A newly-discovered letter written by Abraham Lincoln highlights the Great Emancipator’s attitude toward Jews. It shows that, despite hostility against Jews generated by the tensions and crises of the Civil War, President Lincoln insisted on giving Jews fair recognition for their part in the war effort.
The Lincoln letter, hitherto unknown and unpublished, is reproduced in the February issue of “The National Jewish Monthly,” published by B’nai B’rith. It illustrates an article written by Dr. Bertram W. Korn, Philadelphia rabbi who is the author of “American Jewry and the Civil War.”
The letter was sent by Lincoln to his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, dated November 4, 1862. It reads as follows: “I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew-As Chemie M. Levy is well vouched, as a capable and faithful man, let him be appointed an Assistant Quartermaster, with the rank of Captain.” Dr. Korn points out that this appointment “was obviously not concerned with Jewish votes; there were not enough Jews in America for their votes to be decisively important.”
Dr. Korn also relates how Lincoln cancelled General Grant’s notorious Order No. 11 directed against “Jewish pedlars,” and helped bring about a changed in the law so that a Jewish chaplain could be named to the armed forces for the first time in American history.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.