June 21, 1865

Rabbi Sabato Morais Sends His Synagogue's Contribution to "A Monument to the Memory of the Deeply and Universally Lamented Abraham Lincoln."

Autograph Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 538

The name of the mid-nineteenth Italian-American rabbi, Sabato Morais, is associated with that of Abraham Lincoln thrice: when Morais delivered a sermon and prayer on the death of Lincoln's son, Willie, which, having been sent to Lincoln, elicited from him a famous letter of thanks; when he delivered, four days after Lincoln's death, a deeply-felt sermon, soon published as a pamphlet; and again, when he delivered yet another address on June 1, 1865 - the nationally ordained day of mourning for Lincoln - lamenting the death of the martyred president and which, too, would shortly appear in pamphlet form. Morais, who had always been passionately anti-slavery and pro-Lincoln, felt the president's sufferings, and then his assassination, acutely. Thus when Willie died, he prayed "from the heart"

Bless the President of the United States; bless him for his sterling honesty, bless him for his firmness and moderation. Rekindle with joy his domestic hearth; pour on him the balm of divine consolation ... Grant that the end of his career be the maintenance of this Government, unimpaired and unsullied as bequeathed by our illustrious ancestors.

To this supplication Lincoln responded, on May 13, 1862, in the only letter he ever wrote to a Jewish Congregation:

Permit me to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of April 23d containing a copy of a Prayer recently delivered at your Synagogue, and to thank you heartily for your expressions of kindness and confidence.

Three years later - four days after Lincoln's death, and the first day after Passover - Morais again addressed Mikve Israel of Philadelphia on the nation's loss:

I loved every action, every word of that godly man. I loved him for his patriarchal simplicity; I loved him for his incorruptible character; I loved him for his all-comprehensive ideas, for his generous impulses, his forbearing disposition, his tender compassion for all the oppressed. The ideal of Truth imprinted by nature upon my soul, seemed at length realized in that man of homely mien, but of lofty mind... Sovereign Creator! open wide the portals of eternal bliss, and let the righteous Abraham of the Western World enter. Remember his suffering for the sake of principles, and let it be a propitiation for the sins of the people he so clearly loved and so faithfully served. May he ever sit at Thy right hand, imparadised in the contemplation of Thy divine Essence. Grant, that from the highest heavens, he may soon behold our unalloyed joy, when the pavilion of peace shall again spread its folds over us, and an indissoluble bond of brotherhood unite together all the inhabitants of this country.

Morais would preach, and publish, one more time about Lincoln's loss: on the day of national mourning, June 1, 1865. He delivered a discourse before the Congregation Mikve Israel, in which he argued that, if the essence of religion is what the great Hillel taught, then he believed "the breast of our lamented President was ever kindled with that divine spark:" 

"To forbear doing unto others what would displease us"...is the maxim he illustrated in the immortal document of emancipation that bears his honorable signature. It is that which he exemplified by his numerous acts of clemency...We must bear his name with a blessing upon our lips.

It is not surprising then, in the face of such love and reverence, that Morais would have been proud to help contribute to a fund to erect "a monument to the deeply and universally lamented Abraham Lincoln which, on behalf of Congregation Mike Israel, he does so here, writing the Mayor of Philadelphia that, 

It will afford me great satisfaction to see the Congregation "Mikve Israel," numbered among those that have responded to the loyal appeal you recently made through the Philadelphia clergy. The enclosed check of three hundred dollars - just handed to me by our President, Mr. L.J. Leberman Esq., is the voluntary contribution of my constituents towards raising a monument to the memory of the deeply and universally lamented Abraham Lincoln.

The Synagogue President, L.J. Leberman, it is recalled, was a civic-minded member of Philadelphia’s Jewish community who, in the summer of 1864, presented to President Lincoln, “an elegant Suit of Garments” made to his measure, which had been donated to the “Great Central Fair” by Philadelphia haberdashers Rockhill & Wilson, that it might be sold to benefit the United States Sanitary Commission.

Autograph Letter Signed ("S. Morais"), as Minister of congregation Mikve Israel, 1 page, quarto, no place [seemingly Philadelphia], June 21, 1865. To Philadelphia Mayor Alexander Henry.

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