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[378]

Judah P. Benjamin. [from the Charleston news and courier, January, 1898.]

[See Ante, pp. 297-302.]

We are indebted to the Hon. James Sprunt, of Wilmington, N. C., for another interesting contribution in regard to the early life of Judah P. Benjamin. He is confirmed in his opinion that Mr. Benjamin lived in Fayetteville, N. C., and attended the ‘Fayetteville Academy,’ where he attained distinction in his studies, and was prepared for college. His conviction is based upon ‘the competent testimony of the venerable R. C. Belden, Esq., of this State’ (North Carolina), ‘who was an intimate friend and schoolmate of young Benjamin.’ We publish both Mr. Sprunt's letter, and Mr. Belden's statement to-day.

In the absence of other testimony, we would say that Mr. Sprunt had made out his case; the most that we can concede, however, in view of abundant testimony upon the subject, is that Mr. Benjamin may have been a pupil at the Fayetteville Academy for perhaps a year. Indeed, this is all that Mr. Belden claims. It is admitted generally, that the Benjamins came to the United States when Judah was only four or five years of age, and Mr. Ezekiel says that the time of their immigration was 1815. Mr. Belden says that Judah and his brother Solomon, and his sister Hannah, ‘came to Fayetteville in 1825, lived with their uncle and aunt, and became pupils in the Fayetteville Academy,’ and that ‘Judah was a classmate of mine during his stay in Fayetteville.’ Continuing, Mr. Belden says: ‘Mr. Levy’ (Judah's uncle), ‘desiring to enlarge his business, removed with his sister’ (Mrs. Wright), ‘and the Benjamins to New Orleans, in 1826.’

If they prove anything, these statements prove that Judah could not have been in Fayetteville much more than one year; if, indeed, he were ever there at all, except with the Confederate Cabinet on its flight from Richmond at the close of the war in 1865. If he arrived in Fayetteville on January 1, 1825, and departed thence on December 31, 1826, he could not have been in Fayetteville more than two years. It is admitted by Mr. Belden that the Benjamins came to Charleston from the West Indies, and the time of their arrival here, [379] as nearly as can be reckoned, was in the year 1815. He did not go to Fayetteville, if at all, until 1825, and must have been fifteen years old that year, and must have lived in Charleston for at least ten years before he became Mr. Belden's classmate, unless it shall transpire that Mr. Belden really attended school with Judah at the old brick school-house in St. Michael's alley, Charleston.

There is no doubt that Mr. Benjamin lived in Charleston, and went to school in this city. He told Mr. Levin that such was the case. Mr. B. C. Hard, of Williamston, S. C., who is still living, says that he was in Judah's class; that Judah was a very bright pupil, and quoted Shakespeare while playing marbles; that his teacher was Robert Southworth. Among his classmates, or school-fellows, were N. Russell Middleton, T. Leger Hutchinson, W. J. Hard, Mitchell King,——Wilson, B. C. Hard, Stephen Thomas and others—all for many years residents of this city. The Hebrew Orphan Society paid for his schooling. The store in which his father did business was situated in King street, near Clifford street, and his aunt, Mrs. Wright, as we were told yesterday upon good authority, also did business in this city. Probably when she moved to Fayetteville, in 1825, she took her nephew and niece with her.

If further evidence were needed to prove that the Benjamins lived in Charleston it can be found in the records of the United States Court in Charleston, which show that the elder Benjamin obtained his naturalization papers here. After the war, when Judah wished to enter the English Bar, it was necessary for him to prove that he was born a British subject, and the proof of his father's application for American citizenship was found on file in the United States Court at Charleston.

Mr. Benjamin was a great man, and we are not surprised that many cities should claim the honor of his residence. We hope that the Hon. Francis Lawley, of London, will not omit Charleston from his story of the ‘Life of Judah P. Benjamin.’ But for the care which was taken of his friend and confidant in this old town, probably the world would never have known him; the world, as we all know, is full of ‘mute, inglorious Miltons.’

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