October 30, 2012

US President John Adams Embraced a Jewish Homeland

President John Adams

The correspondence of John Adams, second president of the United States, reflects the complexity with which Jews and Judaism were viewed in early national America.

Most “enlightened” American Christians such as Adams saw Jews as an ancient people who, by enunciating monotheism, laid the groundwork for Christianity. He also saw them as individuals who deserved rights and protection under the law.

Like many of his peers, Adams venerated ancient Jews and thought contemporary Jews worthy of respect, but found Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people, an anachronism and the Jewish people candidates for conversion to Christianity.

In an 1808 letter criticizing the depiction of Jews by the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, Adams expressed his respect for ancient Jewry. Adams wrote of Voltaire, “How is it possible [that he] should represent the Hebrews in such a contemptible light?

They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth.

The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given religion to three quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily, than any other Nation ancient or modern.”

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