President Cleveland Appoints Nageeb Arbeely to Replace Anti-Semitic Selah Merrill as Consul at Jerusalem

October 15, 1885

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President Cleveland Appoints Nageeb Arbeely to Replace Anti-Semitic Selah Merrill as Consul at Jerusalem
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1 page | SMC 1595

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      Background

      This document causes the United States Consul at Jerusalem, the Congregationalist minister biblical-archeologist, anti-Semitic Selah Merrill, to be replaced by the Greek-ancestry Syrian-born naturalized-American Najeeb J. Arbeely. The reason was simple: politics. Merrill was a Republican appointed by President Harrison; Arbeely was a Democrat appointed by President Cleveland. But within a year, politics of another sort would see the popular new consul recalled. Despite his being deemed by the American colony as a blessing, Arbeely was unacceptable to the Ottoman government. Whether this was, as Jerusalem dragoman Rollo Floyd claimed, “because he was a friend of mine and a gentleman, Merrill… bribed the Turks not to give him affirmation,” or because, as the Turks insisted, Arbeely was a native of the Ottoman Empire, he was recalled, and replaced by the exceptionally pro-Jewish Henry Gillman. Cleveland lost, however, in ’88, and Harrison then re-appointed Merrill. Unlike Arbeely and Gillman, Selah Merrill was not a particularly welcome figure in the Holy Land. His relations with the American Colony were terrible; the British Palestine Exploration Fund thought him a dreadful and incompetent archaeologist; and as he opposed Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine, he was hardly popular with the Yishuv. Merrill’s replacement by Arbeely was generally thought a great improvement, and Arbeely’s replacement by Gillman, greater still.


      Document Signed, as President, partially-printed and accomplished in manuscript; 1 page, oblong folio, Washington, October 15, 1885. Co-signed by Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard.
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