Abraham Lincoln, Noting "We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew," Names C.M. Levy an Assistant Quartermaster

November 4, 1862

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Abraham Lincoln, Noting "We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew," Names C.M. Levy an Assistant Quartermaster
Autograph Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 533

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      Background

      Quid pro quo being the driving force of elective governance, here President Lincoln makes an historic appointment for primarily political purposes: “I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew,” he writes. “As Cherie M. Levy, is well vouched for, as a capable and faithful man, let him be appointed an Assistant Quarter Master, with the rank of Captain.” Mindful of the support that Jews, flocking to the Republican Party, had given him, Lincoln was clearly eager to repay the favor. But from the very beginning of his career, as the friend of a Jewish lawyer, Abraham Jonas, in Illinois, until the very last day of his life, when he expressed the desire, now that the war had ended, to see Jerusalem, Lincoln seemed almost philosemitic – if for no other reason than in a time and place in which Jews were routinely discriminated against, he treated them as he did everyone else: with respect, cordiality, and fairness.
       
      Levy, the son-in-law of New York’s leading Ashkenazi rabbi, Dr. Morris J. Raphall (who notoriously argued, in 1861, that slavery was biblically sanctioned) was assigned to the Quartermaster Department in Washington, and undertook there as an added task the distribution of special food and clothing to Jewish soldiers in the capitol's hospitals. He was court-martialed in October, 1863, and dismissed from service for unspecified charges. Lincoln, having been appealed to on Levy's behalf, responded favorably, and Dr. Raphall soon wrote to thank him "for the generosity and justice" with which he treated his son-in-law.


      Autograph Letter Signed (“A. Lincoln”), as President, 1 page, octavo, Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., November 4, 1862. To Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.
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      Executive Mansion,
      Washington, Nov. 4, 1862.

      Hon. Sec. of War.

      Sir  

      I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew - As Cherie M. Levy, is well vouched, as a capable and faithful man, let him be appointed an Assistant Quarter. [sic] Master, with the rank of Captain. 
       
      Yours truly

      A. Lincoln