Judah P. Benjamin

New Orleans is in the process of removing four memorials that are tied to the Civil War and the city’s past connections to slavery, including a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. This follows other southern city and state actions, such as the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse in 2015. One of the key figures of the Confederacy was Judah P. Benjamin, a Sephardic Jew who served as a Louisiana senator before serving in President Davis’ cabinet, first as Attorney General, and later as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. Which of the following is true about Judah P. Benjamin?

twcw_jpbenjaminis in the public domain.

A. Judah P. Benjamin has been dubbed “the brains of the Confederacy,” “the Little Jew from New Orleans,” “the dapper Jew,” and the “Confederate Kissinger.”

B. In 1860, while still representing Louisiana, Benjamin addressed the United States Senate in defense of the right of Southern states to secede, concluding his remarks saying “An enslaved and servile race you can never make of us—never! never!” Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio responded, criticizing Senator Benjamin for his pro-slavery speech, referring to Benjamin as “an Israelite with Egyptian principles.”

C. At age 14, Benjamin entered Yale University; however, he did not graduate as he was expelled for “ungentlemanly conduct.” It’s not known what his misdeeds were, though there were rumors of gambling, carousing, or theft.

D. Benjamin’s bris was performed by his paternal grandfather, after whom he was named.

E. The Temptations Gentleman’s Club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans received numerous requests for tours from attendees at the 2010 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly meeting in that city. The Assembly delegates said they were interested in the “Jewish aspect” of the building, telling the proprietor that it had been the home of Judah P. Benjamin.

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