history of them, and of their authors, some desire was created in my mind to see the book, that I might learn the above particulars" (p. 341). See David Marks, The Life of David Marks to the 26th Year of His Age (Limerick, ME: Office of the Morning Star, 1831), chap. 1, n12, who thought that the Book of Mormon might offer insight into Indian mounds and fortifications.]

According to its title page, the Book of Mormon was "to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever." It was this book, not the Bible, which Joseph Smith wanted the Indians to accept as their long lost book of God....

[p. 66]
... Whatever part of the east they came from, [in the late 1820s] the Indians were going to the center of the continent. Such a gathering had millennial overtones.

Another kind of gathering took place in the west in 1825. Mordecai Manuel Noah, self-appointed guardian of the Jews, founded a City of Refuge for oppressed Jews around the world. Situated on Grand Island in the Niagara River, the City of Ararat was dedicated in September 1825 as the reestablishment of the Jewish people as a nation. Laws were proclaimed, relations with the U.S. government were set up, and Noah's arms were opened to oppressed Jews everywhere. [5 Wayne Sentinel, 27 Sept., 4, 11 Oct. 1825. See Abram Leon Sacher, A History of the Jews, 4th ed., rev. & enlarged (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1953), 396, for a description of the dedication ceremony; and Wayne Sentinel, 15 Nov. 1825.]

A long story of the event was printed in the Wayne Sentinel accompanied by the claim that Indians and Jews were all descendants of Abraham. Ararat was to be temporary. The Jews would stay there until they could return to Palestine....

... The millennial picture was coming into focus, and the lens through which many saw it was Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37 foretold the restoration of Jews to their land after their captivity in Babylon. It viewed them as a nation dead and gone which would take flesh and live again (vv. 1-10), much as bones in a grave stepping forth to new life (vv. 11-14). Ezekiel pictured it still another way: "The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, for Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions. And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand" (vv. 15-17). Then Ezekiel was to tell the people that they would return to Jerusalem and be reunited with the tribes of Israel, just as he held the two sticks united as one in his hand.

Elias Boudinot earlier had found the restoration theme of
[p. 67]
Ezekiel 37 useful in exploring the connections between Indians and Israelites, and Ethan Smith used the passage to full advantage. [7 Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West (Trenton, NJ: D. Fenton, S. Hutchinson, J. Dunham, 1816), 46, comments on Ezekiel 37:16: "It appears by this chapter, that there are some few of the Israelites still with Judah; but all are again to become one people at a future day. It also appears that the body of the house of Israel are remote from Judah, and are to be brought from distant countries to Jerusalem, when they are to become one nation."]

He quoted 37:11-14 as something to be fulfilled in the Millennium and not simply through the conversion of the Jews. "Lest any should say," he wrote, that "the prediction which here seems to foretell the restoration of the ten tribes, as well as that of the Jews, were accomplished in the restoration of that few of the Israelites, who clave to the Jews under the house of David, and the ten tribes are irrevocably lost; it is here expressed that the Jews and those Israelites, their companions, were symbolized by one stick; and Ephraim, all the house of Israel (the whole ten tribes,) by the other stick." [8 Ethan Smith, (Poultney, VT: Smith & Shute, 1825), 53.]

Smith pointed to the continued existence of the Jews as an argument for a literal restoration. If the preservation of the Jews was literally intended by God -- as their present existence evidenced -- then Israel would be literally restored to one land, receive a new heart and spirit, and "the stick of Ephraim is to become one in the hand of the prophet, with the stick of the Jews." Smith further observed: "America was the land of Israel's outcast state. It was Israel's huge valley of dry bones... literal wilderness of thousands of miles, where the dry bones of the outcasts of Israel have for thousands of years been scattered... the most essential pile of the prophet Ezekiel's valley of dry bones." Israel's outcast condition presented a "volume of new evidence of the divinity of the Old Testament" and therein lay the importance of America as the valley of the dry bones. [9 Ibid., 247, 79, 257, 266.]

The restoration symbolized by Ezekiel's joining of the two sticks in his hand, Smith cautioned, had received neither a partial nor a complete fulfillment. None of the tribes, whose names were "written on the second stick, in the hand of the prophet, have ever yet been recovered. The whole passage is intimately connected with the battle of that great day, which introduces the Millennium." [10 Ibid., 54.]

