Tuesday, December 14, 2010

General Order No. 11

On December 17, 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous General Order No. 11.

General Order No. 11 demanded the expulsion of Jews from Grant's military district comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The order stated that:

1. The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.

3. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

During the war, an extensive trade in cotton existed between the North and South. Northern textile mills were dependent on Southern cotton, while the trade with the North was needed for the economic survival of Southern plantation owners. A limited trade was permitted by the US Government, under license by the Treasury and US Army. However, this system led to many opportunities for corruption, with unlicensed traders bribing army officers to allow them to buy Southern cotton without a permit.

The order was issued as part of a campaign against the black market in Southern cotton, which Grant believed was being run "mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders."

President Lincoln revoked the order a few weeks later after protests from Jewish community leaders, outrage by members of Congress, and editorial comments in the press. Grant later claimed it had been drafted by a subordinate and that he had signed it without reading.

Grant's claim is highly suspicious considering other communication he had on the subject. On November 9, 1862, he ordered General Hurlbut to: "Refuse all permits to come south of Jackson for the present. The Israelites especially should be kept out." The following day he instructed General Webster to: "Give orders to all the conductors on the road that no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward from any point. They may go north and be encouraged in it; but they are such an intolerable nuisance that the department must be purged of them." In a letter to General Sherman, he explained that his policy was occasioned "in consequence of the total disregard and evasion of orders by Jews."

The order is not directed at those engaged in trading cotton without a permit. The order also prohibits all Jews from making an application for trade permits. The Jews were singled out for punishment, not just those who were in violation of the law. This clearly displays Grant's prejudice against all Jews.

Possibly the order was intended to reduce competition for the trade permits, to allow Grant to exercise more control over the cotton trade, and to reward friends and business associates. Grant had engaged in questionable business behavior in California prior to his resignation. General Wilson suggested that the order was intended as a warning to Jesse Grant and other relatives who, with their Jewish associates, were seeking favors.

Grant justified the order in a letter sent to the Secretary of War's office in which he stated that: "regulations of the Treasury Dept. have been violated, and that most likely by Jews and other unprincipled traders." However, as pointed out earlier, the order makes the Jews the exclusive violators and punishes all Jews for the crimes of the few.

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