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A Funeral Panegyric to the Memory of the Late M. M. Noah, Esq.


We cannot pass over the mournful ceremonies attendant on the com­mittal to the silent grave of the remains of one known to all for a long series of years as a man of no common order, without some notice being taken of our dearly esteemed friend and citizen, the late MORDECAI MANUEL NOAH. This great and good man has passed away, full of years and full of honours, to his kindred dust, amidst the profound grief and sorrow of an entire community, Hebrew as well as Christian! Alas! he, who a few short weeks ago was met in health and spirits, animated as he always was with kindly feelings towards all, and diffusing pleasure amongst the varied public and private circles, to which his brilliant talents attached him, now lies mouldering in the dust, his grave bedewed with the tears of the widow, the orphan, the destitute, for whom his sympathies were ever awakened. Few Hebrews have ever had the good fortune to secure the heartfelt esteem of their fellow-citizens whereby the highest honours have been attained, and places of emolument and honour filled so faithfully as were those of our lamented friend.

His was not a chequered life, but from early manhood to green old age he glided gracefully down the stream of time, firm in the esteem and regard of the government and the people, whose appreciation of his talents earned for him for a long series of years the most elevated offices in their gift. Major Noah’s early life was not (as some obituary notices have published) devoted to handicraft—his talents and ambition soared far beyond the narrow limits of that position, and his entry into the legal profession gave the first indication that as a fluent orator and a chaste speaker his political life would command attention. In South Carolina his career as a barrister was successful, and having command of a ready pen, his connexion with the leading journals of the day, soon gave life to that latent talent which could not be obscured, but in later years established his fame as one of the most pleasing, chaste, and happy writers of his day.

Amongst the many public offices he was called upon to fill, were those of consul to Tunis with a mission to Algiers. The results of that mission are graphically described in a volume of travels he published in London in the year 1819. He also was appointed consul for Riga, but that office he declined. General Jackson, in the year 1832, appointed him to the <<98>>high office of surveyor of the port of New York, and from time to time the executive governments have bestowed on him offices connected with the customs, in New York, one of which he filled at the period of his death. It is remarkable that for forty years we should find a man filling offices commercial, legal, and political, and in that period, when strong political feelings might bias, the late Major Noah should possess a legion of friends, but not one enemy! He carried with him the good-will of the entire community, and his death is mourned by all. Characteristic of the nobleness of his disposition, we can cite an instance on his part of generous sympathy, perhaps unequalled.

He filled the office of High Sheriff of the County and City of New York at a period when the yellow fever was raging; assuming a serious responsibility, he threw open the prison portals, and allowed the captive to go free, and escape from “the pestilence which stalked in midnight gloom.” His was indeed a noble heart. He was “an Israelite in whom there was no guile,” and as a religious patriot few could vie with him. Sound reading had formed his mind, and he ever stood forth the zealous champion of civil and religious liberty. Liberty of conscience he believed was a requirement of God, and a natural and inalienable right of man; a right with which no man dare interfere, inasmuch as our thoughts, belief, impressions, and feelings induced to that duty we owe to God, and what our God demands of us. Major Noah’s impressions of religion were consistent yet enthusiastic, and for many, many years, have his thoughts turned to the amelioration in the condition of his suffering co-religionists in the East, and the continent of Europe, thousands of whom in chains and serfdom were persecuted for their religious impressions—who required the energies of such a champion to shield them from hapless misery aid death! In the year 1825, he conceived a leviathan plan of collecting the scattered race of Israelites to this country of liberty and freedom, as a “new Jerusalem.” Many may thoughtlessly have been impressed with the belief, that at the time his designs betrayed an enthusiastic weakness which compromised him.

But to those who have studied their Bible, and believe in its prophecy, the very acts of that period exhibited in our deceased friend a stamina of purpose which partook more of inspiration than human labour and sacrifice. The Israelite is bound to believe that the dispersion of the “chosen people” is a signal act of Divine Providence, and that the future gathering is also a prediction not easily thrown aside. With these impressions, and viewing the oppressed state of Judaism throughout Christendom, where “monarchs sway their despotic power,” nothing <<99>>can be said disparagingly of the exertions of this worthy Hebrew in his endeavours to secure for “fallen Israel” a home in this mighty republic.

In taking a retrospect let every forbearance be exercised in judging of that act which this enlightened man struggled to consummate, remembering that his thoughts and intents were directed to elevate from oppression, pain, and sorrow, those whom he loved for the sake of his holy religion. ‘Tis only a few weeks since that a commercial treaty was passed between this government and the Swiss confederation. The latter government introduced a clause highly prejudicial to the interests of the Jews, but the vigilant eye of our deceased friend* penetrated the stipulations of that treaty—he knew that a large and influential body of merchants were engaged in the trade with Switzerland. Ho at once called the attention of the executive government to the obnoxious clause which tended to embarrass the Jewish merchants having commercial transactions with their Christian brotherhood, and thus, by his influence, was the objectionable clause obliterated; it savoured of religious bias and persecution, and that alone was sufficient to enlist the Major’s influence for its removal.

