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The Late Rev. E. N. Carvalho

Dear Sir,

Having observed in the London Jewish Chronicle of the 9th Sebat, 5608, (Jan. 14th, 1848,) an editorial in the shape of an obituary of the late Mr. Benjamin Elkin, a paragraph of which reflects upon the supposed poverty of my lamented brother, E. N. Carvalho, I would ask a space in your valuable periodical, in order to correct this misrepresentation.

The part I refer to reads as follows: “Arrived at the age of 21 (meaning Mr. Benjamin Elkin), without seeing before him any prospect but that of a journeyman mechanic, he set out for the island of Barbadoes, where he was kindly and hospitably received by the Jewish minister, Carvalho, and through whose interest young Elkin obtained possession of a small shop or rather a shed, where he plied at his trade as a watchmaker. Mr. Elkin never spoke of the Rev. Mr. Carvalho, without manifesting the liveliest gratitude, and he always declared that <<600>>he considered it a great source of satisfaction, and indeed a high privilege, in being permitted to keep want from the door of his benefactor in his old age.

How the writer of the above paragraph got his information with reference to Mr. Elkin’s very singular and noble charity to a “benefactor in his old age,” and for whom he “manifested the liveliest gratitude,” (putting aside the high privilege of permitting it to be blazoned through the Jewish Chronicle to the whole world, and no doubt to the eternal glory of the sacred dead,) is to me, and those who knew my brother during his residence in the United States, an enigma.

If this mode of doing charity is considered by his eulogist necessary to support the character of one so “pre-eminently distinguished for sympathy, forbearance, and benevolence,” he has failed in its spirit so far as that it can meet with no sanction from any precedent of this godlike virtue. But sir, this vaunt of charity, has no foundation in truth; and I appeal to you, who have so long filled, and still continue to fill, the same Tebah, and preside in the same sacred edifice in which the “Jewish Minister, Carvalho,” performed his duty—if, with your accustomed desire to obtain information, so far as appertains to the Jewish people, you have ever heard that he stood in need of alms? And you will confer a favour if you will reply yea or nay. His income for ministerial services as Hazan, had been, from the time of his arrival in the United States, which I think was in 1807, amply sufficient for his support; and having no family but his wife, his means were more easy than otherwise;  if at any time it was necessary that “want should be kept from his door,” none had a better opportunity to know it than myself. I joined him in Barbadoes in 1800, and resided in his house with but short intervals of absence, and continued to do so till within some months before his death. On being informed of his demise, I hastened to Philadelphia to close his affairs,—the proceeds of which, with amount due him from the Synagogue,—were much more than many filling that office amongst us die possessed of. Among his papers and correspondence which were now in my hands, I saw none with the signature of the bountiful Mr. Elkin—nor any copy in the Letter Book addressed to that gentleman. Mr. Carvalho’s salary, with other emoluments of his office, was from $1,000 to $1,200 per annum, the income of which continued to the day he died. Was this, dear sir, the gaunt shade that haunted, or invited charity,—to succour him in his “old age?”

The Rev. Mr. Carvalho, (as copied from his tomb) “was born Nov. 13th, 1771, and died on the 20th March, 1817,” which gives his age <<601>>to have been 47. This it will be admitted is not “old age.” His last illness was brief, before which he was hale and hearty,—his independent feeling was proverbial with all who knew him; he would not, it, is presumed, have stooped to take a common, or uncommon charity, as it may be, having always sufficient and more to live upon, till the moment he was called to rest. But the ostentatious showing of merit, which in this instance Mr. Elkin could not claim—and the desire on the part of his eulogist to elevate him upon the manes of his benefactor, who has been lying in the cold earth for the last 31 years, is an anomaly in the code of ambition. It is beautiful to exercise charity,—but He who engrafted this godlike attribute in the human heart, should be alone cognizant of the act. That Mr. Elkin in his lifetime may have expressed himself to have been benefited by Mr. Carvalho—and that it would have been a high source of satisfaction “to keep want from his door,” if he ever needed it, I believe. Nor do I think the writer of his obituary has knowingly set down more than an oft told tale is subject to—much addition to give the story point.

Now sir, I would ask excuse for length, and beg you to believe that I would not have encroached upon the pages of the Occident, had not the matter as stated in the paragraph above noticed, reflected upon the Congregation of K. K. Mikve Israel.

I am, dear sir,
With sincere respect,
David N. Carvalho.

Philadelphia, Feb. 14th, 1848.

Note by the Editor.—We cheerfully confirm all that our friend Mr. Carvalho says concerning his brother, and our predecessor in office, many years ere we were called to fill it. But no confirmation from us is requisite to any one who is acquainted with Mr. C. of our city, especially if he reflects that any Hazan of our congregation could hardly become an object of charity to any one: and we only add our testimony because Mr. C. has asked for it. We think that the statement of the Chronicle is owing to a misapprehension of some expressions of gratitude made by the late Mr. E.