James A. Garfield's Appointment of the Anti-Semitic Selah Merrill as Consul at Jerusalem

May 23, 1881

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James A. Garfield's Appointment of the Anti-Semitic Selah Merrill as Consul at Jerusalem
Document Signed
1 page | SMC 438

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      Merrill, who held the post of U.S. Consul at Jerusalem for almost three decades – appointed by three Republican presidents – is here installed in that position for the first time by James Garfield. This posting was not, however, Merrill’s first trip to the Holy Land; both as a theologian and an archeologist, he was already quite familiar with the area, having made, since 1869, several trips to and in the area. Yet the time he spent there did not win him local esteem: the American Colony loathed, and was loathed by, him; the British Palestine Exploration Fund thought him an awful archeologist; and inasmuch as he was an anti-Semite, opposed to Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine, he was as good as a sworn enemy to the Yishuv. Indeed, he would famously conclude that "1. Palestine is not ready for the Jews. 2. The Jews are not ready for Palestine." What the Jews wanted, he believed, wasn’t land to colonize, but cities "where they can live on the fortunes or the misfortunes of other people." He even felt that there must have been some hidden justification for the persecution of the Jews in Russia, or that government would not have been so anxious to get rid of them. The effects of this anti-Semitism, unfortunately, were vast: because his first term as consul (1882-84) coincided with the beginnings of Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine, Merrill’s prejudice would help shape the State Department’s antagonistic attitude to the Jewish people in the Holy Land.

      Merrill would be replaced by Cleveland, but re-appointed by Harrison and McKinley. He is generally considered to be the greatest reviler of the Jews to ever occupy the post of consul at Jerusalem.
      Document Signed, as President, partially-printed and accomplished in manuscript, being the appointment of Selah Merrill to replace Joseph G. Willson as the U.S. Consul at Jerusalem; 1 page, oblong folio, Washington, May 23, 1881. Scarce.
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      The President of the United States of America,

      Know Ye, That reposing special trust and confidence in the abilities and integrity of Selah Merrill of Massachusetts, and by the virtue of the authority conferred upon the PRESIDENT by [text is crossed out] section 1768 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, [text is crossed out] I do hereby SUSPEND Joseph G. Willson, from the office of Consul of the United States of America at Jerusalem, and such other parts as shall be nearer thereto than to the residence of any other Consul or Vice-Consul of the United States within the same allegiance; and I hereby DESIGNATE the said Selah Merrill, he being a suitable person therefor, to perform the duties of such suspended officer; and do AUTHORIZE AND EMPOWER him to exercise and enjoy all the rights, pre-eminences, privileges, and authorities to the said office appertaining, until the end of the next session of the Senate, subject to the conditions prescribed by law; he demanding and receiving no fees or perquisites of office whatever which shall not be expressly established by some Law of the United States. And I do hereby enjoin all Captains, Masters, and Commanders of Ships and other vessels, armed or unarmed, sailing under the Flag of the said States, as well as all other of their citizens, to acknowledge and consider him, the said Selah Merrill, accordingly.

      And I do hereby pray and request His Imperial Majesty, the Sultan of Turkey, His Governors and Officers to permit the said Selah Merrill, fully and peaceably to enjoy and exercise the said office, without giving, or suffering to be given unto him any molestation or trouble; but, on the contrary, to afford him all proper countenance and assistance; I offering to do the same for all those who shall in like manner be recommended to me by His said Imperial Majesty.

      In testimony whereof, I have caused these Letters to be made PATENT, and the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

      Given under my hand, at the CITY OF WASHINGTON, the Twenty-third, day of May, and in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fifth.

      BY THE PRESIDENT: James A. Garfield. [in Garfield's hand]