Finally, Smith related the "way-preparer" of Isaiah 40 to Ezekiel 37. John the Baptist may have fulfilled the former passage in its most immediate sense, but if the American Indians were the lost tribes of Israel, then its fullest completion would come in connection with the Millennium. "The voice, which restores Israel, is heard in the vast wilderness of America," and "is to have a kind of literal fulfillment upon a much greater scale, in the missions, which shall recover the ten tribes." [11 Ibid., 257. The Shakers had identified Ann Lee as the voice in the wilderness. Mormons were to see Joseph Smith as the voice. Parley Pratt wrote that he was "the Elias, the Restorer, the presiding Messenger, holding the keys of the 'Dispensation of the fulness of time.'" Key to the Science of Theology (Liverpool, 1855), 77.]

Ethan Smith's literalistic application of Old Testament
[p. 68]
prophecies of restoration for Judah and Israel depended on the notion that Israel was not yet restored. The Book of Mormon presents the same view of the Indians: they were to be restored in fulfillment of God's promise to Israel. But the Book of Mormon contributes an important innovation. The Indians are presented as members of only one Israelite tribe -- that of Joseph as represented through the half-tribes of his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. [12 Lehi, patriarch of the Book of Mormon, came from a family of the tribe of Joseph which escaped the dispersion of the ten tribes in 721 B.C. by fleeing to Egypt. Lehi returned to Jerusalem, only to flee again with his family as the Babylonian invasion was imminent. Lehi was of the half-tribe Manasseh. Ishmael, who went with Lehi, was later said to be of the tribe of Ephraim. Still another fugitive, Zoram, was of unknown tribal origin.]...

The Book of Mormon makes clear the existence of two parallel records from the two tribes. In the vision of 1 Nephi 13, for example, Nephi saw the Gentiles who would come to America and scatter his descendants. The Gentiles had a book which was the record of the Jews, the Bible, but many of the important parts of that book had been omitted by the great and abominable church which was among the Gentiles. The Europeans brought the truncated Bible to America and to the Indians. Later on, an additional record would come to them: "And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth" (1 Ne. 13:41). In other words, the Nephites would be given a separate record through which Christ would make known his words. It would parallel and equal the record of the Jews, and would also restore many missing portions of the Bible....
[p. 69]
... In the Book of Mormon then Ezekiel 37 is implicitly called up to indicate that the Bible was to come from the Jews, the tribe of Judah. The Old and New Testaments were to be viewed as one book. The Nephites would be given a separate record through which Christ's words would be made known. It would equal and parallel the biblical record of the apostles and prophets. The Bible would be given to the Gentiles, and then the abominable church would remove some sections. After that, the Gentiles would bring the deficient book to the Indians...
[p. 70]
... The Book of Mormon may not have literally quoted Ezekiel 37:16-17, but early Mormons did. [14 See Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1927), 1:84; 2:41,390; 3:53; New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, NH), 25 Oct. 1831; The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1832, 6. These are representative; there are many more.]

Joseph Smith himself made explicit use of the passage in a revelation which was amended after 1833 and before 1835. Jesus spoke to Smith about his mission "to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim" (D&C 27:5). [15 Other allusions are found in D&C 33:16; 35:17; 128:19-20.]...

Remainder of chapter not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1992 by Signature Books
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


Wesley Walters & H. Michael Marquardt
Inventing Mormonism...
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992

[p. 45]
... The [Palmyra] newspaper ran stories on the Hebrew origin of American Indians, a topic subsequently discussed by Joseph Jr. Mordecai M. Noah had embraced this popular theory, and on 11 October 1825 the Sentinel reprinted an address detailing his opinion: "Those who are conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of [the] opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief." He then lists a number of reasons for his belief:

The Indians worship one Supreme Being as the fountain of life, and the author of all creation. Like the Israelites of old, they are divided into tribes... their language and dialect are evidently of Hebrew origin. They compute time after the manner of the Israelites... They have their prophets, High Priests, and their sanctum sanctorum... They have their towns and cities of refuge...

After concluding his list of evidences, he reflects:

If the tribes could be brought together, could be made sensible of their origin, could be civilized, and restored to their long lost brethren, what joy to our people, what glory to our God, how clearly have the prophecies been fulfilled, how certain our dispersion, how miraculous our preservation, how providential our deliverance. [14 Wayne Sentinel, 3 (11 Oct. 1825): 1.]

The newspaper also followed contemporary religious events, which clearly affected young Joseph and his family. The Smiths could have read of the visions and revelations of Asa Wild, a religious seeker like Joseph's uncle Jason Mack... that God told him that in seven years "there would scarce a sinner be found on earth" and "that every denomination of professing christians had become extremely corrupt; many of which never had any true faith at all."


