Monday, January 23, 2012

Patriotic American Jewish Benefactor Made Bunker Hill Monument Possible

The Jewish contribution to American society is monumental. In fields of science, Dr.Salk/Einstein; in music Gershwin/Presley; in theatre Steven Berkoff; in movies-well there isn't enough space in twenty blog posts to even begin to list those of a Jewish heritage and faith who have made a significant contribution in so many fields. Baseball not so much, gridiron-I'll draw the veil.

Of course if I were to detail the contribution from Blacks/Irish/Polish etc etc, to the American heritage, there would also be an endless list. But I wanted to give a special tribute to an unsung Jewish hero who made such an important contribution to the landscape of Boston and to American culture, and to the memory of a great event in the founding of the America, the battle of Bunker Hill.

The building of the Bunker Hill Monument was a very ambitious undertaking in the times when it was reared, and the work lagged greatly. Nothing of such magnitude had ever before been attempted in the country. In our day, when government is exalted into a great paternal institution, the thing would be handled in a more simple fashion. The public treasury is expected to do everything.

The people now are accustomed to go to Congress and get an appropriation when the desire to satisfy their patriotism by erecting a monument, but in 1820 public opinion was not so advanced upon such lines. The people believed that they should commemorate the first great battle of the revolution by a popular subscription in which each one directly gave his part; and so they embarked upon raising what was then a great sum of money.

After twenty years of struggle the monument was till uncompleted and twenty thousand dollars more were needed. At last, Amos Lawrence, a leading merchant of Boston, offered to give ten thousand dollars if another would give an equal amount. The princely offer was received in cold silence in the financial section of the neighbourhoods such as Boston and New York, from which a favourable response might have been expected.

But there came a remittance of ten thousand dollars from a remote part of the country, from Judah Touro, a Jew, of New Orleans, and the completion of the monument was assured. The event was commemorated by a dinner in Faneuil Hall. Amid the eloquent speeches that were made, a toast was proposed in lines which recognized the generosity of the two patriots, but hardly recalls the literary glories of Boston’s golden age:

Amos and Judah, venerated names,

Patriarch and Prophet press their equal claims;

Like generous coursers running neck and neck,

Each aids the cause by giving it a check;

Christian and Jew, they carry out one plan-

For though of different faiths, each is in heart a man.

Touro was born in New England. He migrated to Louisiana where as a merchant, an importer and exporter, he made a great fortune. When the war of 1812 moved from the sea and from the North to the Southern field, he was in the thick of General Jackson’s fighting. In the battle of New Orleans he was almost mortally wounded. His philanthropies were country-wide.

“Judah Touro Saves the Bunker Hill Monument” From “ Patriotism of the American Jews” by Samuel McCall.

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