One hundred fifty years ago today, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the following order:
- The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
- Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
- No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.
President Lincoln soon overturned the order, but General Orders 11, as it is known, dogged Grant through the rest of his career, and long thereafter. As a kid growing up in New Jersey in the 60s and 70s, I heard many people (including my dad) mutter nasty things about Ulysses S. Grant -- that he was a drunkard, a fool, and an anti-semite. I never heard about the basis of the antisemitism charge, though. Turns out it was General Orders 11.
Just this morning (appropriately!), I finished Jonathan Sarna's new little book When General Grant Expelled the Jews. It places the order expelling the Jews in the context not only of the war but of Grant's larger career, which turned out to be a trajectory towards commitment to human rights. Grant's sorrow over General Orders 11 was part of the engine of that, and it led him to champion Jewish causes both at home and abroad in ways I never knew about.
It's a good, quick read. Check it out.