* Other Israelites likewise discovered the wrong feature in the Swiss treaty, and pointed it out to the government or Senate of the U. S.; but it is not necessary to find fault with our correspondent for his friendship to his deceased cousin. —Ed. Oc.

His whole life has been one of Jewish sympathy. During the period he has occupied the editorial chair of the “Sunday Times and Noah’s Messenger,” the community have been enlightened weekly by the elucidations of many of those startling passages in Holy Scripture which tend to skepticism, and our friends of an opposite faith have ofttimes selected Major Noah as the medium by which the truth has been eli­cited and doubt set at rest. He was truly a man

“Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live at ease.”

In his pursuit of knowledge he founded his faith on the construction and literal wording of the Holy Bible, and in his devotion to that study he became the zealous champion for the exercise of liberty of conscience, and thorough resistance to every encroachment having a tendency to limit the rights of man in his religious belief. His liberty of conscience was truly the result of the study of God’s Holy Word; his championship was that of truth, and his high intellectual powers created for him that respect and veneration which continued during a long and honourable life, and followed him to the grave.

A few years since, his fellow-citizens elevated him to the judicial bench; the marked prosperity of early youth in his profession continued by him till he had passed the meridian, and, as Judge Noah, his decisions are marked by stern justice, yet a decided aversion to rigour. His benevolent feelings never forsook him; he upheld justice, tempered with mercy; and his bearing to all created that profound respect, inseparable from his learned calling; on retiring from the bench he resumed his editorial chair. The deep and fervent regard for this estimable man are apparent in the tributes to his memory, and the profound regret and sorrow expressed by the entire press of the Union, at the great loss society has sustained by his removal. There was a fascination in Major Noah’s manner and bearing, that riveted the bond of social as well as public intercourse with him; his happy smile and address charmed his listener,—his fund of anecdote was inexhaustible. His knowledge of the world, grafted on personal observation, was sufficiently moulded to impress his hearers,—nay, improve them; and to those who knew him well, nought but pleasure and delight resulted in their intercourse with this most remarkable man. He shed a lustre over the society in which he mixed; but a change has clouded the scene, a few short fleeting hours have tended to dissipate our joy for, alas, every heart has become sad,—every eye sheds tears. Death has stealthily entered his chambers, and struck down the delight of our eyes! one of whom we were justly proud has slink to rest. Our revered friend has been gathered unto his fathers, full of years and full of honours.

Verily, our afflictions are very great. In truth, honour, and rectitude did he walk. Virtue was his guide, charity his staff. His sympathies lay with the oppressed,—his purse ever comforted the destitute. No appeal to his philanthropy ever was repelled. But his joy was to mitigate suffering, and to aid the wanderer in finding a home. May we not hope that our departed brother, having thrown off this mortal coil, and passed “through the valley of the shadow of death,” has attained that priceless glory,—the reward of the worthy and righteous? The characteristics of his life forcibly remind us of Job, who thus beautifully discourseth: “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit; till I die, I will not remove mine integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go. My heart shall not reproach me while I live.”

Those who were intimate with our deceased friend, and knew his many virtues, cannot fail to recognise in his character that sustaining power <<101>>which continued through a long and remarkable career to mark his life. I allude to truth, manliness of character, openness of heart, and sincerity of purpose. He ever despised the deceitful man, holding such as he thought guilty of that weakness, “that when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away, his glory shall not descend after him.” An earnest love for our holy religion, led our deceased friend to contemplate the fate of the Jews, their dispersion, and future prospects held out to them, and his heart was set on viewing “Zion’s Mount, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever,”—that holy spot from whence was delivered, by God himself, those divine commandments, on which our duty to God and man are based, and which are the ruling essence of our holy religion.

Till within a very few days of his death, did he speak calmly and most earnestly of his projected visit to Jerusalem. It was there he hoped, by personal inquiry, to elucidate and explain away that mysterious prejudice which for ages has been excited against the Jew, in his civil, political, or religious relations with his Christian brethren. Had he been spared yet another year, the fruits of his labours would have been reaped, and all Israel would have gleaned the choicest gifts of his enlightened mind; but it has been doomed otherwise.

