An anecdote of him told by Dr. Hoge—his capacity for hard work.
His flight from Richmond at the close of the war. (H. T. Ezekiel in the Jewish South, December, 1897.)
One of if not the most unique personage connected with the government of the Southern Confederacy was Judah P. Benjamin
, a Jew, as signified by his name.
Although this gentleman was one of the foremost lawyers of his day, a prominent United States Senator
, at various times Attorney-General
, Secretary of War
, and Secretary of State
of the Confederacy
, and more latterly a Queen
's Counsel in England
, no history of his life has as yet been written.
Such a work is now in course of preparation in England
, and it was a request for data in connection therewith that led in part to the writing of this sketch.
Judah Phillips Benjamin
was the son of English parents, and was born in 1811.
His mother and father were on their way from England
to New Orleans.
Arriving off the mouth of the Mississippi river
, it was found to be blockaded by British men-of-war, so their vessel
turned back and put in at St. Croix.
Here it was, on English soil, that young Benjamin
first saw the light of day.
In 1815 the Benjamins moved to Wilmington, N. C.
, and ten years later, when only a lad of fourteen, Judah
was sent to Yale
He remained there only three years, and left before taking his degree.
Upon attaining his majority he was admitted to practice at the bar in New Orleans, and soon forged his way to the front.
In 1847 he was engaged as counsel in the famous Spanish land cases, which involved the ownership of immense properties in California
For his legal services in this controversy he received the largest fee on record at that time, $25,000.
in 1852 was sent to the United States Senate from Louisiana
, and five years later he was re-elected.
His colleague was Mr. Slidell
; who afterward figured so prominently in the Trent
It was during this time that he was tendered a position on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States
, by President Franklin Pierce
, an offer which was declined, he preferring to devote his time to private practice—for be it understood that ‘Mr. Benjamin
, of Louisiana
,’ stood second to no lawyer in the land.
In the Senate he was among the foremost, and Charles Sumner
, whom he often opposed in debate, declared that Mr. Benjamin
was the most eloquent speaker to whom he ever listened.
The stormy days of ‘61 came on, and he, with the other Southern Senators
, withdrew from that body.
His farewell address occupied two days in its delivery, and was admitted by all to be the most eloquent and forcible effort on either side.
It was in the main a demonstration of the legality of States' rights.