In honor of President’s Day, Jewish Treats presents an overview of the interesting viewpoint on Jews held by the second President of the United States, John Adams.
In 1808, after his retirement from office (1797-1801), President Adams corresponded with François Adriaan Van der Kemp, an acclaimed scholar. In refuting the viewpoints of prominent philosophers Bolingbroke and Voltaire, Adams wrote:
“I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordained by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a Supreme, Intelligent, Wise, Almighty Sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.”
Knowing that President Adams had a favorable viewpoint on Jewish civilization in general, Mordechai Manuel Noah, a Jewish activist and journalist, decided to send Adams the “Discourse” that Noah had delivered at the consecration of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. This “Discourse” advocated for a Jewish Homeland.
A year later, in a separate correspondence, President Adams responded that he wished Noah could be “at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . and restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation."
Unfortunately, Adams’ ultimate goal, as stated in the same letter, was that once independent and free of persecution, the Jews would eventually assimilate their national characteristics and become “liberal Unitarian Christians...”
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