Speech of Hon. J.P. Benjamin of Louisiana on the The Right of Secession. Delivered in the Senate of the United States.
In 1852, Judah P. Benjamin (1811-84) became the first professing Jew elected to the United States Senate. Initially a Whig, he became a Democrat in 1856 after the Democratic Party espoused the cause of Southern rights. Benjamin was a leading member of the school of Southern politicians who favored secession from the Union as the only safeguard for Southern survival. Upon the secession of the State of Louisiana, Benjamin withdrew from the Senate to join President Jefferson Davis’ Confederate Cabinet. Initially serving as Attorney General, in September 1861, Davis appointed him to the position of Secretary of War. “Benjamin was undoubtedly the most prominent nineteenth-century American Jew.” EJ, Vol. IV, col. 528.