PRIVATE COLLECTIONS OF TWO NEW JERSEY FAMILIES
Mordecai Manuel Noah was the best-known Jew before the Civil War. First a clerk and reporter in Philadelphia, he went on to Charleston and then to New York. He became outstanding in each city, as an editor of newspapers, a playwright, a politician, a consul, a judge, an honorary major, and a spokesman of the Jewish People.
President Madison appointed Noah as Consul to Tunis in North Africa. The pirates of the Barbary States often stole ships and took passengers from them to hold for ransom. It was Mordecai Noah’s job to deal with these tough pirates, and pay the ransoms if necessary, and do all he could to free captured American citizens. He became a friend of the Bey of Tunis, as the ruler of the Barbary States was called, and during the two years he was there, he succeeded in getting the release of a number of captives.
All Americans who landed in Tunis would visit the American Consulate. One day, a ship’s captain brought a note in a sealed envelope, from the Secretary of State in Washington.
Noah thought it was a routine matter, and opened the envelope while the ship’s captain waited. His face grew pale as he read, but he hid his feelings from the visitor. Without warning, the note told him that he was dismissed from his post, and that he was to return to America. He was shocked to read that the Secretary of State had decided that Noah’s religion “would form an obstacle” to his being a good consul. The note also suggested that his money accounts were not in order. Noah returned to America and fought back.
He published a pamphlet defending himself. He demanded that the government clear his name and got a statement saying that his accounts were clear and that he was honest. However, the attack on him as a Jew made him even angrier. “I find my own government insulting the religious feelings of a whole nation. O, shame, shame!” he wrote. Proud of his family’s loyalty to America – he claimed Dr. Samuel Nunez as an ancestor, and his grandfather, Jonas Phillips, was a revolutionary patriot – he was equally proud of being a Jew.1
Mordecai Manuel Noah was elected High Sheriff of New York City in 1822. In 1825, Noah attempted to establish a Jewish Colony in Ararat, near Buffalo, New York; the colony is dedicated with great fanfare and pageantry, but no actual settlement takes place.2
In 1827, Mordecai married Rebecca Esther Jackson, from Portsmouth, England. As prominent members of Shearith Israel, which oversaw the Tuoro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, they frequently visited Newport during the summer when Mordecai would address the assembled congregation.
Little is known about George Weeden, the artist who worked up these sketches, except that he was probably a local Newport man commenting on the fashionable summer visitors from New York.3
1Deborah Karp, Heroes of American Jewish History, (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1972), p. 68-70.
2Allon Schoener, [et al], The American Jewish Experience: From 1654 to the Present, (Philadelphia: Museum of American Jewish History, 1981), pp. 20-21.
3Richard Brilliant, Facing the New World: Jewish Portraits in Colonial and Federal America, (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1997), pp. 66 & 67, figs. 47 & 48.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale