Vol. I, No. 1
Nissan 5603 April 1843
On the Establishment of a Jewish Colony in the United States
We present our readers with the subjoined article of an intelligent correspondent, himself a native of Germany, who had visited many countries where Israelites dwell. His plan will speak for itself, and will, we trust, call forth comments from persons of our community both in this country and Europe, who, we doubt not, will give it the deep consideration which it deserves. We thank Mr. Stern for having so soon given us an opportunity of adverting to the political state of the Jews by his sensible communication. We agree perfectly with him that the Israelite would be an agriculturist or mechanic if he had the same advantages with other portions of the community. But this he has not. He has every where to contend with too much prejudice, especially if he is truly desirous of observing his religion strictly, ever to become a successful mechanic, except under happy circumstances; and agriculture as a pursuit is out of the question in the old world, where either he cannot purchase land in his own name, or where the soil is too dear except for the purse of the wealthy. Besides it must be remembered, that in the densely peopled parts of Europe, where a highly artificial mode of cultivation prevails, it would take a much longer period than in the prairies and woodlands of the West to acquire a proper knowledge of husbandry. And as it is but lately that the permission of becoming owners and cultivators of the soil has been accorded to us, it is evident that as yet we can have but few practical farmers to compete with the skillful agriculturists who are to be met with in Europe, who know how to obtain the greatest possible amount of produce from the small plots of ground which they cultivate. In the new lands of America this would be different; a colony there would operate as a school of agriculture and husbandry in all their branches, and with a small number of practical Christian farmers to guide them, young Israelites would soon learn to love, by being successful, those healthful and ennobling pursuits which number among their professors the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, names which the Hebrew pronounces with reverence, and which have become the light and example of the world.
We do not agree with Mr. Stern that it would be expedient to found a Jewish state, or even to desire it, since necessarily its peculiar laws could come in conflict with those differing from it on all sides. Our criminal laws could not be well executed in any part of America for many obvious reasons, which it is useless to enumerate here; and our civil laws would necessarily be greatly modified if we formed but a part of a confederacy where all our enactments would be subject to the revision of a tribunal which might or might not respect our peculiar views, which at all events would be composed of persons whose religion differs from ours. Independently of the consideration, therefore, that it is not very likely that a sufficient number of Jews would settle in any one district to entitle them to compose a separate commonwealth: we ought not to desire it if we could succeed. All we need is that we form communities, not states, where we could act in harmony for a general good; for the rest the equitable laws of the United States and the freedom of opinion, equality, the protection guaranteed by the Constitution must satisfy us whilst we are scattered in small numbers all over the world. We could extend our remarks; but we must defer them for a future occasion; in the meantime we call public attention to the subjoined communication, with this single remark, that we invite a discussion on the subject, and we gladly offer The Occident for its publication.
Being convinced that the Israelites of Germany do not enjoy the full privileges of citizens in our age, and that many causes operate to defer the attainment of this desirable object for a considerable time, I, some years ago, expressed a wish that a considerable number might emigrate to the United States and found a colony in some of the western territories.
A considerable number of our people has indeed come to this country, but without a common plan, without a fixed object to unite their interests; and every one, therefore, was obliged to rely upon himself. As many had not learned a trade, and a few only understanding agriculture, commerce was the only resource which they had left; but most of them being without the necessary means to be merchants in the proper sense of the word, they were obliged to become itinerant traders or pedlars, a business most troublesome, and, in the present scarcity of money, most unproductive and most onerous. Under these circumstances these people cannot possibly attain that happiness, for which their heart yearned when they were still in their native country, to secure which they left parents, friends, and acquaintances, all that was dear to them, and braved the treacherous billows of the ocean, underwent the discomforts of a sea voyage, came into a land, to the language, manners, and customs of which they were strangers, and where they, with their eyes turned to the east, pine for the land which gave them birth, where they spent the golden days of their childhood, to which their heart is chained by a thousand sweet recollections, by many dear and charming ties.
Not until we are able to earn a respectable and independent livelihood, and live without the corroding care of procuring our daily bread, shall we be able to rejoice for having emigrated from Europe, look upon this land as a second fatherland, and cherish it from the core of our heart. But to attain this object it is requisite that the greater part of us should devote themselves to the pursuits of agriculture and the breeding of cattle, which occupations are the best props of every state, the safest means of securing to a family a happiness based upon a rock which can brave the storms of the times.
This object could be best accomplished, and would require comparatively little exertion and outlay of money, if a number of Israelites were to purchase a large tract of land in one of the western territories, where Congress disposes of the land at $1.25 per acre. On this tract a number of dwellings might be immediately erected for those who are not occupied in agriculture, in a place which would form the center of the first agricultural district. The farmers would of course live each on his farm.
It cannot be doubted that some rich and noble-minded Israelites would come forward to advance a capital for such a purchase, since they would be more than sufficiently secured by holding the first mortgage upon land which by constant improvement would become daily more valuable.
In such a colony, the highest capacities of mind and heart, which, as every unprejudiced observer will confess, can readily be discovered in a large number of individuals of our nation, would be sooner and more rapidly developed than our present social life admits of, where so many circumstances unite to stifle the most splendid, most promising natural abilities in the bud.
Facts would soon prove that the idea that our people are too lazy to till the ground is but a foolish prejudice. It would soon become evident that their aptness and intelligence would produce also in this branch of human industry useful inventions and salutary improvements. In the breeding of cattle, the acuteness of perception of our people and their application would also become distinguished, and lead to many favorable results. The mechanics of such a colony would, to a certainty, work with pleasure, and to more advantage, than they do now; particularly in Germany, where a young Israelite obtains admittance into a workshop, either as apprentice or as journeyman, with the greatest difficulty, and where, when admitted, he is ever exposed to the jeers of his fellow-workmen. Those, too, who devote themselves to commerce, would carry on their business with a better spirit, and occupy a more dignified position in the world than is possible under present circumstances.
Many factories of different kinds would no doubt form another branch of their industry, and their articles of commerce would not only consist of cattle, flour, salted provision, butter, and wool, but would also comprise different kinds of manufactured goods. This species of employment would furnish them with an opportunity of displaying also their ingenuity in the construction of new machines, and the improvement of the existing ones.
Upon our holy religion, however, venerable on account of its age and its intrinsic worth, the blessed and salutary influence of such a social reunion would be most evident, for never will it be able to appear in all its dignity, its glory and greatness, so long as our people live dispersed among the followers of other creeds. And more completely yet might all these ends be encompassed if the Israelites were gradually to transform their colony into a state, a thing by no means impracticable, as, according to the laws of the United States, only 70,680 souls are necessary for this purpose. This would entitle them to their own legislature, and by a general law, they might obtain the privilege of consecrating to the Lord, as it was in the flourishing times of our nation, every week a silent and holy Sabbath. But even if they should not form a state, they might yet elevate their places of settlement into separate boroughs, which would give them the right of making their own municipal laws, and of appointing the officers necessary for their execution.
Most salutary would be the influence of such a colony upon the education of our youth; for there, more than in any other situation, might we gratify the best and warmest wishes of our hearts, that of educating our children for the noble and elevated pursuits of life, for the attainment of wisdom and virtue. There the highest gratification, the noblest pleasure which this world can bestow, the happiness of possessing high-minded children, useful members of society, would be afforded to us more frequently than under present circumstances, where business and amusements not rarely exercise a very baneful influence upon their education.
In such a society, excellent men and worthy women might spring up, who would deserve to be called an ornament to Israel, and an honor to mankind.