Jonathan D. Sarna’s book, “When General Grant Expelled the Jews,” is about General Orders No. 11. Argument endures about what Grant meant, how much damage his order inflicted and how significant this act of explicit antisemitism really was. He uses the words use the words “profiteer” and “Jew” interchangeably whilst ordering the expulsion of Jews from Paducah, Kentucky.
On Dec. 17, 1862, Grant issued the order that read: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from this department within 24 hours from the receipt of this order.” While this mandate conformed to Grant’s pattern of associating Jews with illicit business activities, the exact reasons for his action are anything but clear. What is clear is that on Jan. 4, 1863, one week from the day (Dec. 28, 1862) on which Paducah’s Jews were expelled, Lincoln ordered Grant to revoke the act.
Cesar Kaskel, a local Paducah Jew made hay with the declaration and on a horse, made it to Washington and managed a meeting with the President. This is the conversation that supposedly transpired:
Lincoln: “And so the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?”
Kaskel: “Yes, and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.”
Lincoln: “And this protection they shall have at once.”
The incident embarrassed Grant who had to attend a few services in Synagogues and made some judicious Jewish appointments as if to make amends.
I wish I had never heard of this incident. I wish I had never known.