May 15, 1889

President Benjamin Harrison Names Solomon Hirsch Minister to Turkey - the Third Jew to Hold That Diplomatic Rank

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 1531

First Grant appointed one, Benjamin Franklin Piexotto, in 1871, to be U.S. Minister to Romania; then Cleveland named Isidor Straus to be Minister to Turkey - and by extension, Ottoman-controlled Palestine – in 1887.  The third Jew to be appointed an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary was Solomon Hirsch, a Portland, Oregon, merchant and Republican leader, whom Benjamin Harrison, with this letter, picks as his Minister to Turkey to succeed Strauss. Writing to the Secretary of State, the President says he has been,


too much occupied to think much of your suggestions left with me the other day - but the following are clear enough to be disposed of without further consultation:”


Solomon Hirsch – Turkey…


Hirsch, whose name tops the list of uncontestable nominees, was the German-born head of the one of the largest mercantile establishments in the Northwest, and a Republican leader in Oregon – which, notably, had swung Republican since 1872. That would seem to explain why Hirsch had the backing of Washington-insider Simon Wolf, the de facto Ambassador of the Jewish people to the American presidency and a considerable Republican eminence; it was Wolf, after all, who had first suggested to Harrison that he reward Hirsch with an ambassadorship. This Harrison hastened to do - with, surprisingly, the blessings of the Ottoman Sultan. The Grand Vizier, in fact, said of the appointment:


I can not conceal the satisfaction it gives me to see that for a second time your country has called a son of Israel to this eminent position,” he proclaimed. “We have learned to know and esteem your coreligionists in our country, which they serve with distinction.


Hirsch served three years in this important and delicate mission, and then returned to Oregon, where he was active in Portland’s burgeoning Jewish community. In 1901, he made the news again, when he notably protested the Ottoman policy of preventing the sojourn in Palestine of any Jewish visitor for longer than three months – a position with which the State Department readily concurred.

Autograph Letter signed, as President, 2 pages, octavo, Executive Mansion, Washington, May 15, 1889. To Secretary of State James G. Blaine.

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