The Holy City is shut to the servant of the Lord. The voice of sadness pours forth in mournful strains our grief for a bereavement we are all called on to deplore. One of the main props of our holy religion has been removed, and this “meteor of the age has set, expired, and is no more seen.” We have a religious and consoling reflection, however, in imagining his possession of that peculiar privilege upon which his mind was fixed, that of resting in the bosom of his God, there to await that blissful reward only bestowed on the great and good. The various effusions of his gifted pen on religious subjects prove that his impressions are the fruits of genuine piety; and his study of the Holy Bible served him as the incentive to all good deeds and pious works. The tears of the widow and orphan bedew this rising mound which encloses all that is earthly of him so revered; the sorrows and regrets of the entire community mingle with those who are nearest and dearest to him, in deploring the removal of “a great man fallen this day in Israel.”

On so mournful an occasion, I take the liberty of extracting from a sermon, entitled “The Separation from those we Love,” delivered at the Temple in Hamburg, by one of the most gifted and eloquent lecturers of the age, I allude to Dr. Gotthold Salomon; in speaking of the removal of an old friend, he says: “Life is for the most part <<102>>made up of union and separation, and small, ofttime very small, is the space that divides them; for, like joy and sorrow, meeting and parting often lie close together. The hearts that have found each other should be parted, ere the cords that bind them are firmly intertwined, were a minor evil! far sadder is the separation from persons whom long, long years of love have endeared to us; far more painful is the breaking up of associations, in which other beings have become a part of ourselves, and in which the affection of these friends has each day wound round life a fresh bond of soul.”

How very beautiful is this language, and how truthfully does it apply to one, the very remembrance of whom is hallowed and revered. In our pilgrimage through life, a thousand voices warn us of our approaching separation by death. As many ordinances exist in the natural world around us, and in human nature, that call on us to live, so many are there also that warn us to die. Mark the cheerful light of day sinking with each evening, first into twilight, then into darkness. When youth and beauty are withered as a blossom by the stormy wind; when men who have wound themselves around our hearts leave us so quickly; when beings go before us who are indispensable to our happiness; when a beloved husband, a tender wife, an honoured parent, or a sincere friend is called away to his eternal home, say, are these not the voice of God warning us of our departure? Do they not teach us that however fixed our purpose may be to enjoy things temporal, we know not the hour, the moment, we shall be summoned hence to appear before the tribunal of the supreme God?—“where the wicked cease from troubling, where the weary are at rest.” Life is but a span long, and our pilgrimage in this world is marked by various phases from the breast to the grave; let the principles then, which marked our lamented friend’s life impel us so to guide our path that, as the deep mantle of eternal night is wrapt around us, and we descend into our narrow cell, we may by earthly deeds secure from Divine Providence a blissful reward in futurity.

To the afflicted sister, widow, and children let us offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolence, and hope that their affliction will be soothed by the knowledge that the loved one has descended into the silent grave, after living a life of virtue, probity unsullied, honour and benevolence, and that his career has closed amidst the deepest sorrow of a mourning community, who crowded to the cemetery to pay the last tribute of respect to “venerated shades of departed worth,”—thus proving his loss a public one, and their general grief, an earnest appreciation <<103>>of “ a great man fallen this day in Israel.”

His life can be pointed out to mark how natural talents can raise a man from the humblest to the most exalted stations in society. Major Noah was indebted solely to his own persevering industry, study, and characteristic suavity of manner, for the high honours which are bestowed upon him by his admiring countrymen. But, “alas, he’s lost to all but memory’s aching sight.”

Our lamented co-religionist for some years past has been the President of the “Hebrew Benevolent Society” of this city. Contributing with his splendid talents at their anniversary meetings, to sustain a most excellent charity, and diffusing his benevolent contributions to suffering and destitute humanity. His smiling countenance will no longer tend to cheer his associates on in their heavenly work of charity,—his soul-stirring and animated appeals will no longer be heard in support of “universal benevolence,”—his friendly hand will no longer grasp his neighbour’s in love and affection,—his bosom no longer will be the repository of sorrow’s secrets; all is palsied, dead, and hushed in the silence of the grave; all that is left us is the savoury remembrance of one removed after a life of usefulness and of public good, and to deplore that removal with unmixed grief, sorrow, and regret. The public press, of every grade and section of politics, have alluded to the death of Major Noah in terms of strong and unalloyed regret, many have pointed out his manifold virtues with unaffected sincerity and admiration; truly has our lamented friend’s demise created a void not easily filled; his was indeed a life of meekness, benevolence, and universal charity.

“Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour.
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train,
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain;
The long-remembered beggar was his guest,
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast.
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave, ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And even his failings leaned to virtue’s side;
But in his duty, prompt at every call,
He watched, and wept, he prayed and felt for all.”

New York, March 25th, 1851.