Guide to the Collection of Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884), undated, 1838, 1854-1884, 1893, 1925, 1930, 1942, 1948 (bulk 1854-1884)
 
*P-45

Processed by Jason Schechter (December 27, 2001) and Susan Malbin (September 1, 2009)

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on September 2, 2009. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Benjamin, Judah P.
Title: Collection of Judah P. Benjamin
Dates:undated, 1838, 1854-1884, 1893, 1925, 1930, 1942, 1948
Bulk Dates:1854-1884
Abstract: Judah P. Benjamin, called the "brains of the Confederacy", was a statesman and jurist in the United States, the Confederate States, and Great Britain who achieved high-ranking titles wherever he served, and especially left an indelible mark in the South where he held more official positions than any other man during the Civil War. After the fall of the Confederacy, Benjamin fled to England, where he was admitted to the English bar, and later assumed a judgeship In 1872, he was appointed the highest ranking of Queen's counselor. Containing correspondence, letters, newspaper clippings, Confederate bank notes and bonds, Civil War memorabilia, pamphlets, and a bound copy of Benjamin's diary from 1862-1864, the collection is valuable to researchers studying the activities and experiences of Jews in the antebellum South and under the brief reign of the Confederate States of America. Additionally, through the material relating to memorials and preservation endeavors for Benjamin, the collection also provides a look at the continued glorification of Confederate heroes in the South long into the twentieth century. The collection also contains pre-Civil War correspondence between Benjamin and Peter A. Hargous regarding the creation of a railroad line on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico and the Tehuantepec Railroad Company of New Orleans.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 0.75 linear feet (1 manuscript box, 1 ½ manuscript box, 2 oversized folders)
Identification: P-45
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note
Photograph of Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884), undated

Judah P. Benjamin - Portrait, undated

Judah P. Benjamin, called the "brains of the Confederacy" and the "man behind the throne" of the Confederate aristocracy, was an unparalleled statesman and jurist in the United States, the Confederate States, and Great Britain. A man of multiple talents, Benjamin achieved high-ranking titles wherever he served, especially leaving an indelible mark in the South where he held more official positions than any other man during the Civil War.

On August 6, 1811, Judah Philip Benjamin was born to Jewish parents of English nationality temporarily making residence in the British West Indies. In 1816, the Benjamin family immigrated to the United States, taking up residence in the Carolinas. In 1825, Benjamin attended Yale College, however, he never completed his studies there.

In December of 1832, Benjamin began his long association with the law when he was admitted to the Louisiana bar and began a successful practice in that newly ratified state. In 1853, Benjamin was elected to the United States Senate representing Louisiana and was reelected again in 1859. As slavery became the heated issue of the day, Benjamin sided with the South giving many speeches on the Senate floor in support of slavery.

In February of 1861, after the first battles of the Civil War, Benjamin resigned from his Senate post and was quickly appointed first Attorney General of the Confederate States of America. He was quickly promoted to Confederate Secretary of War in August of 1861, and then personally chosen by Confederate President Jefferson Davis in February of 1862 to be the Confederacy's third Secretary of State, which he remained as until the Confederacy's defeat at the end of the war.

After the capture of Jefferson Davis and other high-ranking Confederate officials in 1865, Benjamin fled to England, where he was well received due to connections through American friends and a friendship with British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. In 1866, Benjamin was admitted to the English bar, and in 1868 he wrote "A Treatise on Law of Sale of Personal Property." He was an excellent practitioner of jurisprudence amassing a great fortune from his practice and quickly assumed a position as a barrister, and later in 1872 he was appointed the highest ranking of Queen's counselor. Benjamin died on May 8, 1884 in Paris after a long period of declining health after falling when descending a tramcar.

Benjamin's legacy continued long after his death, being one of the legendary heroes of the Old South. In 1925, the Judah P. Benjamin Commission was established in Florida to preserve and restore the Gamble plantation where Benjamin hid from Union soldiers in his flight to England. In 1930, 1942, and 1948, monuments to Benjamin were erected respectfully in Richmond, Va., Sarasota, Fl., and Charlotte, N.C. with the cooperation of local Jewish organizations and groups preserving the history of the Confederacy.

