"Occident" Subscriber Begs Rabbi Leeser to Write Abraham Lincoln and Convince Him to Stop the Civil War

May 22, 1861

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"Occident" Subscriber Begs Rabbi Leeser to Write Abraham Lincoln and Convince Him to Stop the Civil War
Autograph Letter Signed
3 pages | SMC 349

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      Background

      Leeser’s correspondent, “R.A.L”, writes that a missed issue of The Occident caused him to wonder whether during “the terrific Civil (most probably uncivil) War," Leeser had suspended publication of his monthly periodical – but a recent arrival of a new issue shows him that he has not. He wishes he could hear Leeser’s “able weekly discourses” and offers up first a plea, and then a suggestion:
       
      Oh that you could be instrumental in bringing peace to our distracted country! Is there no means that you in your wisdom can devise... I will state what has occurred to me within the last two days (but first let me beg of you to write President Lincoln to exert your reasoning powers with him to stay this outrageous war).  It is, If they think these difficulties can not be settled accept at the point of the bayonet, would it not be far better that a Champion be selected on each side & let victory be assigned on the side of the one who proves victorious in the contest. It certainly would be far more humane that one or two be sacrificed in our Country's cause than that the blood of many be usely [sic] shed…
       
      “R.A.L." did not sway Leeser from his public posture of neutrality – although Leeser certainly would have sympathized with his horror of civil war. In fact, Leeser did not believe the War was really necessary, and could have been averted, had the present leadership been truly interested in peace. That Jews, North and South, would kill one another, was anathema to him. Throughout the conflict, then, Leeser confined himself to strictly Jewish issues - and when he finally did write to Lincoln, it was merely to request the appointment of a Jewish hospital chaplain in Pennsylvania.


      Autograph Letter Signed (with initials) by one “R.A.L.” to Rabbi ISAAC LEESER of Philadelphia, 3 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Binghamton, [New York], May 22, 1861. To “Dear Friend," Rev. Isaac Lesser.
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      Binghamton May 22d 1861

      Rev. Iaac [sic] Leeser.

      Dear Friend,

      You will find enclosed $3 in payt for the Occident of this year. I rec'd thro' the Mail last week the 2d No., I was not aware until then, that you continued to publish it, not having seen the 1st No. I conjectured you were awaiting more peaceful times. I called yesterday at the P.O. and asked them to look well for it. The P.O. Master or Clerk did so, and it was not to be found there. It may have not been forwarded thro' some oversight, so please send it to me, and also No. 17 & 20 of last year's should you have those Nos to spare. I would be much obliged if you would send them to me, as I have all the Nos but those; one of which did not reach me thro' the Mail, & the other I loaned but could not get it returned.

      I have recently heard from my Cousin Mrs. D.C. Levy [sic] She speaks in high praise of your able weekly discourses, and wishes that I could hear

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      them. I second her in the wish as it would afford me great pleasure to do so. My Cousin states that your health is not good, may it soon improve. Oh that you could be instrumental in bringing peace to our distracted Country! Is there no means that you in your wisdom can devise? I know "vain is the help of Man" unless aided by our Benign Father and I am conscious that you do call upon Him earnestly and sincerely. I can not see that either side can in the least be benefitted by this terrific Civil (more properly uncivil) War, that o'er hangs us, too terrible to even contemplate. I sicken at the thought. I will state what has occurred to me within the last two days, (but first let me beg of you to write to President Lincon [sic] to exert your reasoning powers with him to stay this outrageous war.)  It is. If they think these difficulties can not be settled except at the point of the Bayonet, would it not be far better that a Champion be selected on each side & let victory be assigned on the side of the one who proves victorious in the contest. It certainly would be far more humaine [sic] that one or two be sacrificed in our Country's cause

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      than that the blood of many be usely [sic] shed & the consequent misery thereby entained [sic contained].

      Make use of this suggestion in your letter to the President, if you think it would avail aught.

      With much esteem & respect

      truly your friend

      R.A.L