Home page Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


332 Pennsylvania Ave. 
Washington, Dec. 15, 1861

My dear Sir,

Yr letter of the 13th inst. has reached me, and its contents will be acted upon.

I think we may congratulate ourselves on having gained an important front in our cause. As you will have learned from my letter of the 13th inst. the President has resolved to lay my case before the Cabinet, and accordingly I rec'd on Friday evening the following letter, from which you will perceive that the President has decided not only to recommend to Congress the modification of the law but actually to submit to them a bill which will embrace in general terms all religious denominations:

(Copy of the President's letter)

"Executive Mansion Dec. 15, 1861
"Rev. Dr. A. Fischel

"My dear sir

"I find there are several particulars in which the present law in regard to chaplains is supposed to be deficient, all which I now design presenting to the appropriate Committee of Congress. I shall try to have a new law broad enough to cover what is desired by you in behalf of the Israelites."

Yours truly,
(signed) A. Lincoln"

Having fully studied the subject, I was prepared to affirm that this is by far the most important step the Pres't could have taken. Had he appointed me under some fictitious title, to evade the act of Congress and merely to pacify the demands of the Jews, it would have been very advantageous to myself, but the Jewish community would have gained nothing by it, since they wd be actually excluded by law and only admitted by the back door. The great principle the Jews have to contend for is, that the Constitution takes no cognizance of religious sects and that consequently we do not want special legislation for the Jews, as is the case in England, but all legislation must be general for all American citizens without any regard to their faith. Now this is precisely what we need for in undertaking to submit to Congress a bill based on general principles, he virtually throws his entire influence in our favor and with more force than by merely sending a special message on the subject to Congress. The course I shall have to pursue is now self evident. The Committee on Military Affairs will have charge of that bill, and I will make it my business to see its members with the the object of forcing their attention our claims, as well as examining the details in so far as they relate to the religious opinions of the chaplains. As soon as the bill is printed I will send you a copy, and if the Committee report the same favorably to the House, it is sure to pass. Some weeks may elapse before this bill will come before them, and you will, therefore, see the propriety of my abstaining from bringing the matter before Congress, as such a process is sure to injure rather than benefit the cause.

This now is in the best hands, and everything will be done on my part that is likely to promote its success. As you will probably not hear from me again till next week, unless something of importance is to be communicated. I shall pass all my time this week in the camps and hospitals. By my introduction, I will give you a copy of two of the most important ones.


1. From E. Delafield Smith, Esq.:

U.S. District Attorney's Office
To His Excellency A. Lincoln, President, U.S.:

Sir, mindful of the constant pressures upon your strength, I have refrained from obtruding letters of introduction upon you. I depart from this course now, to introduce to you Rev. Dr. Fischell, who has been appointed by the Board of Delegates of the Israelites of the U.S. to urge the modification of the laws in relation to chaplains, so far as they affect the practice, though I doubt not unintended exclusion of clergymen of the Jewish faith from acting in that capacity, even in regiments composed of persons of that faith. This class of our citizens has evinced loyalty to the Government, and I need not say is entitled to at least a hearing on this subject. Dr. Fischell is a gentleman of great worth and intelligence. Hoping that a brief interview with him may be agreeable to you and useful, I remain etc,

(signed) E. Delafield Smith
U.S. District Attorney

2. From Moses Grinnell, Esq.

New York, Dec.10,1861

To Prst. Lincoln,

Sir, permit me to present to you Rev.Dr. Fischell of this city who visits Washington as a delegate from the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, having been selected as chaplain to the Jews of the army around Washington estimated at about 8000. Dr. Fischell is of high literary abilities and greatly esteemed by distinguished men of all religious denimonations. Believe me, etc.

(signed) M.A. Grinnell

Whenever you have any suggestions to make, please write me.

Very respectfully yrs,
A. Fischel

Henry I. Hart, Esq.

Fischel Letters