Chronology of the Life of Judah P. Benjamin, 1811-1884

August 6, 1811Born in the British West Indies
1816Benjamin family immigrates to the United States
1825Attends Yale College, but does not graduate
1832 Admitted to the Louisiana bar
1853Elected U.S. Senator representing Louisiana
1859Reelected to the U.S. Senate
February 1861Resigns from U.S. Senate; appointed first Attorney General of the Confederate States of America (CSA)
August 1861 - February 1862Appointed second CSA Secretary of War
February 1862 - 1865Appointed third CSA Secretary of State until end of Civil War; flees to the Bahamas and then to England
1866Admitted to the English bar; practices law in Liverpool, England
1868 Publishes A Treatise on Law of Sale of Personal Property
1872Appointed to the Queen's Counsel, highest rank for jurists in England
1883Publicly declares retirement in consideration of his declining health
May 8, 1884Dies in Paris, France
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Scope and Content Note

The Collection of Judah P. Benjamin reflects the experience of Southern Jews before and during the Civil War in Louisiana and Washington D.C., as well as Benjamin's personal legacy on the American South. Though the collection does not preserve the total volumes of papers and works produced by Benjamin, it is able to shape his function in the Confederacy's government, his successes and legacy following the close of the Civil War.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the activities and experiences of Jews in the antebellum South and under the brief reign of the Confederate States of America. Serving as a U.S. Senator and in three Confederate cabinet posts, Benjamin had exclusive, first-hand experiences by being an active member in both governments during times of great struggle and change. The collection also provides a look at the continued glorification of Confederate heroes in the South long into the twentieth century.

The collection contains correspondence, letters, newspaper clippings, Confederate bank notes and bonds, Civil War memorabilia, pamphlets, and a bound copy of Benjamin's diary from 1862-1864. The documents are entirely in English, and include many original copies of letters and printed material dating from the era surrounding the Civil War.

The Leys Donation of Box 2 material comprises 106 items (letters, notes, telegrams and miscellaneous documents) about the formation of the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company in 1857 until Benjamin resigned from the Senate in February 1861 upon Louisiana's secession from the Union. The business venture aimed to provide a cheap and fast alternative to sailing around South America. They hoped to provide mail service and railroad transportation across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico. The bulk of the correspondence is from Judah P. Benjamin to Peter Hargous. Peter A. Hargous (1800?- 1884), a businessman and banker in New York City, founded Hargous Brothers, a banking and shipping concern, with his brother Eugene. The correspondence focuses on the efforts to secure financing, negotiate with the U.S. and Mexican governments, and the logistical difficulties encountered. Benjamin's letters to Hargous underscore the difficulties with shipping and local conditions.

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Arrangement

The collection consists of a single series arranged by topic:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Collection of Judah P. Benjamin; P-45; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Various individuals donated material, including David Sulzberger (1904), Albert E. Henschel (1913), Louis Sampter Levy (1926), Emanuel Hertz (1927), Alexander W. Oppenheim (1935, 1937) and Mrs. Morton L. Adler (1937). Additional material was purchased by the American Jewish Historical Society in 1912, 1914 and 1926. William H. Leys (2009) donated all of the pre-Civil war correspondence of his great-great-grandfather, Peter A. Hargous from Judah P. Benjamin that had been in his family.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Collection of Judah P. Benjamin, undated, 1838, 1854-1884, 1893, 1925, 1930, 1942, 1948

The collection is in English.
0.75 linear feet. Boxes 1 and 2.
Arrangement:

The folders are arranged by subject.

Scope and Content:

See the collection Scope and Content Note.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Petition for Purchase of a Slave1838
12Letters and Papersundated, 1854-1881
13Letters and Clippings1854-1884
14Confederate Bank Notes and Bonds (see also OS1 folder)1861-1864
15The Congressional Globe and Clippings (see also OS2 folder)1858-1862
16Material Pertaining to JPB's Historical Preservation1861-1863, 1893, 1925, 1930, 1942, 1948
17Bound Copy of Diary1862-1864
BoxFolderTitleDate
2 1 Correspondence to Peter Hargous 1857
2 2 Correspondence to Peter Hargous January–July 1858
2 3 Correspondence to Peter Hargous August-December 1858
2 4 Correspondence to Peter Hargous 1859
2 5 Correspondence to Peter Hargous 1860-February 1861
2 6 Miscellaneous Letters and drafts undated, 1854, 1856
2 7 Supporting Documentation materials by Barry Scott about the William Leys donation
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Oversized Materials, 1856, 1862-1863

2 oversized folders.
BoxFolderTitleDate
Shared OS1OS1FThree $500 Confederate War BondsFebruary 24, 1863
Shared OS1OS1FJudah P. Benjamin Autographed Lithograph from a Daguerreotype after Brady1856
BoxFolderTitleDate
Shared OS2OS2FThe Philadelphia InquirerFebruary 4, 1862
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