Grant Underwood
The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism
Urbana: University of Illinois, 1993

... As Latter-day Saints used it, the term gentile had multiple meanings. It could refer to race, religion, or both. Most often, it meant nonbeliever. Just as ancient Israel used the term to refer to all non-Jews, modern, Mormon "Israel" used it to identify all non-Mormons. Sometimes, though, in Mormon scripture and literature the term denoted people of European stock. In this sense, all white Americans were considered gentiles, and American Mormons could with perfect propriety describe themselves as gentiles. Thus, the dedicatory prayer for the House of the Lord in Kirtland included the Saints' self-description as "us who are identified with the Gentiles." [23 D&C 109:60-67.]

Most commonly, however, the term referred to that group which fit both categories, namely European and American members of other churches. To the Saints it seemed doubly appropriate to label them as gentiles since in addition to being Caucasians they were also perceived as not preaching or practicing the true gospel.

With the passage of time, American and European Saints placed increasing emphasis on literally having the "blood of Israel" in their veins and rarely referred to themselves as gentiles needing to be adopted into Israel. The remark by subsequent Mormon prophet Brigham Young that Joseph Smith was a "pure Ephraimire" is typical. [24 Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints' Book Dept., 1855-86), 2:268. Two revelations from the 1830s, though rarely cited in the period under study, later provided scriptural support for the Saints' lineal link to ancient Israel. D&C 64:36 declares that "rebellious" Saints "are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out." D&C 86:8–10 reads, "Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers. For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God. Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began."]

Prominent church leaders often traced their genealogies to the Holy Land, and some to the Holy One himself. [5 Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer and Poet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 171-72. Developing notions of an actual Israelite pedigree through Joseph and Ephraim are briefly discussed in Newell G. Bringhurst, >i>Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People Within Mormonism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981); and Melodie Moench, "Nineteenth-Century Mormons: The New Israel," Dialogue: A Journal of Morton Thought 12 (Spring 1979): 42-54. --- Such attitudes welcomed the influence of British Israelism in America. Relevant studies include Richard Edmund, "British-Israel: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Millennialism" (Ph.D. diss., McGill University, 1980); and Bruce Van Orden, "Anglo-Israelism and the Mormon Church" (unpublished paper delivered at the 1984 meeting of the Mormon History Association). --- Not all who trace their roots to Joseph Smith and the early Saints developed a literal identification with Israel. See Robert Ben Madison, "'Heirs According to the Promise': Observations on Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Two Factions of Nineteenth-Century Mormonism," The John Whitmer Historical Assoration Journal 12 (1992): 66-82. end25]]

There was also some discussion that through the conversion process, even those who formerly were literal gentiles acquired more than a figurative kinship with Israel. [26 Joseph Smith once declared that "the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile is to purge out the old blood & make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost." The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, ed. Andrew E. Ehat and Lyndon Cook (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 4. Some years later, Brigham Young offered his interpretation of the Prophet's remarks: "Joseph said that the Gentile blood was actually cleansed out of their veins, and the blood of Jacob made to circulate in them; and the revolution and change in the system were so great that it caused the beholder to think they were going into fits." Journal of Discourses 2:268-69. end26]

With Israel properly identified, the Saints' literalist hermeneutics helped them to discern in scripture two basic places of gathering. Isaiah 24:23 speaks of a day "when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously." Edward Partridge, the first Bishop of the Church, was typical of Latter-day Saints in his exegesis of this passage when he commented, "Thus we see that the Lord is not only to reign in Jerusalem, but in mount Zion, also, which shows that Jerusalem and Zion are two places." [27 Messenger and Advocate 1 (Jan. 1835): 57.]

In ways to be detailed later, the Saints believed that "Zion" was the designated gathering spot for Gentile converts and their Indian neighbors, while Jerusalem was for the Jews. As one early revelation expressed it, "let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion. And let
[p. 31]
them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord's house." [28 D&C 133:12-13.]

Understandably, most LDS interest focused on the American gathering place, Zion. Since an American Israel had been identified for gathering, adventanxious Saints did not have to wait, as did other Christian millenarians, for dramatic happenings within world Jewry in order to witness the restoration of Israel. Rather, they were able to see in the U.S. government's Indian-removal policies of the 1830s Gentile "nursing fathers" at work gathering the Lord's covenant people. Even more immediate was their own need, as part of Israel also, to gather to Zion....

Remainder of chapter not transcribed.
This text copyright © 1993 by B. T. of Univ. of Illinois
only limited, "fair-use" exerpts are presented here.


Ben Katchor
The Jew of New York
NYC: Pantheon, 1998

(excerpt forthcoming)


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