A General Change: Ulysses S. Grant’s Evolving Relationship with the Jewish Community, 1862-1885 Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Kronovet, Adrienne M.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • On December 17, 1862, antisemitic legislation entered American history. Major General Ulysses S. Grant, then in charge of three Confederate states, expelled all Jews from the area under his command. This legislation, General Order No. 11, targeted “Jews, as a class” and granted them a 24-hour window to abandon their homes and evacuate the entire area under Grant’s command. The order did not tell them where to go. It simply instructed them to get out. Jewish American citizens of all ages, genders, and professions were not welcome in Grant’s territory. When news of this order reached President Lincoln, he immediately ordered its repeal, and on January 4, 1863, General Order No. 11 was officially rescinded. As the Civil War continued, General Grant’s antisemitic order was quickly forgotten. In 1868, Ulysses S. Grant became the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. His candidacy quickly returned General Order No.11 to the attention of the country. In the Jewish community, anxieties rapidly grew over the potential of a Grant administration. To both manipulate these anxieties and attack Grant, the Democratic Party continually publicized the order. In the weeks leading up to the election, papers across the country reported on General Order No. 11 and theorized that it posed a legitimate threat to Grant’s victory. Ultimately, Grant prevailed and became the 18th president. Within the opening months of his presidency, Grant took unprecedented actions towards the Jewish American community. He appointed Jews to federal positions, used the diplomatic strength of the United States to protect the international Jewish community, and donated money to establish a synagogue in D.C. During his presidency,Ulysses S. Grant transformed from a persecutor to an ally. This evolving relationship provides insight into Grant’s character and the development of the Jewish American community in the mid-nineteenth century. In the existing literature on Grant, little attention is paid to General Order No. 11 and Grant’s overall relations with the Jewish community in the United States. Jewish American history, however, focuses on the order but generally disregards the developments made during Grant’s presidency. During his life and in his memoirs, Grant actively tried to distance himself from the order. To understand the motivation behind Grant’s progress, one must understand Grant’s reliance on the public for approval. His actions as president were prompted by his need to respond to the public accusations that stemmed from General Order No. 11.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Funding: The Michael L. and Matthew L. Boyatt Award for Research in History
  • Barney, William
  • Bachelor of Arts
Academic concentration
  • History
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017
  • English

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